You probably know Elan Morgan. She’s a long-time blogger, the one who started Five Star Fridays, and Grace in Small Things, and the Canadian Weblog Awards. She blogs at BlogHer and Aiming Low, and other places. You just probably know her better as Schmutzie, because that’s what she called herself online for years. She never used her real name on any of her internet work, and that gave her the courage to write boldly. From January 2007:
What most of my side of the family doesn’t know is, well, a lot of things. They don’t know that I decided at the age of eight that I would never marry or have children (and so far I’ve stuck to one out of the two). They don’t know that I was grossly pregnant on one other occasion and had a none too good experience with it due to mental instability and drug use.
When she started blogging in January 2003, inspired by her husband (the blogger known as Palinode) Morgan chose to use the nickname that people had always had for her in real life. She created a very popular personal blog, Schmutzie.com, where she continues to write about raw personal issues and share her photography, and always kept her real name off the site. “There was too much potential for messes” with her friends and family, she told me in a phone interview. While working for 5 years at a university office, she made sure her coworkers didn’t know about her blog. Still, Schmutzie was careful when posting. “I knew that at any time my identity could be found out, and that my writing could come back to haunt me.”
When Morgan attended her first blogger conference at BlogHer ‘08, she found the idea of meeting her online friends in real life “scary. Nobody had seen my face before, and because my real name is ‘different,”” it stood out. As is typical with bloggers, however, many people called her Schmutzie anyway. Even so, Morgan recognized the danger of being physically present while others were taking photographs that they would likely post online. “It was a testament to the trust of the community” that people who knew she was anonymous wouldn’t tag her in a photo.
Last October, Morgan finally signed her real name on her work at Life As a Human. Her decision to shed her anonymity, she says, came about slowly, but mostly because “I believe in transparency. I stand behind my words.” Declaring her sobriety last year had an influence on the move as well. “Becoming sober made transparency and authenticity both on and offline more important.”
Anonymity or not, I have been as honest as I know how here for the last six-and-a-half years running, but having my name from non-internet life attached to my internet life means living out LOUDER, and each step away from living up inside my head to living out loud in the world terrifies the ever-lovin’ bejeezus out of this fraidy cat.
Now that Elan Morgan is blogging out of the anonymous closet, how does it feel? She said there is a certain weight lifted off her shoulders, but also a renewed “tension of people finding out incredibly personal things.” It surprised her when her husband’s parents brought up something from her blog, where she has pubicly discussed her issues with gender and topics from her sexual history. Morgan’s own parents, who are more traditional and religious, “might choose not to dig into it, so it hasn’t come up.” Yet.