Plenty of scary and important decisions have to be made during pregnancy. They may include deciding who will provide your prenatal care, whether to undergo prenatal testing or not, and whether to continue working after the baby comes or to stay at home with your baby for at least a while. In the grand scheme of things, the name you pick for your baby isn't really important, right?
Well, sure, there are many more important things than a name but let's make no mistake: the name you give your child says something about you, and in the years to come it will say something about your child too. The latter can be scary, because the child is not the one picking their name and yet your choice will influence their future.
Names do matter, after all. Names matter in social interactions, in school, on a CV, and basically everywhere throughout your child's life. Is that fair? No, probably not, but it's true. A name isn't just a thing to call someone, it comes to define someone to some extent. My husband and I went out of our way to choose short, robust, politically and religiously neutral names for our children for this very reason.
Since we're an international family, we also decided we wanted names that could be pronounced almost anywhere in the world. Those were some heavy criteria, but we made it in the end. The second baby didn't have a name for a whole month after he was born, but he did get a name eventually. I know it would be tremendously hard to meet all the criteria we had and also have a name that's gender neutral almost everywhere.
Our son ended up with a name that's very much seen as a girl name in some parts of the world, though that name is only given to boys where we live. Picking a gender-neutral name is hard, but there are some good reasons to try to make it happen. Unisex names send a message of equality, and they force people seeing the name on paper (on a CV for instance) to judge the person by their achievements, rather than by their name. If you have a gender-neutral name, your child might not feel the need to change their name if they turn out to be gender non-conformist.
In addition, you can choose your gender-neutral baby name before you know what sex your baby is, or before you even conceive. Gender-neutral names are unlikely to also be culture-neutral, however, as a few examples should demonstrate. Look at these, for instance:
These names are all quite nice, but they also sound decidedly Anglo. That may or may not be what you're after. Gender-neutral names in Brazil couldn't be more different. They include Araci, Jaci, and Aldenir. Interestingly, many traditional Turkish names are gender neutral. Evren, Deniz, and Cemre are some examples. In Japan, Akira, Hikaru, Nao and Rei may all be people of either sex, and in France, Marie can be for a boy or a girl.
Perhaps that's why Germany got rid of this requirement in 2008, and now allows parents to name their kids pretty much anything they want, as long as it is not offensive. What name do you think of as the perfect name for your child? Would you choose a gender-neutral name for your child? Why, or why not?