Your Pronouns, Solved!
Today I read in the New York Times about gender fluid kids seeking accommodations in the traditional Jewish coming of age ceremony.
Lion is a 13-year-old who lives in Brooklyn. The middle school student identifies as pangender, a term for feeling like you are every gender at once, and likes to go by “they” because it’s an inclusive pronoun. “I can identify with male and female and others in between,” they said. “I don’t really feel masculine, and I don’t really feel feminine.”
Putting aside the Bar or Bat Mitzvah dilemma, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that I don't really feel masculine or feminine either. Sitting here in jeans and sneakers, I just feel like a person. Really, how many of us go around feeling our gender all the time? For me, it used to come up only when I was out and needing to pee.
I've been thinking about the gender thing a lot lately. Whether or not to honor someone's pronouns is now a subject to argue about over drinks. Someone wants to show flexibility in dealing with contemporary social mores, and someone else wants to insist on being binary. But look what happens when Lion sticks to the new pronouns:
“I have a friend who is nonbinary, gender-fluid, and their parents weren’t as accepting. They still had a bar mitzvah even though they doesn’t identify as a gender. It wasn’t comfortable.”
I'm sorry, no. If you want to use "they," you have to stick with the plural and use "don't." Otherwise, you're expecting us to throw out all rules of grammar just because you feel androgynous. That's a big "ask", and them aren't getting it from me.
Androgynous used to be a good word to express the idea of "traits that are reflective of both genders." Remember Prince and David Bowie and Patti Smith? Maybe Gen Z is too young to know these icons of sexually ambiguous androgyny. Maybe they only know stuff from watching Ru Paul and Caitlyn Jenner.
I would like to suggest that males and females be given a broader range of acceptable traits and behaviors, rather than the restrictive boundaries that seem to be fucking up kids. If we let girls wear jeans and play baseball and rule nations, we can let boys wear dresses, bake cookies, and sob when they break a bone.
The more latitude we give to males and females to behave in ways that come naturally, the happier we can all be with our birth-assigned gender and with each other. Many women are insensitive; you've met them. And lots of men are gentle and reflective; you've met them too. None of us should feel forced to conform to old gender stereotypes. Girly girls and manly men are cartoonish anyway. We all exist on a spectrum, both hormonally and psychologically.
Lately, I've heard stories of teens, like Lion, coming out as pansexual. Naturally, being old, I imagine that unicorns or aliens are involved, but no. It's merely a way of saying that gender and sexuality don't matter to you. I wish the term bisexual would suffice, since it covers all the territory I'm familiar with. Apparently, some bisexuals feel this way too. Maybe they feel they are being one-upped somehow. If you want to call yourself pansexual, you should clarify which living creature you would rule out, since pan means "all."
Gender politics are morphing into fractious identity politics, and getting more complicated than they need to be. Your sexual tastes and proclivities should not have any social or political bearing outside of a civil rights issue. At some point, personal behavior can remain personal. Not all of your preferences need to be recognized and ratified. You might be a top or a bottom. You might prefer oral or penetrative sex. And you can keep it to yourself!
Last week, I was assisted in a Levis store by an attractive young person with short hair and beautiful long eyelashes. His or her voice was not indicative of any gender. He or she was extremely helpful, and I can't recall his or her name but it wasn't a definitive clue. I was not offered any pronouns and I didn't need any. In the end, it didn't matter in the least. I tried on some jeans, he or she exclaimed, "Sick!", and we bonded in silent unison, aware that flattering jeans trump all worldly matters.