I am smitten with names, always have been. As a youth I read the What Shall We Name the Baby book over and over until it was ragged and dog-eared. One day my father approached me anxiously asking whether I was pregnant. No I wasn't, it was the love of names, the sounds that roll off your tongue, their meaning, the rhythm.
This penchant for interesting names has caused my children some dismay. The twins have gender neutral names that are rare to boot. They truly believe we have cursed them with their terrible names. I always tell them that our surname is so common it would be uninspired to have a humdrum first name as well, like being called John Smith or Tom Brown. Also there are so many Nates, Zachs and Jacks in their classes who have to be known by both first and last name. With my boys, their friends can ask each other, "Do you have Aidan in your class?" and the answer won't be, "Which one?"
It was with relief that we started addressing my daughter with female pronouns, at that point it was just too weird to go by "L." But what would we call her? She was one step ahead of us. "Gabrielle" she started signing pictures, a rosy-cheeked, spiky-lashed self portrait in clay. Gabrielle. It was a beautiful name but I was not a fan: my husband had briefly dated a Gabrielle. Besides, a name that was too pretty, like Tiffany, could sound like a drag queen.
She still went by a boy's name at school and a variety of girls names at home. When a substitute teacher or a new playground friend would ask her name she'd change the subject or walk away. She was literally ashamed to use her male name. We tried a gender neutral nickname but this was only a stopgap measure.
I wanted Matt to be involved in the choosing. That way he could claim our daughter. Grace was a name he'd always loved, why not Grace? Matt would have nothing to do with deciding. (Love you Matt, just trying to write with honesty.) Uncomfortable with the transition, wishing it would happen next month, next year, next decade, he couldn't stomach choosing a name. He loved the boy name he'd chosen before. So it was up to L and me.
As we drove around doing errands I'd call out, "How about Elsie? Ayla? Phoebe?" She'd respond, "Ariel, Cinderella, Belle!" all Disney princess names. No way was my child being named after a Disney princess nor a pop star like Britney Spears or Hanna Montana.
Some trans kids end up with names that could be for girls or boys. This can make it easier on the parents who may hold a last vestige of hope that it will be only a passing phase. The problem is that as your child becomes an adult she may still look androgynous, which is fine for some, if they are merely gender variant. But a truly transgender person with a unisex name people might ever be inviting the question, "Are you a man or a woman?"
Others let their kids choose entirely--let them claim their right to be who they want. I get it, but it just wasn't working for me. Parents name their children (or at least have veto power.)
So I'd keep on throwing out names. One day I tried out "Janet." Janet was the name of a dear childhood friend. "Ruthie! Oh my gosh! I love it better than Gabrielle!" "Are you sure?" She nodded enthusiastically. We pretty quickly settled on Janet. Only later that did I find out that we'd inadvertantly named our daughter after an American Girl Doll.