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?

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Six steps to make sure you NEVER have any Non-binary friends:

Are you the kind of person who wants to be able to easily sort your friends into guy or girl categories? Do you accept trans people, but only if they come in genders you approve? Are you that guy who stares openly at people in public in order to determine if they’re a guy or a girl?

Well, I’m here today to make sure your friend circle stays as un-diverse as possible. Because why get a confusing bunch of friends when you can follow these simple steps to make sure that non-binary people know you won’t be a supportive friend?

  1. Use terms like “men and women” or “both genders”; this makes it clear that you consider gender to only come in two flavors, which will stop any non-binary person from assuming you’d even know their gender exists. This is especially effective if you use these kinds of terms in circumstances where you really don’t need to. For instance, at a social event, instead of saying simply “welcome” or “welcome everyone” say “welcome ladies and gentlemen!”
  2. If you ever talk about transgender people and transitions, make sure to make a point of discussing it as a point A to point B phenomenon. Bonus points if you refer to other trans people as “used to be a girl/boy” or reference their surgeries as the point when they “became a girl/boy.” This shows non-binary people that you’re more focused on outward appearances and birth sex than how the other person identifies.
  3. Refuse to use neutral pronouns. Sure, you’d use they/them in a singular instance if you didn’t know someone’s gender, but using them all the time for someone whose gender you do know is exhausting. Besides, what better way to remind your non-binary acquaintance that you’d be a terrible friend than calling them by whatever pronouns you think most match their appearance? Bonus points if you make their pronouns about you and how you can’t perceive them as a neutral gender.
  4. Ask them about their genital status; if your ignorance on the difference between sex and gender wasn’t apparent before, asking a near stranger if they’re intersex will shine the brightest of spotlights on it. Disclaimer: this action may cause the incidental loss of intersex friends. Proceed with caution.
  5. Definitely nitpick anything your non-binary acquaintance does that isn’t androgynous. Do they want to get pregnant? Well, that’s a lady thing, and they shouldn’t be engaging in it if they want to be seen as neutral. Did they grow a beard? Well, how do they expect people to know they’re NB if they do something like that? The more unsolicited your opinion is, the better.
  6. Finally, use the word “transtrender” liberally. Apply it to anyone you think isn’t performing gender correctly while identifying as trans. This doesn’t just have to be NB people, you can direct it at feminine trans men, masculine trans ladies, drag queens, and de-transitioners. Just make sure your social circle knows you use this term to denounce anyone who doesn’t meet your standards.

Well, those are the steps I know of that have sent me running for the hills. What about you guys? Any solid suggestions?

What’s So Funny About Being Intersex?

“The Emperor has no balls,” reads the plaque at the foot of an artistic installation manufactured by the anarchist art collective INDECLINE. This is the same group that claimed to create the world’s biggest illegal graffiti and more recently a “Rape Trump” mural in response to his calling Mexicans rapists. This most recent piece features a lot more nudity, however, depicting Donald Trump naked, veiny, fat, and most notably, with a testicle-less micropenis. (If you reeaally wanna see it, here’s a link. Gross.)

Now, I dislike Donald Trump as much as the next guy. Maybe even more (I’m competitive like that.) However, when I saw this statue, I didn’t get the kind of schadenfreude that many others apparently experienced. This isn’t the first time Trump’s been depicted with a micropenis; in fact, back in the Spring, a painting surfaced with a similar physical representation, though the painter in question had a more body positive message to share. (Again, nudity, but if you want to see it, here’s an article with the artist that features the art in question.) Most of the time, when it comes to implying someone’s manhood is “lacking” people are slightly more subtle than this, but it begs the question: what’s going on with this repeating trend of depicting a rather disgusting man with this kind of body, and why do we find it so amusing?

When I look at this body, displayed as something to be consumed with derision, I can see the body of people I’ve loved and cared about. There are many, many intersex people in the United States (a little bit of info on that) and still many more people who are men and lack testicles. I can’t point and laugh at a man whom I find absolutely contemptible, purely because he is being depicted with genital “abnormalities” without also laughing at these other people. Considering how many other terrible things there are to mock about Trump, why must we be so obsessed with genitals?

The people who I have known who are intersex have had enough people obsessed with their genitals. From personal examples, like my best friend in college, whose partner started telling people she was dating a “hermaphrodite” as soon as he shared it with her (completely violating his privacy), to more broad examples, like the huge number of infants who still face “corrective” surgery, despite many patients going on to have sterility, loss of sensation, and a rejection of the sex assigned to them via surgery. It blows my mind that anyone could see the kind of suffering many intersex people have suffered on account of their genitalia, and still see portraying someone with an intersex condition as funny.

Trump is an awful human being; he is racist, sexist, vulgar, and especially contradictory. His huge ego is ridiculous in its own right. And really, in actuality, he’d likely be first in line to mock an actual intersex person. So why do we need to throw another group under the bus in order to mock him?

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.

Outside the Binary: Not Outside of Harassment

I haven’t covered a night shift at the convenience store in over two months, but I’m the kind of person who returns favors. So when one of the guys (who saved my sanity by covering my shifts when I was double booked) needed a favor, I took a night shift. If you’ve ever been up around 2am in a college town, you know the kind of vibe this area can have.

I was relegated to the register, and things were going swimmingly until a group of young adults got upset over being carded for cigarettes (they turned out to be 18 and 19 across the board. So yeah.) They started with claiming I was being picky, then claimed that I should know them as “regulars” and then finally, moved on to other topics. At one point, one of them declared “Do you like girls? I can just tell that about you.” like my shaved head and rainbow bracelet didn’t make my queerness glaring obvious. Now, when customers get upset over being carded, I’ve learned the best way to counteract their rising energy is to meet it with a calm approach. So I answered with a “Sure, dude.” and he proceeded to tell me he could sexually please me and my hypothetical girlfriend.

It was an awkward situation, and up until that point, I hadn’t felt uncomfortable, but this was a little different. He wasn’t threatening me. I would’ve known how to respond to that. He just started assuring me that we could all “have a good time” and it was one of the weirder flirtations I’ve had in my life. Obviously, I shut that down by giving them an ultimatum on the cigarettes (they found their IDs and bought them).

However, it got me to thinking; not identifying as a woman or a lesbian doesn’t exempt me from the same harassment many women face. It’s a weird sense of solidarity that I can completely relate to the experience of being harassed and propositioned, but I don’t identify with the group that this most affects. Is this something other femme-appearing non-binary people feel?