Gender-Neutral Baby Names Surge in Popularity

Today's parents feel that there is more to a baby's gender than the parts they are born with. (Photo: Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock)

Every year, the Social Security Administration releases a list of the most popular baby names in the country based on current registrations. Name-watchers have identified a number of baby-naming trends using this list, such as the tendency for parents in the 1980s to use alternative spellings for otherwise traditional names (think Jazmin, Kelsea and Kylie,) or the fad in the early 2000s for boy names ending with "n" (Jayden, Aidan, Ethan and Ryan consistently made the top three list during that time.)

According to a recent story by the Associated Press, experts have picked up on a new trend in baby-naming that may be indicative of a larger social movement. Gender-neutral baby names such as Skyler, Jayden, Quinn and Madison are on the rise, and experts think this may be linked to parents' desire to embrace gender-fluidity and refrain from assigning gender roles to children from birth.

Nameberry, a website dedicated to helping parents choose a name for their child, analyzed the 2016 Social Security Administration data and looked at the gender splits for the top 50 gender-neutral baby names. Charlie came in at 50-50, followed by Finley at 58 percent for girls and 42 percent for boys. Next up were Skyler (54-46), Justice (52-48), Royal (42-58) and Lennon (50-41).

Leveling the playing field

Sleeping baby
Because newborns can't sweat very well, it's up to parents to make sure they stay the right temperature. (Photo: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock)

The desire to embrace gender fluidity is just one reason parents are flocking to gender-neutral names. "Some parents, especially parents of girls, saw benefits in a name whose gender couldn’t be identified," says Sherri Suzanne, founder of My Name For Life, an NYC-based baby-naming service. "They felt such a name would 'level the playing field' when it came to opportunities for their child," Suzanne added.

These parents seek out names that sound strong and modern for their daughters. "While there is still a long way to go for gender equality, many young moms today grew up seeing women and men in a variety of non-traditional fields," Suzanne noted. And they want their daughters to have contemporary names that will fit in any environment. Many of the unisex names in play today are names that were traditionally considered masculine but are now being used for girls — think Charlie, Jordan or Ryan.

Jesse Harrison, CEO of the Employee Justice Legal Team, knows exactly what it's like to grow up with a gender-neutral name. Sure, there were times when his name led to confusion, but overall he enjoyed knowing that people were not able to make snap judgments about him based solely on his gender. "If they only knew me by my accomplishments and my relationships with friends, their opinions would not be formed based on whether I was a woman or a man, but a person," Harrison said in an interview with MNN.

It makes sense, then, that when Harrison became a dad, he chose the gender-neutral name Jamie for his child. "I wanted my daughter to understand that she was allowed and encouraged to form her own identity. Her name is not who she is," Harrison said. "I hope that she won’t grow to have identity issues if her sexual orientation or even gender doesn’t match what society expects of her."