“Jack, buddy, the men’s section is over there” Dean was clothes shopping with the kid. Jack might look like he was an adult but the guy had never even gone shopping for clothes before, so he needed supervision.
“I know, Dean”, Jack said happily, continuing on his way to the women's section.
“Then let’s go there”
“Why?” Jack asked. Like little kids tended to do in that age.
“Cause you’re a guy”, Dean said very slowly, like talking to a toddler, seeing as he actually was.
“No, I’m not”
Oh fuck. Uhm. Okay. Dean had heard of this. Transgender, right? How do people react to that? He didn’t want to look like an asshole, after all. And he wasn’t, not about this, he genuinely wasn’t. He’d just never been confronted with it before and didn’t want to do anything wrong. Jesus, don’t let him fuck this up.
Clumsily, Dean asked: “So… a woman, then?” hoping desperately it was the right thing to say.
“Nope”, Jack said, still entirely happy, not aware of Dean's inner struggle to do this right.
“So, what is your gender then? If you’re not a guy or a girl?”
“I don’t really have one”, Jack stated simply, browsing through skirts.
You can do that? Dean’s inner voice asked, bewildered.
“So uhm. But you don’t mind if I say he to you, right?” Dean asked out loud.
“Nope, I don’t really care either way”
“Okay” Okay, Dean could do this right. He ended up paying for two skirts, some jeans, some t-shirts and a plaid flannel.
“Cas”, Dean asked, a couple of days later, in bed, before sleeping, “are you a dude?”
Dean really thought that the incredulous look that Cas shot him was entirely undeserved. After all the things he had learned about gender in the last couple of days. (he had done extensive googling after the conversation with Jack, not wanting to do anything else wrong with the kid).
“Yes, Dean. I am a “dude”.”, Cas said slowly, “I thought you were aware of that, seeing as you freaked out about it pretty bad at the beginning of our relationship.”
“Don’t be an ass”, Dean grumbled, “Jack just told me a few days ago that he doesn’t have a gender and that just got me thinking, do angels even have genders? So yeah”
“Well”, Cas began, “Angels are agender, normally. We don’t really have a concept of gender. I do, though, and sometime after I came to earth I realized that I am a man.”
“So, he pronouns, right?”, Dean asked, something he had picked up from his research.
Amused, Cas answered, “Yes, Dean, I use he/him pronouns”
“Okay”, Dean said and, after a couple of minutes of silence, “How do you know you’re a man?”
Cas thought about that for a moment, trying to decide how to word it, “It’s hard to describe, Dean. I just know. At the beginning, when this body was still Jimmy Novak's body, everyone perceived me as a man and talked about me as one. And most angels aren’t bothered by being perceived as any gender, they just don’t particularly care about it, either way. But for me, people seeing me as a man just felt right.”
“I don’t know if asking this is. Uhm, politically correct. But. You don’t really act that much like a man?”
“That, and I am saying this in the nicest way possible, is because you have a very narrow understanding of what a man is. The only thing that really makes someone a man is feeling like one.”
And that was the end of that conversation.
Apparently there were people who used they/them pronouns. Like as a singular. He went shopping. They went shopping. She fired a gun. They fired a gun.
It took a while until Dean got the concept, but when he did, it kind of made sense.
Jack used all pronouns, Dean learned, after asking him. He liked they/them a bit more, though and Dean was trying really hard to use them. They liked they/them. Damn it. Jack had said they were fine with all of them, but after Dean had called them he for years, he thought he should make up for it and use the ones they liked best. But then again, the internet had told him that people who use several pronouns like it when you switch them up.
Jesus, this was difficult. So. They/them for Jack most of the time, he/him and she/her interchangeably the rest of the time. Okay, that was doable.
Dean got the hang of it surprisingly fast, but what surprised him even more was the reaction of the others in the bunker. When Sam heard him call Jack she, he just asked what pronouns the kid uses and when Dean answered just said “okay”, and went back to his laptop.
Dean had known that Cas would react well, that one was no surprise, but so had Eileen.
No one had even batted a second eye. They all acted as if it was completely normal. And it was! Dean knew it was, but he hadn’t always known that and the people he had been around certainly hadn’t (Dean shuddered, just thinking about the reaction his dad would have had).
Dean kept thinking back to his conversation with Cas a few days ago. The only thing that really makes someone a man is feeling like one.
“Cas”, Dean said one night, after watching a movie together, “I think I’m not a man. At least not always”
Dean knew it was ridiculous, but he was scared out of his mind. He knew everyone had reacted well to Jack, but he couldn’t help but think that it was different with him. He was a man, his dad had always told him so and he had made sure to act like it his whole life. But he didn’t really feel like one. Well, he did sometimes. But most of the time, being a man just felt to him like a performance. One he was used to, having acted it since his childhood, but a performance nonetheless.
“Okay,” Cas said in a tone that made it clear he knew how important this was for Dean, “What pronouns do you want me to use for you?”
Dean had expected Cas to make a bigger deal out of it, had been prepared for a long speech about how Cas accepted him, but if he was being honest, he liked this quiet acceptance better. At least from Cas.
“He/they, I think”, Dean said quietly.
“Okay. Can I use them in front of the others too?”
Dean kept silent for a while. He knew what he wanted to say. Taking a deep breath and exhaling sharply, he said “Yes”
“Someone tell Dean to get their ass down there and clean the kitchen”, Dean heard Sam yell and smiled. Not about the sentiment, but at the “their”. When Sam had found out, they had had a longer conversation. The one they had been expecting with Cas and while it might have felt wrong with their boyfriend, it was exactly what he needed from his brother.
“Yeah yeah, on my way, bitch”, Dean yelled back.