Friends, it has been a long time. It’s not for lack of thinking of you all and things that I’d like to say here. A global pandemic, some family situations and a new & challenging job (which I still love) have had me in a place of big waves in heavy seas. As we approach summer #2 of said pandemic, the swells are getting smaller and I’m able to walk a little more upright on the deck.
So I’m coming back to you here to pick up our conversation. Last year at this time, I was telling my coming out story, piece by piece, through my journal. Let’s pick up, but in real time.
I am a little more than a year into understanding myself and navigating the world as a nonbinary person, and it feels better and better. I keep getting insights into what this means for me and these help me to understand myself better, feel more settled, and be reassured that I have found my place.
Something that I have been noticing as a challenge for a number of months is my name. Heather is a decidedly feminine name. There’s no way to shorten it or change it up a little to make it less so. It’s becoming more of a challenge as it is more and more important for me to have people see me for who I really am. At work, the first thing people find out about me is my name. And that tells them things about me that aren’t true and then they have to work hard at trying to remember what is true. Most people don’t have experience with this and don’t really know how to do it. It means that even though I tell people that my pronouns are they/them, I’m regularly referred to as she/her. I get it. Our brains are constantly doing background work that we don’t have conscious control over and one of those things is evaluating and categorizing. We make assumptions because they’re usually right and it’s more efficient than questioning similar scenarios over and over again. In my case, the unfortunate reality is that the assumptions are wrong.
So I started to think about a new name months ago. But I needed to find the right name and that proved to be not easy. I was first confronted with a paralysis of choice. I could choose literally any name, or even something that’s not a name. Looking at random lists of names soon had me feeling like nothing would ever sound, look or feel right. I let it sit for a while. Then the Spirit nudged me to narrow it down by committing to keeping my initials. Now I could tackle something that felt more manageable! I started to look for gender neutral names that begin with H.
After visiting a number of websites, I had a short list of about 5 names that I thought were possible. Of course, they all felt strange and foreign because I’ve only ever had one name for more than 50 years. I had to take some time to think through that part of it. This would be somewhat uncomfortable for me, let alone everyone else I would ask to make a change. I had to be very certain that I wanted this and needed it. With more experiences of misgendering and wanting to be able to be seen outside the category of woman, I became more certain that a name change would help.
After letting it sit for a while, I came back to my short list to see what each of the names mean. Meaning of names was important to us when we named our children, and if I get to choose my own name, I want it to have a story. And I sure found a story! I knew I had found my new name when I read the meaning of the name Hadley. It means “a field of heather.” How perfect is that?! I love that it has a connection to the name my parents gave me, the name I’ve carried for over half a century. I could move on with a name that doesn’t instantly mark me as feminine but has a strong connection with my history.
My middle name, given to me by my oldest sister, is Susan. Another definitely feminine name! Susan means “lily” (another flower, interestingly enough). I’ve looked for name that’s as connected as Hadley is to Heather but was unsuccessful. So, I expanded my search to any names that begin with S and are gender neutral. My short list was longer than for my first name and I’ve been undecided for a long time. But last week, I had another look around the interwebs and came across a name that I like because it meets those two criteria and I like what it means. Sheridan means “seeker.” I like that. I like to think that I am a seeker. I seek to understand. I seek God. I seek connection. I seek those who feel lost. This one feels good.
So I’d like to introduce myself.
I’m Hadley Sheridan Holtslander. My pronouns are they/them.