I took my friend, a transitioning transgender female, to lunch one day to meet a woman who had transitioned many years before. I assumed they would talk about the challenges of the process, the wonders of being female and, I don’t know, how uncomfortable tights can be. What ensued was humbling, hilarious, and eye-opening.
Gender was the least of what these two women had in common; the similarities they shared were―how can I put this―so “male”! The lunchtime conversation was comprised entirely of what kinds of things each of them used to blow up in high school, how big their motorcycles are, and the challenges of scuba-diving below 100 feet. Even when I was eye-to-eye with gender fluidity, I had assigned labels to the people inside.
"Gender Fluidity," one of the top ten consumer behavior trends for 2016 curated by Campos, is the understanding that gender is not a question of male vs. female, but rather is on a spectrum to be defined by the individual, depending on a variety of factors, including their anatomy, chromosomes, hormones, and feelings. Fully half of millennials believe that gender falls on a spectrum, according to Fusion’s 2015 poll of 1,000 people aged 18-34.
Among the striking examples of the trend’s relevance, Facebook offers dozens of gender options for users to choose from. This cultural shift is perhaps the most fundamental form of the strong belief among younger generations that diversity and individuality are to be celebrated. The doctrine to not pre-suppose anything about a person or group is effectively embraced in the new #DefyLabels campaign from Mini USA with content that includes Serena Williams’s experience having to defend her femininity.
I pre-supposed what my lunchtime experience would be like based on my companions’ gender identities, which I expect they would forgive. Such assumptions can be much more serious, for example, when managing an individual’s healthcare (see last week’s “Well” column in The New York Times, which notes that many doctors aren’t aware that some transgender men may still need pap smears, breast exams and mammograms, and that all transgender women should be screened for prostate problems), or supporting them as an employee.
Image: © Visivasnc