I’ve been thinking about gender-ambiguous given names in Anglo-American culture (or let’s expand it to English-speaking culture in general). For some reason, I find it fascinating. I’ve worked up a list and I hope the Doper community will find it interesting enough to continue.
An overarching principal seems to be that there is some critical “feminineness” stage after which a name is no longer accepted as a masculine name at all.
It seems to me there are several categories of gender-ambiguous names (feel free to add to the list):
Names that were originally exclusively masculine names that gradually made the transition to ambiguous names and are now pretty much exclusively feminine names.
Names whose gender specificity was based on a spelling differentiation whose ability to differentiate has been lost and has resulted in a name becoming gender-ambiguous or almost completely feminine. (Leslie/Lesley, Valery/Valerie, Vivian/Vivienne, Francis/Frances, Carol/Carole)
Diminutives that have transitioned from predominantly masculine to predominantly feminine (and are no longer treated as diminutives), or are currently in transition.
Names that were originally place names that were used as masculine given names and have been transferred to use as feminine names (often by example of a famous person).
Foreign names that are masculine in their home culture but have become (predominantly) feminine in Anglo-American culture (e.g., Ananda, Chandra). (I don’t include these names in the list.)
Names currently in transition from predominantly masculine to predominantly feminine.
Here’s the list (I don’t give all the spelling variations):
Adrian, Alexis, Ashley, Aubrey, Audrey, Beverly, Blair, Bobby, Bret, Cameron, Carol, Charly, Christy, Ciaran, Clare, Cory, Courtney, Crystal, Dale, Dana, Evelyn, Fay, Francis, Gale, Gene, Gillian, Ginger, Hilary, Jamey, Jan, Jess, Jessy, Jody, Jordan, Josie, Julie, Kay, Kelly, Kelsey, Kim, Lanny, Laury, Lee, Leslie, Lindsay, Lou, Lucy, Lyn, Marion, Nicky, Paige, Patsy, Piper, Randy, Rene, Robin, Ronny, Sandy, Shannon, Shelly, Shirley, Stacy, Steph, Stevie, Tamesin, Terry, Tracy, Valery, Viv, Vivian, Whitney, Winnie