Friday, 14 October 2011

Are you well named?

One's first name or names are terribly personal, and tend to define how people see you. If you like your name, and everybody else likes it too, you tend to 'grow' into it so that it seems to fit your personality exactly, and you could not be called anything else.

I've written about my own name before - see for instance Will you take some tea, Miss Melford? on 19 July 2009. In this post I'm concentrating on the forename (in my case Lucy). As the July 2009 post says (rather succinctly for me!), I chose Lucy because I'd always liked it, and its main vowel sound (the 'oo') was also prominent in my former name, which was Julian. I could say the same of the consonant 'l' and the vowel 'i' -  'uli' became 'lui'. Both Julian and Lucy are liquid names that involve a bit of tongue work to articulate.

I don't think they are all that far apart, although the shadowy connection of Lucy with Julian isn't at all obvious; and having any connection at all wasn't uppermost in my mind when naming myself. It was more important to have a name that would suit me, and elicit the right sort of response in the people I would encounter in my new life as Lucy. I felt it was a sweet kind of name that would produce a gentle reaction and give me a breathing space. It wasn't a harsh or abrupt or puzzling kind of name that would confuse or wrong-foot or offend. It wasn't foreign or exotic to English ears. It was short and easy to spell. It existed when I was born, so it wasn't an anachronism, and it well suited a certain type of lively middle-aged educated woman from a middle-class background with a leaning (or pretentions, if you prefer) towards art and style - the name of a lady of leisure and independent means certainly. There was no Lucy in the family tree that I knew of, and no family member would be put out if I adopted that name.

The entire name - Lucy Melford - seemed to flow easily off the tongue, full of soft-sounding letters, and I thought it was somewhat evocative of the old English countryside. That was a deliberate intention, a nod to my Dad's origins in Devon, although the only common 'Mel-' elements in West Country placenames seem to occur in Dorset (e.g. Melbury Abbas, Melbury Bubb, Melcombe Bingham, Melplash). Long Melford and Melford Hall are in Suffolk. My neice told me that 'Lucy Melford' could have been a character in one of Jane Austen's novels. That pleased me very much.

I confess that I was also influenced by the down-to-earth and comprehensive advice on choosing a suitable name in Andrea James' Transsexual RoadMap ( Required reading, I'd have thought! I also paid attention to how easily the name 'Lucy Melford' could be written in my own fair hand (see After all, even if everything is typed nowadays, you still have to sign your name sometimes in face-to-face situations, there are still cheques to write and sign, and all paper forms require a signature. Your handwritten name needs to flow quickly and easily from the pen, with no hestitation and no difficult or unnatural pen movements.

So much for myself. What do other people call themselves? Here's list of MTF trans people that I've come across in UK social situations, mostly the ones who made it into my address book:

Beth Anne
Dee (2)
Emma (2)
Jane (2)
Jenny (2)
Jo (2)
Lucy (me)
Mel (2)
Michelle (2)
Natasha (2)
Nicky (2)
Paula (2)
Rebecca (2)
Sarah (4)
Sarah Jayne
Sophie (2)
Steph (2)
Vicky (2)

That's nearly three years worth of accumulated names! Things that strike me are:

# Most names seem to come from the first half of the alphabet, A to M (55/94 = 58%); but the commonest in my collection is Sarah.
# Some are exotic or unusual, but not all that many.
# Only a few are oddly or unexpectedly spelt.
# Nearly all are single names, and not a double-barrelled combination.
# Absent are some everyday female names like Katie, Carol, Betty, Tracey, Jackie, Alison, Anne, Frances, Ruth, Joanna, Maggie, Wendy, Marilyn and Mary. 
# Also absent are some 'posh' female names like Olivia, Jocasta, and of course Fiona.

I get the feeling that 'ordinary' female names have been avoided, perhaps in the quest for some individuality, or an intention to stand out from the crowd just a little. (But not too much!)

It's a good point to make that - in British culture, and excluding stage people and that sort of person - only transsexuals get the chance to adopt and use in real life another name that they have chosen for themselves. It's a fantastic privilege.


  1. it's fun looking at this subject, isn't it? -I did the same thing a while back, and found that Kate and Jennifer seemed to be most popular, with Becky, Claire, Gemma and Sarah close behind....

  2. I agree with your niece concerning your name, Lucy Melford.
    I always loved my name. If properly pronounced it flies off one's tongue and when people write it down in French and I tell them "with two ls" it sounds like Ellena with two wings.

  3. Nice post, Lucy. I had an interesting time finding my name. I started out as Virginia, which was a meaningful name for me for a lot of reasons, but my spouse hate it. We found Natasha together and it really fit, plus it was in use when I was born just a bit. Funny thing, when I came out to my father, he joked that he should have been allowed to pick my name. I told him I lived with the one he gave me for 40 years.


  4. Of course you couldn't have such a common name as Shirley Anne in your collection, that would be absurd Lucy....LOL. It is a fascinating subject to be sure. Apart from personal choice when deciding on a name, consideration should be given to the age in which one was born and if a particular name was popular in use at that time. Names come and go as fashion statements but the advantage of being able to choose one's own name is that of not being lumbered with something one doesn't like. Having chosen my names I had to subsequently practice signing them which I found difficult at first and once or twice I signed my old name by mistake! I never sign my surname, only Shirley Anne, even on legal documents.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  5. @Shirley Anne:
    Well, 'Shirley Anne' hasn't got unusual components, but I haven't yet met anyone with that name here in the UK; so that's why your name wasn't in my list!

    I do personally think that it's prudent to consider one's name as a whole, surname included. Even so, I have met people who haven't any 'trans surname'. Some of them clearly continue to use their given family surname, either by default, or because it would be too troublesome or confusing to change to another.

    Others seem perplexed at the very idea of choosing a special surname. They simply haven't given it a thought. For them, a girly forename will do, and nothing more is required. As you can't survive for long in the world without giving a surname, I suppose they are part-timers who keep their trans lives distinct from what you might call their public lives. I make no judgement on them for that. I'd just say that if it really matters to adopt a real-life female persona lock, stock and barrel, then it's scarcely possible not to choose a forename and a surname, inventing both if need be.

    I invented both, although in the case of my surname, it wasn't entirely voluntary. I felt compelled to find another surname in order to spare my parents embarrassment in the opening stages of my transition. Mind you, this was no hardship on me; and left to myself I'm absolutely sure that I'd have chosen a completely new name, if only to mark the fact that I was going to become a completely new person.


  6. I am not sure if the pun was intended lucy but 'Well, 'Shirley Anne' hasn't got unusual components,'......made it so that I couldn't stop laughing at the comment.....and it's true!
    I had met a girl called Shirley Anne, she once lived next door but the strange thing is that when I decided on the name I had completely forgotten her (we lived as neighbours years before). I was actualy influenced by another girl called Shirley and the name 'Anne' was added because I didn't like 'Shirley' just by itself. That is why I insist that people call me by both names. As far as my surname goes, I wasn't prepared to lose that under any circumstances because of family history but it does match well with my chosen names.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  7. If we had had a daughter she would have been named Angela Ruth. Since we had two sons, it fell to me to claim the name. And I could be confident that my wife would like it.

    The diminutive form took a while to sort out. I do like Angie but folk have been known to pronounce it 'Ann-gee' so I nearly settled for Anji instead. But the traditional form won the day, perhaps because I'm quite traditional myself.

    Lucy is nice, not least because it can't be shortened... well not unless they call you 'loose', which I sincerely hope they do not. And as for Melford, well there's real class!


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