I spent a very long time thinking about my name. Why it worked; why it didn’t. What would fit better or what wouldn’t fit at all.
It’s strange that we just make noises and people recognise them as being ‘theirs’. And that some noises belong to more people than others. Language in general is strange. Names are tricky.
I have to respect my parents for naming six children. I couldn’t do that. It took me a year to name myself. And who knows me better than me?
I’m twenty-one now, and only just becoming the someone I wanted to be when I was four. Coming out as non-binary helped hugely, but something was still bothering me, and it took me a while to work out that it was my birth name. It felt uncomfortably feminine on me. It took me even longer to find a name that I 1) liked enough to hear every day for the rest of my life; 2) felt like it could realistically be me, and 3) that my friends thought suited me.
I chose Oleander (Oli for short) because, after so much thinking I never want to think again, I kept landing back on lists of floral and plant based names. I’ve always liked flowers. I’m getting a floral tattoo soon. My phone and laptop backgrounds are floral prints. My favourite items of clothing usually have a floral print on them. I used to (and sometimes still do) steal pretty flowers from strangers’ gardens so that I can look at them for longer. And unlike Rose or Lavender or Fleur or Pansy, Oleander didn’t have the distinctly feminine feel associated with most plants; at least not for me.
I started using it quietly. I asked my partner to call me Oli. About a week after this, while ordering coffee, the barista asked my name, and having practiced what I was going to say in my head about four hundred times, half-shouted ‘OLI!’. She said, ‘okay…’ and avoided eye contact with me for the rest of the transaction. When she finished my coffee and called out ‘Oli!’ I felt that pure rush of gender euphoria which is still exciting and new to me.
I’m an impatient person. I told my close friends the week after that; a couple of my siblings a few days later. I sent my parents a letter so I wouldn’t break down and cry when I told them.
I’m still becoming Oli, but I know now that I’m on the right path. Whenever someone says Oli my brain goes ‘!!! that’s me!!!”. With every passing day I feel more real, valid, and happy with who I am becoming.