Savage Love: Gender Solid 

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You may not be the right person to answer this, but your commenters might be able to help. I love and support my friends who are transgender, but I don't understand all the 18- to 21-year-olds among my friends who are declaring themselves "gender-neutral." I am a bit older and have always been interested in queer culture and history. But it feels like they have forgotten, or never knew, that butch lesbians who wear strap-ons are still women, or that it is very common for straight men to wear lacy underwear. They don't seem to know that they can be gender nonconforming without having to discard gender. Because they're so young and all of them have decided this at the same time, it seems to be some kind of trend. Some may be on their way to coming out as trans, which is fair enough, but I strongly suspect some of them will be completely conventional in a couple of years. It would be rude and dismissive of me to tell them that it's just a phase, so I would never do that, but I don't really understand the point of being gender-neutral. What has changed in the last few years that this is suddenly a thing?

–Longtime Reader

Ah, gender identities—you need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track these days.

Some folks are gender-neutral, some are bigender, some are agender. Then there's pangender, genderless, genderfluid, and genderqueer. There's also gender-nonconforming, gender-questioning, gender-variant, as well as genderfuck, trigender, and intergender. (Who gets a hyphen and who doesn't? Who the fuck-knows?) Add in every genderblueplatespecial's very own set of random and unpredictable and ever-shifting pronoun preferences, and you've got a blizzard of special snowflakes, each one primed to take offense at some real or imagined microaggression so they can dash to Tumblr for some macro-venting.

What has changed in the last few years? There's more discussion about gender now, LR, and that's a good thing. Culturally enforced gender norms are ridiculous, and the policing of gender expression/identity is oppressive and often violent. This critical and necessary discussion about gender has sparked a great deal of interest in—and, in some quarters, generated a lot of sympathy for—people who aren't just talking about gender but struggling with it, doing something about it, and redefining it. But "interest in" and "sympathy for" have a way of attracting poseurs and attention-seekers. That's nothing new. Pay sympathetic attention to a plate of tater tots long enough, and it'll attract poseurs and attention-seekers, too.

But since it's (almost always) impossible to tell the attention-seeking poseurs from the actual items, LR, your best course of action when someone declares themselves to be gender-neutral—or bigender or pangender or etceteragender—is to smile, nod, inquire about pronoun preferences, make a mental note not to use pronouns around that person (easier than committing multiple sets to memory), and then change the genderfucking subject.

On the Lovecast, the science is in on teen sexting: listen at savagelovecast.com.mail@savagelove.net, @fakedansavage on Twitter

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