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The Pros and Cons of Having a Gender-Neutral Name

The Pros and Cons of Having a Gender-Neutral Name

By Valerie Burn

Names are hugely important. Your name is not only the first thing people may learn about you, but it also tends to define you. We mean, have you ever met a grumpy person named Sunny?

Yet, some of us are both blessed and/or cursed with an unfamiliar name. Sometimes the name is confusing because it is more popular in another language or country, like our dear writer with the beautiful name Shivani. But the biggest offender in terms of "confusing" names are those that are appropriate for both guys and gals. The dreaded (and sometimes-not-so-dreaded) gender-neutral name.

Long ago this was relegated to the Pats and Terrys of the world, but between celebrities and more creative names—no one is safe.

Having a semi-gender-neutral name (hello, Val Kilmer!), I brainstormed a few pros and cons on each side.

Pro: It is cool to have a name that's a little different, or typically meant for the other gender. See, e.g., Jessica Simpson's daughter, Maxwell Drew.

Con: It is not cool when your teacher calls on you as "Mr. Simpson" or does not believe there is a girl in the class named Max.

Pro: You're not constrained by gender-specific personalized items. I bet many Amandas are hard-pressed to find an "Amanda" bracelet that isn't pink, but many Jamies can.

Con: After the age of 6, personalized jewelry, novelty license plates, and the like are generally irrelevant.

Pro: A girl with a boy's name is a little cool. A lot of names started in the "boy" category have moved into "cool girl" name. Think Taylor, Austin, even Hilary (and my name, Valerie!), which were traditionally boys' names.

Con: It is sexist, but boys with girl names are a little less cool. I'm not talking Taylor and Austin, but if I met a guy named Elizabeth, I would feel weird. Then again, I might feel that way about a lady Christopher too.

Pro: Who cares? Men and women can do all the same things! This is a free country! Name your kids whatever you want! It doesn't matter if your name typically indicates the opposite (or no specific) gender.

Con: Gender is still a really important part of our lives and identity. I still scrunch up my nose if I get a letter addressed to "Mr. Burn." Especially when it's like, a Sephora catalog. Why, Sephora, would Mister Valerie Burn want expensive makeup and hair supplies???!

Pro: It's just a name. And if it really bothers you, you can change it or adopt a nickname. Or do things to clarify it, such as going by your first and middle name (Kyle = Kyle Marie or Kylie or Kiki... the possibilities are endless). Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow... but that's what college is for.

Con: Why should I have to change my name just because other people think I'm a boy (or girl)? Once people meet me, they generally get the idea.

Do you like your name? Is it gender-neutral? Do people sometimes expect you to be the other gender (or don't know what to expect at all)? Tell us if you love it, hate it, or don't even think about it.

Topics: Life
Tags: parents, names, gender, boys, girls

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About the Author
Valerie Burn

Valerie Burn is a very cool Midwestern lady. She has lived in tons of exciting places, such as Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. She spends her free time snuggling her beautiful, perfect dog Teddy, and reading the entire internet every day. Valerie enjoys eating things, buying things, and writing things, as well as watching terrible TV.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.

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