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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Transness and Sexism: My Bros are a Little Misogynistic

I have like, a shit ton of guy friends. Not sure exactly why, because I’ve always considered myself better at being friends with girls, but now that I think about it, most of the “girls” I befriend end up realizing somewhere mid-friendship that they’re trans, and abruptly become my bro (which is pretty cool, because I get all their old clothes most of the time. Score.) There was a point in my life where I was actively trying to attain more girl friends, but I’ve since come to realize that I’m just drawn to masculine energy, regardless of the gender attached.

However, the downside of being non-binary and being friends with a whole lot of guys from different walks of life is that I encounter so much casual sexism directed at women. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not friends with a bunch of douchebags or something. I have pretty great taste in people, if I do say so myself. However, I’ve been in groups of trans men, where the discussion turns to how they knew they were men because they’re so brave, strong, capable of manly things, etc, etc. Having grown up an avid tomboy, I identify with these things a little bit; I wanted to play baseball, camp outside, I chopped off all my hair when I was nine, to the horror of my mother. When it comes up among trans men, though, I’m instantly reminded of all the tomboys I know. The women with unconventional interests and hobbies, with short hair or a masculine attitude; they’re still women, regardless of these “manly” habits, but they’ve faced all kind of criticism for those behaviors. Can’t women be strong, brave, sportsy, and butch without being…well, men?

Now, that might sound like a really particular, unique kind of issue, but bear with me. With the continued exposure of trans celebs, we find ourselves in a time where more and more people are learning that transgender is a thing. Which, I gotta admit, is pretty damn cool for people who might have otherwise just wondered what was “wrong” with them all their lives. However, with the prevalence of transition stories, I’ve heard more and more trans men and women start making assertions that any person who’s gender non-conforming is a trans man or woman still in denial. Butch lesbians, for instance, are often mistaken for young trans men, such as a friend of mine who’s happily female (and gay), but wears a lot of cargo shorts. I’ve seen the argument “Well, if they want to look like and behave like men so much, why don’t they just call themselves men?”

A lot of that, I know, stems from a sense of insecurity; if someone’s life journey can look so similar to a trans man’s journey, only to have them be cis, that’s got to feel a little invalidating (and it brings up the argument that if that person is content in being a masculine woman, why couldn’t this trans man be that content? Why did he have to get surgeries, change his name, or lose friends and family? Why endure all of that hardship?) And it also brings up a bit of visual confusion; I’m sure we all try not to stereotype, but it’s always a bit exciting when you think you see someone who’s also trans. I always get super excited to meet new trans people, just because it’s a unique struggle and it’s the fucking best to know someone who shares some of that experience. I’ve also made the blunder of assuming someone is trans (This is that moment where I should kick young me and remind them to ASK pronouns before assuming!) But the beauty of having such an array of gender presentations and roles is that we don’t have to personally understand someone’s journey, and we certainly don’t have to match up with anyone else.

When these kinds of discussions happen, I’m generally the only non-man in the room, however, so it puts me in an interesting spot. People generally expect me to stay neutral, since I’m neither, but I’m pretty quick to jump in. Normally with some snide remark like “aw shit, I like those things, am I a man now?” which serves as a pretty good reality check for the dudes I hang out with. However, in the wrong company, I find myself shoehorned into being a women’s advocate, a role I would normally enjoy, but it comes at the cost of my own gender. There’s just this idea that since they’re men, they’re even further away from being women than I am, so I’m the next best thing to discuss women with. Again, mildly awkward, but generally, I’ll bite.

It comes down to something like this: are we defining our genders by the things we do and the things we like? As a trans man, are you taking a toxic idea, like science being a male pursuit, and using it to “prove” your manliness? That you were secretly a dude all along? Does your high school “phase” of being a baby butch lesbian make you assume that other butch lesbians are just on their way to realizing their “real” gender?

Basically, what it comes down to, is that a lot of trans men seek to transition without challenging any of the restrictive gender roles that they hated growing up. And that’s totally normal, because it takes a lot of introspection to realize that you’re doing that (I had to question myself on that front when I started identifying as NB) and it doesn’t make anyone a bad person. It’s so easy to fall into that way of thinking, especially when so many people challenge your gender as a trans person. I just hope transgender becomes something as boring as describing yourself as a pisces. You know, like “Okay, that’s nice Gregg, but that’s some pretty useless information because I don’t care about that stuff.” That way, no one will have to feel like they have to cling to a certain role to prove themselves. Oh, and then I can enjoy my gaggle of guy friends without having to call out sexism so much. Maybe.

 

 

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?

 

 

Three Things Everyone Asked Me When I Came Out as Asexual…And One Thing I Would Tell My Younger Self.

I didn’t know the term, but when I first heard about sex (a rather non-informative talk with my mother for which she unthinkingly packed a hot dog lunch) my impression was something like “Well. I’m not doing that.” This sentiment didn’t change even after I started puberty, held babies, met someone I really loved, AND developed a healthy libido. I’ve been open about it since before I was open about anything else about myself; I’m even old school and have an ace ring…through which I’ve found two other aces in six years, so that’s not too bad a rate.

Here’s a few of the most common things I’ve heard as an open asexual, and some of my criticisms of these…uh, criticisms.

“What if you want a family someday?”

Yeah, maybe I will. What’s that got to do with being asexual? First, this is the 21st century. There are ways to get pregnant without having sex, there are ways to have children without getting pregnant, and most importantly, family is what you make it. Maybe family for me is all the younger queer kids I’ve mentored (they call me “Dad.” Go figure.) Or maybe, family for me is going to be a partner who I can grow old with. I don’t know. All I know is, my path to a future family isn’t restricted to the getting pregnant route.

“What if you date/marry someone who wants sex?”

Well, first, I did. That ended pretty horribly. Weirdly enough, loving someone who was allosexual didn’t make me any less asexual. Guess it’s not contagious. I’ve been in relationships where we’ve found compromises that made both of us happy, and I’ve been in relationships that have ended in anger and tears on account of sex. A lot of it comes down to communication, the maturity of both parties involved (and younger me was an asshat, so…) and the disparity between sexual needs.

In addition, it always seemed weird to me that this question presumes I’m not going to find someone else like me. You know, an ace-on-ace relationship. Because I’ve found that too, and that was pretty swell. I feel like questions like that are almost isolating, because they presume that the asexual in question is the only one like that. I know I often felt like, answering those types of questions, that I was on my own, navigating an allosexual dating scene.

“Did trauma or a medical condition do this to you?”

No, but thanks for bringing that up!! Seriously, I love discussing possible traumatic episodes and private medical conditions with people. Many people mean well when they ask these kinds of questions; for instance, my mother wanted me to get my hormones checked, in case I was sick. Other people are just genuinely curious. They can’t wrap their heads around why someone might not feel the way they do, so they have to come up with some kind of rationale. It used to bother me a lot, but generally, if I tell people politely that my orientation isn’t a medical condition, they leave it be.

However, I’ve always wondered; what would it change if I had a medical condition or traumatic event that made me this way? I mean, I’m sure there might be a cure or a treatment, but what if I was perfectly content living this way? And more interestingly, would I be weirder or more acceptable if my lack of sexual interest was explained by a medical condition?

When I first started hearing these questions, I got super defensive. It’s hard to be patient and understanding when it’s your identity being discussed, and I don’t think it’s for everyone. But if I could go back in time, I’d tell younger me that everything is going to be alright. In ten years, I’m still gonna be ace, people are still going to ask weird questions, and I’m still going to sometimes be accused of lacking genitals and/or a heart, but I’m not going to be alone. It seems like every year, my circle of ace friends just expands. And that’s something that makes this experience not so lonely.

But also, if I was able to go back in time, I’d let my younger self know to stop eating gluten. Super allergic, as it turns out.

 

 

The “Bad” Asexual

You know you’re the “good one” when you’re asked to be on every panel on asexuality; I had it all! The charisma, the sense of humor, the indifference to sex, and the cute genderqueer sports coat. If I was on the panel, you had to know I was going to be adorable AND able to discuss sex like it was no big deal. The LGBT groups loved me, the gender and sexuality professors loved me, and most importantly, I didn’t make anyone feel like they had to question the amount of importance they put on sex in a relationship.

There was only one minor problem with me as an asexual rep: I’m a rape survivor. It happened my first year of college, by someone who thought they could fix my asexuality, and I conveniently edited that out of my story every time. At first, it was just because it was too new, and I didn’t want to discuss it. You need time to heal from something like that.

When I finally felt at ease with the past enough to discuss it, however, I talked with my asexual collaborators about it. You wouldn’t believe how quickly I was shut down. Yeah, they supported me, I was “brave” for telling them…but I probably should just keep it to myself. Enough people assumed that aces were that way because of trauma (it was the number one question at panels besides “…but you can have sex, you just don’t want to, right?”) and if I told my story, it would just feed that misconception.

I didn’t come out with my story until after I left college. Another, braver asexual wrote their story, and asked me to contribute mine. Then I wrote my story for asexualsurvivors.org, and joined the team as a moderator. It’s been amazing, connecting with other survivors, but it’s also been heart breaking, knowing that the same story is repeating for so many people out there. And it breaks my heart to know that my silence, and the silence of so many other people, has left many aces feeling the same way; that they are alone, an anomaly, and that if they speak up, their orientation will be seen as invalid.

It also makes me wonder how many of the young aces I mentored in college experienced the same, or something similar to this, and felt like they couldn’t say anything to me about it. Because I was so busy being a shining example of what a sex positive asexual looked like, there wasn’t any room for anything messy or questionable in my life.

I was always scared to say it out loud, and even today, I get nervous just thinking about others knowing.

I’m asexual. I’m a rape survivor. And I am no less valid for being both.

 

 

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.