A Short Guide to Genderfluid Identity
What Does Genderfluid Mean?
Genderfluid is a term for people whose gender is fluid or whose gender changes over time. Genderfluidity can cover men, women, genders outside the binary of men and women, multiple genders at once, as well as the lack of gender. The number of genders, which genders, and the frequency of changing genders or gender experience varies from person to person.
Does Genderfluidity Fall Under the Trans Umbrella?
Yes, many genderfluid people are transgender and consider their experiences of being a gender(s) other than the one assigned to them at birth, whether that is at all times or sometimes, to be inherently trans. There are however people who are genderfluid but do not identify as transgender. This is also true for other umbrellas like genderqueer and non-binary, some genderfluid people consider themselves to be under them, while others don’t.
Genderfluidity is also itself an umbrella term for other identities such as genderflux (a shifting intensity of gender) and genderfae (genderfluidity which never encompasses masculine genders), and people who use those labels may or may not also use genderfluid.
Applying identity labels is up to the person they are applying to, for both specific and umbrella terms.
Genderfluid Flag and Other Symbols
The most popular genderfluid pride flag was created in 2012 by JJ Poole, Lostinthoughtspaceandfantasies on Tumblr, with the following colour meanings: pink for femininity, white for all genders, purple for both femininity and masculinity, black for the lack of gender, and blue for masculinity.
JJ Poole updated the meaning slightly in a post on June 19th, 2013 so that now: white is the lack of gender, purple is the combination of masculinity and femininity, and black is all genders including third genders (the meanings of pink and blue are unchanged). In the same post, JJ explained the meaning of the flag as a whole:
“This flag represents the fluctuations and the flexibility of gender in gender-fluid people.”
In 2014, Deviantart user Cari-Rez-Lobo and several other Brazilian non-binary people designed a series of gender symbols (below), including several for different kinds of genderfluid people.
On July 15th 2015, Meredith Espinosa, transgirlgogo on Tumblr, created another genderfluid symbol (below), saying the inspiration was that “I haven’t really seen any symbols that don’t reinforce the gender binary”.
The 3 circles represent genders that a genderfluid person identifies as, which do not need to be binary male or female. The gradient of blue, purple, and pink represents the choices people have.
Genderfluidity Across Cultures
Gender as a static binary concept is not universal and genderfluidity is not limited to western cultures. Many non-western cultures have fluid genders, or fluid understandings of genders, such as:
The Dominican Republic has guevedoche, also known as machihembras, a third gender in addition to men and women. This culture recognizes people who are a particular kind of intersex who are born with undifferentiated genetalia which later in life develops into a penis. These people often change their gender along with this physical change, sometimes to male and often to this third gender.
In certain Inuit cultures, such as in Igloolik, there are sipiniq, who are people believed to have changed their sex before birth. Infants who are identified by caregivers as sipniq will be raised as girls if they have distinguishable phaluses and as boys if they have distinguishable vulvas (note that intersex people can be sipniq as well). After puberty, they change their gender and adopt the social roles and responsibilities of their new gender for adulthood.
Albania has the concept of burrnesha, or sworn virgins. At any age, a girl or woman can take a vow of celibacy before a number of elders and become a boy or man thereafter, being completely socially recognized as such and gaining all the rights and privileges that come along with it.
- The Diné, colonized as Navajo, recognize naadleeh or nádleehé (also anglicized as nádleehi) , and Dilbaa, fluid genders which correspond to feminine men and masculine women, respectively, though neither is entirely man nor woman, embodying both spirits within them. Naadleeh and Dilbaa may take part in aspects of Diné society otherwise reserved for men, women, or those who are neither. The gender expression of people with these genders likewise can be just as fluid, changing it throughout their lives or even daily.
People with these identities may or may not identify with the term genderfluid, and may or may not consider themselves to be LGBTQIA+.
Note: It is very culturally insensitive to use gender identities from cultures you do not belong to for yourself.
Misconceptions and Issues
Genderfluid people do not always change their pronouns or presentation along with their gender, and when they do it is not always in expected ways. A genderfluid person may be non-binary and at the same time use binary pronouns and dress in traditionally masculine or feminine ways.
Genderfluid people can be accused of being “just confused” or of faking being LGBTQIA+, particularly trans, because of their fluid identity. This is compounded for those who do not seek medical transition. For those who do seek them, transition resources are largely gatekept, being designed around binary, non-genderfluid trans people whose identities are easier to explain to medical professionals. Doctors and therapists may claim that there is not enough certainty of one’s gender and deny a genderfluid person hormones or surgery referrals.
While resources exclusively for genderfluid people are hard to find, many organizations that help trans people are inclusive of genderfluid people.
Gendered Intelligence works with the transgender community, with an emphasis on supporting young trans people aged 8-25.
Mermaids provides support and information for trans and gender diverse people 19 and under, and their families.
Pink Therapy helps people find LGBT+ friendly therapists.
Switchboard is a helpline for LGBT+ people of all ages. They also offer services through email and instant messaging.
For even more resources for genderfluid and other LGBT+ people, please see https://genderqueer.me/resources/
This article was written by Sirena (She/Her). Sirena is a queer relationship anarchist, freelance writer, and LBGTQIA+ activist whose main focus is community building and spreading information in and about aro and ace communities. Artwork in profile photo by NEBULAMACHINA