From birth, my name was a matter of debate.
My father insisted I be named after him and his father — Howard Herron III, with no middle name. After all, I was his first son and the lettering on the side of the old panel truck used in the family painting business would not need a major redo when I “joined the crew.”
My mother, on the other hand, hated the name. According to family folklore, she looked at my tiny face an hour after I was born and told Dad firmly, “You can name him if you want, but I will never call that precious child Howard.”
So when a Bartholomew County Hospital nurse delivered me to our home in Hope, nestled in a wicker basket, Mom presented me to my two older sisters as simply her “little buddy.”
Within a few days, what Dad put on my birth certificate didn’t matter. I was “Buddy.” Everyone — except the Social Security Administration and the draft board — would know that fact for the rest of my life.
A few times at the beginning of a school year, some uninformed teacher would call on me as “Howard.” I would then look around the room to see if my Dad had somehow entered the room and had been asked to answer her question.
I was happy with that name until I entered seventh grade. Sporting a few budding whiskers on my chin and noticing the girls in my class had quit being ugly and irritating over summer break, I decided the “dy” on the end of my name had to go. Would John Wayne have been the same macho man if he allowed people to call him “Johnny?”
So I became “Bud” by my own choice.
I was 13, knew who I was and what I wanted others to call me. And luckily, the Indiana General Assembly had not yet decided I had no right to decide those things without Mom’s or Dad’s approval. So the school did not require a permission slip from home, as is now mandated by Indiana law.
If that had happened, a heck of a fight might have sprung up between me and Mom. She preferred “Buddy” and continued to use that name until I was in high school, embarrassing me around friends — particularly girls I hoped now saw me as a twin of John Wayne.
Dad, having long given up the battle for “Howard,” refused to pass judgment on me being “Bud.”
But the fact was and is I didn’t need their approval. Unless the state legislature could figure a way to make me wear a muzzle or give me electroshock treatments on my defiant brain, I could call myself whatever I pleased. So what could the school do to stop it? Could the legislature require teachers to send me to detention or expel me for wanting the courtesy and respect of letting me be who I said I was without parental permission?
Fortunately, the Indiana legislature in those ancient days had more important matters of government to deal with than the direction of my sexuality and how I reflected that in my name choices. Nor were they obsessed with what pronouns I used to describe myself.
I do know that if I was the parent of a child in school today and received that permission slip to fill out for the school, I would return it with a note saying “My child is free to call himself/herself/their whatever he/she/they choose.”
And I might write my representatives at the General Assembly and suggest he/she/they stay out of my personal family decisions and figure out better ways to fund our financially struggling public school systems.
Bud Herron is the retired former editor and publisher of the Daily Journal in Franklin. Send comments to [email protected].