They are out there living among us, and you may not even know they exist. And that’s because you always thought that they were him or her, but now they are they. How did this happen? It happened because since the beginning of time, society has told us that little boys are made of “snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails.” And since the beginning of time, there have been little boys who have said, “EW! We are  not! And what is a snip, anyway?”

The first time I heard the letters “LGBTQ” I assumed it was a subway line. Why would anyone want to go to La Guardia, Brooklyn, Texas AND THEN Queens? It’s going to take forever, and what if I get stuck in a car with one of those panhandlers that says he was in the Vietnam War but he only looks about 29? Then someone told me that it was an acronym for the gay community, and I was shocked that there was a gay community in Texas. But that was a long time ago, and I’ve been more enlightened since then.

I’ll admit I was pretty clueless for most of my life. Why didn’t Liberace have a girlfriend? I guess he was playing the field. Cary Grant? A “confirmed bachelor.” What about Tony Randall? Actually Tony Randall wasn’t even gay. Sometimes “coming out” is a rite of passage that doesn’t have that doesn’t have a whole lot of effect, like me going through my confirmation at church. I had to use a cheat sheet to remember the books of the Bible during the test, and after I spent the rest of the day dodging bolts of lightning, I realized that the religious life just wasn’t for me. And when Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian I was absolutely SHOCKED that she might have thought that there was anyone out there who didn’t think she was a lesbian.

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And over time it became more complicated. Men dressed as women weren’t just drag queens, and women dressed as men weren’t just tomboys. Turned out there are transgender people, cisgender people, people who are gender neutral. I was hesitant to go along. “He” or “she” is one person, and “they” are a bit of a crowd. Dealing with the sheer numbers is going to be time consuming. But when I thought it over, which for me is also time consuming, going along seemed like a small thing. If it makes people happy if I call them “them,” I guess I can get used to it. It’s no worse than me insisting that people call me Rick, even though it isn’t the name I was assigned at birth. It seems like the real reason that change has come slowly is that human nature wants everything to fit into an Excel spreadsheet so we can sort it and then re-sort it if we don’t like how it came out. But eventually Excel comes out with a new version and we have to learn where everything goes all over again.

Take Barbie for instance. We always assumed she was a girl, because she knows how to accessorize so well, but so does Elton John. She’s never actually said what she is, and we don’t really have a definitive ruling on the subject. If you look at things biologically, (and I have), there is little actual evidence either way. Up to now it’s been the rest of the world telling you whether you are a boy or a girl, and then telling you what you should do about it. But people are taking back their own self-identities, and the rest of us are just going to have to get used to it. Bruce Jenner used to be thought of as a “man’s man.” Men wanted to be him, women wanted to be with him. Now all of a sudden Bruce Jenner is Caitlyn Jenner, a “transgender’s transgender.” Transgenders want to be like them and transgenders want to be with them.

There’s a term that these people give use to show the rest of us that we are more confused about the whole thing than they are, and that term is “gender non-binary.” Which sounds like words they used in a math class that I had to take two or three times because I couldn’t figure out how to use a slide rule. Society isn’t all in quite yet. When you watch a western there is a guy in a black hat doing evil things, and there’s a guy in a white hat who wants to bring him to justice, and everybody knows what their role is. But then it turns out that the guy in the white hat cheats on his taxes, and the guy in the black hat helps old ladies across the street. Just about everything in life has a gray area.

Nothing is ever easy, and there are plenty of questions. Should there be separate men’s and women’s bathrooms anymore? What do we do about transgender athletes competing with women? Are we going to need to order more asterisks to put in record books? Is it impolite to ask for a DNA test on the first date if things are going well? Then again, if you ask for the DNA test, might that be the end of things going well?

I guess we’ll just let people decide for themselves what they want to be. I wish I had taken some Home Economics classes when I was in Middle School, because I like to cook. And my wife wishes she had taken some Shop classes, because she likes to tell me what I’m doing wrong. One of these days you’re going to be at a “gender reveal party” where clear smoke comes out of the balloon, and everyone will shout, “They’re non-binary! YAY! I just KNEW it!” Just for the record, there’s no confusion on my end of things. I’m all guy, all the time. I’m as manly as a man can be who loves the Carpenters, struggles not to cry at sad movies and wears a size 16 dress sometimes on Halloween (it has blue sequins on it and a daring neckline). Gray is “they,” and it’s the new black and white. 

Join Trillium on Friday, December 20th, at Clubhouse Grille in Norwalk at 7:00PM for a Christmas celebration of love and harmony!

Say hello at: rlife8@hotmail.com