gender neutral names - your opinions?

So we don’t have much of a list sorted yet, as I’m only 13 weeks. But we keep mentioning names to each other when we hear them. Well anyway, my partner had never seen Cheers, so we have a few box sets we’re working our way through at the moment on spare evenings. The name [name]Kelsey[/name] really struck me as being quite different. So I started looking it up online and I was quite surprised at how much discussion there is on whether it is a boy’s name or a girl’s name. It got me thinking about gender neutral names in general and looking through lists of them. I did seem to have an initial reaction upon reading each name as to which gender I felt it was best suited for. Also, in particular for [name]Kelsey[/name] I quite like it for a boy, but wouldn’t dream of using it for a girl. But then I felt whether I assigned a name for a girl or a boy depended on whether I’d heard it used for a girl or boy more commonly. So is that just familiarity rather than the name actually sounding feminine or masculine?

What do you think of gender neutral names? Some of the discussions I came across is that those kind of names are cruel as it could lead to a child being bullied at school, I’m not entirely sure I agree but it was interesting reading!

A lot of it depends on whether you’ve heard the name before and whether it’s been used on a boy or girl. The name [name]Hollis[/name], for example, is traditionally a boy’s name. However, the only [name]Hollis[/name] I ever knew was a girl, so in my mind that’s a girl’s name. [name]Kelsey[/name], [name]IMO[/name], can go either way. I know several girls named [name]Kelsey[/name], but [name]Kelsey[/name] Grammar is the famous (male) actor who made the name popular back in the day. It works for both.

Sometimes a dual name like that can lead to teasing, but not very often. Kids grow up hearing all sorts of names, and they learn that it’s normal for a girl to be named [name]Kennedy[/name] and boy to be named [name]Avery[/name] if those are names they hear all day at school. I can’t think of any kid I grew up with being teased because of a unisex name.

Personally, there are very few (as in, less than five that I can think of) unisex names that I like. In general, I don’t like names that make me question the gender of the name-holder before I meet him. I prefer distinctly male and female names. It’s just a personal preference. There is a large community on this site that really loves unisex names, and they come up with some really nice ones.

I think there are a lot of advantages to gender neutral names. Although as pp said, it can really depend on if you’ve ever met someone with a unisex name you may associate that name strongly with that gender. [name]Kelsey[/name] is actually that way for me, I knew 4 [name]Kelsey[/name]'s growing up, and all of them were girls, so its difficult to picture it on a boy, even though I know it can go either way.

When I hear the name I think girl, otherwise I think of That 70’s Show, [name]Casey[/name] [name]Kelso[/name] since [name]Kelso[/name] sounds close to [name]Kelsey[/name], I don’t know why…

I like gender neutral names. :slight_smile: I have one, my husband has one, and our daughter has one.

I don’t think a truly unisex name is likely to lead to teasing in most cases, but… sometimes a ‘unisex’ name has gone so strongly to one sex or the other (usually to the girl’s side unfortunately) that it is no longer truly unisex. In that case I think it could cause some problems.

Whether or not a name has moved completely in one direction or another can be pretty region specific too, so it’s probably worth trying to find some stats for your area. For example, in my province [name]Ashley[/name] is all girl, but from what I understand it’s still fairly commonly used for boys in Australia. Likewise, [name]Kelsey[/name] is a girls name here (and most of them are probably between 20 and 30) so I wouldn’t consider it unisex in my area, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work where you are.

Thanks for the replies everyone. :slight_smile:

In regard to the name [name]Kelsey[/name] the only one I have ever heard of is indeed [name]Kelsey[/name] Grammer. However when I think of it as a girl’s name I seem to get an image of some cheerleader type in a 90s teen movie. The name just conjures up very different things for me based on gender, hence why I like the name for a boy I just couldn’t use it for a girl.

I live over in the UK and in all honestly I don’t think I have ever met a [name]Kelsey[/name], male, or otherwise (although it seems the origin of the name is Irish). I think I might bring it up to some people and see if I get any “but that’s a girls name” comments. As much as I hate asking what friends and family think I might have to just to find out some local opinion!

I liked what you said lucystone, about kids just accepting what they hear. That seems to ring true to me, I can’t remember anyone ever being bullied for a name at school. Many other things, mind you, but not their names. :smiley:

[name]Hi[/name]! I’m in the uk and I know only one [name]Kelsey[/name] who is a girl. She is really lovely, down to earth physio assistant with special needs kids. I like it as a girls name or boys too!

[name]Ah[/name] so it is a name used over here too. I just bounced if off my mum. I said “what do you think of [name]Kelsey[/name]?” and she repeated it and said “hm yes, I like that”. Then I said “for a boy?” and she acted all surprised for a second and then said “of course, like [name]Kelsey[/name] Grammer!” But the overall feeling was positive for both. I know my OH’s folks will hate it but frankly having heard some of their suggestions thus far I’m not too bothered! :smiley:

That said my OH is still umming and ahhing over it and to be honest I suspect I’m having a girl, so this probably doesn’t even matter. [name]One[/name] to keep for the future though!

Like you said, a lot of what makes a unisex name sound masculine or feminine, for me at least, is familiarity. My uncle’s name was [name]Winifred[/name], which I always thought of as an exclusively male name because of the [name]Fred[/name] ending and also because he was the only [name]Winifred[/name] I’d ever heard of. Recently, I’ve seen people considering the name for their little girls. My first reaction was that it was a boy’s name because that’s what I associated it with. However, [name]Winnie[/name] sounds like a girl’s name to me, so the more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems like it could work for a little girl, too.

I think familiarity is key, too, and part of that is geographical. I’m in the UK, where [name]Ashley[/name] is predominantly male, yet I know it was top ten for girls in the States a couple of decades back. I see [name]Rory[/name] being considered for girls on here yet it’s all boy to me. Surname names are still, for the most part, boy to me as well, though there are a couple of exceptions. Yet k8d’s example of [name]Winifred[/name] is girl to me, because there was an old woman at my church named that (went by [name]Win[/name]) so that’s the association I have.

I’m not mad about gender neutral names and I think that’s in part because a lot of them nowadays are surname types, which really aren’t my style at all. [name]Kelsey[/name] I do see more as a girl’s name because the only [name]Kelsey[/name] I’ve met was a girl, but [name]Kelsey[/name] Grammar gives it the oomph onto the boy side and I don’t see a problem with using it on a boy.

I am usually against gender neutral names. I like my children to have names whose gender is pretty obvious. That said, there are a few exceptions that I love, but I wouldn’t use those particular names, personally.

I’d like to vent but I also hope you berries can help, I was thinking of making a similar thread, but I was beaten to it.

I just loathe the term “gender neutral,” and “unisex” referring to a name, as if using it would make my child “gender neutral” and have no sense of gender identity. Does that make sense? Yet I love so many names that could be used for a boy or a girl! It truly has to do with association I guess. I’ve seen girls named [name]Harper[/name], [name]Carter[/name], [name]Colbie[/name], [name]Kamren[/name], [name]Kenzie[/name], [name]Kinley[/name], [name]Madisen[/name], [name]Avery[/name], [name]Kennedy[/name] and others. And I like their names on them! They seem to fit their personalities, but they are definitely girls. But I’m sure it would be the same if they were boys… Growing up there were 2 Caseys in my class, one boy and one girl, and it seemed perfectly normal. Kids are very accepting about that kind of stuff.

I think half of our worries when choosing a name isn’t how the kid will be accepted by his/her peers, but how we will be accepted by our peers when the name shows up with a cute picture on facebook and how others will read it. I find myself in this trap again and again. I’m not sure it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I think it’s important to recognize.

For example, my question for you lovely berries is, if I choose a name that can be used for either gender because I love the meaning, sounds and know girls with that name, will its gender neutrality be taken as a message that I don’t want my daughter to embrace her feminism? And vice/versa for a boy?

And how come when a girl uses a “boy’s name” it is forever off-limits to boys? It doesn’t seem fair, to the parents who want to use the name for the boy, or for the parents of the girl who have angry mobs chasing them down because they “ruined” a name. Granted, I don’t want to name my daughter [name]George[/name], [name]John[/name], or [name]Richard[/name]. But if I did, would the name be lost forever to the girls?

Again, I hope this makes sense and that you can help! Thanks in advance! And thanks for making this thread. :slight_smile:

[name]Ah[/name] in fact my grandfather is called [name]Lesley[/name]. But I did know a woman growing up with that name too. I never remember thinking it was odd as a child, I just accepted it. That’s the answer really isn’t it?

amenspanglish - You make some really good points. I think what you say about our peers being the ones to judge is true. I personally couldn’t care less what adults think, they really need to get a grip if it bothers them. But what did bother me was the suggestion that other children would judge. I think it’s a fact of life we have to all accept that at some point our children will be made fun of by other children for some reason or another, I just don’t want to think it’s because of a silly decision I made about a name. I think that was why I made the post. It seems clear from the great replies so far though that names are all a matter of perception - like/dislike or male/female is all down to our personal experiences. Children have a much more limited experience to draw on and so are naturally more accepting. So I don’t think I’ll let it bother me too much from now on.

I think it’s a lot to do with a modern view that girls can be as strong as boys and equality. So we naturally are giving women stronger names. But whilst we talk about the “modern man”, really society still wants our boys to be butch and strong. So strong male names are given to girls, but there’s not much to come back in return. I just dislike the attitude “you can’t call your child that, it’s a girls name!” It’s not like anyone is trying to name their boy [name]Mary[/name]-[name]Sue[/name] here. :slight_smile:

I’ve never thought that any child with a unisex name has or will have gender identity issues. It’s just a name. [name]How[/name] you raise your child will much more significantly influence your child’s perception of gender than any name you give her. In this day, with parents naming their children names like [name]Street[/name], [name]Whizdom[/name] (real name!), [name]Explorer[/name], [name]Bamboo[/name], [name]Neveah[/name], [name]Blue[/name], and [name]Bear[/name], a name has less bearing on gender perception and identity than it did several decades ago.

As far as names that go from one gender to another, that’s just time taking its toll on linguistics and onomastics. 100 years ago [name]Ashley[/name] was exclusively a male name. Now it’s split between the genders, and its various prominence depends on your geographic location. In previous generations names ending in “-son” referred to a man’s family of origin, and thus they were almost exclusively male. Now, parents are looking for more unusual names because naming isn’t just something you do to a baby, it’s now considered an extension of the parents’ personal expressions. [name]Hence[/name], [name]Addison[/name] and [name]Madison[/name] have started to shift segments as parents decide to name their children more “unique” names to express themselves through their children. Any name that’s switched popular gender can usually always be used in its original form. [name]Madison[/name] can still be a boys’ name. [name]Avery[/name] can still be a girl’s name. The only issue you’ll encounter is explaining it to people who may give you funny looks every once in a while.

Where I live [name]Kelsey[/name] is a girl name. I know three [name]Kelsey[/name]'s and they are all female. But that’s just where I live, if it’s different where you live, use it on a boy!

As a male [name]Chelsea[/name] I can offer some experience and insight into this from a male perspective. I think first and foremost there is a double standard when it comes to using boys names on girls compared with “girls” names on boys - I say “girls” names in the loosest sense. While some people will argue the origin of a name such as [name]Madison[/name], or [name]Morgan[/name] or [name]Evelyn[/name], etc are male, most people today will see them as female names and that is the context, right or wrong in which we have to live. Second point is that I don’t think what you name your child will lead to gender issues or “make them gay” (and yes I have heard that one said before). Third, there may be some comments/teasing, but in my experience a) adults tend to worry about this more than it really happens, b) you can’t protect a child from all teasing, and if they don’t tease on a first name then it could be the last name, or looks, habits, etc; some children end up getting teased, and it doesn’t mean that a gender neutral named child will be the one to be teased. Fourth, the more you defy current covention re: a name though, the more you need to ask why you are doing it and be prepared to convey that to your child. They should grow up with a strong belief in their own name and that makes them less likely to be bullied anyway. If you choose a gender neutral name for a first name I’d go with a more conventional gender appropriate name for the second name to avoid some of the issues that can be caused. As an adult you can have some problems, such as needing to show ID more frequently, being called Mr or Miss, Mrs etc and not what you are, but obviously many women deal with this for a long time and the earth doesn’t stop. In short, it may not be as conventional as some people go for, but it’s not the all so terrible thing some people make it out to be either, it can just be an irritant sometimes for the one with the name. As an adult they can change their name, go by another name. Most people in my experience, including myself, even though they felt they would when younger end up not doing so and in part that is because our names becomes something we associate with and grow close to as a result. I can’t imagine being another name now. I should also add, in the case of [name]Kelsey[/name], I think having an iconic actor a lot of people can identify with makes the name more identifiable as being a boy name too, than e.g. calling a boy [name]Mary[/name] [name]Margaret[/name] for instance.

@lucystone- [name]Bamboo[/name] is my guilty pleasure boy name! Maybe I can use it as a middle name
And I do feel that some parents are very selfish in their name choices. It’s all about showing how hip/trendy/unique they are. They aren’t considering that this is a human being that will have to live with their “unique” taste. I say do whatever you want with the middle name but be serious about a child’s first name

@ amenspanglish- my issue with girls taking boy names is that the boy has to deal with subtle and overt attacks against his masculinity for the rest of his life. Girls with boy names get little to no abuse.
Many of my favorite boy names were “stolen” by the girls- [name]Ashley[/name], [name]Kelly[/name], [name]Shea[/name], etc. I still want to use these names but I will have to give my son an undeniably male middle name to offset his “girl” first name. But thankfully I live in the South where these names are still used for boys in spite of girls taking them

Girls didn’t steal the names, parents of boys conceded them just because they became used by girls and they felt that this in some way undermined the masculinity of their sons. It is quite sad and ridiculous that they even thought that.

Thank you berries! That does help me feel better.

Y’all are right, whether a name feels better for a girl or a boy has so much to do with association and experience. [name]Just[/name] like likes and dislikes for a name. And, raising a child to love their name is also important.

Like I said, I don’t plan on going as far as using a name that is known to be only masculine. I was just concerned about a few of my “unisex” favorites. But it looks like I shouldn’t worry if I end up using them.

Again, thanks very much for your insight!

I should start off by saying that I’m not generally a fan of gender neutral names. That being said, there are some gender neutral names that I don’t mind, but I’m not sure about [name]Kelsey[/name]. I guess I’ve only known girls named [name]Kelsey[/name], so it’s hard for me to picture that name on a boy. I think there are some names labeled as “gender neutral” that I view as masculine and feminine simply because I associate the names with people I know. For example, I will always view [name]Jordan[/name], [name]Taylor[/name], and [name]Ryan[/name] as boy names. Along those same lines, I will always see [name]Carol[/name], [name]Ashley[/name], and [name]Casey[/name] as girls names.

But, I think kids are good about owning their names and I’m sure that if you named your boy [name]Kelsey[/name], he’d rock it. An example- I used to teach pre-k and had a student named [name]Whitney[/name], who was a boy. I never would have chosen that name for a boy, but this kid wore the name well. His friends often called him [name]Whit[/name], which I think was a cute nn. He was a little hipster :slight_smile: