Though Google created the “other” option for privacy reasons rather than as a transgender choice, young supporters of preferred gender pronouns (or P.G.P.’s as they are called) could not help but rejoice. Katy is one of a growing number of high school and college students who are questioning the gender roles society assigns individuals simply because they have been born male or female.
“You have to understand, this has nothing to do with your sexuality and everything to do with who you feel like inside,” Katy said, explaining that at the start of every LGBTQQA meeting, participants are first asked if they would like to share their P.G.P.’s. “Mine are ‘she,’ ‘her’ and ‘hers’ and sometimes ‘they,’ ‘them’ and ‘theirs.’ ”
P.G.P.’s can change as often as one likes. If the pronouns in the dictionary don’t suffice, there are numerous made-up ones now in use, including “ze,” “hir” and “hirs,” words that connote both genders because, as Katy explained, “Maybe one day you wake up and feel more like a boy.”
Teenagers are by nature prone to rebellion against adult conventions, and as the gender nonconformity movement gains momentum among young people, “it is about rejecting the boxes adults try to put kids in by assuming their sexual identity labels their personal identity,” said Dr. Ritch C. Savin-Williams, director of the Cornell University Sex and Gender Lab. “These teens are fighting the idea that your equipment defines what it means for you to be a boy or girl. They are saying: ‘You don’t know me by looking at me. Assume nothing.’ ”
Dr. Savin-Williams, who is also the author of the book “The New Gay Teenager,” went on to list some of the new adjectives young people use to describe themselves: “bi-curious,” “heteroflexible,” “polyamorous” and even “wiggly.”
While it’s encouraging to see coverage of nonbinary gender and gender neutral pronouns in such a mainstream publication, I can’t help but feel the presentation of this as something new and fashionable that young people are doing encourages the reader to dismiss our genders as a fad or form of rebellion, while erasing all the nonbinary, genderqueer and gender nonconforming people who have identified as such for years or who came to understand or express their genders in later life.