Saturday, 31 October 2009

what's in a name?

What names do transsexual women adopt when they transition? In some ways it is a bit of a privilege to be able to choose again, rather than go through life with a name chosen for you and which you may not be happy with. I, for instance, never liked my original name. Which is why I adopted 'Drew' in my teens. And when the time came formally to change my name, 'Drusilla' suggested itself, or rather, it was suggested by three other people, and I sometimes go by the Rule Of Threes. So I did on this occasion. As far as I'm concerned, the full version is for official purposes only, and I'm still just Dru. It might have been better to go for a more decidedly gendered name, to help people to make the mental jump from my old self to my present one; but it's a bit late to worry about that, if I were the worrying kind.

This is what TS Roadmap has to say about TS names in general, and this is what it has to say about my name, even if they can't spell it properly:

Soap-opera names: Lexie, Reena, Drucilla, the sorts of names you've probably never heard used for real people.

...well, those nice folk at TS Roadmap are American, and apparently in America everyone is called either Randy or Cindy-Lou, so sucks to them.

I did a little research. I looked at the names of 700 transsexual women, and if they cropped up more than once then they're on this list.

Alex (var, Alexandra) 7

Alice 2

Alison (var. Allyson, Alyssa) 9

Amy (var. Amelie) 7

Andrea 2

Angie 2

Anne (var. Anna) 6

Becky (var Rebecca 5) 10

Bethany 2

Brenda 2

Caitlin (var Kate 1) 3

Caroline (var Carol) 4

Catherine (var Cathy) 6

Charlotte 2

Chloe 3

Christine (var Chrissy, Kristy 3) 8

Claire (var Clarissa 1) 10

Debbie 3

Ellen 4

Emily 2

Emma 9

Erin 2

Eve 2

Fiona 4

Gemma 3

Gill 3

Helen 2

Jackie (var Jacqui 1) 3

Jane (var Jayne 2) 6

Jennifer (var Jenny 6) 12

Jessica (var Jessa, Jessy) 6

Joanne (var Johanna) 5

Judy 3

July (var Julia 3) 5

Karen (var Karina, Karine) 5

Kate (var Kathy, Katie) 13

Kin 3

Kirsty 2

Laura 2

Linda 5

Lisa 5

Louise 2

Lucy 4

Madeleine 2

Maggie 2

Marie 2

Melissa 3

Michelle 5

Natalie 7

Nicola (var. Nicky, Nikki) 7

Paula 3

Rachael 8

Rebecca 3

Rose 3

Sarah 10

Vicky 2

Zoe 2


  1. Love the jeu de mot.
    I wonder how many choose a new name because it reminds them of someone they like. Choosing a new name must be even worse than choosing 8 records for Desert Island discs (I think about it from time to time incase I become famous)

    I used to hate my name but now I think of it as sophisticated. As time goes on I wonder how many are still satified with their 'new'name.

  2. It's an interesting issue. I got named in two stages...

    First, in the midst of a particularly life changing sequence of therapy sessions ten years ago, I first 'fessed up to the inner me (about 6 months in). And the therapist said "Does this person have a name?", and I thought for a moment, as I didn't have one in mind, and then a woman with whom I was working who I admired and liked came to mind and I said "Jo".

    I liked Jo because it allowed me to put a foot in both camps...gave me 'access' if you like when I couldn't live as the the entire 'me'.

    Then in summer 2007, I told my Mum about me (six months before she died). She was wonderful. She asked me about 'Jo'.

    "What's it short for?" she said.

    Well it wasn't really short for anything. I said, "Erm, well I don't really know. Joanna? Joanne?"

    "I don't like either of those" she said (entirely in character). "How about Josephine?"

    And I thought yes, I really like Josephine, so there it was.

    So mmy Mum named me, which is kind of how it should be, and that fact has remained incredibly special to me since she has been gone.

    I'm called Jo in daily life, but these days I am using Josephine much more often because I do find people misunderstanding 'Jo' and adding the 'e'. So few have any idea what the reality of my life and experience is, so sometimes they think I am holding onto my male identity in some ambiguous/ dual gendered way and think it's 'Joe'. And that's frustrating.

  3. @Dru:
    Is there a second half to your list? Anyway, I'm sure you have much more to say on this fascinating subject!

    I've covered most of this stuff already in my July 2009 posting 'Won't you take some tea, Miss Melford?', but to recap, I invented 'Lucy' for myself nearly a year ago. I made some notes on the 'why' at the time (about a year ago). The reasons included:
    - I liked the sound of it when pronounced.
    - it was easy to say.
    - it went well with a gentle personality. (Hang on, wasn't I rather grumpy person at times? Not any more! Wonder why!)
    - surely nobody would be cruel of unkind to me if my name were Lucy? (As opposed to Cruella, say)
    - there was a faint echo of my old first name.

    I decided not to have a middle name. My Mum had no middle name. That was good enough precedent.

    I selected a new surname very soon after deciding on 'Lucy'. I then always thought of the two names together. I didn't want to use my old surname - a lifetime of having to spell it whenever introducing myself put me off, and it was a nightmare to say over a bad phone line. I did however want something very English and somewhat quaint.

    Thank you for all reassurances that I chose something suitable for my life ahead!

  4. When I was ten, my mother was expecting her fifth child. I remember sitting on her bed as we discussed baby names. She had a boy's name picked out and a girl's name. I took the opportunity to ask what girl's name she had picked out for me. "Peta" she said. Thirty six years later as I officially changed my name, I chose the name my mother had picked out for me. My middle name is Helen - after Helen Mirren.

  5. Maybee there should be an Angela in your list too... sometimes people call me Angie but I don't like it.

    I chose Angela after having a hard time and watching the film Angel-A several times. It was all about self acceptance, and I also liked angels, and still do from time to time. I'd asked my mum what she would have called me but she wouldn't or couldn't tell me, so I just had to go it alone.

    I kept my male name in female form as my middle name, it's Jacobina, as a connection to my past and a way of honouring and claining the earlier parts of my life.

  6. Sorry, I think I misplaced my comment on this thread, so here goes again...

    Goodpoint, Anji; though there's little enough follow-up on all aspects of transitioning, so I guess we'll never know how many have post-deed poll regret...

    "So few have any idea what the reality of my life and experience is..." indeed, Jo; I was mentioning to someone today about how I brought up the subject of 'he' -ing me with Richard, who was doing it casually because he simply did not appreciate how hugely important gender is to some of us... this was quite some time ago, of course :-)

    That is a good point, Lucy; there must have been a second part to that list, and I've lost it. Damn. Maybe I'll go back through the source material again. Soon... ish.

    Is Peta a family name, Peta? It sounds nice, anyway.

    I prefer Angela, too; the other Angelas I know are definitely Angelas rather than Angies. Whereas I also know a mixture of Katies and Katherines...