A compilation of 12 Gender Neutral Gift Ideas: a guide for your loved one(s) this holiday season (or any season, birthday, anniversary, special occasion, or just Sunday).
1 – A BOOK
Everyone appreciates a good book, regardless of age, race, gender, hair color, or food preferences. Poke around the giftee’s library or check their FB feed for hints of what kind of book they would like (take a peek at the LGBTQIA Reading List for trans/genderiffic ideas).
What books are on your reading list?
2 – A BOARD GAME
I’ve been a fan of board games since I was a little kid. They always brought my family and friends together (or apart, depending on the game). While some board games, particularly for children, are heavily gendered, many are not, especially the classics.
What are your favorites?
3 – A FIELD TRIP
This is more of an experience than a physical gift, but it gets you out of the routine. Organize a trip to the zoo, an art museum, an interactive science museum, an aquarium, an amusement park, or even a nature hike. Check for free or discount days at your local spots.
What place would you like to go to?
My significant other once organized an entire day of fun for my birthday: the zoo, bowling, laser tag, dinner, and dessert!
4 – A MOVIE
It can be an opportunity to splurge on the 3D IMAX for the newest release, purchase a long-time favorite on DVD, renew a subscription to a movie streaming service like Netflix, or simply cuddle up under your favorite blanket with some hot cocoa (don’t forget the mini-marshmallows!) and enjoy a cozy night in.
Now, keep in mind that it’s possible for a movie to lean more heavily towards one end of the gender spectrum (think chick-flicks vs muscle-action). So unless you can have a good notion of what they like, let the person choose the movie.
What are you watching?
5 – A CLASS
Give the opportunity to try something new, or perfect a skill to the next level. There’s cooking, music, drawing, or pottery for the artistically inclined, or sky diving, rock climbing, scuba, or archery lessons for the more adventurous. How about knitting, clock-making, motorcycle-driving, or coffee-roasting to break out of the ordinary?
What classes are on your wish list?
6 – A CAUSE
Make a donation to a charity. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen, visit the pet shelter, spend an afternoon at the LGBT youth center. Spread the word about a cause you believe in.
7 – A TOUR
Tour a winery, a special exhibit at the museum, a local attraction, an exotic locale. Let yourself be guided somewhere new.
8 – MUSIC
Music enriches our lives, whether it’s in the background or takes center stage, and takes many forms: tickets to a live concert, a subscription to music streaming service, a CD (does anyone still buy those? my computer doesn’t even have a slot for it), perhaps a vintage vinyl record, or simply an iTunes gift card.
It can also be to produce or listen to music, like Rockband (my favorite video game), a drum set, guitar lessons, a kick-ass speaker system, state of the art headphones.
9 – FOOD
Food is a broad category. A food gift can be a special dining-out experience (like the time we went to that really fancy place), a special dining-in experience (like the time we tried to made poached eggs for the first time), a food class (how to use knives without cutting your finger, something I desperately need), a food tasting (chocolate!), a food tour (a chocolate factory tour!). It can be a gift you baked (chocolate cookies!), a gift you bought (delicious apple pie with salted caramel ice-cream).
In the end, if it involves chocolate I’ll be happy.
10 – TECH GADGET
My my, so many choices: music player, tablet, smartphone, eReader, smartwatch, video game console, cameras. It doesn’t have to be something big and expensive; try a gift card for a tech store, an eBook, a video game, an app.
You can also consider a regular, non-tech gadget, though they seem to be less popular these days. One time we took a friend to the hardware store so he could pick out the toolbox he wanted.
11 – A HAND-CRAFTED, PERSONALIZED LITTLE SOMETHING
Sometimes something physical can be worth more than the amount of money it took to buy it, if there is a lot of thought and meaning behind it. A hand-written postcard, a picture album featuring memorable moments, a personalized mug or mouse pad or coffee tumbler or t-shirt or calendar, an embroidered blanket, a picture frame, a puzzle.
Last year we gave my parents and in-laws a personalized calendar, with pictures of the family and important dates.
12 – TIME
Devote all your time, all your attention, to one person. Go out with someone you care for, just the two of you. Talk on the phone with someone far away for hours. Give yourself an entire day without distractions. “Quality time” doesn’t have to be perfect, but we can often forget to set aside a little while for others, so create this opportunity to just be with each other.
GIFTS TO AVOID (or use with extra caution)
I purposefully left out some gifts from other popular lists, because a lot of them are heavily gendered. This can sour the gift giving-and-receiving experience by reminding someone how their gender is not in line with others’ expectations of conformity. It can publicly embarrass them, make them upset or angry or simply sad. It sends the message that you don’t really know this person and their preferences, or that you don’t respect them. It also completely ruins the gift.
So unless you know that your giftee likes and wants this specific type of gift, and you have an idea of what size, color, style, fit, and side of the gender aisle they would enjoy, steer clear of these.
Though generally female-oriented, even men’s jewelry (like a nice watch) can easily fall into the “heavily gendered” category. Moreover, there is a wide range of jewelry in terms of style, color, price, occasion, which increases the likelihood of making a wrong choice.
It’s impossible shop for clothes without being immediately funneled into boy’s and girl’s sections. As with jewelry, clothing is very personalized.
If you really think someone will enjoy clothes as a gift, opt instead for a gift card to a generic store where a wide variety is available for them to choose.
Tickets to “The Game” or “The Ballet”
Thinking of a “boy’s/girl’s night out?” Think really hard on this one. Is it something this person would specifically like? Moreover, would this person be comfortable going out to an event surrounded by a single-gendered group?
Gender segregation among children’s items, including toys, seems to grow more pronounced each year (or is it just my imagination?). Children are complaining, adults are complaining, though I guess marketers are happy because they’re still doing it.
When purchasing toys, make sure you avoid the pink oven or the blue soldier unless you know that is something this particular child will enjoy. There are so many gender-neutral toy options out there – legos, puzzles, books, board games – it shouldn’t be hard to find something fun that doesn’t make your kid cringe with gender pangs.
OTHER WONDERFUL IDEAS
But there is always more to give! Lots of ideas didn’t specifically make the list (perhaps you can squeeze them into a category).
Giving the perfect gift can be hard. It always comes down to the individual: their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, what they already have or don’t have yet, and of course, your budget.