Question: Gender-neutral family names

Cydne asks…

We have gender-neutral pronouns now. Any suggestions for gender-neutral terms for brother/sister, son/daughter, niece/nephew, aunt/uncle and mother/father? Something more “queer” sounding than just “sibling” or “parent.”

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on October 15th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 38 comments »

38 Responses to “Question: Gender-neutral family names”

  1. eemp

    At uni, the sorority/fraternity crowd uses a mentor system to help the younger students adjust to Greek life. They call the mentors “big” and the younger ones “littles,” in a very affectionate way, ie: “This is my Little, Avery,” or “That’s my Big, Jody,” etc. That may work for siblings, with just “twin” for siblings of the same age. I’m not sure what to do about the rest, but maybe this is a start.

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  2. Tommy

    I used to be in a forum where there was a very queer setting, and before calling myself with male pronouns I started with neutral ones, and from what I can remember, everyone accepted to use them…

    Anyway, since they called each other “fratellino” (little brother) and “sorellina” (little sister), they either called me “fratellina” or “sorellino” , which could roughly translate as “little sisbro”/”little broster”

    You could do the same with the rest of them: “daughterson” (there is also a song with this title) “daughson” or any other combination, “niecew”/”nephiece”/etc, “auncle”/”unclaunt”/etc, “famother”/”mofather”/”*ther”.

    Idk if those would sound any good though XD

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  3. Tommy

    Also, for a son/daughter/* you could just say “my child”.
    Same with grandchildren, instead of “grandson” or “granddaughter”, just say “grandchild”.

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  4. Toph

    I use “sibler” instead of brother/sister. I use to use “sibster” but it sounded to much like sister.

    It seems like the word for parent ought to be the same regardless of gender…

    We do have one pretty queer family word: spuncle (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=spuncle).

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  5. Toph

    Wikipedia suggests “Nibling – a portmanteau ((n)ephew or (n)iece + s(ibling)); a collective term for nephews and nieces.”

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  6. Toph

    Here’s a news article about “nibling.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/uk/newsid_3667000/3667379.stm

    For aunt/uncle…What about yet another portmanteau, this time referencing one’s parent’s-sibling?: parent’s sibling could become Rentling or Parling. I can’t imagine a young kid using either of those words, but I can imagine them using something like “Parl.” In this case, my nibling’s would call me “Parl Toph.” (instead of uncle/aunt Toph).

    According to another thread (http://ask.metafilter.com/93364/Gender-Neutral-Term-for-AuntUncle)

    * Grandy instead of grandma/grandpa.

    * “Fairy godparent” seems like we could appropriate it in all kinds of situations, especially for “aunts and uncles” that aren’t directly related but are friends of the family.

    * Directly quoted from that other thread (though I’m weary of dividing people up by age): “In the Thai language, the polite term of address for an aunt or uncle who is older than your parents is ‘Ah-[name]’. For an aunt or uncle younger than your parents, it’s ‘Na-[name]’. It’s gender-neutral, short, and sounds good.” posted by statolith

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  7. ben

    this has weighed heavy on me, because I want very badly to be a parent, but I never ever want to be “dad” (I’m usually read as male).

    any suggestions for gender neutral parent term?

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    A replied:

    I don’t know how well this will catch on, but I’ve decided that I want my children to call me Zaza. You know, in lieu of “Mama” or “Dada”.

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    Fae replied:

    There is a blogger who goes by the nom de plume Lesbian Dad, and her kids call her “Baba”. I always thought that was a cute term for a parent in lieu of “mom” or “dad”.

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    Rich replied:

    I personally wouldn’t use Baba only because it means father in a few Asian languages.

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    Samson replied:

    I think this was posted on Genderfork awhile ago and while it’s not an answer, I was really touched by it (I’m read as female and never ever want to be “Mom”).

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    Samson replied:

    Uh, I win for not including the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/fashion/26love.html

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    Anonymous replied:

    Genderqueer male-bodied parent here, I use DeDe :) but it is because my mom was meme and it resonates with me

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    Anonymous replied:

    Genderless parents are normally referred to as ‘rens’. For example: “I’ll have to ask my ren” or “I love my renny”

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    Jessica replied:

    I always thought “parent” was genderless.

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  8. raphael

    i have seen the following parent terms used:

    – mada
    – madi/maddy (don’t know how to spell it)
    – parrie/pari (don’t know how to spell it)

    i must say i don’t like the idea of culturally appropriating some other culture’s words that happen to be gender-neutral. it seems to be in the same vein as white gq folks using ‘two-spirit’.

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    Ronen replied:

    I thought of “maddy” a while back. I’m pretty sure that’s what I want to be called, when I have a child.

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  9. violet

    My sisters call me ‘sib’.

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  10. James

    I mostly identify as a woman but I am very masculine and pass as a man fairly easily. My wife is okay with being called “Mom” or “Mama”, but I prefer “Momo” (pronounced Mom-oh).

    I like my sisters to just call me their “sib’ as well. I would rather my parents call me their child instead of daughter, but that probably won’t ever happen.

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  11. Dan

    I think using the words we have, when we have them, is a good idea, particularly because I think that’s what’s most likely to catch on with more people. That gets us sibling, child/kid, and parent. I think combining words to make something new or borrowing something for another language could work for aunt/uncle and niece/nephew, but I think it could also work to just use cousin. Those are kinds of cousins, and it’s not really necessary to be more specific, and you can always elaborate “my parent’s sibling” or “my father’s sister.”

    As far as what kids actually address relatives with, I think it’s also worth considering having them just use people’s names.

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    Anonymous replied:

    I’m also inclined to agree with this, I suppose it is nice to have separate pronouns, but if you use existing ones they seem to catch on much more easily; I use “they” instead of he/she & I’ve noticed that people around me who I speak to every day subconsciously start using it in the place of he/she more.
    I figure it depends on the reason for wanting the pronoun; there are neutral words around, but they don’t have the queer identity attached -do you want to not be defined into any category whatsoever or define yourself with the identity, and no gender?

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  12. Jessica

    I loved the gender episode of QI in season 7 (G Series) where they describe how until recently all children were girls. Boy was a term for a servant, not a male child. Male children were nave girls and female children were gay girls. Also, until the 1920’s the colour for girls was always blue (associated with the Virgin Mary and thought to be a gentler, more flattering the the features) whereas pink was a bold, strong colour associated with red and thus pink was the boy colour.

    In terms of forms of address, I think children should be referred to universally as “you there” as in “hey you there, get away from that!” Calling people by name is also preferable to referring to them as impersonal gender specific pronouns.

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  13. DMc

    I’ve known people who refer to anyone who’s not immediate family as “cousin.” Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, close friends, whoever.

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  14. Lo

    My friends call their daughters their kids. Never heard them say daughter. It might unprofessiona lin som esetting

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  15. Dorian

    In lieu of son or daughter, perhaps one could simply say beloved. I’m also fond of minsky, especially for children.

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  16. Ash

    “Moppa” is my parent-word of choice :)

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    Samson replied:

    That is awesome.

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  17. Quarridors

    My parents call me their ‘eldest’ when introducing me to new people. Seem to work.

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    Jessica replied:

    I always wanted to be a Dorothy Sayers character when I was growing up. Lord Peter’s mother would refer to be people as “Genevieve’s youngest but one, Harold, who joined the Army to get out of Oxfordshire.”

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  18. Anonymous

    My partner just became an uncle. I’m genderqueer and not really comfortable with either “aunt” or “uncle” to describe me. But I still want a special word for the kid to call me. I came up with “avie”… sounds similar to auntie, but is also a cute derivative of avunculus, the Latin root of uncle. It has a nice sound and is simple for a young kid to say.

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    Ray replied:

    I think this is a really good one. I’ll have to remember it.

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    Anonymous replied:

    I wouldn’t be able to use that, since afi is Icelandic for grandfather and sounds like avie.

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  19. Jcatgrl

    One of my siblings and I are both non-binary, and we refer to each other as quibling, short for queer sibling.

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  20. Phoenix

    Instead of aunt/uncle, try anckle
    brother/sister can be replaced with sibling/siblet/some other variation
    mom/dad can be replaced with bab (i think it’s cute)
    niece/nephew can be nephice/niecphew

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  21. Amias

    Heyo! I know this is kind of an old thread, I just wanted to throw in my two cents.

    When my brothers introduce me to a friend I jump in with “I am sibling”. I like quibling though! Might use that.
    Since I’m not really a child I’m just going to have my parents call me their kid.
    If I ever have kids, I want to be Pepper. They can call me Peppi or Pep for short.
    I’ve been thinking about going by Ommer instead of aunt/uncle, that or Ent. Maybe auntler :P I’m leaning towards Ommer though.

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  22. Adria sorensen

    Antcle is a snazzy one for uncle/ aunt

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    Adria replied:

    Actually, twas thinking “great cousin” could be used for Aunt/ Uncle. Just because they’re one generation before cousins; traditionally the generation before our aunts and uncles (grandparent’s siblings) would be called great aunts and uncles. Therefore, if we were to follow that pattern but neutralize the aunt/uncle title, then Aunts and Uncles would become great cousins; great aunts and uncles would then be great great cousins. Or, another neutral term for Aunt and uncle could be Un, because both words Aunt and Uncle have a U and N in them.

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    Adria replied:

    Then in terms of neices and nephews, both words have an N and 2 Es; so a neutral term for both could be nee(s). This correlates with the uncle/aunt neutral term being “Un” since both words hav err a U and N. Not to mention if F corresponds to female, and M corresponds to male. N could be corresponding to neutral, as well as U could be for unisex and E could stand for Either (sex)….when it comes to the the neutral words Nee and Un.

    Or if I were to add to the theme of referring to an aunt/uncle as a great cousin instead (great uncle/aunt = great great cousin), Maybe, niece or nephew could be grand cousin (like grand kid of a great cousin). Or “child in law” could be another term for a neice/ nephew, since one of the parents (that’s not your sibling) is often a sister or brother in law, andl then the parent’s of your sibling’s spouse would be your father and Mom in laws (parent in laws). So, sibling’s spouse = sibling in law, spouse’s parents = parent in laws, spouse kids (and sibling’s kids) = child in laws (aka neices/nephews)…..But a nice general term for a family member would be relative or relatives….or family member (s) is a general term that covers the whole family (for the most part)…

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