They are called Alex
My friend Alex has excellent taste in suits. A slim-cut jacket, a clean shirt, well-pressed trousers, well-chosen tie; they really know how to dress sharp. And I bet you assumed that they are a man, right? Or maybe you consider yourself pretty modern, and tried not to make any assumption about whether they are a man or woman. What if I told you that they are neither?
Alex is genderfluid; they don’t identify as solely male or female, but rather they consider their gender to be in flux between both. Sometimes they feel more like a man, and they dress in their suits. Sometimes they feel more like a lady, and they wear dresses. Sometimes they feel like a man and still wear dresses, because they damn well can if they want to.
There are so many people who, like Alex, live outside the gender binary – people who don’t identify as simply male or female. Now I’m not talking just about biologically intersex people here, though certainly some of those born with indeterminate external sexual features identify as non-gender-binary people. Gender is not about what’s in people’s pants you see, gender is about what’s in people’s heads.
Chances are you never heard of genderfluid people before now. Or genderqueer people, who tend to have a stationary identity somewhere between male and female, or as completely neither. These are just two roughly defined segments of the socially invisible gender spectrum, but you should try to get used to them, and aim to find out more.
Because awareness is important. Being aware that people live outside of what you expect people to be like is so important, not just for them, but for you and the people you care about. Because one day your best friend may turn around and tell you that they are not comfortable being called “she” any more, and prefer gender-neutral pronouns, like “they.”
If they do, it will be your job not to declare that it doesn’t make grammatical sense (it does, by the way – just read the title of this article to find perfectly acceptable usage of a singular ‘they’).
It will be your job not to say, “but you have to be one or the other,” because just like people can fall outside the orientation binary of gay or straight by being bisexual, pansexual or asexual – people can fall outside a binary gender identity too.
It will be your job not to say, “but you dress like a woman,” because how someone dresses does not necessarily indicate their gender.
It will be your job not to ask, “don’t you have a vagina?” because not only does someone’s genitalia not define their gender, but it’s also none of your business.
So when you meet anyone like Alex, it’s your job not to assume their gender by their clothes, what they keep underneath it, or anything. The only thing that matters is what Alex says their gender is, and whether you will respect that or not.