One of my favorite bloggers recently wrote this post about words to talk about gender. I want to talk about one thing that people brought up in the comments; words for people who identify as a gender besides male or female.
First, let me clarify what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about people who identify as multiple genders (although I am talking about some of the genders they might identify as). I’m not talking about people who are Agender, either gender averse (actively doesn’t like being identified as any gender) or gender indifferent (don’t understand gender as a concept and has no real personal opinions about gender). I’m talking about people who have a strong gender identity towards a gender that is not male or female. I will also be using “third gender” to mean “the list of genders that does not include male and female”, and I will be considering many common gender identities, such as gender fluid (of which I am), bigender, or agender, as being many genders or no gender, and therefore will not be on the list.
The most basic option is this; there is one, singular third gender that everyone who identifies as something other than male or female identifies with. These people could come together and form a new gender role with new pronouns and everything, and everyone who had previously identified as a third gender would switch to this. I find this unlikely, for a variety of reasons, but most of all because having three genders would be surprisingly arbitrary in a way that having two genders isn’t; you’d need a good explanation for why three genders would exist, and it would have to be stronger than the (false) argument for why two genders exist, which despite being false, is pretty strong.
The next option is that there are a small number of third genders; more than one, but not a huge amount. I think that a decent (but arbitrary) line to draw is that, if this option is true, that at some point, the number of third gender people you ask about their gender and the number of third genders you hear about no longer correlates. For instance; if you ask one person, you’re guaranteed to only get one third gender, but if you ask ten people, you will probably get more than one (assuming there is more than one). This option says that at some point, asking more people will never get you more genders. This can be mathematically stated as follows: as the number of people you interview about their gender goes to infinity, the number of genders you catalogue goes to a finite number. Note that this is not possible in real life; we can’t actually interview infinite people, but it works as a model.
The next option is that we have a medium number of third genders; the number of third genders is infinite, but every time you ask a new person about their gender, it becomes more and more likely that they’re a gender you’ve already catalogued. This is also most easily put mathematically; as the number of people you interview about their gender goes to infinity, the number of genders you catalogue also goes to infinity, but the ratio of the number of genders you catalogue to the number of people you ask goes to zero. This would allow for systems like the number of genders being the logarithm or the square root of the number of people you interview.
The final option is that there are a large number of genders; the number of genders is infinite, and while some people may share the same third gender, every time you ask a new person they’re just as likely to tell you about a new third gender. Once again, this is easiest to state mathematically; as the number of people you interview about their gender goes to infinity, the number of genders you catalogue also goes to infinity, and the ratio of the number of genders you catalogue to the number of people you ask goes to a finite number. This finite number is probably less than 1; though it is technically possible for a large number of people who identify as multiple third genders to push this above 1.
These are, I think, four good categories for dividing up the possible ways third genders could work; note, however, that some of the results are unintuitive; for instance, option four could have the number of third genders be , rounded up, which would be a much smaller number of third genders than option two could be, if the number of third genders was 1000. There may end up being different ways and even better ways of dividing up the ways that third genders could work; however, I think this is a good way nonetheless.