I feel like the question, “what’s your name mean to you” is kind of more about what your identity means to you and it’s a very loaded and long conversation producing question. There’s a lot that got Ava to being here. I don’t really vibe with the whole ‘stuck in the wrong body’ narrative but those are cool, they’re just not my story. I always start my story with the idea that stuff’s been going on since childhood; and that’s real, but in 2013-14 I was traveling and moving through spaces, cities, and countries where trans bodies had been engaged with by the people and it wasn’t anything new, nor was it akin to what I had seen growing up. I just kind of got this idea (from those experiences) that I’m not weird. That was really pivotal in Mumbai, India. We were in a rickshaw and we were in traffic and this hijra woman reached her hand into the rick (car) as we were moving and everyone was scared as they yelled, “oh, she’s going to curse you!” or “she’s going to ask for money!” but I didn’t think that at all. I individually leaned forward and said “hello, how are you?” and she smiled at me and said “oh, hello!” and then left the car/rickshaw and everyone stared at me confused, “what did you do? No she’s going to curse you. You’re definitely cursed.” I had looked into her eyes in a really interesting way, I don’t know the words for it.
Coming back to the States transition had to happen. I came back to the States because I could understand the ins and the outs of the health system here. Previously, I hadn’t intended to return to this country. Ava specifically was special because I tried on a lot of names when I was early on in the process, like when I was just presenting on the weekends or as much as I could. I was trying to be Jenna; even though there are about five Jenna’s in my family, I was trying to be Julie and Tara and all these different things that didn’t really fit; but what kept fitting was Ava. I tried a couple of other names over the months and then Ava kept coming back. There’s a feeling you get when you say “Hey, I’m Ava. How are you?” The name kind of stuck with me. I thought that Ava must have chosen me. And it’s a palindrome, I like palindromes. I want to also give credit to my friend Sarah. She was driving me somewhere one night before I was presenting full time. I was talking about names and the research I had been doing. She just turned to me and said confidently, “I am going to call you Ava. You are an Ava. You should spell it with an A.”
The Italian meaning is to be lifted up by heavenly birds or something along those lines. The Judeo-Christian meaning is derived from Eve though I don’t really feel a connection with that at all or in general. I mostly love the sound and the feel of it (Ava). My last name is Pipitone, and many people call me Pip, so saying Ava Pip is like two palindromes and I’m into that. Any direction my name is spelled it makes sense, which is parallel to my experience of moving through gender in my life. I had received a lot of outward or external approval and compliments when I was perceived as male, so I guess it kind of “worked.” Now that I’m being perceived as female more consistently, if not all the time, I still receive those compliments so I still feel “good.” Not in an external approval way, but more in an affirmed way. It’s appears alright in both directions, like my name works in both directions, yet this way makes the most sense. There’s a lot there. Basically, it is really hard to know if a palindrome is facing the right way.
If I were to invent my own name meaning I would say Ava is like a type of movement, maybe even a verb or participle: “I’m Ava-ing!” But the verb is a specific way of moving through interactions with people on your own terms. I really like this concept of character or self-creation. With all the RPG’s or MMORPG’S I’ve played in my life. I’m creating myself now and that’s really empowering. Every day, whatever doubts I have; I made this. At the end of the day I feel really proud. Even when I’m feeling super dysphoric and kind of shitty, I can always think back to how far I’ve come on this adventure. I need to pat myself on the back sometimes.