Unisex Names: Toward a Gender-Free Ideal?
Unisex names and the question of whether a child’s gender should be evident via his or her name is one that comes up frequently on Nameberry. It’s an issue that’s changed a lot over the years we’ve been writing about baby names and that varies substantially in different cultures.
Starting with the baby boomlet of the 1980s, the first wave of feminist parents gave girls gender neutral names like Morgan and Parker to make them more competitive with boys…..while parents of boys abandoned unisex names in favor of more traditional masculine choices. Next came names that broke away from traditional boy or girl choices — Logan and Lake, Bellamy and Finn — but still somehow held onto a gendered identity.
Despite vast changes in naming practices around the world, some ancient cultures accommodate names that work for either sex — Japan is a notable example — while other countries such as Norway require that names carry gender identity. Germany changed its naming laws in 2008 to allow the use of unisex names.
Now both those ideas seem outmoded, tied to old notions about masculine characteristics being superior to feminine ones and children needing to be marked by gender even in modern, subtle ways.
A newer development we’ve been covering recently are newly-trendy boys’ names inspired by their fashionable sisters: We mean Emmett as a masculine corollary of Emily and Emma or Everett as a male version of Eva or Evelyn. This seems to us to be symbolic proof of the new attitude that girls can lead and boys can happily follow, a modern spin on the centuries-old Adam‘s Rib-style practice of fashioning girls’ names from masculine ones: Geraldine from Gerald, Roberta from Robert.
The new frontier, and the new ideal to many modern parents, are names that transcend any gender identity at all. We see parents “reclaiming” for their sons gender neutral names that had veered girlward and names rising in tandem for both sexes.
There’s a lot of controversy over androgynous names and their desirability, and we’d welcome a further discussion of that in the comments to this post. But we’d like to go on the record in support of anything that frees people from confining stereotypes, name and gender related and beyond.
There are all kinds of reasons you might or might not want a gender-free name for your child. But these are the unisex names we see today as transcending gender:
Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn)
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