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Do I have to give my baby a gender neutral name?

Updated: Nov 9, 2018

You've fallen in love with a name that is typically used for either boys or girls- do you have to give it up to do Gender Open Parenting?

Naming a child can be one of the most exciting and vexing tasks for new parents. On top of cultural, religious, or community traditions, many parents not assigning gender to their children at birth have additional questions about choosing a name.

Does my baby’s name have to be “gender neutral” if I am not assigning them a binary gender?

There is no right way to name a baby! This choice is up to each individual family to make. Some families want a name that is not attached to a particular gender because they feel that their child will be more free to identify with their name as they discover their gender identity. Other families have names that are important to them, and those names are associated with a binary gender. If a child doesn’t like their name for any reason, they can change it. The most important thing is that kids learn that names do not equal gender, and that they will be supported in all of their identities.

What if I choose a gendered name?

Names are assigned genders the same arbitrary way that clothes, toys, and colors are. Names can be for all genders. After all, many names start with one primary gender and shift over time, such as Val, Leslie, Josie, and Renee. Parents that choose a name that is associated with a binary gender may worry that their child will be assigned a gender by friends, family, new acquaintances, and strangers. Some parents take steps to shift this dynamic by giving their child a nickname that is gender neutral or associated with the opposite binary gender. Other parents will spell names with variations that may shift gender assumptions, like Stevyn.

How do I name my baby after a loved one without using a traditionally gendered name?

Families that want to name a child after someone can take a few approaches to finding a name that isn’t affiliated with a gender. One approach is to name a child after a person’s favorite color, flower, or gemstone. Another is to reference the town or city the person lived in for nameworthy features. Some last names can be made into first or middle names. Also, a name can be researched to find a root or derivative that meets the family’s needs.

In the end, a family should choose the names they love and take any steps that they want to pick a name that they love.


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