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21 Gender Neutral Baby Names For Your Future Bundle Of Joy

If words hold power, imagine the magic that is unleashed when a child receives a well thought-out name.

Motherhood

Names hold so much power. That's a fact that makes me cringe while also making me feel so hopeful and happy. If words hold power, imagine the magic that is unleashed when a child receives a well-thought-out name. Names are the manifestations of our parents and passed down to us as self-fulfilling prophecies. I wonder if this has anything to do with why we spend so much time considering the names of our children before they're physically in this world. I mean, seriously, I've had names chosen since before I even wanted children.

Whether we view it as inconvenient or unjust, is irrelevant, the reality is that there's so much perceived based through one's name—from the external world to our own internal feelings. Our names should not make us feel more disenfranchised but less so. It should provide us with security, light, and love. Which is why one might consider going with a more gender neutral name for their child. Not to mention, there's something so delightfully (yes, delightful) cute about gender neutral names. This is easier now than ever, as the abstract baby name movement, made it nearly impossible to tie gender to virtually any names. Here are 21 gender neutral baby names to consider if you're in need of a little inspiration.

21 Gender Neutral Baby Names & Their Meanings

1.Ryan

Variations: Ryann

Typically the name Ryan means "illustrious" or "little king" and like many of the other names on this list it can serve as a surname with Irish roots or an English-American given name. Per actress and musician Ryan Destiny, we see that the name works beautifully as a unisex name.

2.Tahj

Variations: Taj

Of Arabic origin, this name means "crown". Actor and one of the Mowry clan, Tahj Mowry inspired this addition to the list.

3.Ashley

Variations: Ashli, Ashly, Ashely

An English name meaning Ash Tree Meadow, the name Ashley is a friendly reminder that gender norms and knows shift with time. Back in the day, this name was more commonly a name for men. But way, way back, its origin was better known as a place or a surname.

Ashley Walters, known for his role as Dushane in Top Boy, is one of many men given the timeless name. You might also recognize him as Antwan from rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's debut film, Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

Note: this name still seems to be prominent for men in the UK. I found that there were quite a few UK entertainers (athletes, actors, etc) with the name.

4.Tory

Variations: Tori

The name Tory means "outlaw" in the Irish language. Infamous rapper Tory Lanez is but one famous person with the name. And though it's unfortunate that I couldn't think of another example of a Black man with this name...I find great humor in the irony here.

5.Charlie

Variations: Carli, Charley

The name Charlie is of German descent and translates to "free man". Murder Inc. rapper Charli Baltimore, known for her distinct red hair and early aughts lyricisim, is one of the better known women of color that carry the unisex name and do it well.

6.Stacy

Variations: Stacey

To be a child simply BORN to the 90s, I probably know of more men named Stacy than meant for my time, as it was in its decline as a unisex name at that point. I owe this revelation in part to the classic movie, The Wood. But it's no secret that what goes around, comes right back round.

The female variant of this name is derived from Anastasia, meaning "resurrection". While the male variant's roots lie in the name Eustace which translates to "steadfast".

7.Kelly

Variations: Kelli, Kelleigh, Kelley

Longtime Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland goes by this nickname, a shortening of her full given name Kelendria. Though its origins are an Irish surname, it has more commonly been known for its origin as an English-American given name. The name translates to "church"; "farm by the spring"; "holly"; "warrior"; and "wood".

8.Jordan

Variations: Jordyn, Jourdan, Jordain

Finally! A name that is not of Irish origin. Though I'm sure you can guess, the name Jordan has Hebrew roots and simply means "to flow down". The most prominent public figure that comes to mind when thinking of this name is socialite and entrepreneur Jordyn Woods. It's worth noting that this is also a common surname.

9.Drew

Variations: Dru

While it serves as a surname and a given name, it is the surname that gives meaning to this name. From an Irish background, the name Drew means "descendent of the druid". As a given name, it is more frequently used for boys and often simply the shortened version of Andrew. Rarely do women have the name but inspired by Drew Barrymore and Drew Sidora — a known actress, currently starring in the Real Housewives franchise — it made the cut.

10. Aubrey

Variations: Aubree, Aubri

Of French origin, it means "elf ruler"...yikes! That will certainly be a conversation piece. Though the name has typically been viewed as more feminine name, I imagine it has rose to popularity quite a bit since actor turned rapper Aubrey Graham A.K.A Drake A.K.A Champagne Papi A.K.A Wheelchair Jimmy stepped on the scene.

11. Dallas

Variations: Dallis

Dallas is both a city and a surname of Scottish and English origin. In Old English, the name translates to "valley house", while the Scottish meaning is "meadow dwelling". Award-winning producer and songwriter Dallas Austin, who rose to fame in the 90s, is a masculine-presenting person who was given the name.

12. Jace

Variations: Jayce

Jace is a Hebrew name that translates to "healer" or "the Lord is salvation". It is a relatively common name in American culture. As far as your fave celebs who were given this name...there aren't too many. But I believe that's because this name is still up and coming.

13. Jamie 

Variations: Jamee, Jaime, Jamey

An English name that means "supplanter", which I'm not exactly sure how that translates. Though his family may know him as Eric Marlon Bishop, the world knows him as triple threat Jamie Foxx. Wonder if he knew what it meant before he changed his name to supplanter.

14. Cameron

Variations: Camron, Cameryn, Camaron

Model, dancer, and actress Ariane Andrew better known as WWE stage name Cameron comes to mind. As cute as this name is and I do adore it, the meaning? Not so much! The Scottish name Cameron means "bent" or "crooked nose".

15. Peyton

Actor Peyton Alex Smith, known for his roles in TV shows such as Legacies and The Quad is a pretty known entertainer with this name, which means "warrior" or "regal" depending on the origin language. Another interpretation is "fighting-man's estate", whatever the hell that means.

16. Kalen 

Variations: Kaelyn

The name has a few translations from "keeper of the keys" to "pure" or "slender". The origin of Kalen can be found in English, Gaelic, and American culture. YouTuber, influencer, and food critic, Kalen Allen was one of the first men that I know of to publicly have the name. Though it is more commonly a girl's name, it is very fitting as a gender neutral name as well.

17. Blair

The name Blair is of Scottish origin and means "plain", "meadow", and/or "field". I know it doesn't mean that kind of plain, but the actor Blair Underwood is anything but plain.

18. Chris

Variations: Kris, Christian

"One who carries Christ" is what this English name means, and is often the nickname for boys named Christopher or both boys and girls named Chirstian. While Christian means "follower of Christ" (also of English origin). Rapper and businessman Chris "Ludacris" Bridges took this name and made one helluva career...or at least a punny one.

19. Terry

Variations: Terri, Teri

Terry is a unisex name with old German origins and it translates to "power of the tribe". Though I can't think of any women celebs with this name, actor/comedian Terry Crews is in an elite group of men with the name.

20. Kendall

Variations: Kendal, Kendel, Kendyl

Translating to "Kent river valley", the name Kendall is of Old English origin. Much to my surprise, there were quite a few entertainers with this name; from professional boxer Kendall Holt to rapper Kendall Lake.

21. Shawn

Variations: Sean, Shaun

Though traditionally used for little boys, the name Shawn has gained popularity as a gender neutral name. It means "God is gracious" and has English-American roots. I first heard of this name being used as a unisex name when Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter mentioned the gymnast Shawn Johnson in "Already Home" — a track on his Blueprint 3 album. But also there's comedian, actor, and one in a million from the Wayans family—Shawn Wayans.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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