I Chose The Name Leia When I Transitioned And Meeting Carrie Fisher Is A Moment I Will Never Forget
It happened in a galaxy not too far away, meeting interstellar royalty. I was a cashier in a well-known beauty retailer based in the heart of Beverly Hills, California. What started as a trivial shift of organizing lipsticks and rechecking rollerballs became one of the most memorable moments in my life.
I was busy trying to solve the ever-constant mystery of lost pens. Fair to say I wasn’t completely focused on my jobs at hand as I did the meticulous work. I was rather new to Los Angeles and the beauty retail world still learning the ropes.
It was that in moment a chocolate French bulldog lapped his extra long tongue on my shoes. I bent down laughing, petting him while his tongue spiraled up in between heavy pants. This wasn’t just any pampered pooch off Rodeo Drive, this dog in question was Gary Fisher, the one and only Carrie Fisher’s dog.
This would be a good moment to clear up any confusion. My name is Leia, Carrie Fisher plays a character in the film series, Star Wars, Princess Leia, and Gary Fisher is obviously the full/accepted name of her dog. I wasn’t always named Leia. Up until I was 22, I was Jacob. I’m transgender. Fisher’s Star Wars character Princess Leia was always someone I looked up to. Her strength and fighting spirit are things I could relate to and I wanted to keep her strength with me. My name was now Leia and I was intentionally channeling that strength to guide me.
So when I looked up to see Carrie Fisher with hundreds of dollars of sheet masks I was speechless. As a kid, I watched this woman run through the Death Star, dodging Stormtroopers braless! These are some of the most vivid memories I have from my childhood. Now it’s key to note, working in Beverly Hills, the easiest way to get fired is by making celebrities feel awkward. Oscar-nominated bad business is frowned upon. While I rang her up all I could mumble about was that her last-minute gold nail polish purchase was the “same shade as C-3PO,” and we smiled. I then saw Carrie’s eyes lock with my name tag and heard her, “Oh my God! Your name!” I nodded. She nodded. We shared a moment of clarity. I was finally acknowledged by Alderaan. Gary, Carrie, and there was I, Leia. It was the same year she passed away, but that particular day two Leia’s met in the middle. The original Princess Leia who inspired my name and taught me what it meant to be a woman had found me, accepted me, and welcomed me into her tribe. You could say it was a little luck or the Force but it’s something I’ll have a long, long time no matter how brief.
I still work in the beauty industry and getting clients to remember my name comes down to one simple sentence, “Oh, and I’m Leia… like Star Wars.” The whole concept of naming oneself during a transition of gender is daunting. Many transgender/nonbinary identifying people change their name multiple times. My distinction didn’t take much thought. It was my first day in Los Angeles ordering coffee and being asked for my name, “I’m Leia… like Star Wars.” It was easily understood by the majority of the population and thus I became a part of a smile, of a sci-fi connection, of a Carrie Fisher stand up or book prologue. I was suddenly surrounded by the image of a side bunned, hard ass, space princess and if I could leave that in my wake then I knew I could be that much more memorable. Plus, my closest friends already addressed me as Leia at the beginning of my transition so it just made sense. I remember my encounter with Carrie Fisher fondly every year when May The 4th comes around and the power of that moment continues to impact my life.