Gender Blur

Photo by Nikunj Gupta, @mecyborg

The idea of being genderless is nothing new, as androgyny can be traced all the way back to the Greek god Aphroditus. But there has been a lot of talk in the news lately about gender; about male and female, boy and girl, who is allowed to identify as guy or gal, and, perhaps more importantly, what factors identify as such.

And with all of the talk especially about who is allowed to use what bathroom, it’s clear that being safe and comfortable with your sexual orientation, who you’re interested in, and how you identify yourself is still something John Q public needs not only to discuss, but regulate.

But, eventually, that won’t really matter:

Gender has become a fluid concept

The generation inheriting this country has a very different view of gender, of “LGBT” and “straight,” and of the limiting, binary notion of what makes us who we are. Alongside public figures like Jayden Smith and Miley Cyrus, and David Bowie who blurred the lines for decades, it’s becoming more evident that those fighting for “traditional” gender norms are ending up on the wrong side of history.

Here are some numbers.

A report from Intelligence Group found that 60% of people between the ages of 14 and 34 believe gender lines have been blurred, and believe their generation is doing the blurring.

According to a Gallup survey, 6.4% of people aged 18-29 identify as LGBT (which is triple the number of people aged 65+).

And, a Fusion poll conducted last year determined half of Millennials believe that gender is not limited to male and female; that gender exists on a spectrum.

But even stats like these don’t tell the whole story. Words like “pansexual” and “genderfluid” often do a better job describing how a growing population view themselves, and GSD (Gender and Sexual Diversity) describing sexual preferences.

A Futurama joke from two decades ago(!)

Much of this could be (and is) dismissed by skeptics, and those who embrace established gender norms, as a phase; the latest trending topic. While the notion of gender has perhaps become abstract, there is tangible research to support that these aren’t just buzzwords. A recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) found that there really aren’t any traits that can be defined as specifically “male” or “female” and in fact the human brain is made up of both (read the full findings here: Sex beyond the genitalia: The human brain mosaic).

Both “nature” and “nurture” make up gender constructs, however…

A new generation of parents is implementing tactics to create what some call a “gender-inclusive” parenting style, i.e. that a parent is not the authority on what gender their child can/should identify with. It’s not only letting boys play with dolls and girls with monster trucks, it’s allowing children to embrace whatever they want and are drawn to, whether it’s toys, clothes, favorite color, etc. and not constricting interest and identity based on preexisting notions of “normal.”

From the article Gender-neutral parenting: blurring the line between boys and girls:

“We engage in discussions which aim to empower, not conform. It’s not about avoiding situations where gender conformity or sexism is present; it’s talking about it when you see it – challenging and questioning things we see in society so that you raise children who are critical thinkers. A phrase that we often use in our home is that there are many different ways to be a boy or a girl.”

The human brain is at its most susceptible during childhood. If the confines of “boy vs. girl” are done away with at a young age, traditionalist “red-blooded Americans” will simply have to deal with the fact their red blood is looking a little more pink. Of course, legislation exists and continues to be introduced to try and restrict this sea change of sexual identity in America. But, as is increasingly evident, these will soon fade into the annals of bigotry that include Jim Crow and burning witches at the stake.

But another, perhaps unforeseen, byproduct of this (pan)sexual revolution is that it has not only become a haven for those who don’t identify with the “traditional” black and white ideas of who you can/should be attracted to, it has forced new identities to be created. And these identities are not all-inclusive, even if the umbrella under which they’re often lumped by society, is. While the world slowly embraces new norms, and being attracted to whoever you like is becoming more accepted, we still have to come to terms with the alarming fact that almost half of transgender youth in England have attempted suicide over the last few years, and the numbers in the U.S. aren’t much better.

Read next: Blame it on my youth: The struggles of a coming generation