Call it the "Trans Decade." Over the 2010s, our culture’s view of the gender spectrum has broadened by miles. More and more, we embrace a refreshing range of identities. From the hit TV show Transparent to celebrities such as Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner and Chaz Bono living out loud — even the debate about who can use what bathroom — shifting conversations about gender are changing the way we live … and age. With new terms such as “nonbinary” and “gender fluid” taking hold, it’s almost hard to keep up.
Since part of aging gracefully includes learning new concepts and adapting our views, we got together a Gen Xer and a millennial for a dialogue about modern gender terms in order to get us — and them — up to speed on gender fluidity and the way it may shape us — and our future.
Can we be fluid about gender?
Millennial: Yes — we already are! News flash: Male/female/nonbinary. We’re all humans!
Gen Xer: I don't even know what nonbinary means.
Millennial: Really? Since college I've had several friends who are nonbinary. It’s where you don’t identify as male or female.
Gen Xer: So like transgender?
Millennial: Yes! Trans is where the gender you identify with doesn’t match the sex you were assigned at birth. Some people who are trans have surgery, some don’t, some take hormones, some don’t, some dress in particular ways, some don't — there’s a beautiful rainbow spectrum of trans fabulousness.
Gen Xer: Where does sexuality fit into trans identity? This part is confusing to me. Why would a woman become a man and then want to date men?
Millennial: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Gender identity and sexual identity are apples and oranges! Whether I identify as female, male or nonbinary has nothing to do with whom I’m crushing on.
Speaking of crushing, favorite trans celebs?
Gen Xer: I love Caitlyn Jenner and Chaz Bono. Later in life, they found a way to really be themselves.
Millennial: Janet Mock is a gift to us all, even though I didn’t even remember she was trans until I looked at her Instagram! I’m a Laverne Cox fan, too. Fierce!
What is the deal with pronouns?
Gen Xer: If someone has transitioned, use pronouns that jibe with their new gender. So a trans man like Chaz Bono is “he/him,” a trans lady like Caitlyn Jenner is “she/her.” Have I got that right?
Millennial: Partially. Some people prefer to use “they” or “them” instead of “he” or “she.” In colleges right now, it is standard practice to ask folks what pronouns they use. As a serious grammar nerd, the “they/them” was a hard one for me to wrap my head around, but I got over it.
Gen Xer: Have you tried calling a single person “they” or “them”? It’s impossible.
Millennial: It took me a few tries to become an expert ninja. OK, so I’m not a ninja, but the point is that I don’t mind challenging myself if it means I can be more respectful.
How might gender fluidity affect us as we age?
Millennial: So like Maura in Transparent: She was schlumpy, schlubby, dressed as a dude who then transformed into an elegant fox in draped cashmere and eye shadow. This self-acceptance and self-assurance is the ticket to aging happily and gracefully! No more people in the closet!
Gen Xer: Yes. And the more open-minded we are about bodies — our own and other people’s — the better. As I approach 50, I’m very sensitive to prejudice about aging. It’s the next big obstacle.
Where are we headed with gender identity?
Gen Xer: I think we’re clearly headed to a more nuanced world. I look forward to having a friend or family member who is trans and really feeling comfortable with that person.
Millennial: It’ll be a mixed bag — everything from adding “trans” and “nonbinary” to the gender choices on forms, to people asking what pronouns you use, to the huge honking deal that overall we will be healthier and happier because we are living authentic lives and are comfortable in our own skin as we age.