Throughout my life, I've always been known as Katie Gwinn. Not just Katie. Katie Gwinn. Nicknames included KG, KFG, and AKG, but the Gwinn part was always there.
People have always said that my first name “doesn't work” without Gwinn... That it “flows better” with the “Gwinn” attached at the end. Maybe I've always been this way, or maybe I've become this way over time because of my numerous nicknames, but I've always been proud to be a Gwinn.
For 25 years, I've worked hard to make a name for myself. I’ve built name recognition in my small professional community, and I've established a personal brand that I'm proud of. So when it came time to get married, I hesitated at the thought of changing my last name.
For most women, there's something romantic about getting married and changing your last name. For me, the whole concept was scary. Who am I if I'm not Katie Gwinn?
I worried about losing any sort of name recognition that I'd built up to that point. Are there professionals out there who don't know me, but have heard of me? Will changing my name set me back professionally? These are the questions I asked but could never find answers for.
We talk all the time how being a woman in the workplace is difficult, but I never thought a simple American custom would cause an identity crisis for me. But if you get married and DON’T change your last name, you're not home free at all. There are still people who will question you, your commitment to your spouse, how you'll raise children with different last names, etc. I certainly never realized or considered how controversial this topic would be.
After much thought, I ended up legally changing my last name. My husband asks me for very few things in this life [we moved to Michigan for my job and put his career on hold, remember?] so when he told me that he wanted me to be a “Hewitt,” I understood what he was asking and why.
Since we got married, I've changed my social media accounts and my email signature to say “Katie Gwinn Hewitt.” I'm not ready to drop the Gwinn part of my name yet, and I'm not sure I ever will be, and my husband understands that. The good news is that I also love being a Hewitt, so we're both content with me using both names for now.
It took a lot of thought, but I ended up deciding to legally change my name, and it was so important to know that I had options. I could keep my last name, make Gwinn my middle name, hyphenate both names, wait a few years and change my name later, or not change my name all. There are options, even if you don't think there are or your family and friends make you feel otherwise.
To all you awesome women out there, I implore you to think about your options. And to all you present and future spouses out there, I encourage you to be supportive. Whether it's important to you to keep your name or it's important to change it, the choice is yours and yours alone. Do what makes you happy, always.