My story takes place in a relatively near future setting where gender stereotypes have become a thing of the past. Unlike a recent question on another site, physiological sex-specific traits are still very much present in society, but they no longer have any significant meaning outside of mate selection and some health care contexts. Choices about casual or even committed sexual activity outside of reproduction are subject only to basic rules about protecting children and persons unable to consent. Rules about appropriate clothing, activities, professions, hairstyles, mannerisms, etc. simply no longer exist except as a historical curiosity or the unachievable dream of rare ultra-conservative activists (who either don't actually appear in my story or are a triviality).
How do I portray this in my world without making it a critical part of the plot or theme? That is, I don't want this to be a "men in dresses" story, but rather a story that might happen to have men in dresses at some point because it's the stereotype-free future and whatnot.
My main ideas are:
- Just describe gender-free life, and hope the reader is not too startled.
- Provide some sort of narrative introduction to the reader explaining the setting and how gender stereotypes no longer exist. This, however, seems like something I want to avoid, because the story is not about gender.
- Provide some sort of in-universe contrived dialogue in which this is revealed. For example, a school teacher might give a history lesson in which they explain to their students how there used to be these things called gender stereotypes, etc.
There are a few other questions on this site about how to write in an LGBT character without making an LGBT Story, such as An LGBT main character, but the book isn't about LGBT issues and How to write a homosexual character, whose homosexuality isn't the point of the story? , but they don't quite match because I'm talking about an entire society, one in which the concept of being LGBT no longer exists because everyone, and conversely, no one, qualifies as a gender or sexual minority.
- The exact timeframe is not very important, so we can assume at least the minimum amount of time for such a change to take place has actually elapsed. Considering that Western society's transition to allowing women to wear trousers took approximately 30 years (from organized defiance to minority to normalcy), and that acceptance of homosexuality is proceeding in a similar fashion, we can assume that my future likely takes place sometime in the late 21st century.
- While there is an obvious parallel to Star Trek lurking somewhere in the question, it is important that I am not writing a Star Trek story, and there are no phasers, Klingons, or replicators around (nor anything similar to them), and, even if I was, the question is medium-based, so the way in which Star Trek has presented some "gender-non-conforming" characters in the background does not really apply to the written medium, where everything must be described in words.
- A big part of the focus is not falling into either traditional or "LGBT" stereotypes. So, while the story may have "men in dresses", it won't have "Men in Dresses" in the sense that that is their thing. Dresses, in this case, would just be one of many possible clothing options. Some women would be inclined to wearing them, some men would, and some people would just not care for them.
I am asking this question here rather than Worldbuilding.SE because I am asking specifically about the writing process and how to explain this to my readers, not the process of designing a gender-free society.