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Gender-Bending Names: Readers Weigh In

In a recent column, the mother of a boy named Azure was dismayed to find that name listed under the girls' column in name dictionaries. The issue clearly struck a nerve. Readers flooded the Name Lady in-box with their own experiences in the gender-bending name world.

Some letters were positive, like the mom of a male Kiley who wrote, "Who cares if it's a boy or girl name, if you like it what does it matter? No regrets here!"

But most -- parents and children alike -- seemed frustrated with life in the androgynous lane. Among parents, the most common complaint was discovering that the male name they chose was turning female. Bearers of androgynous names struggled in childhood but came to appreciate their names as adults. Others remained unhappy, or turned to nicknames or even legal name changes for escape.

Here's a small sampling.

"I always hated having what is traditionally a boy's name [Dale]...I don't like cutesy or nutty names, but after being assigned to boy's PE classes and auto shop (of course I didn't see the advantage of this until later) during my younger days, I would rather have been named Sunbeam."

"My name is Sherrill (male). It caused me grief through my entire life. Now that I'm old enough, however, I'm well known as 'Hawk'....Yes, I am a Hawk, not a Sherrill."

"My daughter's name is Houston. She's been mistaken for a male on a number of occasions. She was actually named after a man. She hated it at first but likes it now."

"What these foolish parents don't seem to realize is that it's the children who have the burden of explaining their own names for the rest of their lives. I still remember all of the teasing I got because I have a boy's name. I am 64 and still cringe when I have to tell how, no, I am not a boy and, yes, Billie really is my 'real' name."

"I wanted my son [Keegan] to sound manly, now dumb people who don't care what their child's name means are ruining it for me and my son. Now he will have to defend his manhood."

"My husband at the time said I could name him Beauregard, Hugh, or Ashley. I went for Ashe. I feel really bad that he has to deal with people thinking he's a girl, but when I step back and relax, he wears it so well. He's fine boned, handsome, polite, artistically gifted and never has a problem with the ladies. Can I get off the guilt now?"


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September 11, 2009 11:12 AM
By Christie (not verified)

I like the fact that when my children are older and in the "grown-up" world they will not be judged based on their gender. With names like Cameron (my son) and Taylor (my daughter, although we call her Taylor Rae), no one will know their gender until they either speak to them or meet them.

September 11, 2009 11:35 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a friend who just recently named her baby girl Elliette. They think the spelling will alert everyone she is a girl not a boy. I have my doubts.

September 21, 2009 4:03 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I like the name Rylee for a girl, but that is also a boy name most often spelt Riley. Would that be wrong for me to name my baby (if a girl) Rylee? I think it's cute.

September 21, 2009 7:39 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I like Rylee for a girl as well. It is much more often being used for girls than it is for boys.

October 1, 2009 3:51 PM
By Jessica (not verified)

I named my daughter Jayden. She is now 5 years old. Since then I have heard many boys named Jayden. What do you think.... boy or girl name?

October 4, 2009 2:23 AM
By anniebear (not verified)

I like Rylee for a girl--it's cute. My son has a friend named Riley in his 4th grade class, she is adorable! Jayden is a great name for a girl as well as boy. It is one of those names that goes well either way. I am a teacher, and I've seen a couple Jayden's as both girls and boys. It's a good name either way. :)

October 15, 2009 7:08 PM
By Kate (not verified)

I am so sick of the unisex names that sound like last names: Riley, Cooper, Camden, Cameron, Mackenzie etc. So ridiculous. And...Houston? We have a PROBLEM!

October 19, 2009 11:40 AM
By Amber (not verified)

I love boy names for girls.
I don't get where some of you people are calling us "dumb" for naming our girls with boy names or visa versa! My daughter's name is Dylan, and I recieve sooo many compliments on it. It is actually the new trend. I know a Kyle, Riley, Jordan, etc. who are all girls born in the 2000's people!! I'm pregnant now and am actually thinking of naming my child Ryan..only if it's a girl though :)

October 28, 2009 12:42 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a girl, Payton, she is adorable. But the most famous Peyton is a male football player.. you may have heard of him Peyton Manning!

November 23, 2009 5:50 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I grew up with a unisex name. When most people meet me, they say it's a pretty name. I think it's only because I'm a pretty girl.

I'm getting to the point where I hate hearing about how people hate unisex names. Like, kids with unisex names will never grow up to be anything.

Honestly, I'd rather people think I was a boy than a stripper with a name like Brandy, Angel, Misti, Destiny, etc..

December 4, 2009 9:30 PM
By Cassandra (not verified)

I prefer girls to have girl names, and boys to have boy names. No unisex names for me! Trendy spellings do not help at all.! When I first started dating my husband I found out his parents were named Pat and Chris. And his sister is Jamie. It is like a unisex party gone crazy.

December 13, 2009 8:39 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My father-in-law's name is Konny. When telemarketers call him, they always ask for Mrs. Konny R. CXXXXXX. He goes by K.C.

January 28, 2010 5:46 PM
By hortense (not verified)

If you pick a sensible unambiguous name which has been well-established, instead of picking some neotraditional, long-since-dead revivalist name or some post-modern/futuristic invention in order to promote some selfish effort to be "cool" or "trendy" under the guise of individualism, you all wouldn't run into this problem ....Hello!

February 20, 2010 12:39 PM
By Kristin (not verified)

My unisex name favorites are:
Spencer (Yes girls are named Spencer)
and Shelby

May 27, 2010 11:40 PM
By Steph (not verified)

My name is Stephanie but from the moment I was born my parents called me Stevie (they got this from Stevie Nicks) I liked it until my first day of grade one, when a pixie hair cut and me identifying myself as "Stevie" got me sorted into the boys line for going to the bathroom.
Right at that moment I decided to switch to Stephanie. So at least my parents gave me the option to get away from it when it became a problem.
But I also wish now that I'd stuck with the name because Stephanie is so common for my age group. - So a girl having a boys name has it's pros and cons. At a young age, desperate to fit in, it might be cause for teasing or embarrassment, but once a little older it lets a girl be unique.
One more thing to consider - I dated a Steven in high school, who was often called Steve. If I'd still been Stevie we would have been Steve and Stevie.

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