Gender-Bending Baby Names
Gender-bending baby names are crossing conventional boundaries that define male and female names. Down at the very bottom of the Social Security extended list of baby names, among the hundreds of names given to only five babies in that particular year, are a few dozen names that have radically crossed gender lines.
I’m not talking about unisex names like Charley or Emerson that are widely used for both girls and boys. I’m not even talking about those names like Addison, say, or August, that are occasionally used for babies of the opposite sex but are predominantly given to children of a single gender.
I mean names that are universally considered boys’ names or girls’ names — except for the handful of parents who chose to use them for babies of the nonconforming gender. Girls named Eric, for instance, or boys named Karen.
Baby names crossing gender lines is nothing new — US records from the 1880s list girls named John and boys named Mary — but sometimes it’s all a mistake. Maybe the recording official noted the wrong gender or misspelled the name. Or perhaps the parents are from another culture and don’t understand that in the US, Louie is generally considered a boys’ name while Lucy is for girls.
But in this age of Social Security registration for newborns and digitized records, errors are less common and it’s more probable that those parents, for whatever reason, chose to name their baby daughter Oscar and their son Alice.
People, particularly people who happen to be berries, often have very strong feelings about this kind of thing. Keep names attached to their traditional gender, many say, including boys “taking back” traditionally-male names such as Madison that have become used mostly for girls. Other people feel that gender is an artificial construct and that names can and should be used free of gender considerations, as long as it’s done even-handedly.
We want to know your thoughts on this issue. But first, the names from the 2015 Social Security list that were radical gender-benders:
Five baby girls were named:
Five baby boys were named:
So where do you stand?
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on January 31st, 2017 at 12:06 am
Gender bending names aren’t really my style, but as far as I’m concerned, unless a name meaning literally denotes a sex (Example- Wilson meaning son of Will or Cora meaning maiden) they’re all up for grabs by either gender. I would never recommend giving a child a burdensome name, but feminism and masculinity are social constructs which means that they can and do shift especially when we get more creative in our naming patterns.
on January 31st, 2017 at 12:12 am
I just can’t see a mother naming her son ‘Hope’ and her daughter ‘Zachary’. This list hardly makes sense to me. Some of the names on the girls list are perhaps understandable. For instance, I knew a girl named Joel, but she pronounced it Jo-ELLE (like Noel). But the majority of these are just terrible.? No offense to anyone. Just gender-benders are not my style at all.
on January 31st, 2017 at 2:36 am
I feel like Lucy, Karen and Naomi would be very hard names to grow up with as a boy..
but I will say I’ve never considered Gavin for a girl but that’s pretty cute.
Zachary, Duncan and Eric on the other hand are going to be a little harder pull off!
on January 31st, 2017 at 6:27 am
I don’t see the appeal in naming a girl ‘Alex’ or a boy ‘Elizabeth’. However, if that was actually happening, I wouldn’t object to it and would probably celebrate it. But, unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening. Instead, people are putting boy names on girls because it’s apparently ‘strong’, ’empowering’, ‘unique’ etc., but barely anyone would even consider using a girl name for a boy, and the few that might are quicky shot down because, apparently, that would be ‘gay’, ‘weak’ and ’emasculating’, and ‘it would cause bullying’.
So basically, the gender bend trend only goes one way and, in doing so is sexist, as it helps to reinforce unsavoury gender stereotypes, e.g. – masculinity is awesome for everyone, including girls, but femininity (or anything seen as ‘not as manly’ as the set standard) is degrading for boys, and in some cases tantamount to child abuse.
As such, the person who would happily name her daughter Rory, would never be caught dead with a son named Lucy. I find that very unfair, and as such cannot support the trend that encourages such a mindset.
on January 31st, 2017 at 10:10 am
If a parent-to-be thinks the way to get a gentle-hearted son is to name him Louise and the way to get an independent girl is to name her Marvin, well…… there is nothing that can be done.
Talk to some actual kids. They are horrified by this trend.
on January 31st, 2017 at 11:52 am
What lesliemarion said. In reality kids hate this stuff. Sorry.
The very most I can open my mind to this is as follows: Garner for a girl miiiight work (although it’s still silly), and I did know of a boy named Kinsey in college. Never met him but he was an often-mentioned boyfriend of one of the girls on the swim team. I want to say he was rumored to have been named after the sex researcher but that might have been something I made up to entertain myself.
on January 31st, 2017 at 12:29 pm
When I read through the lists of boys’ names given to girls and vice versa, I find that I am okay with a decent percentage of the male names being used for females, but not the other way around. I suppose that does seem bad, but honestly, a boy growing up with the name Lucy or Karen is going to have a harder time than a female James or Justin. I personally don’t like to hear names used on the opposite gender, in general. Truly unisex names are different, and more flexible, by definition.
on January 31st, 2017 at 1:08 pm
Your kid will hate you for doing this! Respect the origins of a name…
on January 31st, 2017 at 1:14 pm
The name Honour truly seems gender neutral to me. I knew a boy with that name and he was a sweet kid and wore it well.
on January 31st, 2017 at 1:32 pm
Yeah, kids don’t “hate” gender-bending of names until they’re taught to by adults. Kids don’t know that names have a particular gender until they’re taught by adults. I have a male cousin who was named Kendall right at the beginning of the Kendall-on-girls trend. Kids weren’t the ones making comments about him having a “girl’s” name (he was named for a childhood friend of my uncle), because the only Kendall most of his playmates knew was him, and so in their minds, it was a boy’s name.
I had the same phenomenon when teaching a (male) preschooler named Alexis nn Lexie. Even though the other Alexises in the school were all girls, kids didn’t know the difference. They had boys AND girls named Jordan, Leighton, Peyton, Jaden and Connor (with varying spellings, of course) in their school, so to them Alexis fit right in. It was *adults* who did the snickering and eye-rolling.
I assume all the people who defend their hatred of this trend with caring quite a bit about the literal accuracy of “etymology” also think the name Caroline should be used exclusively for boys (it means “man,” after all), and are equally critical of parents who name their dark-haired children Gwen (fair) or their seeing children Cecilia (blind).
on January 31st, 2017 at 9:48 pm
I completely agree with AldabellaxWulfe. In theory I’m not bothered by people naming their kids whatever they want regardless of sex, BUT my big issue with it in reality is that it’s a one-way street. Parents seem to not think twice about using masculine names for their daughters but it rarely happens with feminine names for sons. It’s not even uncommon to see people around the internet asking if certain male names have “gone to the girls” or telling others to reconsider using traditionally masculine names just because girls use them now. I’ve even seen people ask if male names like Julian and Ezra are too “soft” or “feminine” for their son. So until people get over that nonsense and ‘gender-bending’ names become a level playing field I’m just not a fan of it.
on January 31st, 2017 at 11:51 pm
I agree come with AldabellaxWulfe and tavy.
on February 1st, 2017 at 2:53 am
Gender, both of names and of people, is more complicated than we give credit. What sounds feminine vs. masculine varies between cultures. Some names, like Mackenzie, depend on the country you live in. There are also quite a few names that are considered feminine in the US that mean “son of” ___. We also don’t really know a kids gender at birth. We assume the kid’s gender based on its sex, but that doesn’t always work.
I agree that it is unfortunate that the gender-bending only goes one way.
on February 1st, 2017 at 2:57 am
As others have mentioned, this trend is often one-sided, but I am still in favor of it. I would just love to see that boys’ list double or triple in size. I hope that one day, gentleness will be as admirable a trait for boys as strength is for girls.
on February 1st, 2017 at 8:29 am
I’m not a fan of gender-bending names. If you want to do it for family reasons – I recommend putting it into a middle name.
I got such grief for spelling my name in school Lynn – which wasn’t really all that gender bending – I don’t know what problems children with real gender bending names go through. (My 3rd grade teacher took a point of of every paper since I was a girl and I didn’t spell my name Lynne. I was determined to spell it the way I was taught and so I didn’t get a 100 all year!)
I also think it is easier for a girl to have a boy’s name that visa versa. I think a nn of Charlie for Charlotte or Frankie for Francesca is cute.
on February 1st, 2017 at 10:39 am
I’m in two minds about this issue…
On one hand I agree with what has been said above, that I’m not against gender-bending names theoretically but it’s just sensible to take into account the reaction the child may receive out in the world, considering the child is wearing this name and not you!
On the other hand when you step back a bit it all seems so weird that we designate sounds to males or females (although considering we do the same with colours, etc….). When you look at names from non-English speaking countries most of us would have no idea what gender they typically belong to – could you tell whether Riko, Kotone or Masuyo are boy or girl names? No, and it doesn’t matter, you take the name as it is and move on. As the person above says, kids don’t care, adults do. Kid’s are picking up and learning new words constantly. To a child, a new name is just a new word, they don’t automatically think ‘oh that’s weird, over the past seven decades this name has only ever been used for boys’ but when they go home and the parent says ‘Errr, but that’s a boys name’ their little minds soak up all these prejudices and the generations come and go without boys name Sue or girls named David!
While I say all of that, I am not prepared to go out there and name my sons Daisy and Rose, however I wish we could evolve to not be so afraid of feminising anything boy-related!
on February 1st, 2017 at 1:40 pm
I’m not a fan of this trend. Truly unisex names such as Jordan, Taylor, River and Skyler are different because they never seem to drastically swing one way or the other. Some parents use them for their daughters, but they’re still considered masculine enough to use on boys. These are names I could easily see on either gender. If I heard of a set of siblings named Riley and Rowan, it could be a boy and a girl, two boys, or two girls.
But overall, I prefer gendered names for the most part, even if the name is technically unisex. For example, I love the name Tristan for a boy. Every Tristan I’ve ever met has been a boy, but I know there are a few female Tristans out there, which technically makes it unisex. Tristan is still popular for boys, but the name was only given to what, 7 girls last year? So to me, Tristan is a boy’s name and I’m always going to see it that way.
Same thing with Dylan, Hunter, Tyler, Carter, Kyle, Parker, August, Christian, etc. I have NEVER met girls with any of these names, only boys. Name berry seems to consider these names unisex (they all appear orange) but I don’t. In my mind, they are boy’s names, even though there are a few girls named Kyle out there. Likewise, nameberry lists Ruby and Lisa as unisex, but they are 100% girl to me, even if there are a few men named Lisa out there.
Call me old fashioned and close minded, but gender bending just isn’t for me. I like feminine names on girls and masculine names on boys.
on February 1st, 2017 at 1:47 pm
To be honest, I strongly dislike this American trend (I only see it in America) and here is way:
– If you pick a name from a different culture, respect that culture. I’m really tired to see Beau for girls (for example), it shows a lack of knowledge in French and disrespect. Names are words in another language. We have specific spellings and genders for words, so it is for old names. Sure it’s way more flexible with new invented names (I have nothing against Wren, Eden, Aspen, River, Riley, Swan, Winter & Cie on either sex) but not with old names that have a background, a story, roots, an etymology and that have always been masculine or feminine until now (like James, Elliott, August, Ezra, Beau, Zephyr, Rose). When I don’t know if a name is feminine, masculine or unisex, I check its history, I check its etymology. There is no excuse nowadays with the internet.
– Kids do make fun of other kids, that’s a fact. I’m a teacher in Highschool and Middle School, and a tennis coach for children between 4 and 12, I deal with it all day, with all type of children, it doesn’t matter if they are 5 or 17. We had a new little girl named Rose in our tennis group. The kids were like “that’s not a name, that’s a flower” they were 5/6 yo and they have good parents who taught them to be respectful and open-minded (I know them). In my class I had a girls named Theo and Charlie and kids were making fun of them. Theo because it is very popular for boys (they all have a friend named Theo), Charlie because they see it in TV shows on boys. They did not need the parents.
– I have a friend who wears a boy name and all her life she has got letters and calls for “Mister XXX”. When she was looking for her name in the tennis tournament list, she was always put in the boy tournament. In class, teachers always thought she was a boy until they met her. And so one and so far. Trust me, it’s not pleasant. She changed her name. The parents did not think of what their kid would have to deal with.
– Giving your daughter a boy name is the opposite of feminism in my opinion. You teach your girl that having a boy name will make her stronger, cooler and more respectable because boy’s names on girls are cool, spunky and stunning (that what I read absolutely everywhere). Strangely the reverse doesn’t work anymore…
– Why would you use August, Elliott, Felix, Zephyr, Atlas, Beau, Joel, Cecil, Emanuel Justin, Castiel, Amaury, Remy/Remi, when you have Augustine/Augusta, Elliette, Felice, Zephie/Zephyrine, Atlantis, Bo, Joelle, Cecile, Emmanuelle, Justine, Castielle, Amora, Romy. It makes absolutely no sense to me. Just use the feminine spelling, it DOES exist. Or a close feminine name that gives you the opportunity to use your guilty pleasure gender-bending name. Why would you use the masculine form?
– There are thousands of girl names. Don’t tell me you can’t find any. I’m very open on names. I think we can totally use Rosethorn, Swanhild, Calpurnia, Millie, Neveah, Lakelyn, Archibald, Fitzgerald, Hawthorne, Gus, Huckleberry, Montgomery, Ocean, Fox, Everest. As long as people respect the gender and the spelling historically given, and therefore the culture of those old names, I don’t see any problem. Also, middle name can be a solution.
Also, some names (German names) are made from 2 roots, or from one root and a feminine suffix, as it is for Charlotte or Caroline.
For Charlotte: The first root is Carl, masculine, the suffix Lotte is feminine.
Caroline/Carolina is composed from Carl, masculine, and from the Latin suffix -ina, which makes it a feminine name.
They are not masculine names 😉
on February 2nd, 2017 at 1:43 pm
Some of these were actually really cute. I liked Garner and Prescott for girls and Honour and Luna for boys.
on January 18th, 2018 at 7:39 am
I think if a name is a word/nature/virtue name than it could be used for either gender but it has a gender specific meaning or associated with a historical character of a certain gender than it should be used be used for that gender – that being said sometime cross over happens Selçuk and Saltuk were both girl names in Ottoman era while Aslıhan was a boy name now it’s the opposite in modern Turkey. Both Börteçine and Aşına we’re male historical figures of Oghuz Turkish era but now they are girl names and Burçin was a queen of Oghuz Turks now is a unisex name. So I wouldn’t be too strict about genders.
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