Actor Kalki Koechlin has announced that she is five months pregnant. The actor is expecting her first child with her boyfriend Guy Hershberg. Koechlin has also revealed that she has chosen a gender-neutral name for her child. “I’ve chosen a name that works for either gender and that is representative of a gay person, because I want my child to have that freedom of movement under the many umbrellas of gender that we have,” said she. That is a very brave decision on Kalki’s part, especially in times when gender binaries are more pronounced in our society than ever. But certainly, this decision wouldn’t be without its own set of challenges for both the child and parents.

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • Kalki Koechlin is five months pregnant with her first child.
  • She has revealed that she has selected a gender neutral name for her baby.
  • She wants her child to have the “freedom of movement under the many umbrellas of gender.”
  • Is India ready to fully embrace gender neutral names though?

In times when gender binaries are more pronounced in our society than ever, this decision wouldn’t come without its own set of challenges for both the child and parents.

Shortlisting a name for a baby is yet another process that is guided by gender, and that too across the globe. Girl or boy, that is the basic and the first diversion which gives us two distinct lists of names from which an expecting parent can pick. It is like walking in to a store to buy clothes. The sections are divided by gender and every section contains specific kinds of clothes in a specific range of colours. You’d seldom find a baby pink t-shirt in the boys’ section. I remember when my daughter wanted a Simba t-shirt after watching The Lion King recently, and there was none in the girls’ section. I had to lift one off the boys’ section. This is the kind of divided world that we bring our kids into, and naming your child is where it probably starts.

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This is why it is appreciable that Kalki has chosen to go the gender neutral way right from the start. But then one wonders if common Indian folks are, ready to give up gender binaries yet? We are still struggling to attain equal rights and representations for all genders. The LGBT community is yet to find full acceptance in the society. Women and men still live by the age-old notions and stereotypes laden on them since birth. Many may allege that the sudden rise in the use of gender neutral names will overwhelm the general population’s sensibilities. But then just because acceptance may be tough to come by, it doesn’t mean that we should not try to achieve it at all.

What is normal though? And who gets to decide what my definition of normal should be? And whether it should be similar of that of everyone else?

Gender neutral names are the first step in correcting our heavily gendered way of life. His and hers, He and she; we have drawn such clear lines for each gender, it suffocates children, conditioning them to think that breaking out of the box they have been put in is “bad”. They are outcast by their peers for being different, or not what they identify as normal. What is normal though? And who gets to decide what my definition of normal should be? And whether it should be similar of that of everyone else?

Moving away from gender binaries will help children to explore not just their gender but their identity in general on their own terms. As Kalki said, it gives children the freedom to move under many umbrellas of gender that we have. So many people have made heartbreaking compromises with their life, just to fit in the bracket of what our society calls normal or acceptable according to gender binaries. This is not how it should be. It is we who should get to dictate the terms of life and we owe it to our future generations to give them a world which is less shackling and more liberating. For that to happen we need to learn to expand our perception of gender and move away from the rigid gender binaries we have internalised. Hopefully, more and more new parents will take inspiration from Kalki and put a thought into every decision they make as parents, little or big, and how it affects the perception of gender among their kids.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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