I had a lovely question on Tumblr recently (where you can ask me/TIMP questions, whether anonymously or no) about gender-neutral terms of affection for friends. I had already written a similar little post on lovers.
First of all, this is a really lovely question. I come across many people with differing opinions on whether pretty generic gendered words can be gender-neutral terms of affection or address. I tend to use ‘guys’ a lot myself but I know this doesn’t work for everyone. Some friends of mine have used ‘guy’ in this way, but also encountered some who didn’t prefer this for gender reasons.
I personally like:
friend (a bit Shakespearean on the page but feels really nice in practice)
buddy (although this is sometimes experienced as masculinizing)
dear (potentially condescending but can be nice)
love (why keep this for the conjugal?)
I also like using more silly things like:
But I am a bit silly and use humour a lot in my relationship to gender, as a person and a teacher, so these might feel more easy for people like me (see my post on introverts).
Stepping outside of gendered language is also an opportunity to create your own language. I recently realized that I have nicknames for every single one of my friends: things that have sprung organically out of our friendship and the things we do or stories we share together.
Thanks for the mindful question, Tumblr user, and for your awareness that it’s one worth asking! 🙂