The Story of How I Chose My Name

Katherine is a beautiful name, the Christian meaning is pure in Coptic Greek, the first Katherine mentioned in the Christian Era is Saint Katherine of Alexandria. But the history of the name is far more ancient  as the pre Christian origin from which the name Katherine derives is Ekate or Hecate, and Ekate means the far reaching one, I chose my name well – but I didn’t  know all that when I chose it!

I am from a part-European Fijian family, traditionally families that were mixed European and Fijian descended from wealthy European land owners and their legal noble born indigenous Fijian wives. Our history was not only passed down orally but is often written into Fijian history books. My family is historically significant. In the past our families only spoke very beautiful English, were extremely well mannered , owned or managed businesses and the land we owned were referred to as Estates, our part-European families would intermarry and our families were once considered Fiji’s Middle Class. Our families were also once referred to as Kailoma in Fiji. Kailomas tended to shun their Fijian heritage but were very proud of having European Ancestry and they tended never to learn Fijian, the women were graceful and well bred ladies and the men did well in business and intermarriage between the Kailoma families was traditional. Most of us are related by blood or marriage. Marriages between Kailoma and Indigenous Fijians was tolerated, but frowned upon unless the blood was Royal. Our families are also related by blood and marriage to the highest Chiefs (Ratu) and Kings (Tui) in Fiji including the current President’s wife and my great grand uncle the last Governor General of Fiji.

We are traditionally named after members of our family.

In the early part of the second quarter of the twentieth century my great-grand uncle Charles married a very proud Fijian lady we called Aunty Kata, and Aunty Kata found some of  our Kailoma traditions racist. She refused to speak English to any of us stating she was in Fiji not England and she was proud of her country. So her children grew up bilingual and spoke Fijian to Aunty Kata and English to Uncle Charles.

Kata is short for Katarina, which is Fijian for Katherine.

I loved Aunty Kata, I would speak to her in English, and she would reply In Fijian, she knew what I said but I had no idea what she said. I found her principles both endearing and strong, because at the end of the day some of the Kailoma traditions were racist, and she was right that we were in Fiji, I also remember Aunty Kata’s house was full of love, I could feel love embrace me as I entered her front door, and at it’s centre was her. I will always be grateful to Aunty Kata because she forced me to learn some Fijian, the language of my ancestors.

When Aunty Kata came to visit us  in Melbourne, on principal she would speak to me in terrible English because she was in Australia and not in Fiji. I loved her so much for that I would answer her in terrible Fijian. I guess Aunty Kata was the very first trailblazer I had ever known in my life and I admired her greatly for standing by what she believed in, and remaining a proud Fijian woman.

Since the coups in Fiji, the terms Kailoma and Part-European, Fiji-Chinese and Fiji-Indian is now considered racist, so one and all are simply called Fijian. I am glad, because looking back it probably was racist, it was implemented for British Colonial segregation for easy human stock taking and Empire building and it was perpetuated (without any bad intention) through old fashioned traditions that have no place in how we think today. These traditions are now falling by the wayside and Kailoma families now seek out our Indigenous Fijian history and ancestral indigenous connections which we now proudly pass down orally along side our European history, I believe this is a wonderful outcome. Intermarriage too has become common between the bloods – royal or not, it no longer matters.

I had been actively planning my transition since I was 14, instinctively I knew even then I would need a strong name.

There was an awful girl in high school called Catherine, I didn’t like her at all, but whenever teachers would say her name it sounded phonetically feminine and beautiful to my ears. And most important, it also sounded strong.

Ultimately I couldn’t decide between the names Virginia, Katherine and Charlotte all family names, and Aunties that I admired so I gave the list to my mother who agreed that Katherine would be the name she would choose if she had had another daughter.

I originally was going to spell my name Kathryn but one day I passed a travel agency and in a Norther Territory travel brochure advertising the town of Katherine in capital letters I knew KATHERINE was the name for me, because it looked strong and sounded feminine, just like I was going to be one day.

My name has served me very well, because just like my Aunty Kata, the strong woman I have named myself after, I too have become strong.

And through my advocacy I have lived up to my name, my intention is pure and I have become the far reaching one.

My name is KATHERINE and my pronoun is SHE.

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