What It Means to Be Gender Fluid
Do you know someone in the LGBTQ+ community? Do you have friends or loved ones who may identify in other ways than “straight?” Are you yourself a member? As time has progressed these past couple of decades and previous taboos are gradually declining, it is very likely that you will answer “yes” to at least one of these questions. You might say, “Yes, I have a friend who is bisexual,” or “Yes, I have two moms,” or “Yes, I identify as non-binary.” All of these answers are evidently clear signs of progress in our society, of an increased willingness to be receptive and supportive of people who identify themselves outside of the gender binary and/or are attracted to a gender or genders that may not be traditionally accepted. In TV shows, LGBTQ+ characters are more prominent. LGBTQ+ celebrities are received with generally as much acceptance as their straight counterparts. We have LGBTQ+ emojis and gender-neutral bathrooms. Many young members feel more freedom to come out than their predecessors did. Again, all of these are clear indicators of our society’s growth in becoming more aware of and more open-minded toward the queer community. However, it is still necessary, exceedingly crucial, that we not let ourselves grow stagnant but rather continue to explore and be hospitable to LGBTQ+ struggles; change never comes about if one stops halfway. No, change is a fluid, shifting thing; it never stops but rather flows continuously, urging us to move and reform with it. After all, how else can we expect to call ourselves tolerant if we limit ourselves to what is comfortable and unchanging?
With this said, I must say that my intentions for this article are to help augment and encourage this growing tolerance by shedding light on a particular gender identity that I feel may be overlooked as a minority among the LGBTQ+: gender fluidity. Having conveyed my purpose, I will caution that my writings are primarily based on my own experience as a modern gender fluid amongst an admittedly more receptive American society. Thus, please do not assume that everyone may feel exactly as I do; we are all unique and follow different paths in explaining and experiencing our gender identity. With this said, let us commence.
To begin with, what is gender fluidity? What type of gender identity does this describe? In my perception and understanding of the term, one who identifies as gender fluid does not feel fixed to one specific gender in the way that many traditional outlooks display. Instead, their gender identity shifts throughout time, or is fluid, hence the name. For instance, one day, said gender fluid may identify as male. The following day, they may identify as female, the day after, as neither male nor female. Sometimes, some may even identify as a combination of two or more genders (i.e., both male and female simultaneously). Summarily, gender fluids do not identify as a single constant gender but rather experience shifts in their gender identity.
Now that we have established a definition for the phrase “gender fluid,” we might ask ourselves how we should address said individuals appropriately seeing as how conventional pronouns may not always appeal to them. In all honesty, there is no definite answer as people, as with any other topic, have different preferences. Some may be completely okay with conventional pronouns, such as “he/him” and “she/her,” finding these pronouns comfortable in how they desire to be addressed. Others, myself included, prefer more gender neutral pronouns, like “they/them.” And, there are many who will accept all pronouns, saying that “he, she, and they are all okay” (yes, that rhymes). Whatever their preferred pronouns, it is absolutely vital that you ask this individual what pronouns they prefer in the interest of making everyone feel welcome and accepted as they are. In fact, making an effort to use the correct pronouns in regards to someone outside of the gender-binary is one of the most supportive actions you can take in showing this person tolerance. After all, in order to create and facilitate a civil society where everyone is shown love and acceptance, we must recognize and acknowledge every individual for who they are and how they identify themselves unconditionally.
Now, let us talk gender expression, by which I mean the ways in which an individual shows their gender identity to the world. Throughout history, there have been countless standards by which different societies mean to differentiate between expressions of masculinity and femininity (i.e.: women wear dresses and ribbons in their typically long hair, while men wear suits and gel back their stereotypically short hair). As one might imagine, this has made it difficult for those outside of the gender binary to express themselves seeing as how arguably most of the aspects of one’s appearances are evaluated as either strictly feminine or strictly masculine. Yet, over time, many gender fluids have developed ways of combating this harsh societal mold with their dress. Some prefer to alternate their clothing between traditional feminine and traditional masculine clothing. Others might prefer to dress androgynously continuously. More, myself included, even blend the two as a means of showing gender fluidity. However, it is important to remember to not assume one’s gender based on their physical appearance alone as clothing and hair length cannot make up for verbal affirmation of gender identity.
Before we conclude, I feel that it is imperative that I explain gender fluidity’s relation to transgenderism (where one’s gender identity differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth), an admittedly murky topic. If someone identifies as gender fluid, are they also transgender? To this, there also appears to be no clear answer. Some, such as CNN’s Lauren Booker, say that “gender fluidity isn’t the equivalent of transgenderism,” feeling that the distinction between the two terms is clear in that transgenderism only refers to those transitioning from one binary gender to another. Thus, those whose gender identities are outside the traditional gender binary should be referred to solely as “non-binary.” However, there exists another faction who believe conversely that non-binary gender identities, such as gender fluidity and agenderism, can be considered transgender due to the fact that the umbrella term “transgender” defines someone whose gender identity is different than the one that they were assigned at birth. Technically speaking, those who identify as gender fluid typically were not assigned this gender identity at birth and under this stipulation could be considered transgender. However, this issue is still a hot topic within the LGBTQ+ community and hence up for debate. In actuality, gender is so fluid that it is really up to the specific individual in regards to how they identify. Therefore, no concrete answer can be given for this subject but it is an unequivocally important discussion to be aware of.
As I close off, I hope to leave you with a better comprehension of the queer community and the everyday aspects of their lives. With this information, you may be more empowered to adequately respect and understand your fellow humans and the exceedingly complex and unique personalities and identities of every individual. Having said my piece, I thank you for your consideration in reading this article and opening yourself up to a different perspective.