So… Why Lily?

One of the most interesting things about coming out to people as transgender has been the questions others ask, right after you tell them, or with time.

There’s a question I didn’t expect to be asked often but which has come up with nearly everyone I know, and that’s why (and how) I chose my name. I didn’t expect it, but thinking about it, it’s one of the most natural to ask. Aside from getting married, it’s not common to change your name, especially when it’s your first (and middle) name being changed, not your surname. Of course it’s an interesting idea.

First off, let’s look at the how.


When there’s a baby on the way, it’s common for the parents to freak out about what to name it. There are a lot of factors to be taken into account. There might a certain family member who’s expecting you to name the kid after them, maybe your partner has a name they’ve wanted for decades but which you secretly think sounds awful, and then there’s the weird judgements people might make about them from their name. You don’t quite know how people might think of a Laura compared to a Monique.

There’s a ton of pressure.

Michelle,_Oprah_Winfrey_and_Barack_Obama.jpg

The easy way out is to name them after Oprah and destine them to a life of fabulous success

Ultimately though, it’s not you who has to live with it, and even if you choose something unusual or odd, your child might get used to it over the years. You don’t have that luxury when you’re trans; you’re stuck with what you’ve got, and unless you take the name your parents would’ve given you if you’d been assigned a different gender at birth, you don’t get to blame anyone but yourself.

You also have to take a few more factors into consideration when you’re trans.

Are you going to feminise/masculinise (masculify? masculise? What the hell is the verb for that??) your old name? That has some positives and some negatives.
Going from Danny to Danielle can be easier for your close ones to adjust to, but what if they take to calling you Dani, or if strangers start doing it? You might spend the rest of your life feeling like you’re being misgendered.

Go for a completely different name and you might hurt your parents’ feelings. They did put an insane amount of effort and time into it, after all.

Is the name you chose one that was popular back when you were born?

Screenshot 2015-12-01 at 21.22.17

According to the mathematical formulas on WolframAlpha, my name indicates I’m a massive hipster, as I was born before the name Lily was cool.

I didn’t think to check on the popularity of my name until after I decided on it. It’s in the Top 30 baby names in the US right now, but it was barely used back when I was born. This might explain why, when I say my name at the call centre where I work, I get called Leyla, Kayla, Dana, Deena, Katie, Kimmy, etc etc. It’s just not a ‘natural’ name for someone my age.

Screenshot 2015-12-01 at 21.52.09.png

Whoopsies…

You also absolutely cannot choose the name of someone you know. Name your firstborn daughter after a friend and it’s a huge honour. Name yourself after them and it’s downright creepy.

Quick aside: If a trans person you are friends or family with chooses your name for themselves, be very, very afraid. I’ve come across stories of absolutely unhinged people. There was this one girl whose transgender sister stole their name (and, it felt like, their identity). It was terrifying to read.


So, there are some restrictions and considerations to keep in mind, but HOW do you choose a name?

At first I went with the obvious. 13/14 year old me’s browsing history was half full of baby naming sites. I liked to just hit the Random button and check each name and its definition.

That didn’t really work though… I was looking at dozens of names daily and discarding them just as quickly.

Around that time I really got into Pokémon games, and I started creating save files (as girl characters of course) with random girl names I was considering. Thinking back on it, they were mostly taken from videogames or books I was reading at the time. I remember really being into the name Lucy back then when I was first going through the Narnia books.

Screenshot 2015-12-01 at 20.54.36.png

Hmm, not enough space for Samus Aran… I guess Lara will do

Anyways, the Pokémon method was great at eliminating tons of names which felt great at first, but got old pretty quickly. I moved around a ton, so I also eliminated a few more names because I met girls with those names, or whose sisters had those names.

That’s how I eventually came to Lily. I have no idea where I picked it up, maybe someone I met once or heard on some show… I have no idea. It stuck though, and after going through a few videogames with the name and still liking it, I started using it in online forums (mainly tumblr, to be honest) and getting more and more comfortable with it. The switch to Liliana came because my best friend at the time thought it sounded better than just Lily, and I just went along with it for her. I’m glad I did; if I’d gone with just Lily I’d have felt like I was abandoning my heritage.


So that’s the how. Now, before we get to the why there are a couple of things I want to explain about my dead name.

My dead first name, [redacted], means Man, or Manly. It was kind of a hilarious, if painful, irony, and I hated it. Sadly it’s what everyone called me at school. Can you imagine how that felt? Being reminded of the thing I hated most about myself every couple of minutes was awful. I started trying to get some really stupid nicknames to catch on, to no avail.

My dead middle name though, was another story. It was chosen by my father decades ago, which I liked, and it means Warrior. Or someone with the name was the patron saint of soldiers. Something like that.

Anyways, I took comfort from that. If I had to define my pre-transition days in one word, ‘Struggle’ would be one of my first suggestions, and I took strength from my middle name. It meant I would fight and keep on keepin’ on until I was victorious. Which I did.

So when the time came to finally settle on a new name, I decided to mirror my dead name. Instead of choosing a name which basically screamed Manly Man at me, I chose a soft, pretty, feminine name. Lily. Liliana.

It’s a name pretty much made to be written in delicate curly script. When I introduce myself I often get “Oh, that’s such a pretty name!” and my internal reaction is a big laugh and a “heck yeah it is!”

script.png

“It’s a name pretty much made to be written in delicate cursive script”

For my middle name I decided to focus a lot more on meaning than femininity. If the first half of my life was defined by fighting, I wanted to choose something that would help define the rest of my life in a more positive manner, and which would also offer me comfort in a way similar to how my dead middle name did.

So I went with Amanda. Deserving of love, lovely, loving. I want my life to be defined by the love I give and receive from those I care about, and no matter what people say or whatever happens to me, I want to be reminded I am worthy of love. So, Amanda.

As a slightly unplanned bonus, both names work in English and Spanish, which is perfect for me. They also flow well together, but that was definitely planned. There’s a notebook somewhere with a bunch of names with scansion done all over them, because I wanted something that sounded melodic.

Ultimately though, you can’t predict everything that will come with a name. Soon after I’d had my legal name change, I heard of that old joke on Friends about Amanda (A-man-duh). Luckily I found it funny and it just added to my enjoyment of my name.


I hope that’s been a thorough and clear enough answer about how and why I chose my name. If you have any questions about it, I’d be happy to answer them so ask ahead! 🙂

For fun, let me know what name you’d think you’d choose for a you in an alternate gender-bent Universe, or which name your parents would’ve chosen for you. I always find that interesting.

 

 

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24 thoughts on “So… Why Lily?

  1. Tish Wolfsong says:

    I’d forgotten that you’d chosen Amanda, so as I was reading this I’d thought maybe Grace for your middle name. It was actually my Mum’s name.
    Had to LMAO though at the “Gobshite” in the picture … 😀

    Like

  2. Raquel says:

    I know that if I were a boy, my parents would’ve named me after my dad. I’d be Edson instead of Raquel.

    I’ve always wanted to change my name because I wanted to make my first name my middle name instead. For a long time I wanted Naomi, but I dont know if that’s still my final decision.

    Like

    • Liliana says:

      Wait, Edson or Edison?

      That’s pretty cool. I don’t hear about cis non-celebrities changing their name, but I like the idea of people naming themselves. Naomi’s a nice name; is there any particular reason you like it?

      Like

      • Raquel says:

        Edson. It’s pretty common in Brasil (my whole family’s from there, and I even have citizenship there).

        The reason I even want to change my name is because I have a last name that no one else has, and I’ve never really approved of Raquel as a good name. A lot of people have a hard time either saying it or spelling it, and I get called Rachel quite a bit. Basically I wanted a new first name, I was gonna make Raquel my middle name, and make my current middle name (which is my dad’s last name) my new last name. Complicated right? Haha.

        I wanted Naomi because I thought it was pretty and not too common. However after picking out my son’s name when he was born 4 years ago, I’ve decided I want a name that my family can say in Portuguese too. I’ll have to think a little more on if I really love Naomi.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. mysteriesnevercease says:

    I don’t have a name I would’ve been as a male and can’t think of one because I’m intensely in love with being female but I wish my parents would have gone with their first idea for my name which is Zinetta Marie. I plan on naming my first daughter that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liliana says:

      “because I’m intensely in love with being female”

      haha, I can relate 😉
      Marie’s such a pretty name. I considered it for a while (though I had to discard it because of the friends’ siblings rule).

      Like

  4. Patricia Davison says:

    I really admire you, Lily. And I never really considered how hard it would be to rename yourself. Fortunately, I like my name just fine. My parents chose it because it has a lot of potential nicknames (only a couple of which I tolerate being called), and because it isn’t popular in my generation. They knew I would be a female (chromosome testing), so they never picked a boy name at all for me. I suppose they would have chosen my grandpa’s name, Robert, or something like that. You are great, and keep on being your awesome self.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liliana says:

      Thanks for the nice comment! It’s interesting to share this kind of stuff, because sometimes I forget how many things that are obvious to me now are things most people don’t even think about!

      Like

  5. Lilia says:

    Love it. :). My name is lilia, after my filipino grandma. Leo has always called me Lily. I can completely relate to others calling you other things, though! I think i’m the only “white” lilia i know… Lol!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Katie says:

    I’m absolutely fascinated by names – maybe it’s a writer thing? – so I’ve asked my parents a bunch of times what I would have been called if I were a boy. But they never even thought about names until after they found out I was a girl, so it never came up. I’m named after both my grandmothers (which made my paternal grandmother mad – in the Jewish tradition you don’t name your kid after someone living, as it’s bad luck to the baby and the living person), so I might have been named after my grandfathers or great-grandfathers, but we’ll never know.

    I’m not sure what I would change my name to if I was trans, though. I’ve always liked the name James a lot. My last name is horrible, which makes most names sound weird…

    (Related to me asking my parents about alternate universe names for me: my mom adores the name Joanna, and wanted me to be named that but called Joey for short. She says my dad vehemently opposed it, for which I am very grateful. My dad remembers none of this.)

    Like

    • Liliana says:

      Definitely a writer thing. I share your fascination; this is definitely not my last word on names in this blog.

      That’s pretty interesting, thanks for sharing. I like the idea that naming a child after someone affects them.

      “(She says my dad vehemently opposed it, for which I am very grateful. My dad remembers none of this.)”

      haha, I would’ve been grateful too!

      Like

  7. Milo says:

    I just read your entire blog cover to cover? There must be a better term for that. Anyway thank you for sharing yourself, you are uniquely talented in your ability to percieve the world as multifaceted and then translate it to the written word to share.

    With regards to names, I like my first name though I do sometimes wish there were a short form available. A few people call me Miles which is the anglicised version, but I’m not a big fan of it really. My middle name is a boring biblical family name, Joseph. If not for a long history of Josephs in my family, I would not have that name.

    Interestingly both of my parents legally changed their names when they turned 18. They kept their original names as middle names, but they both wanted to get away from tramautic childhood experiences and start fresh. It is an interesting approach, erase an old you and start anew.

    My mom needed to get away from the pressure she perceived from being named after her apparently very snart and driven aunt who died of an aggressive cancer as a teen. Her name had also haunted her in the schoolyard as it led to a derogatory nickname in English.

    I’m honestly not sure of the story with my dad, he doesn’t like to talk about that part of his life very much.

    In any case, thanks for sharing. Choosing your own name is an unusual experience, and apparently not one to be taken lightly.

    Like

    • Liliana says:

      That’s very interesting. I’m glad to hear they’ve left it all behind them.
      I like the idea of choosing a new name when starting a whole new life.

      I have a question for you. When you wrote “you are uniquely talented in your ability to percieve the world as multifaceted and then translate it to the written word to share”, what did you mean exactly? I suppose I understand your general idea, but I’m having a little trouble imagining how the way I see the world is particularly unique.

      Like

      • Milo says:

        Well there is the obvious, you’ve seen the world from the perspective of two genders, which I think qualifies you to speak about many, many things that most people can’t.

        But really what I meant is that you tend to present both sides of an idea objectively. And then, even when you pick a side, you tend to it without demeaning the opposite side. You make your point with positives of the thing you like instead of negatives of the thing you don’t. It leaves your reader space to think and make their own decision instead of just reacting to you.

        Liked by 1 person

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