How I got to Heather has been a multi-year journey.
Names have power, and I wanted to be sure of a name before settling on one.
I’ve found that as I’ve aged, selecting a name has become harder. I’ve tried on a few over the years and developed a name selection rule list as I’ve gone along:
- Must not be the name of a relative
- Must not be the name of someone I’ve dated
- Must not be the name of a friend or friend’s spouse
- Must not be the name of someone I dislike or have a bad memory of
- Must not hand ammunition to transphobes
- Must not be derivative, a feminized version, or reminiscent of my current name
- Should not be easily confused with the male version
- Preferably does not start with the same letter as my male name
- Preferably is not the name of someone I work with/have worked with
- Preferably associated with my age cohort through age cohort minus ten years
- Would like it to incorporate my heritage
- Would like it to be a nature name
- Should be unambiguously female
- Should be easy to spell
Using those rules, especially the first few given my age, whittled the list down considerably!
In my mid 20’s I went by Jennifer. That was when I realized I wasn’t crossdressing and started to give some thought to transition as a possibility. A name felt important to have. I picked it at semi-random without much thought. I liked it, but was never very attached to it.
A few years later I ordered some credit cards with Lisa on them, and tried that name on for a while. I’d always liked the name, but it just never fit me and I knew and worked with a few Lisas, so I left it behind.
When I confronted my gender dysphoria a few years ago, I was more intentional in selecting Noelle. I have some French ancestry and it was a nice homage to that, plus it sounded pretty. I really liked it.
Unfortunately it kept hitting my exclusion rules. As a French name, the spelling varies when written in English (Noelle/Nöelle) and it is very close to Noel/Nöel in pronunciation. Worse, deconstructed and translated it is “no elle” or “no her(woman)”.
This was problematic and forced me back to my name list.
I’ve spent the better part of two years with a name list that has grown and shrunk as I’ve added and then ruled out names. I highly recommend keeping a name list, as you can circulate it with friends for input and see which ones keep floating to the top. A list also allows for ranking how you like them and is a good source for middle names, which can be an afterthought.
Heather was a name that moved back and forth between my first to second choices groupings a few times. The only Heather I have ever known was the daughter of a friend of my mom’s. I haven’t seen Heather in over thirty years, but I recall her as a friendly, outgoing, fun-loving woman. (And yes, I had a crush on her.) I had floated the name in front of my wife a while back and she didn’t like it. I reluctantly put it back on my seconds list.
But during therapy, my counselor pointed out that any name I selected would be my name and that I was the one that was going to have to live with it. I mulled this over for a week or so and moved it back to keeper list, which I had managed to whittle down to three: Audrey, Heather, and Justine.
My wife and sister-in-law were pushing hard for Audrey, which they suggested and I also liked.
I really, really liked Justine. It was French, it was pretty, and it was reasonably unique here in the United States. What I kept tripping over was the masculine form, Justin. Justin is contemporarily popular, and my worry was that on the phone, I’d be heard as Justin. I reluctantly moved it to the secondary pile.
That left Audrey and Heather. How to choose?
In my non-gender world, I’d been preparing to apply to an annual writer’s workshop for almost two years and the deadline to apply was fast approaching. Not only did I have to get my submission materials together, I had to apply.
Which meant I needed to put a name down for a program that is held in mid-summer. Which is right around when I’ve been thinking of transitioning. Which meant that either I used my male name and if I transitioned I’d have to explain everything before I got there or I could apply with a female name and just attend as myself.
And like flipping a coin when you’re not sure what you want the outcome to be beforehand but the act of doing it crystallizes your decision, I applied as Heather.
Hello, nice to meet you! What’s your name?