8 Gender Neutral Names That Aren’t “Alex” or “Ayden”

So, as a GNC and NB person, I had to pick out a gender neutral name at some point, because my birth name, which was something that was popular among women’s names about a hundred years ago (think Ethel, or Gladys, but worse), was just not cutting it. It didn’t suit me, and I sometimes think that I would have changed it regardless of gender identity. Seriously, most people I introduced myself to would have a scoffing kind of reaction and inform me that my birth name didn’t suit me at all. Which was a little rude, but I did agree with them.

After a couple years of digging (I take transition steps very slowly!) I found my name, and I’m happy with it, but I also have a few years worth of research on other gender neutral or neutral-ish names. So today, I’d like to share a few with you. Who knows? Maybe you were pondering a name this week, and you’ll find one you like here.

Just to clarify, though; a lot of NB people I’ve known don’t change their names, even if they’re not already neutral. It’s not a requirement, and it’s not a step one has to take if it doesn’t feel right. It is just as valid to decide “Well, my female coded name is mine. Therefore, it’s neutral.” just like you might with a dress, or cargo pants, or whatever other gender coded object is in your life. If it’s yours, and you like it, it’s appropriate for you.

On to names!

Aaren – This is just a variant of Aaron, and sometimes used as a feminine version of that name, but I really liked it when I first saw it because it looks unique (I know, I’m worse than those soccer Moms that spell their kids’ name like “Ashlyeigh” or something, but hey. I like what I like.) Anyways, this is an old name that some think means “high mountain” or “exalted” and has been a staple in the Christian community for quite some time. I personally like the idea of this name because it’s the name of Moses’ brother, and Aaron was basically the public speaker of the entire movement for freedom of the Hebrew people. When I first saw this name, it was when I did a lot of public speaking and activism on behalf of the trans and LGBTQ community, so it seemed like a pretty good fit for someone like me.

Aquila – This name means “eagle” in Latin, and I’ve mostly seen it as a surname, but for someone who wants a unique name with a cool meaning, this might be a great fit. In Roman culture, the eagle was often the standard for the military, and seen as not only fierce, but wise. Now, granted, because it ends in an a, and sounds a bit like Akeelah, this may not be the best fit for someone who doesn’t want to be gendered as female, but if that doesn’t bother you, or you want your name to err on the side of feminine sounding, this is pretty neat.

Bronte – Originally a surname, derived from Gaelic “Bestower” this name seemed like a good fit for someone with a literary background (Bronte sisters, anyone?) and someone with a giving personality. Also, coincidentally, sounds a lot like the Greek word for “Thunder.”

Caron – Kind of like Aquila, this does run the risk of sounding feminine. However, this name is Welsh, and means “to love” and has been used for both genders for quite some time. Might also be a good sub for someone with a similar sounding birth name.

Rain/Raine – Reasons I liked this combo was because I was searching for R names at the time; while the first one is an obvious meaning, the second one is thought to be derived from the “reine” meaning queen. Which I thought was a very funny coincidence.

Sage – Another on the nose kind of name, it means what it looks like. I’m kind of a fan of hippy sounding neutral names.

Sevan – So this particular name caught my eye after someone I knew named “Savannah” chose this name to stay close to their original name. It’s the largest lake in Armenia, and may also be derived from the word that means “lake.” I especially liked this name because I liked the person attached to it, though. Think of the pronunciation more like “Sev-OHN” not like the number 7. Hah.

Jorryn – Also biblical, this one means “the one God loves” and when I found it, I had a lot of thoughts on that. As a queer person with Christian beliefs, it was something I thought about a lot, and this name was something of a confirmation. In the end, finding an accepting church filled that void for me, but I figured I’d share this name as well.

So, obviously, this is a list of names tailored to my search; something neutral, something biblical, and something that wouldn’t be taking from another culture that wasn’t my own. There are a whole lot of really cool sounding Arabic and Japanese names, for instance, that I wouldn’t want to co-opt, because I’m neither of those things. What are some interesting neutral names you’ve found? Or even non-neutral names that you’ve found? And what made you settle on your name?

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Non-Binary vs. Being Non-Binary

I’ve talked about being called a “real” non-binary person by binary people before, and having embodied the general non-binary stereotype (white, androgynous style, short hair), I’m used to people thinking that my general aesthetic is representative of my gender identity.

The other night, I wore a dress. Someone asked me if I was having a “femme” day. Nope! Just having a “I wanna wear this dress” day. But it got me to thinking about a lot of younger non-binary people I’ve encountered, in real life, and on the internet, who do see their clothing as the most important part of their gender identity. I don’t mean that in a vain way, of course, but when the majority of any of the conversations I’ve had with them are about wearing men’s pants and seeking to be so androgynous thatstrangers can’t tell what they are, a pattern starts to emerge.

Why are we focused so much on how others perceive us, and is it damaging to our own internal journey? Are we spending more time seeking to look the part than exploring what we really like and want?

I’ve been out for a number of years now, so clothing and androgynous style isn’t new and exciting anymore. Apparently, people are going to be confused about me, whether I wear a dress or go for the classic flannel shirt look. And more importantly, appearing androgynous doesn’t make the people that matter respect my identity more. As a general rule, if it takes looking so ambiguous that your birth sex is unclear for someone to respect your gender, their respect isn’t worth having in the first place.

I’ve been blessed with a circle of close friends who don’t always understand what I’m going through, but respect who I am regardless of what I’m wearing (this hasn’t always been the case, and I’m so very grateful it’s changed!). I’m also dating someone who understands the journey I’m on (because self discovery is a never ending journey! Yay!). I think these things are waaay more important than looking the part, but even more importantly, I’d like to see the non-binary community focusing on this part of their identity more than their clothes.

This isn’t just a critique of androgynous fashion, of course. If androgyny is your game, more power to you. But if androgynous fashion is going to be made synonymous with non-binary identity, we have a problem. First, not every non-binary person considers themselves an androgynous mix. Second, not every non-binary person can look androgynous. There’s more nuances to this whole “looking the part” mentality, and more issues the more you get into it, but I believe these two points are the most important. Androgynous fashion is pretty damn cool, but it’s not representative of the whole NB community, and frankly, it’s not very accessible for curvy AFAB NB people, and generally not intended to suit AMAB NB people. It alienates NB people who are drawn to more “feminine” clothes, and that’s unfortunate.

I’d like to see a community where walking into a trans meeting as an AFAB person in a dress won’t have people assuming you’re a trans person’s SO. I’d like to see a community where AMAB people have more freedom in their clothing choices. And most importantly, I’d like to see a community where my androgynous fashion choices are not seen as “more real” than someone wearing a dress. No more costumes, just people.

 

 

When Trans Acceptance Means Hiding the “Weird Ones.”

I saw this meme recently in a transgender group I’m a part of. Take a gander for yourself, and see if you can guess why this caught my attention:
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The person posting it, shockingly, was completely serious. They saw this meme and went “Huh. This is exactly how I feel about how society views us.” Which kind of blew my mind. As a Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) person, it was painfully obvious and kind of personal when I saw this. What’s so wrong with enjoying lipstick AND a beard? Why are all the people who are “actually” trans so binary looking? And “passing”?

I commented something kind of snide, probably along the lines of “Or we could just stop judging people for how they present…” and moved along. It wasn’t until after I came back from hiking that I saw how many people had responded to me. Explaining that this was directed at drag queens, or even better, “people who aren’t even trying” to pass. I checked the group’s description; yup, supposedly inclusive of GNC and NB people. Cue the longest internet debate I have ever had with other trans people, something I try not to do online.

The main problem with this meme, however, isn’t that it may be unclear on its position (that drag queens aren’t trans…which isn’t strictly true, as some drag queens and kings do identify as trans) but that it seems to encourage a very clean cut, clearly one gender type of presentation. Like, hey, this is what an acceptable trans person looks like. Not someone who cakes on make up, or mixes gendered features. As someone who’s been told that my own gender presentation and identity gives trans people a “bad name” I just wanna say…why are we so bent on pleasing people who already have a hard time accepting us? Why are we fighting to transition and be true to ourselves…only to conform that new self to something that isn’t really us in order to be accepted?

By hiding aspects of ourselves in order to appear acceptable, aren’t we just walking ourselves out of one closet and into a new one?

 

 

The Indestructable Trans Rep

Around a year ago, I lost my mental health battle and had a hard break from reality. You know, like the kind where you feel like you’re on cloud nine and in hell all at once. It was terrifying for me, and terrifying for those around me, I’m sure. Lots of people have embellished what happened (cause I guess it’s cool now to have a “crazy person” story), but what it came down to was that I cut open my wrist (to the bone!!!) and got to spend more than a month in a psych ward getting on mood stabilizers. Pretty intense, huh?

Zip back a couple of months, though, and one of the things that kept me from admitting, even to myself, that something was off was being a transgender activist. Okay, yeah, leadership roles and such have that effect on people, but even more so in this particular role. You see, nearly every day, I faced the argument that me being transgender was a mental illness. Even within the trans community itself, I got a lot of flack for being a non-binary identified person. It was like not choosing a side of the binary automatically labeled me as unstable.

So as soon as I had any symptoms of actually being unstable, I didn’t go to a counselor. I couldn’t even begin to admit that it wasn’t normal or okay that I wasn’t sleeping for days at a time. And maybe, you know, the paranoid delusions I had about everyone being out to get me weren’t that far off. People were out to get me; or people like me. Violence happens to trans people and visibly queer people every day. But more importantly, I didn’t need one more thing to invalidate who I was for other people.

In a lot of activism, accusations of the other side being “insane” or “delusional” are quick and common cheap shots, but the way they’re met speaks volumes about how activists respect mental illness. Which is wild when you think about how many people, especially in marginalized communities, suffer from mental illness! How can anyone jump back and staunchly deny any mental health issue, like admitting a mental illness is admitting that your viewpoint and your identity isn’t valid?

Of course, these days, I’m faced with the same argument; the idea that I’m mentally ill or sick because of the way I identify. And so what? I have a mental illness. And you know what? I’m still trans and I’m still valid.

Five Things No One Told Me About Being Genderqueer in the Trans Community

If you’re like me and you’ve questioned your gender all your life, you know the thrill of finding a word that describes you. Or, hey, even gets close.

I started out as identifying as genderfluid, then as a trans man (a rough patch in my life where I wore pants all. Year. Long.), and finally back to just a vague “eh, guess I’m genderqueer. Watch me wing my eyeliner and not shave my legs” type state.

For a lot of trans people in my life, I’m pretty confusing. Especially for those who have known they are a man or a woman their entire life, it’s pretty difficult to wrap their head around. Sometimes, this means a lot of questions, or it means an interrogation. Which leads to my first thing no one told me when I came out:

  1. Knowing your gender since the day you were born is not a requirement! No matter the gender, it can take a lot of time to figure out who you really are, and then, what it means to be you. For a lot of binary (men and women) trans people, there is so much pressure to  have absolute certainty at all times…and this pressure gets turned on non-binary identities quite a bit, which is never a fun feeling.
  2. Just because someone is trans, it does not mean they are accepting of or even aware of genderqueer identities. I used to get really excited when I met another trans person, kind of considering them one of my “people.” But as it turns out, being a non-binary identity is a minority within a minority.
  3. You don’t have to display your gender “correctly” to get anyone’s (even another trans person’s!) approval. I used to get this a lot, because I tend to be more androgynous; people would tell me that they didn’t think some other non-binary person’s gender was valid, but mine was definitely real, because they could tell by looking at me. Excuse me, what? At first, I was naively flattered, but then I began to challenge it, after I realized that they were basing the entire validity of my gender on whether or not I looked like a good “mix” of male and female. The implication? That my gender wasn’t as real as being a man or a woman, both of which don’t need to wear specific things to be a valid concept. Can you imagine walking up to a woman and telling her that all the other women were probably just pretending to be women, but she was a real woman because she’s wearing a dress?
  4. Not every trans group is going to be inclusive, and you shouldn’t waste your time with a group that doesn’t include you. Sounds like a no brainer, right? But not including you doesn’t just mean a space where there’s “No NBs allowed!!” or something to that tune. Rather, some groups are more subtle; all the topics are about binary trans issues, discussions seem to value the binary experience more than other trans experiences (if you feel like you can’t chime into a discussion because you’re NB or genderqueer, you’re probably experiencing this!) and the leadership looks at you like you’ve grown a second head when you mention your gender identity. You may be in a space where you’re not aggressively unincluded, but if they’re not willing to make room for you and value you, then they’re not NB inclusive. You’ll end up spending your time in this group quietly listening, as opposed to being a full fledged member.
  5. You don’t have to be the sole educator or spokesperson for all NB people! Many non-binary identified people fall into this trap within trans groups and communities. It’s easy to feel like you have a duty to make the space you’re in NB inclusive, but that doesn’t have to be on you. As a young NB person with a lot of public speaking experience, I’ve often been asked to be on panels to “represent” the gender non-conforming crowd. This was fantastic, of course, but after being the only genderqueer person invited time and again, I’ve started to redirect to other NB people I know, so that there’s a wealth of identities being presented, and I’m not the sole spokesperson for how to be non-binary (I’m not exactly the only way to be genderqueer or non-binary, after all!).

I’m sure there are a million other things I would’ve liked to know before I embarked on this particular journey, but these are just a few of the ones I noticed that would have been nice to know going in.