Genderfluid aka Gender-fluid, Gender Fluid, or Fluid Gender is an identity under the multigender, nonbinary, and transgender umbrellas. Genderfluid individuals have different gender identities at different times. A genderfluid individual's gender identity could be multiple genders at once, and then switch to none at all, or move between single gender identities. For some genderfluid people, these changes happen as often as several times a day, and for others, monthly, or less often. Some genderfluid people regularly move between only a few specific genders, perhaps as few as two (which is one of the meanings of the label bigender), whereas other genderfluid people never know what they'll feel like next.
To be easy to read, this article uses the word "genderfluid" for all people who experience fluid gender. Some people who experience fluid gender don't use the word "genderfluid" for themselves. Some people with fluid genders call themselves by a word such as genderqueer, bigender, multigender, polygender, or other words. This can be because the people haven't seen the word "genderfluid," or it can be because they don't think it describes them well. It's important to understand that each person has the right to decide what to call their gender identity, and that they're the only one who can do that.
The word "genderfluid" has been in use since at least the 1990s. In the 1990s and 2000s, it seems that it might have been more common for them to call themselves bigender or genderqueer. Earlier than that, they may have called themselves cross-dressers.
The earliest extant entry for "gender fluid" in the Urban Dictionary was added in 2007.
In 2014, "Gender Fluid" was one of the 56 genders made available on Facebook.
In 2015, Dictionary.com added an entry for "gender-fluid," which it defined as an adjective meaning "noting or relating to a person whose gender identity or gender expression is not fixed and shifts over time or depending on the situation." It listed as synonyms genderfluid, gender fluid, and gender-flexible.
Influences on gender fluidity
Usually, gender fluidity happens by itself, so that a person feels like, say, a girl at a certain time, rather than choosing to be a girl at a certain time. Some genderfluid people find that no outside or inside things tend to influence their gender identity to change. They find that their gender fluidity is unpredictable and happens randomly. Other genderfluid people find that their gender changes depending on the situation, and is influenced by inside or outside sources. Each person who is genderfluid finds that different things can make their gender identity change. For some, their gender fluidity moves from one gender to the next by a regular cycle, resembling a lunar cycle, or synchronizing with their menstrual cycle. Yet other genderfluid people are sometimes able to use their willpower to guide their gender to change in way and/or at the time that they want it to.
For genderfluid people who think their changes in gender might have to do with their menstrual cycle, they think it might be caused by how the natural hormone levels rise and fall during that cycle. It’s possible that a person might think that they tend to feel male during their periods even if that’s only rarely the case for them, because the incongruence of that situation would feel noticeable and memorable. The only way to know for sure whether there’s any correlation between a fluid gender identity and a menstrual cycle is if a person keeps a daily journal of it. Here’s how to do science to this research question. For a few months, record your gender fluidity, and fill out a table that looks like this:
|Date||Gender identity on that day||Day in menstrual cycle|
|2013-03-09||Male (all day)||14|
|2013-03-10||Male, then female||15|
That’s how you collect the data. After a few months, draw up another table to analyze the data. Make a column for each menstrual cycle, and a row for each day in the cycle. Then you’ll be able to see whether there are any patterns. Are there certain days of your cycle in which you tend to have a certain gender identity? Did you go through the same genders at the same time in each menstrual cycle?
Compare those results with charts that show how hormones fluctuate during a menstrual cycle. Does a certain gender identity correlate with when a certain hormone is higher? Lower?
You can also create a table similar to the above to see if your gender fluidity consistently matches up with some other factor that you think might be related to it.
In 2012, Case and Ramachandran gave a report on the results of a survey of genderfluid people who call themselves bigender who experience involuntary alternation between female and male states. Case and Ramachandran gave this condition the name "Alternating gender incongruity (AGI)." Case and Ramachandran made the hypothesis that gender alternation may reflect an unusual degree (or depth) of hemispheric switching, and the corresponding suppression of sex appropriate body maps in the parietal cortex. They said that "we hypothesize that tracking the nasal cycle, rate of binocular rivalry, and other markers of hemispheric switching will reveal a physiological basis for AGI individuals' subjective reports of gender switches... We base our hypotheses on ancient and modern associations between the left and right hemispheres and the male and female genders." These doctors think that when bigender people feel a change between their gender identities, it might have to do with a change in how they use parts of their brains. The gender change might also have to do with one of the cycles that everyone has in their body, specifically, a valve in the nose that changes sides every two days (the nasal cycle). This is only a hypothesis, meaning that it is an interesting idea that doesn't have proof for now.
It's common for genderfluid people feel a need to change their gender expression to match whatever their current gender has become. This may mean having groups of different kinds of clothing in their closet, so they can dress as a woman, man, or otherwise, depending on how they feel that day. It can also mean temporarily changing their body shape by using binding, packing, breast prostheses, or tucking. However, sometimes changing their gender expression isn't possible. This can be because the changes happen more than once a day for them, or because they don't look androgynous, or they don't feel safe in society if they were to present a certain way.
Genderfluid people don't necessarily look androgynous. They don't necessarily have an ambiguous face, body, or way of dress.
Feeling painfully uncomfortable about how one's body and social role don't match one's gender (gender dysphoria) isn't a requirement in order to be genderfluid. It depends on the person, and each person is different, experiencing gender fluidity in their own way. Some genderfluid people experience gender dysphoria at times, or all the time. Some want to change their bodies, and some take a physical transition to do so, which may include hormones or surgery. Others don't take a transition, because in their personal case, any change they make to their body would only feel right to them when they were in a certain gender, and would feel wrong in others. Yet others have a difficult time planning their transition path, because their feelings change about what they want.
Some genderfluid people ask to be called by a different name and pronouns depending on what gender they feel at a certain time. For people who switch between only two genders, this can mean switching between two names. These may be feminine and masculine versions of the same name, but they could also be names that don't sound alike at all. They may also take a gender-neutral name that works for them at any time, either in addition to these names, or instead of them.
Compared with multiple personalities
Genderfluid people don't think of themselves as having multiple personalities. Some genderfluid people feel like the same person all the time, with the same likes and dislikes, just with a different gender. For them, it isn't like multiple personalities, and they don't have a concern about this. However, some genderfluid people switch between specific personas along with their genders, where each persona has their own likes and dislikes. Those people may notice similarities between this and multiple personalities, and may ask a therapist if they have that condition.
The unhealthy form of multiple personalities is called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). It used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). In DID, a switch between personalities means that the other personality isn't aware of the amount of time or things that happen while they weren't the one who was active. When the other personality switches back, they don't remember what happened during that time. That's called a blackout or lost time, and it's the main thing that makes DID risky. The main difference between gender fluidity and DID is that genderfluid people don't have these blackouts. Another difference is that DID is usually thought to be caused by a traumatic experience, such as having been abused as a child. (However, this is debated. It isn't certain that all cases of DID have an origin in trauma.) Genderfluidity isn't caused by trauma. Another thing that makes trouble in DID is that the personalities can't communicate with one another.
A healthy form of multiple personalities isn't formally recognized by psychology, but there is a community of people who say they have healthy multiplicity or plurality. Personalities within a healthy plural system don't experience lost time, have worked out living agreements similar to house rules, can communicate with one another, and are on friendly terms with one another. A typical case of DID has none of these characteristics, and these characteristics make it possible for a healthy plural system to function well. This is a sign that multiplicity can be just another way that some people's minds work, in the wide spectrum of neurodiversity.
If someone is considering that their gender fluidity might be like DID or multiplicity, this characteristic is important: "Everybody has different sides to their personality. The difference is that multiplicity involves distinct persons with their own full range of thoughts and emotions, including their own various sides of themselves as well." Even a genderfluid person who has different personas for each gender doesn't necessarily experience these personas as being whole different people, but just as different aspects of their one self. In that case, it isn't much like DID or multiplicity.
In some cases, there is little difference between a genderfluid person who has different personas for each gender, and healthy multiplicity. Genderfluid people of this kind could find that resources created for healthy multiple systems are helpful for themselves as well.
Some people who have thought that they might have DID or multiplicity might find that it works better to call themselves genderfluid.
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