Category: gender issues in names

A Boy Named Chelsea

This guest blog by a guy named Chelsea lets us in on his gender-bender life experiences.

There’s nothing that unusual about being named after a place, except when that place name becomes one of the more popular names for girls during the 1990’s and you are a boy. That’s what happened to me. My name is Chelsea and I am a guy.

I was named after the area in London, England, for sentimental reasons.  My family was about to leave the country just after I was born and weren’t sure if they would ever return. While other names like Bradley, Gary and Kieran were considered, Chelsea, a section of London for which my mother had a particular fondness, won the day. She knew it was a girl’s name, since that was what it was listed under in her book of names, but Chelsea was rarely used back then, particularly in England, and didn’t rank in the top 100 names for girls in the year I was born. She didn’t tell my father about it being listed as a girl’s name though and instead sold it to him on the basis of a link to the famous football/soccer club which seemed masculine enough.

People often ask me what it was like growing up with a girl’s name, but I didn’t even know that I had one until I was seven, so the impact until then was minimal. We were living in France, where Chelsea was even less heard of, and to everyone there I was just a guy with an unusual and hard to pronounce name, as they stumbled over whether it should be a hard or soft “ch” sound and whether the –sea at the end was like the ocean or “see-ah.” Most people called me Chels or Shels, which was a nickname that generally stuck. As for finding out about my having a girl’s name, that happened on a school trip where an American teacher there, but not from our school, assigned me to an all-girl’s group. At that age, this was a rude awakening and led to a fair amount of teasing after the trip too.

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