okay but what utter bullshit it is when people post things like “if you don’t reblog this someone you love will die”
there are people with anxiety who will take that seriously so please stop
For one thing, gender is a real thing—or rather, there’s something real that US and European society are attempting to describe and categorize. It’s just, the US/Europe has a map that says there are two and only two categories, and that everyone must fit unambiguously in one or the other. That map is very much not the territory—though of course, like a lot of things, it’s the kind of map that strongly affects the way we interpret the territory.
I’m not sure it’s possible to not have a map. I think, then, that the closest thing to an “ungendered” society would be one where the map is a great deal less restrictive. I came to think of it—and largely still do—as sort of analogous to the way we think of hair color. The color of our hair is a matter of our genetics (barring sun-bleaching, aging, or a bottle of dye). People can (and do) sometimes identify as a redhead, or a brunette, or a blonde, or what have you. Sometimes people’s hair color changes during their lifetime. Sometimes people decide they’ll be happier if their hair is auburn, or purple, or whatever. With certain exceptions (some places you’ll get more stares for purple hair, say) nobody else really cares, except perhaps to say “Wow, that color really suits you.” And we don’t need to call out hair color when talking about someone—unless we specifically want to describe them. We would be baffled if we ran into a culture that insisted there were only two categories of hair color and everyone fit in one or the other, and probably have linguistic trouble if their language assigned a hair color to everyone. But our bafflement wouldn’t stem from our being unable to understand the concept of hair color—it would stem from our unfamiliarity with the map in use.
We’re not a hair-colorless society. It’s not that we have no concept of hair color. We do, we see it, it’s a thing, but we just don’t care much. (Actually, there are restrictions, and some of the weird “either/or” categorizing you see with gender. When you fill out a passport application you have to check a box—is your hair black, brown, blonde, red, or gray? As though those are all the options. Except, you know, when people go gray, often they’re partly gray and partly another color. And there are lots and lots of people who have a sort of middling, light brown/dark blonde color hair that could leave them in doubt as to which box to check. Not to mention the number of people who are on a line between blonde and red. But this isn’t a big deal, doesn’t cause a lot of angst or distress or efforts to make oneself fit more clearly in one category or another.)
So I think a society that didn’t care much about gender would have a similar attitude. Some people would have more or less strong gender identities of various sorts, some of which might be “no gender,” some people might find they’ve changed how they identify over time, or might want to try something different.