People have always had the tendency to fit our behaviour, beliefs, and states of being into boxes. We’re easier to understand that way. Gender is one of them. As the only part of the gender-sex-orientation triad that is generally agreed to be within our control, we choose to be regarded as more or less male or female with varying degrees of consciousness, and enjoy or suffer the effects accordingly. In the middle the spectrum of gender lies an ever-growing list of nonbinary positions; gender fluid, gender bending, pangender, gender neutral, and agender to name a few. These days, the question of “What is your gender identity?” is not so simple.
For the purposes of fair representation, let’s talk about those people outside the spectrum (if such a place exists), who, through lack of consideration, don’t take any position. The gender-apathetic. You wouldn’t have heard of them because they don’t care enough to make their presence known. They are neither loud, proud, nor out. When asked to define their gender identity, they’d probably default to their sex with a questionmark inflection before quickly changing the subject.
The gender apathetic cannot be said to be gender neutral, agender, or genderless. Where agender is like bald as a hair color, gender apathy is more like the floating teapot in space; maybe it’s there, but they’re not thinking about it. Not only is gender totally uninformative to who they are, but the question of how their gender influences any part of their hobbies, choices, interactions, is not even raised in the minds. The gender-apathetic don’t go to any lengths to show their genderlessness either, but may do something gender-bending for other personal reasons.
Says one cis-male who “guesses” would describe himself as gender-apathetic, “I don’t really think about it. Maybe that’s a function of me wearing nailpolish. It makes me happy, so I do it. And if I had the option of growing long, luxurious hair, I’d want to explore that.”
People who are gender apathetic tend to be unphased by gendered comments (insofar as they are supposed to apply to them) because they don’t particularly identify as to which they refer. Nor do they feel discriminated against (even when they are) for being their gender. They feel no pull into joining any gender-pride groups, and do things considered against gender norms without much considering it. The idea of a “coming out” as agender seems absurd.
Not to say that identifying as a gender isn’t valid, social construct or not. Says a cis-female, “My family was really open to gender fluidity and sexuality, so naturally we experimented, and I particularly questioned what was and wasn’t male or female. Now more settled and older, I don’t need to try on identity. I’m female. I think inner confusion of how an individual relates to their world determines how much they consider their gender before finding the one that fits. Then they stop thinking about it so much.” She adds, “I do wish I had more experience that made me more classically female, like bra shopping or how to wear makeup.”
So, what do you think? Is gender apathy another identity, an impossibility, or more like gender equity apathy: a way to avoid participating in a fight for human rights in a world where gender discrimination is real. Or, is the norm we should all be striving for in this crazy new counterproductive world of identity politics?
I for one really don’t care. I was asked to write this.