Genderfluid, also spelled gender-fluid or gender fluid, is a gender identity that is an individualized as it is fluid in nature.
Genderfluid means that a person’s gender identity is fluid, malleable and open too change, based on both the individual and their surroundings.
It is not a static identity, nor is it limited by a binary understanding of gender. Since gender integrates a person’s identity, there can be as many genders as there are people on earth.
What is Gender Fluid?
Gender fluid is a term that is embraced by many, but still confusing to some. It can mean many different things to different people and it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a different experience for each individual.
Below is a list of ten important things to know about being gender fluid.
1. Gender Is Not Binary
Most people today accept that gender is not a question of one or the other, but instead a spectrum. Our gender is based on a large number of factors that include biology, hormones, physiology, and psychology, so it doesn’t fit easily into a box.
For a long time, people were labeled either man or woman, and these categories still persist today.
However, more and more people are feeling comfortable opting out of the binary equation and identifying somewhere along the spectrum. Gender fluid people may feel like they fit at different parts of the spectrum at different times in their days or lives.
2. Gender Is Interpreted Differently Across Cultures
Gender fluid is just one name to identify people whose genders may not fit neatly into the binary. But gender fluid individuals can be found throughout history and across cultures.
Examples of this include Two-Spirited People for Native American/First Nations people, Māhū for Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) and Maohi (Tahitian) cultures, fakaleiti for Tongans, and fa’afafine for Samoans, hijra for South Asian people, and many others.
There are also examples of genderfluid people in positions of leadership, such as Hatshepsut who was a gender fluid pharaoh from ancient Egypt who ruled between 1507 and 1458 BCE.
3. Gender is Expansive
Unlike some transgender people, gender fluid people do not usually feel like they are in the wrong body. Rather, their gender is expansive, undefinable, fluid and exists beyond any boundaries.
As Alok Vaid-Menon, a gender non-conforming performance artist and educator, beautifully reminds us: “We’re so much more expansive, tremendous, and phenomenal than being confined by arbitrary boxes.”
4. Fluidity Can Last Throughout Your Life
Some people who identify as gender fluid may dress in more masculine clothing one day, more feminine the next, as well as mixes and variations of both. Clothing is an adornment on our bodies, so can be naturally fluid as identity fluctuates.
Others may choose to spend long stretches of time using one means of expression, while still identifying as fluid.
People may also embrace a genderfluid identify at any time during their lifespan, so there’s no need to settle on one way.
5. Gender Fluidity Has Existed Throughout the Ages
Gender fluidity is not a fad. You can find examples of it throughout history, even though gender-fluid people often hid their identities in earlier times due to ostracism and stigma.
In addition to Hatshepsut and other examples from ancient Egypt, you can find other examples of gender-fluid individuals through the ages. Joan of Arc, France’s medieval heroine, wore men’s armor and shortly cropped hair.
For centuries, India ha recognized a third gender called “hijras”: biological males who take on typically female and other roles. Ancient epic poems feature them dancing at weddings and blessing newborns.
During the Ottoman empire in ancient Turkey, the köçek, men who dressed in women’s clothing, performed special dances and embraced both their masculine and feminine features.
There was also Public Universal Friend, an American preacher who was born Jemima Wilkinson on November 29, 1752 , who choose to rename themselves and embrace non-gendered pronouns after surviving a deathly illness at the age of 24. Identifying as neither male nor female, religious followers embraced their gender-neutrality and referred to them as “the Public Universal Friend”, “the Friend” or the “P.U.F.” until their death on July 1, 1819.
6. Being Gender Fluid Does Not Indicate Sexuality
Being gender fluid has no bearing on your sexuality. It doesn’t impact whether you are straight, gay, lesbian, bi, pansexual or any other sexuality.
Gender fluidity has to do with your gender expression—and not what gender(s) you are attracted to or not. This is because gender and sexuality, while often lumped together, are separate aspects of one’s personal identity.
7. Gender Fluidity is Found in the Animal Kingdom
Humans did not discover the joys of living outside the two-gender system, as gender fluidity can give many species with increased odds of evolutionary survival. For example, some female lions are able to grow manes and exhibit male behavior patterns. Several female lions in Botswana have been observed with lush manes and been documented as displaying male-like behaviors, including increased scent marking, roaring, and mating behavior (mounting).
Seahorses, pipefish, and sea dragons all have pregnancy as a male reproductive process. In these species, the male fertilizes eggs that are deposited within a pouch in his belly and then he carries his developing embryos until they are ready to be birthed.
Female spotted hyenas have a pseudo-penis that is capable of erection and can be as much as 90% the size of a male hyena’s penis. They have by two fleshy masses that contain fat and connective tissue that appear as a scrotum. Where you’d expect there to be a vagina, spotted hyena females have fused labia. Female spotted hyenas also dominate male hyenas behaviorally.
Chickens can naturally undergo gender changes. This is because female chickens only use one functional ovary on their left side. However, they have two sex organs that are present from their embryonic stage onward through their lifespan. If the left ovary shrinks within a hen, then its right gonad may start secreting androgens, turning the hen into a rooster.
There are also many other examples throughout the animal kingdom.
8. Gender Does Not Depend on Genitalia
Gender identity does not depend on your genitals. There continue to be battles in the political, scientific, and LGBTQ communities over the definitions of gender and why one person may feel at ease in the body into which they were born while others do not.
This issue has raised challenges in areas like sports. An athlete’s body may not match their chromosomes. Their identity may not match their bodies. Organizations struggle to level the playing field where binary descriptions no longer suffice.
9. More Celebrities are Identifying as Gender Fluid
Many famous singers, actors, and musicians have opened up about their inability to fit into traditional gender roles. They often describe themselves as feeling like both or neither genders. They each express this identity in different ways.
Jonathan Van Ness. Sam Smith. Ruby Rose. Cara Delevingne. Bex Taylor-Klaus. Miley Cyrus. Pete Townsend. Jaden Smith.
The more that these famous celebrities openly discuss their feelings about being gender fluid, the more they can educate people and increase visibility for this identity.
10. Gender Fluid People May (Or May Not) Prefer the Pronoun “They”
The use of a particular pronoun or the use of the gender-neutral pronoun “they” is a highly personal decision. Each person has the right to decide which one they would prefer to be called.
Some gender fluid people prefer “they” because it can accommodate whatever gender they may be expressing at the time.
Some people have difficulty adapting to different pronouns from the binary options we were typically taught in school. One way to be respectful of people is to ask what pronoun(s) they use.
Gender Fluid Means Being Who You Want to Be
For people who are used to strict definitions of what male and female mean, gender fluidity may be confusing. However, for everyone else, the term opens up a world of expansive self expression. The more options we have to identify ourselves, the more opportunities we have to find communities, allies, and love.
Do you have questions about being gender fluid? Ask them in the comments below.
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