I hate my real name. Not because it’s a blokes name, which of course it is, but because of how I got it.
When I was born, back in the dim and distant past of the end of the sixties, hospitals were, well, not quite as good as they are nowadays. My birth was a tough one, long period in the canal and a lot of squeezing of the head, and my parents were warned that I was likely to be mentally disabled.
Heh. That was slightly off the mark. But I digress….
So, they debated whether to give me the name they wanted to, which happened to be Scott and I like that, or something that would be, well, easier to remember and spell.
I kid you not.
So I ended up with a very short and frankly crap name on account of me being able to spell it when I grew up. Turns out I wasn’t disabled at all, quite the opposite in fact. Moved up a year at school, member of Mensa, degree educated, bit of a philosopher when I’m not dreaming of pretty clothes and the like. But still with a name that annoys me.
So, when the fantasies started to encroach on me, very young, I was enthralled by the possibility that I could, if I ever chose to dress as a girl, choose my own name.
And that’s huge. The majority of people go through their lives with the name assigned by other people. A tag that everyone assigns to you once they know it. The chance to pick my own name, and a femm one at that, was always a big thrill.
But I had some rules. Firstly, it couldn’t be a name derived from a man’s name. For some reason that was too close to masculinity for me. Also, it had to mean something to me, beyond the fact of it being a woman’s name and my name (and yes, typing that last bit of the sentence gave me the same odd thrill, not sexual but beyond that, deep in the soul).
And I couldn’t choose. There were too many names, too much choice, all of it delightful, and I didn’t want to stick on one.
When I branched out into full dressing at the behest (prompted) of my first partner I feigned indifference as to the name. Partly because I was very nervous that the whole thing would be a passing fad for my girlfriend at the time, and I wanted to give her an out, a way back to the man/woman dynamic before we tried swapping genders if it didn’t work out for her. As I’ve mentioned before, her interest was a bit more oriented to her need not to be the weaker sex. So part of swapping genders with each other turned out to be taking each other’s names.
That was fun but didn’t feel right to me, because i hadn’t had a chance to choose it and it was hers, and I loved her. Felt like I’d been given a name again, not mine. Was good to answer to a girl’s name but it wasn’t what I was looking for.
To myself I had by this time settled on what I thought was a good name. Diane. It felt feminine, had a lovely ring to it. And the person I dressed as was a Diane as far as I perceived a Diane to be the early 90s, all Cheers owner, smart dressing in suits and the like.
That name stuck for the short duration of her existence. When it cooled between myself and my first partner the urge to be her was the first thing I shelved in an attempt to save the relationship, but it was all for naught. So Diane was consigned to the history books, a waif-like, thin girl with the advantage of youth and a high metabolic rate.
During the dark ages of no dressing I occasionally got the urge, but never to dress really. It was more about just seeing how others could do it, and I got to know a number of names of what were effectively the pioneers of the trans-internet. And they were some good names, Alison, Tiffany, Rachel. When I looked longingly at their pictures (wanting the outfits, the freedom and the bravery rather than the people themselves) I saw them as their names. The fact in the real life that they were called Johns and Richards meant nothing and never occurred to me. Those women in the pictures were Alison, Tiffany and the rest.
It’s a strong thing to associate yourself with a name. Not only does it label you, it *is* you. And that’s why I had to be sure that whatever name I ended up with was me, not an alias or a shield.
So when I took the plunge and got back into dressing (in bleeding 2014!!!!) I’d had a lot of time to think about her, the girl inside, and what she wanted to be called.
And I was still bloody stuck.
First time I frocked up in the new century I went to the fantastically friendly Adam and Eve, and when asked about my femm name I feigned ignorance again (*sigh*). So the girl I was on the two visits I had never had a name when she was dressed. When I escalated and started going to Alison Dale’s later in the year (not much later to be honest, a couple of months) I gave the same weak-willed response when asked by her as to my femm name.
But then I discovered Flickr. Actually, not strictly true, I’d been on Flickr as a lurker/admirer (one with no photos and way too many favourites) since 2010 when my internet interests exploded, but as of June 2014 I wiped the site, chose a name, and started to post some of the photos from the makeovers I’d done.
I hadn’t discovered the retro-look then. To be honest, just wearing clothes and make-up was a rush that made me feel alive in a way that I hadn’t for a long, long time, so lots of looks and outfits, some seriously into the fetish side, were tried and photoed. And looking at the photos on Flickr it struck me that each and every look was a different girl.
So I started naming them separately. Looking back it was just me being indecisive again, but wow, tonnes of fun.
I’d settled on a name for the account itself, a slightly pretentious choice with a doubled-barrelled surname (my feeling was that she was a bit of a snob). Deborah Lewis-Smith. Or Debbie, for short.
Now that was a good name. Unfortunately it didn’t feel like mine, but still, a good name.
For each of the looks I had I came up with a different name, and a different back-story. Deborah was shy, into polka-dots. Emma was flirty and into maid uniforms. Kirstie was the office slut, bit of an air-head. Elizabeth was the stay-at-home mum. Julia was the glamorous cougar.
And for a while that kind-of worked. But it was seriously hard to keep track of, and, again, it was just a case of me not picking a name and sticking with it because I wanted to have the choice.
Then I started to go to the sublime Boys Will Be Girls, and the looks that Cindy produced were outstanding, like nothing I had ever expected to see in the mirror, but consistent. I could see the same girl looking back at me each time.
But I still ended up with two names.
First one was Julie. I love that name, and I have good memories of the Julies I’ve known, all of them fun and quirkily feminine. Plus it just has a ring to it, saying ‘Hello, my name is Julie’ just made my voice lift to a higher register and sent a tingle down my spine.
But there’s a catch, as there always is. And a funny one too. My other half’s middle name is Julie. And her best friend *used* to be called Julie before they fell out. And her best friend had a crush on me.
So, when I unintentionally fell out of the closet (see previous humour for details) that name was pretty much out of the question. My other half is understanding, but only so understanding. It was too close to home and too much of a minefield to use.
So back to square one.
And then I settled on my name. Sarah. My first ever girlfriend was called Sarah, we were both ten and it was the kind of friendship you strike up before you know that genders are different, but your parents are calling you cute and sweet and it seems like the thing to do, hand-holding and hugs. So I have a warm feeling for the name.
And it’s such a feminine name. You can’t shorten it (other than losing the ‘h’ – heathens) and it flows off the tongue. Hearing Cindy’s partner shout it out in the ladies toilets of the Wayout club when I went in for an anxious sit-down, fighting the panic attack which was particularly fun because, and pay attention girls, you can’t hyperventilate in a corset, no matter how hard you try, was a wonderful thing, and hearing myself respond in a higher than normal voice without thinking made it click. I was a Sarah.
So, Sarah it is, for now. As I get older and the styles inevitably change it may become something else, but for now I’m happy. My name is Sarah and I’m completely into retro frockage.
Stay beautiful, whatever pretty name you call yourself.