How I chose to be Zo - May 21, 2019
Zo is my chosen name. I was formerly known as Briana Sakamoto. Zo is in part a tribute to my late little brother, Michael Takezo Tipp, who passed when I was 7, and whose spirit is with me every day. But it is also short for Zorro, which my mom thought of as my first “placeholder” nickname, and my parents called me while I was in the womb, before I was assigned a gender! It’s because I was always kicking around and they thought, “this baby must be a swashbuckler!” Confirmed. This January, when I thought of reinstating the name, I didn’t know this (and I don’t think my folx knew it way back), but Zorro happens to mean “fox,” and I have taken a great interest in foxes lately, particularly fennecs, tiny kitten-sized crafty, sometimes manic, little yeepers with enormous ears who look basically the same regardless of gender (google them, they are the most charming scrappy gax, and if you know me, you’ll see why I identify). On some level it is silly, but for me as a non-binary human, it feels sad sometimes to not have as dimensionally associated an identity as “man” or “woman”, even though I play many genders as an actor, and femme or masc it up in my expression with some fluidity. But “human” and “non-binary” sometimes feel like neutral terms to me, and my identity, though in some ways liberating from certain restrictions, is not really about the *absence* of characteristics: there is a character and richness to my gender identity - so lately I have been thinking of myself as a fox (specifically, a little fennec). Funnily enough, in the last few years, I have been cast twice as a magical asian-folk-lore-inspired fox, including a Kitsune. This year, I stumbled upon the anecdote that the Japanese Kitsune (fox) spirits are canonically shapeshifting trans “tricksters”. Many mythic fox characters have been traditionally vilified, including the Kitsune, and in a transphobic way, but I think they have been misrepresented, and I choose to reclaim the whole idea in the best possible self-affirming light: that trans is magic. And this name, Zo, (and my alias “Zozo Fox”), carries all of that for me. All identity is a mix of nature and construction and creativity, and all language and names are made up. My whole life, I have been an actor because I relish exploring what that means, and diving into other forms, creating new ones, and exploring the many facets of my own. In no small part is it thanks to that work and play and training and immersal in storytelling, shapeshifting communities that I was able to dig out my own truth. Coming out as non-binary to myself and my loved ones was like coming home for the first time - and giving myself a very new but very old name, is like putting an address on that home. Thanks for reading.