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Culture War Roundup for the week of October 10, 2022

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I'm firmly in the camp of people who doesn't quite understand what a lot of "non-binary" people are doing with gender, despite being somewhat progressive and happy to exercise pronoun hospitality with such people. (I once heard an acquaintance describe their gender by saying, "if man is black, and woman is white, I'm purple - if you see me in monochrome, I'm more masculine, but really I'm not either of them" - and I was more confused than before I heard the analogy.)

I've seen various mottizens bring up the idea of "gender" being the latest subculture like goth or punk, and recently I stumbled across an interesting Tumblr post that accidentally circles around a similar insight. The whole thing is interesting, but I think you can get the gist from the following:

[...] I think there’s an interesting similarity in the way nonbinary (or genderqueer people in general) talk about the nuances of their gender and how people really big into specific music scenes talk about the nuances of the genres they listen to. Like there’s the description you give other people in your community, and the “normie” description you give to people who aren’t as familiar. And “genre” and “gender” are both constructs in similar ways too. Just my little binary observation tho.


so if someone identifies as a demigirl in some circles but to you they just say they’re nonbinary or even just “female”, they clocked you as a gender normie lol.

Now, I grant that the gender-as-fashion analogy isn't the only possible takeaway from this person's observations. I'm reminded of the "soul-editor" from the SCP Foundation Wiki that had symbols from every major world religion, as well as a few unknown ones. Who's to say that some phenomenological aspects of being human aren't so complex that no one set of vocabulary is capable of describing it all? Perhaps some qualities of human minds/souls/whatever are ineffable, or so unique and subjective that one cannot help but create a new label for oneself in describing one's personality?

But I have my doubts. Mostly, I often feel like people must be mislabeling something that I have in my "mental box" as well. (I've read accounts of genderfluid people who talk about "waking up feeling masc" some days and dressing the part, while suddenly and abruptly "feeling femme" partway through the day and wanting to change outfits - and I couldn't help but speculate if they hadn't attached special significance to what I label "moods" in myself.) I don't discount that there are many real human experiences that aren't in my "mental box." In a very real way, I can't do much more than guess what depression, schizophrenia, OCD or dozens of other seemingly real human experiences are like. If I'm being maximally humble about what a tiny part of the vast terrain of possible human experiences I occupy, I have to concede that I can't know that many people aren't out there experiencing "gender" in ways I never will.

My partner is a binary trans man, and many of my friends and acquaintances are part of the LGBT+ community. I still don't quite understand why someone in that extended friend group suddenly finds it very important to change their name, and let everybody know that their pronouns are "she/they" now - while changing nothing else about their appearance or presentation. I'm happy to use a new name for someone, if they don't make such changes too frequently for me to keep up with, but I often feel baffled by why they find it so important? It's not really a big deal to me, but I would like an explanation. Gender-as-fashion seems so tempting as an explanation, but I worry that it might be a false explanation flattening human experiences into something that's more comfortable to me - the same way, "that person who supposedly has ADHD is just lazy" might flatten a person with ADHD into a form more comfortable for neurotypical people, and not in a way that is very sympathetic to the person with ADHD.

so if someone identifies as a demigirl in some circles but to you they just say they’re nonbinary or even just “female”, they clocked you as a gender normie lol.

This doesn't seem to happen, though. Instead, it seems like a demigirl is far more likely to demand that gender normies recognize their demigirl status, to address them as such, and that the normies educate themselves on what a demigirl is.

All these multiple genders want their pronouns to be used and for society to accept them just like any other gender. I honestly do not remember the subcultures of my youth demanding that society treat them as 'normal'. That was antithetical to their very existence.

You know what I think happened? The internet made it soooo easy for a kid to rapidly 'specialize' in a subculture. You didn't have to seek out the music, the styles, learn the history. You could just pick it all up within a couple days. Most of these subcultures were extremely gatekeepy. With the internet, the bar became relatively lower for those with access, but it became EXTREMELY high for those who didn't.

But this resulted in people with basically a cliff notes understanding of a subculture forming the majority. There was no deeper understanding. Many might not have even liked the core aspects of a subculture, just certain aesthetics. So you have people who can say all the right things, but are only really in it for the outward appearance. Normies took over the subcultures.

Social media comes along, and the attention span of the average person collapses. Most people no longer have the depth of specialization to even pretend they are part of a subculture (hell, I get that vibe from the Tumblr post you linked). What happens is that people move away from the 'classic' subcultures, and begin turning innate human characteristics into subcultures, because a person is innately knowledgeable about that, and they can't be invalidated by being wrong, because they can just say "that's my experience/that's how I feel."

So no longer do you need to understand anything about the music you're listening to in order to bond with others. Instead, you can just pick apart things like gender and race, and begin to make a culture out of that. "I like to wear ballcaps sometimes" suddenly becomes being 'masc'. If someone says "Women wear ballcaps" they can just respond "well I feel masc when I wear one." Can't invalidate that.

Anyone and everyone can discuss all these things at length. There's nothing special about the shit nonbinary people are talking about. It's not hard to understand. It's just that I wouldn't attach my gender identity to the clothes I wear, how I feel on a particular day, my current emotions, etc.

All these gender 'subcultures' are for the normies. They have absolutely no barrier to entry, you need no knowledge, there's no learning curve. You basically just get to make YOURSELF a piece of the subculture. And you get to pretend you aren't a normie, and demand all the other normies abide by your subculture's rules.