As a society we strive to understand the meaning of life and our existence. We look to understand who and what we are. As that understanding grows we evolve. We sometimes end up breaking down the walls of what is considered the norm in both science and culture as our understanding becomes clearer. Nothing challenges these norms more than the concept of gender fluidity.
Being gender fluid is not a new concept. It has been around for ages but was never clearly defined. Though society has begun to accept our differences in sexual orientation and the world is just beginning to grapple with the concept of being transgender, we now have gender fluidity in the line of progression. As that understanding grows so does the understanding of the spectrum of gender.
“There is also a quantum level to gender where fluidity becomes more detailed.”
What is gender fluid?
In the simplest of terms being gender fluid means having a different gender identity at different times. At one moment you may identify as female and another you may identify as male. You may identify as both at the same time or none. These shifts can happen several times a day, weekly, monthly or even yearly. This explanation however is very basic and comes from a binary view.
Gender fluidity is actually more complex. In terms of physics we could compare the common binary view of male and female to our basic understanding of things. There is also a quantum level to gender where fluidity becomes more detailed. We have identities within the non-binary umbrella. These identities are used by people who don’t feel the terms non-binary or gender fluid properly describes them.
What are some of these identities?
Non-binary – Is used for all that do not identify as either just female or male.
Agender – People who do not have an inner sense of gender or have no gender.
Androgynes – People who are a mix of male and female.
Bigender – Having two genders
Demigender – Identifying as partly male or female
Intergender – An identity between male and female. Often used by those who are intersex.
Multigender – Having more than one gender. This can be at the same or different times.
Neutrois – A neutral gender, neither female or male.
Genderqueer – Having a non-normative gender identity and expression.
There are many more identities within the gender spectrum, actually too many to count. These are some of the more popular ones. They can all be inter-related and fall under the non-binary category. In the case of gender fluid it is simply an identity that changes. It is not static.
What causes one to be gender fluid?
The science behind what causes one to identify as gender fluid is based on the same concepts as what causes one to be transgender. There are brain studies as we have outlined in “The Origins of the Transgender Condition“. There are some fascinating new concepts of genetic causes explored by our own jahn westrbrook in her three part series on Epigenetics. We are beginning to better understand the role of hormones in the human body and how the balances of testosterone and estrogen affect it both mentally and physically. These all relate to the different gender variations.
Physical sex vs. Gender vs. Gender Roles vs. Gender Expression
To help better understand these concepts there are four things we need to first understand.
Physical Sex – What you were assigned at birth based on genitalia.
Gender – Gender is simply what you are or identify as. This could be male, female, gender fluid, agender or any other gender identity and anything in between.
Gender roles – Gender roles are constructed by society. It is how society thinks we should act based on our gender.
Gender expression – Gender expression is how we present our gender. Think masculine and feminine. You can be female but express yourself in a masculine way or act more masculine. Gender expression is based on conforming or not conforming to the roles of gender.
“Gender and gender roles are often lumped together as one entity but they are not the same.”
Gender and gender roles are often lumped together as one entity but they are not the same. One is a social construct and the other is simply who we are. Society assumes our gender, gender roles and expression based on the physical sex we were assigned at birth. That is the binary view of it. In reality it is more of a quantum concept. There is more variation.
For example one could be born male (physical sex), identify as female (gender), conform to the stereotypes of being female (gender role) and act feminine (gender expression). This person is most likely transgender.
Someone who is gender fluid may be born male or female (physical sex), their identity varies between male and female (gender), the stereotypical roles they adopt may vary (gender roles) and they may act and appear either masculine or feminine at any given time (gender expression).
To better put it in perspective, Social justice comedian Sam Killermann gives his take on the complexities of gender in his Ted Talk video below.
Recently, much attention has been given to the identity of gender fluid thanks to Ruby Rose from the hit series on Netflix, Orange is the New Black. You have Miley Cyrus who recently came out as gender fluid. You have those who are just fluid with their gender expression such as Jaden Smith. You have model Erika Linder who identifies as female but made a great living expressing herself as male.
So you can look at gender from the binary view of physical sex while assuming gender, gender roles and expression. This would be conforming to the norms of society. Your other option is to look at the quantum side of gender. The further down the rabbit hole you go the more you would understand gender and all its variations. It is complex because we are complex as a species. We are not just two binary entities. We are much more than that. No matter how you identify or how you understand it. Just be your true self. We can all be a little more “fluid” in our thinking.