So unisex names are the big trend for 2015 – at least, in America. Celebrities are leading the way, happily bending genders when naming their kids. Think Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’s daughter Wyatt, and Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ daughter James.
But it’s a trend that has its haters. The comments section in any post about unisex names makes that obvious: “That poor kid! They’ll get teased in the schoolyard!”
There seem to be a lot of people – older people, in particular – who are really bothered by the idea that they won’t be able to tell whether a child is a boy or a girl by seeing their name.
Well, as the mum of a child with a unisex name – who, incidentally, has never been teased about it – I would ask: why does it matter to you whether my child is a boy or a girl? So you can tell them they’re pretty, if they’re a girl, and strong, if they’re a boy? So you know whether to hand them a box of Lego or a set of pots and pans to play with? Why not just ask them what they’d prefer and let them choose?
For me, giving my child a unisex name was something very deliberate. It was my way of saying to this baby that I was going to let them be whoever they wanted to be. I wasn’t going to bring them up any differently whether they were a boy or a girl.
When my kids were preschoolers, they were often mistaken for the other gender when I took them out. That's understandable, because they both had short hair and wore jeans everywhere. People were always so deeply apologetic when they called my daughter a boy or my son a girl. But it didn't bother me in the slightest. Why should anyone even care whether a three-year-old is a boy or a girl?
I thought it was kind of cool when people got the gender of my kids wrong. I like to think it protected them from some of the more extreme sexism.