Friday, May 6, 2011

Careful with your Gender Neutrality

When I was a kid, I wished I had a "boy name," even with a weird spelling. I envied "Bobbie" and others with boy-sounding names. Once I went short-haired, my father often referred to me as a boy. During my first pregnancy, however, I thought that my child might not feel the same about it. So when compiling a list of girl names, I ruled out those wonderfully "male" names. I gave her a beautifully feminine name. That child is about to turn 21 and I do not believe a boyish name would have suited her. (I don't recall any of the names on the boy list, but I assure you none of them was Sue!)

During my next pregnancy, my partner and I chose a name that we considered to be unisex: Tyler. We really liked the sound of it. We debated between Elizabeth and Veronica for a second name and decided on Veronica, a lovely feminine name. If Tyler had been born a boy, her name would have been Marcus or Lucas. When I really think about it, her name really does suit her so far.

So there we had our beautiful newborn daughter, Tyler Veronica. When the hospital staff brought the birth certificate in for a signature, I was breastfeeding. They asked my husband to verify that the "address and everything" was correct, then sign it. He checked over the certificate and signed it.

Tyler and Sasha at the ZooTyler & Sasha, my 2 youngest girls
at the Tulsa Zoo one hot May day, 2010

A few weeks later, the filed birth certificate arrived in the mail. And there it was... Male. It had never even occurred to us to check that box. You figure the hospital knows whether your child is male or female, right?! Well I guess the attending doctor or even nurse isn't really the one filing the papers. Whoever did the clerical work probably saw the name "Tyler" and simply assumed this baby was a boy. Tsk tsk.

It was actually a pretty simple solution, at first anyway. I took the birth certificate to my local clinic (associated with the hospital). They photocopied it and even let me keep the original! A few weeks later, a new birth certificate arrived and they had changed her sex to Female. Great! Problem solved. Well, almost.

The Social Security Department still thinks Tyler is a boy. When she was about 10yo, I finally took her personally into the local office with both birth certificates. Would you believe that the papers (and her attendance!) weren't proof enough? They asked for a letter on school letterhead stating that she was enrolled as a girl. Excuse me?? What if I were still homeschooling her? Ridiculous. In fact, I got the letter from the school, but didn't make it back to the SS office.

I don't suppose it is even a big deal... unless there is a draft. Do you think they'd ever draft females? All in the name of sexual equality, right?

With a new husband and a new daughter, we went with another beautifully feminine name: Sasha Bella. (No, this name does not have anything to do with that popular vampire series!)

All this as a warning to you, be cautious in your gender neutrality. By all means, give your baby whatever name seems right. Just make sure when you check over the birth certificate, check over ALL the blanks!


  1. I just had a good facebook rant with friends over how messed up the SS office is. Crazy. Your girls have lovely names!

  2. I've thought a lot about names and gender for my upcoming little one, which I posted about here - Your story with the birth certificate sounds frustrating. I'm curious how the whole birth certificate thing is going to go for me with freebirthing. I find it interesting that Sasha is a very feminine name for you. I only know one person named Sasha, and he's male. His full name is Alexander, but everyone knows him as Sasha.

  3. Thank you Sybil!

    @Issa ~ I suspect it shouldn't be too much hassle for you, but you might want to check into the process ahead of time. I think you have a couple of weeks before you really even have to submit a BC.

    It is funny, right? I know Sasha means Alexander and I'm familiar with it as a masculine name in Russia... but it just rolls off the tongue and sounds so pretty to me! :-)

    Funny thing about naming our children, it can have a lot to do with who WE are as parents at the time. With Serena, I was a 17yo single mother. With Tyler, I had a husband and had been married for a few years. With Sasha, I had a whole new relationship and a very new husband. While the partner thing was different every time, the time gap meant that *I* was also a completely different person for each of these births.

    Wonder what I'll name the next one? ;) Oh, and your post was one that helped push me into writing this one! It's been on the back burner for me for awhile.

  4. Oh my word. That is the most ridiculous thing.

    We still haven't changed Abyni's name legally:) She's still Milan Isabella. I guess Abyni can just be her screen name.

    It amazes me how kids seem to have the 'right' name for them... well, most of the time, anyway.

  5. @Byn ~ I did NOT know you hadn't updated it! I was just talking to nurses at the hospital about Abyni's name and name change! :-)


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