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I’m Mandy, Fly Me!

This post is in Technicolor!

By Amanda J.

I seem to be deriving a lot of inspiration from song titles and lyrics at the moment – I recently used ‘I Want To Break Free’ as the title to one of my posts and the opening line from Bohemian Rhapsody – Is this the real life?  Is this just fantasy? – is another that’s knocking around my mind summing up perfectly how I feel about this side of myself.  But today’s post has inexorable links to 10cc’s hit for no other reason than the name.

I’ve never really thought of myself as a Mandy to be honest.  Of course, it’s the usual contraction of ‘Amanda’ but of all the girls I’ve known with that name, those who refused the contraction always seemed somehow sweeter and more refined than the Mandys (or should that be Mandies?).  And as the persona of a refined lady (or ‘classy tart’ as one online friend so eloquently put it) that I try to project seems to demand an equally refined name, ‘Amanda’ it had to be and woe betide anyone who dared contract it.

Names are funny things, sometimes very funny due to a either a lack of foresight or an evil streak on the part of their parents – what were Mr & Mrs Head thinking when they named their son Richard? – or by marriage as in the case of poor Ophelia whose life took an unfortunate turn for the worse when she married Mr Butt.  There are very few things in life we have absolutely no control over; our chromosomes and all that goes with them are one thing, determined as they are by a game of chance at the point of conception, and our name is another.  The term ‘given name’ as an alternative to forename hits the nail on the head and the truth is that by the time we’re old enough to realise that we need to answer to the name ‘Obidiah’  or ‘Persephone’, it’s too late to do anything about it at least until we reach the age of maturity.  We can just hope that there either is a cool contraction or the name becomes fashionable once more.  So it’s no surprise that any of us, when faced with the challenge of coming up for a feminine name for ourselves face challenges.  And I don’t mind admitting that this is something I’ve struggled with a lot over the years.

When embarking on the quest for a name, I felt that in many ways it was the key to discovering the inner woman.  I desperately wanted her to be much better looking and far more stylish than her male twin and so many names were immediately struck off the list (assuming that they’d been allowed onto it in the first place, of course).  But where to begin.

A good enough place as any seemed to be my ‘given name’, or to be more precise, the name I’d have been given if the midwife had excitedly exclaimed ‘it’s a girl!’ before holding me upside down, smacking my bottom (another one of those unnecessary tasks in the ‘Guide to Midwifery’ in the 1960s) and handing me over to my mother.  So Susan it was going to be and, to be honest, a name I rather like.  Even its contractions to Susie and Sue don’t in any way seem to drag it downmarket.

And had that been the end of the story, this post would probably have been called ‘A Boy Named Sue’, strangely ironic under the circumstances!

But it wasn’t the end of the story, in fact it was only the beginning.

Let’s face it, there is a bewildering array of names to choose from and narrowing it down is far from straightforward.  I’ve always thought that kids tend to grow into their names and so a strategy I adopted with mine was to think about people I’ve known with those names.  If I’d known anyone with a name under consideration who was generally unpleasant or from the bad side of town, the name was immediately consigned to the ‘no way, José’ pile.  Equally, though, if said person had nothing but good qualities, straight away, that name went onto the shortlist.  And so it was as I tried to find a feminine name for myself.

I’ve never met a Sarah that I didn’t like, in fact several of them were positively gorgeous.  So it was almost inevitable that Sarah would be ripe for experimentation (Sarah the name, that is, not one of the aforementioned lovelies) and, I must say, a name that I wouldn’t have minded at all if my chromosomes had been of the XX persuasion.  So I thought of my inner woman as a Sarah for quite a while.  But much though I like the name, I could never look in the mirror and see ‘Sarah’ looking back, not least because I wasn’t really CDing to anything more than a cursory degree in those days.  Sarah may have been entirely appropriate for what I aspired to but anything but as far as the bespectacled nerdy type who confronted me from the mirror.  And so nice though the idea of being called Sarah seemed, it was a name I just couldn’t emotionally connect with so the search continued.

Well, I say it continued but it didn’t really because it was put on ice for two decades.  I got married, all feminine thoughts I had drifted away and even when they started to drift back again they were more of a self-questioning type of thought rather than specific dreams about picking up the CDing where I’d left off.

But when the dam finally burst again towards the end of the 2000s, the whole question of names returned centre stage.  Whilst I came to realise that many in the trans community manufacture names for themselves becoming unique in the process, I wanted something more mainstream, a name that carried womanhood with it, not one that required a ‘pronoun badge’ to be on the safe side.  And that’s when I hit on Katie (the name, not an attractive colleague of the same name that is).

I have to confess that I’ve hardly known any Katies in my life.  One in primary school, a couple at work and that’s it.  Of course, it’s a contraction of Catherine (or one of its alternative spellings) and I’ve known next to none of them either.  So it wasn’t a name that I instantly thought would bestow me beauty, style and refinement by merely adopting it.  And yet it just seemed to tick all the right boxes – in fact, during those brief moments when I allow myself to wonder whether transition is the right way forward for me (spoiler alert – it isn’t!), I realise that Katie, or Catherine, is almost certainly the name I’d adopt.

So how on earth did I end up with the name ‘Amanda’?

To be honest, I haven’t got a clue.  I remember reading a book giving practical CDing advice a few years ago and one of the chapters was about names.  ‘Amanda’ was singled out for mention.  If my memory serves me correctly, the author described it as ‘sublime’ and that’s as good enough a recommendation to adopt it.  Also, as I intimated at the beginning, all of the Amandas I’ve known have been just the sort of women that I’ve wanted to portray and it’s just a beautiful name.

Except for one thing.

After describing it as ‘sublime’, the author went on to point out that it was a completely inappropriate name for a trans person:

‘A man – duh’!

Sadly, by the time I read that, it was too late.  ‘Amanda’ had already broken free from the inner sanctum of my mind & body and had a growing online presence and an evolving image.  Granted, changing from ‘Amanda’ to Katie would be even easier than changing my male name, I realised that I needed to try to make ‘Amanda’ work and not just treat it as a superficial label to be replaced when it got a bit worn round the edges.

And despite everything I’ve just said, when I look in the mirror and see the blonde with the stilettos and too much eyeliner smiling back, I do see an Amanda and believe that I do justice to that particular moniker.  She’s just the sort of Amanda I’d be pleased to meet and, I think, help reinforce my views that anyone called Amanda is sweet and refined.

But if you’re reading between the lines, you’ll perhaps have a sense that things are still not quite ‘ticketty boo’ and you’re not wrong.  I’m still desperately trying to find a way to inexorably link that name to me in the same way as my ‘given’ male name is because the sad fact is that whilst ‘given name’ and ‘forename’ are to all intents and purposes synonyms, from my perspective Amanda, whilst being a forename, is definitely not a given name.  It’s an assumed name, or even just a label, picked by me from a list because it sounds nice and feeds my aspirations.  It lacks the legitimacy of a name picked for me at the moment my life began because it seemed absolutely right.

That’s an occupational hazard of what we do, I guess.  Our feminine personas develop later in life and short of creating a ‘what shall I call myself?’ poll on social media, it’s down to us to sort out.  We may be lucky and have a unisex name or one which has a female equivalent that doesn’t sound contrived but otherwise we’re on our own.

And that’s where this story takes a strange twist.  I’ve already talked about how those called Mandy never seemed quite as sweet and refined as their nominally uncontracted sisters and so referring to myself as Mandy never entered my head.  And yet during one of our occasional exchanges of emails, Kandi called me ‘Mandy’ and continues to do so.  And I have to confess that I like it a little bit more each time she does it!

I don’t know what prompted Kandi to call me Mandy.  Perhaps she was poking the hornets’ nest to see how I’d react.  Perhaps she contracts the name of everyone she encounters.  Or perhaps she felt that ‘Mandy’ just seemed to fit what she knows of me a bit better than ‘Amanda’ does.  But whatever her motives were, it doesn’t matter because as well as a forename, it’s a ‘given’ name and just feels right for that pure and simple reason.

I’m not quite ready to lose the ‘Amanda’ label just yet but I have a feeling that that day may come.  It’s not so very different to the nicknames we were called at school (I had several, most of which are unrepeatable!) in that they were names ‘bestowed’ upon us by others and names that we could be identified by, and perhaps even identify with, as a result.  As I said above, I don’t know what prompted Kandi to call me Mandy but I am deeply touched that she feels that I am worthy of that name.  We CDers tend to be an insecure bunch constantly on the lookout for validation and her simple act feels far more affirming than any number of gushing comments on photos I used to post online ever did.

And that takes me back to the mirror and the smiling blonde with the stilettos and too much eyeliner.  Given the name of ‘Amanda’ by her doting parents as they held her for the first time, would that name have stuck with her throughout her life?  Perhaps she would have quickly corrected anyone who dared to contract the name or maybe she’d have just gone along with it until everyone including herself consigned ‘Amanda’ solely to reprimands from her parents when she’d done something wrong and entries on official forms.  That’s something we’ll never know but something tells me that if things had been different and, in that eventuality, my parents had named me Amanda rather than Susan, it would only have been a matter of time before the change was made.  And perhaps I should take note of the fact that, unlike ‘A man-duh’, Mandy carries no such baggage.

So am I Amanda or Mandy?  Who knows?!  But what I do know is that even if I stick with Amanda, being called Mandy always evokes a smile and the thought that perhaps the wonderful person we all know as Kandi understood what she was doing when she well and truly made that name belong to me.


15 Responses

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. Self naming is a strange thing. Of course the name our parents give us is completely uncontrollable. But we can adopt one of the derivations of the given name.

    Some people come up with a nickname for themselves and that can end up sticking with them forever.

    In my first en femme life, I picked a name that was close to my male name. But it never felt comfortable, nor made me feel feminine. So with my first purge, that name was purged as well.

    My female resurgence required a name. At that time, I was watching a TV show and one of the secondary lady characters attracted me. She was naturally good looking, but not beautiful. She was not a tomboy, but she was certainly not girly. I liked her, and I liked her name: Jocelyn.

    The name completely resonated with me. I am 100% comfortable as Jocelyn. It is my name.

    And, AND, I completely loved being introduced to strangers by Kandi, “this is my friend Jocelyn.” OMG I’m in heaven.

    Occasionally, when exchanging emails with Kandi, she calls me Joc. I’d prefer she wouldn’t, but please don’t tell her. Any correspondence with Kandi is wonderful. She can call me anything she wants.

    Love to you Amanda, never Mandy to me.


    1. Jocelyn, thank you as always!

      Your comment about seeing a TV character called Jocelyn prompted a long dormant memory about a ‘Mandy’ that I interacted with years ago. She was a member of staff in the travel agents when I went to book a holiday – long blonde hair, a little overdone on the makeup, smart skirt suit and heels – we could have been twins (aspirationally speaking if not borne out by reality)!

      But as you say, we have to feel completely comfortable in what to all intents and purposes is an alias. Whilst it’s obviously true that when I’m doing my best to emulate the aforementioned Mandy, the name ‘Amanda’ is far more appropriate than my usual name, it’s still a name I feel slightly detached from if I’m honest. But when you think about it, names are really there for the benefit of others (through being something to identify you by) and if they feel that the name fits the person, who are we to argue?! Perhaps it’s just a case of taking time to get used to it?

      So that’s one vote for Amanda from you and one for Mandy from Kandi!

      Thanks again!

  2. Amanda you never cease to amaze me. How you can take something as simple as a name and turn it into a very interesting post just blows me away. The most I would have been able to put on paper regarding my chosen name would be a couple of sentences, maybe three. But having read your post I lean towards Kandi’s nick name for you. I looked at your profile pic and to me Mandy is the girl looking at me. Have a great week end my friend.

    Trish ❤️

    1. Trish, thanks for your kind words – quite where all of this comes from is a mystery to me as it’s not reflected in any other facets of my life and certainly not at school where the teachers tended to despair at my efforts at creative writing!

      Anyway, looks like ‘Mandy’ has edged into the lead!

  3. Names are always a interesting topic. My 1st time out enfemme was in 1977 or 8. I found out about a Crossdressering party at a private house about 20 miles from me. When I got there the person at the door asked me my name. I gave my male name. I got dressed and sat down at a table with another CD. She asked my name and I said Terri. Why I don’t know, but it felt right and I never changed it.

    1. Terri, thanks for sharing your experience – if a name feels right, that’s job done! As I found from my own experiences, it’s not always easy and you must be very happy that, unlike some of us, you got it right first time!

  4. Amanda,
    As usual a great deal to think about with this post , and quite a deep subject that does require some careful consideration .

    Going back to the days when buried deep in the closet with only short snatched moments to dress a name didn’t really have much meaning . From your comments you were posed the same problem as most of us are when we take our first steps online of what to call ourselves . Some choose to totally disguise their identity by calling themselves ” Twinlketoes ” or whatever but I wanted the real me to (sacrily ) face the real world . I never really liked my full male name but the female version of Teresa didn’t sound so bad so that was the name chosen for the online registration , I had decided to ” come out ” the hiding had to come to an end . By the time I ventured out to social groups Teresa had stuck , it did feel like I’d taken a great step forward being called by a female name when meeting others in reality .
    I obviously could have chosen a different name but in the back my mind was the the possibilty of transition where a name had legal consequences , looking back I’m so relieved to have chosen Teresa and a second name of Joanne ( from John) because now I’ve officially changed my name retaining the same initials has made banking and other necessities so much easier . The bonus is although my mother christened me Terence she has taken to the changes easier , to her I’ve gone from Terry to Terri which means I don’t have to correct her for calling me wrongly and she soon adopted the changes when sending a birthday card .

    Personally I don’t have a preference for your name , I like both versions equally , they’re both lovely female names .

    I do smile at some women who shorten their names to sound more like male names , Georgina to George or Samatha to Sam , my daughter in law has a lovely full name but I always struggle with her shortened version .

    If it makes you feel good to see yourself in the mirror as Amanda then that is all that matters , be happy in your skin !!

    To add a P.S. today I’ve just popped into my solicitors and signed my new will as Ms Teresa Joanne ****** , I really can’t believe how far I’ve come .

    1. Teresa, thanks for the vote of confidence in my name and I’m very happy for you regarding your own name change – another thing ticked off the list!

  5. Thank you Amanda, I loved reading this so much and it has sparked a lot of similar thoughts in my mind. I know names certainly have meaning. I have worked on small projects off and on the past few years in southern Utah for a wonderful lady named Mandy and her husband. I don’t even know if that’s a shortened version or her actual name but she is an absolute sweetheart and very kind. So how could I not love the name as I’ve never met a Mandy whom I didn’t love. I noticed when Kandi started referring to you as Mandy on this site and thought some barriers must have been broken between you. I absolutely love it as Mandy and Kandi seems more informal like the way one sister talks to another. Kandi seems to have a way of making everyone feel special as though they’re her best friend. She was the first person to call me Lizzy and it really made me feel special and endeared to her, like a real sister or daughter perhaps.

    In choosing my own female name it was inspired of course by your late lovely queen who I’ve always admired as such a symbol of elegance and grace. I’ve also never met an Elizabeth who didn’t seem graceful and feminine to me. So to me it was about the most feminine name I could think of other than maybe Mary, which name seems to be the very symbol of womanhood and motherhood which comes from the Madonna.
    So I love my feminine name very much but have also recently considered both of my now deceased grandmothers names, Edith and Elaine which are special to me. Still, when I get dressed up, I feel more like a Liz than anything as I can’t even come close to the the feminine beauty and grace of an Elizabeth.

    1. Liz, thanks for your support and kind words. The great thing about ‘Elizabeth’ and its contractions as names is that they’re timeless – it’s a name that’s neither dying out nor only just emerging as a fashionable fad. I love the whole idea of contracting names because to me it signifies acceptance. One of the criteria my parents had for chosing my male name was that it couldn’t be contracted (quite what they’d have thought if I’d been a girl given the number of possible contractions of Susan, though) but they obviously didn’t think hard enough as many of my friends, Mrs A and often I myself still manage to contract it!

      The timeless thing is, I think, quite important too. Whilst in the end the choice of name is the sole preserve of the individual choosing it and we should not be judgemental of others, names can sometimes feel incongruous with the individual they are attached to if, for example, they choose a name that is currently popular rather than popular (or even in existence) when they were born. Fortunately, Elizabeth/Liz and Amanda/Mandy do not suffer from that particular problem!

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, I hope things are going well for you.

  6. Amanda,

    I think of you as Amanda. As to why Kandi refers to you as “Mandy”, it’s probably the same reason she refers to me as “Fi”. Americans are less formal than many parts of the world and love to use nicknames as much as possible. I prefer Fiona but I like it when Kandi uses Fi because it is a special bond between us, I won’t let anyone else call me that.

    When I was closeted, for many years I referred to myself as Dianne, a girls name I had always liked. But like you I reached a point where I didn’t see Dianne when I looked in the mirror anymore so I switched to Charlotte for a while. That quickly fell out of favor so I went back to Dianne. Then one night around the time I had decided to dress fully and go out in public for the first time, I was watching a British murder mystery show and saw a middle-aged actress who I thought was very attractive. When to credits rolled at the end I saw her name – Fiona Dolman, who you probably know – and her name jumped out at me. I instantly fell in love with it and decided that it was as Fiona that I would be presented to the world. I like it because it sounds very feminine and is not that common here in the USA (I know it is very popular in Ireland & England).

    I now see Fiona every time I look in the mirror!

    1. Allow me to interject, I call almost everyone I know by a nickname. It goes back to my youth, where we all had nicknames. In college, many had no idea what my real name was (sorta like now, I guess). For me, it’s a way of showing fondness. So Mandy, Fi, Sher, LP, T, Rach, Joce, Sun-Dee, Doc, Alex, Cristy, Cass, love you all (those not mentioned have names I cannot shorten much).

    2. Fiona, thanks for joining the discussion!

      I have to confess that I’d not heard of Fiona Dolman (haven’t ever watched ‘Midsomer Murders’) but having googled her, I can well understand why she inspired your name! And as you have demonstrated, the only criteria we really need for a name is that we need to feel comfortable ‘wearing’ it.

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