Changeling and some Numbers
I’ve been on the Internet for many years, and I’ve seen many strange handles—even used some of them. In my early twenties, I signed up for my first Gmail account. Because my name is fairly common, it was impossible to get an address without a lot of rearranged letters, numbers and punctuation marks. I put “changeling” into the box and a few numbers later, I had a new email address.
At the same time, Twitter was becoming more and more popular, and so I took “changeling”, added some numbers and had a fairly easy twitter handle. This handle went on to get me an AIM name, a Skype account and other services. These days, some for of changeling is my Internet handle.It only stands to reason that someone is going to ask why, and they have. I am writing this to give those people a place to go when they ask. They can read it or not on their own time. My answer is not so different from when other people identify with words that are generally seen as negative.
What is a changeling?
Before we can fully see the significance of this name for me, we must first answer the question. I’ll be including the necessary information to do that, but since this is a post about personal experiences and how I’ve decided to deal with them, I’m not going to be linking to outside sources. I’m talking to you and I want your attention. When you’ve finished here, you can look up changelings on the internet and verify everything I tell you. I will forewarn you that some of the details you’ll find on other sites are a bit graphic and disturbing, so proceed with caution.
Ready? Okay. Here it is.
A changeling is the creature that results when a human child is stolen and a fairy is left in its place. There is much speculation about the motives of the Fae (I personally believe it’s because the Fae were trolling humans even before there was an Internet), but the TLDR of the whole mess is that parents lived in fear of their child being replaced with a being of Faery. This superstition, according to first books and then the Internet, this superstition was part of the Middle Ages.
Since people have a natural fear of anyone who doesn’t look like them, since the Middle Ages was not known for its higher thinking in regard to people with disabilities, anyone who had physical or behavioral differences that set them apart from the group were thought to be changelings. The parents of such a creature were shunned, and so parents did any number of unpleasant things to try and (a) cure the child of its affliction, or (b) rid themselves of the changeling.
In one memorable example, a woman who believed her son was a changeling strapped her son to a board and through him in the river. At her murder trial, she stated that if the child had floated, she would have known it was a changeling and that it had to be killed. This must have been logical to everyone involved because she was acquitted.
And how is This Still Relevant?
We like to think people know better today. Disabled people are usually seen as people with differences. I’ve been prayed over, but nobody has attempted an exorcism on me. I’ve never been strapped to a board and thrown in the river, either. This does not mean that people aren’t intolerant, nor does it mean that the human race as a whole doesn’t have room to grow when it comes to dealing with people who are different, or even that people with differences are made to feel welcome in many situations.
I’m totally blind, and this is a well-understood phenomenon in 2023. It’s well-established that blind people are people with a difference, and I still live in a world where accessibility is an after-thought, assuming it’s even thought of at all. In other words, I’m still living in a world where I’m only independent when I’ve been society has made allowances for it. I can’t imagine that this is a favorite truth of anyone who is disabled, but there it is. I won’t let it rule me, but it has to be acknowledged. Therefore, the Internet knows me as Changeling.
Is there a precedent?
Of course there is. One of my favorite examples is found in one of the Vagina Monologues, where the speaker is justifying reclamation of the C-word. There are racial groups who embrace some of the epithets inflicted upon them by others. And no discussion about being known as Changeling would be complete without pointing out that many LGBTQIA+ folks refer to themselves as queer (a thing that I do not do even though I am Ace).
Did you get What you Came for?
I sure hope so. There’s not much left to say here. TLDR: I’m Changeling because I’m acknowledging the fact that the world sucks sometimes. There might come a day when I don’t need it, but I think it’ll always be there. It can be a kind of historical artifact or something. We could all do with a look back these days.