Metagender is a term that has been coined multiple times with varying definitions, including multiple nonbinary gender identities, spiritual and cultural identities, a combined gender identity and romantic and sexual orientation, a gender modality, a synonym for gender modality, a description for gender-nonconforming behavior, and a super-set for all gender possibilities. Different definitions have been used for LGBT self-identifiers, in feminist/queer theory and activism, and in academic settings.
Usage through history[edit | edit source]
Metagender existed as a technical term prior to its use by LGBT individuals, dating back at least to the 1980s, initially concerned with being outside or transcending binary gender, whether of imagery, perspectives, data, or people. Its use as a technical term with various definitions has persisted into 2020.
LGBT definitions[edit | edit source]
1990s[edit | edit source]
Metagender's early usage by queer communities was recorded in queer and feminist publications, where its definition included post-gender concepts, gender variance, gender-bending, and being neither a man nor a woman.
In a 1998 BITCH essay titled "Metagender and the Slow Decline of the Either/Or," Lisa Voldeng and Laura Kloppenberg coined "metagenderism" to "encapsulat[e] all existing, evolving, and unborn gender models: It is the unlimited superset of all possible (non)genders and gender (non)identities, of individual and cultural existence free from binaristic categorization and definition." This definition was coined in contrast with the contemporary "transgenderism" as defined by trans woman and cultural theorist Sandy Stone. Whereas transgender was a category to "include everyone not covered by our culture's narrow terms man and woman," metagenderism entailed "a comprehensive reenvisioning of gender," to serve as "container for all gender identities, encompassing the two-gender system to transgender and beyond."
2000s[edit | edit source]
The term was coined again by 1997 by Rook Thomas Hine, an identity Hine characterized as being a "conscientious objector" in "the war of the sexes." This concept of metagender was further developed by Phillip Andrew Bernhardt-House. E defined the term in a 2003 anthology as a spiritual identity that was a "'wholly other' third/fourth/eighty-seventh" gender category that was not derived from any combination of woman, man, feminine, masculine, neuter, or androgyne. E described being "a metagender" as similar to being a third gender with a spiritual component while being in a culture that lacked this concept. Metagender developed into a discrete identity as a spiritual functionary inside neopaganism, combining social gender and sexuality (latter being similar to pansexual), which it has remained since 2008 as described by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus.
In a 2004 zine, Katie Cercone listed metagender as a term for "gender-bending."
In a 2006 book on transgender journeys, metagender was defined as "individuals who do not identify as either male or female."
2010s[edit | edit source]
In 2012, metagender was defined in HaifischGeweint's Gender 101 as "a gender identity describing a person whose subjective experience of gender is not adequately described by any existing terminology (i.e., I never “met a” gender like you before)."
In 2014, Metagender was proposed for four different meanings on Tumblr.
- In February, "meta-gender" was suggested by Tumblr user unquietpirate as the label for one's relationship to one's assigned gender at birth, similar to gender modality, to contrast with "experiential gender." Unquietpirate listed cisgender, transgender, and genderqueer as examples of meta-gender, last also being an "experiential gender."
- In June, metagender was suggested by Tumblr user collectivetey as an alternative word for pangender.
- In July, metagender was coined by Tumblr users autisticlapis-blog, agenderchrismclean, and lordmoriarty. The definition was: "to identify around or beyond a gender. Where your gender identity is almost that gender, but not quite, and also extends beyond that. Imagine that — is you, and | is the gender identity (and identifying fully with a gender is —|), then metagender is — | —". For example, meta-boy, meta-girl, meta-nonbinary, and so on. The "—" is also written as "—-".
- In November, metagender was coined by Tumblr user arquus-malvaceae as "a tangential or tenuous connection to the concept of gender. Existing in that sort of floaty space where there is no gender, but still connecting with another label. Identifying with as opposed to identifying as. Can be narrowed down and specified as one sees fit. Eg, Metawoman, Metaman, Metaqueer, etc."
At Pantheacon 2015, a neopagan convention, at least two persons spoke about their metagender identity at a roundtable discussion on gender diversity as derived from the spiritual definition by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. After the convention, Priestx Jaina Bee wrote:
|«||Metagender opens up uninhibited freedom to be myself; a one-size-fits-me label that is no particular gender but neither is it agender. It is a slippery, slithery gender that evades every attempt to define it; a trickster gender. (Every person in this conformist culture who does not identify with their assigned gender is forced in some way to become a trickster, even if they would not be otherwise. Metagender is trickster to the core.) Ask nine metagender people what metagender means and you'll get twelve answers.||»|
|— Jaina Bee, March 15, 2015|
Author Maxfield Sparrow, who has spoken about coming out as metagender in 1992, wrote about being metagender on various channels across the 2010s. In Sparrow's 2017 blog essay "What is Metagender," Sparrow described the difficulty of defining the identity, describing its similarity to gendervague. Sparrow expanded on their metagender identity in a 2018 anthology, writing that metagender "expresses feeling outside the entire paradigm of gender."
In interviews for a 2018 thesis, an anonymous interviewee described metagender as an identity "beyond gender."
2020-present[edit | edit source]
In July 2020, metagender was coined again by Every Winters, Tenacity and others as a gender modality for persons who are not cisgender and do not identify as transgender, similar to isogender and absgender. Of the new term, one nonbinary person said:
|«||Not all nonbinary people identify as trans, for various reasons. Because of this, a new term has also been coined to cover nonbinary people: metagender. I do acknowledge that I am technically transgender, but I also feel like the label doesn’t quite fit me. There’s still a lot of binary expectations with being transgender and I don’t see that experience as my own. At the same time, I wholly believe that nonbinary people should be accepted by the transgender community.||»|
|— B.Alvinia, "Somewhere In Between"|
Gender Census and other data[edit | edit source]
In the 2019 Worldwide Gender Census, one respondent called themselves metagender. In the 2020 Worldwide Gender Census, four respondents called themselves metagender. As of December 28, 2020, the "Metagender and Questioning" facebook group, founded after the gender modality coining, had 506 members, with an unknown number of members being metagender themselves.
Bugis society of Indonesia[edit | edit source]
For 600 years into the present day, Bugis Society recognizes four genders, plus a fifth gender, bissu. Bissu, seen as a gender which combines and transcends other genders, has been labeled a "meta-gender" identity by anthropologists since 2001. "Bissu embody elements of all genders within them, and thereby occupy a space outside or above any single gender identity. They are essentially beyond gender — ‘meta-gender’ or ‘gender-transcendent’ as they are sometimes described." This usage of meta-gender was later adopted in Bahasa Indonesia (the official language of Indonesia) as a loanword for describing the bissu, serving as a category for genders that transcend gender roles and a description of transcending gendered power relations to reach higher powers.
Theology, anthropology, and spirituality[edit | edit source]
Metagender is used to describe gender variance in spirituality, anthropology, and religion. Multiple religious or spiritual concepts and identities have been called metagender. In anthropology, spiritual third gender identities have been labeled metagender. In theology of multiple religions, spiritual identities—some divine and others obtainable by religious adherents—have been labeled meta-gender.
In anthropology, metagender has been applied to modern societies such as the Bugis as well as pre-history. In Aegean scholarship of the genderless aspects of Minoan culture, applying meta-gender as a third gender concept "better conveys something above and beyond binary categories" than "genderless."
Christianity[edit | edit source]
Metagender was used to describe the transcendent gender of virgin saints in scholarly reconstructions by 2003. Theorized in the writings of the Latin Doctors in the fourth and fifth centuries, the metagendered virum perfectum, belonging to the Body of Christ, encompassed and transcended masculine and feminine genders to become an angelic, otherworldly metagender. Through virginity and devotion to scripture, any sex could transcend earthly pleasures to become the heavenly metagender. Some Christians in the present day also use metagender to describe this state of transcending human gender to achieve a Godlike gender.
Gender-variant figures in spirituality and religion[edit | edit source]
In addition to human spiritual identities, divine beings have been called "meta-gendered"—in the sense of transcending human gender categories—in religious scholarship and education of multiple religions. Examples include angels in Islam, the Christian God, and other spiritualities. One neopagan deity, Paneros of the Tetrad++, was "birthed" specifically as a metagendered deity.
Academic and technical usage[edit | edit source]
Metagender(ed) (sometimes meta-gender(ed) or metagenderism) has been used to describe "the academic engagement with or the theorizing of gender," religious identities and spiritual states that transcend gender, systems of gender, sets of gender, being beyond or outside binary gender categories, applying regardless of gender or to all genders equally, and otherwise being about gender.
|«||These dynamics are meta-gendered, in that they impact men and women and those who don’t identify in the binary, without particular discrimination, putting all of us at risk for weirdly pervasive and unexamined suffering.||»|
|— Craig & Devon Hase, 2020|
|«||All the mapped gender types with valid annotations are split into a list of meta gender types, i.e., ‘Biological Male’, ‘Biological Female’, ‘Transgender Male’ and ‘Transgender Female.’||»|
|— An approach for transgender population information extraction and summarization from clinical trial text, 2019|
|«||I use the term metagender to indicate that all of the above work together. In order to conform successfully to the patriarchal requirements of the metagender binary the four genders must be congruent…all their gender building blocks incontestably in one metagender box…Some people do, however, reject the patriarchal binary and experiment with alternative metagenders.”||»|
|— Negotiating Boundaries? Identities, Sexualities, Diversities, 2009|
Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]
In 2010, "MetaGender" was used as an informal community-specific term to refer to the metafilter website's open text field for gender. In 2017, pronouns were added as an open field, and in 2020 the gender field was deleted, citing the jokey nature of old answers that had aged badly.
MÉTA GENDER is the name of a French Butoh-Queer performance deconstructing gender, body, music, and performance, first performed in the 2010s.
Metagender's relationship with Transgender[edit | edit source]
Metagender's relationship with transgender has taken multiple forms over the decades. Both terms have gained less expansive definitions and more specific connotations, with some definitions overlapping and some contrasting to the point of mutual exclusion. Metagender's use in academia and as a technical term has diverged from LGBT uses, sometimes concerned with abstractions of gender independent of gender identity and thus gender modalities, including transgender.
- Contained transgender
- Been contained by transgender
- Overlapped with transgender
- Been mutually exclusive with transgender
- Been tangentially related to transgender
- Been unrelated to transgender
Transgender once included gender non-conforming people who would now be considered cisgender, with metagender being alternatively a description for gender behavior and sexes outside binarism and heteronormativity or a super-set containing all means of conceptualizing gender or lack thereof, including transgender definitions. Complaints about transgender's inclusiveness that specifically contrasted with an expansive definition of metagender emerged as early as 1994. Metagender was described as a more expansive approach to gender outside strict cis binaries than transgender without being mutually exclusive, used to highlight the limitations of a dichotomy to contain all gender experiences.
Metagender developed several niche definitions that some metagender people put under an expansive transgressively-gendered transgender umbrella that included gender non-conforming people. Despite the work of Leslie Feinberg in the 1990s to coin transgender as a wide and inclusive umbrella term covering all forms of transgressive gender, transgender became more associated with transsexualism, gender dysphoria, and binary gender, while cisgender gender non-conforming people were no longer defined as transgender. Transmedicalists resisted the inclusion of nonbinary people as transgender or under a broader trans umbrella. Some terms were coined by people outside the gender binary out of frustration with the transgender umbrella. (See "Is Genderqueer Transgender?") As with others of genderqueer or nonbinary gender, some people of metagender gender identity described themselves as technically transgender without identifying as transgender themselves or vice versa. Others saw their gender identity as complementary to transgender definitions.
Metagender's re-coining as a gender modality that by definition is for people who are neither cis nor trans (or are not cisgender but do not consider themselves trans) is a stricter contrast to other definitions of transgender and metagender, but as with early definitions of metagender highlights the weakness of a dichotomy to contain all experiences of (non)gender.
Some metagender people consider themselves to fall under the transgender umbrella and some do not. While the trans umbrella is broadly seen to include all non-cisgender individuals, the advice of public health, gender diverse advocates, and gender diverse people themselves is to always use the descriptive term(s) preferred by the individual.
References[edit | edit source]
- "Annales D'archéologie Égéenne de L'Université de Liège". Aegaeum. 30: 231. 1987.
We can see...what does help us to approach the door that opens onto Minoan realities is to study the meta-gender of the aniconic. We discern a cluster of symbols that were definitely greater than just female or male.
- Bal, Mieke (1992). Murder and difference: gender, genre, and scholarship on Sisera's death. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 111–112. ISBN 978-0-585-02512-4. OCLC 42854270.
Just as with disciplinary codes, notably the theological and liteary codes, the meta-gender code adopted by the interpreter in search of difference ought to be distinguished, first, from the personal gender code he or she has also adopted, most implicitly, by virtue of membership in a particular sexual group, and second, from the gender code he or she assumes the other has adopted...I will confront the possible contribution of a meta-gender code to the personal gender code, which, as we will see in the sample interpretations, remains implicit.
- Costello, Bonnie (1989). "Domestic Mysticism". Partisan Review. 56 (4): 671. ISSN 0031-2525 – via Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.
One challenge for contemporary women poets is to decide just how far they wish 'womanhood' to define the terms of their awareness. It is a good sign, I think, that 'the soul' has returned with a fresh, contemporary aura, not genderless, but metagendered. The metaphysical impulse arising in, altered and constrained by biology, runs through many of our best women-poets.
- Jones, Billie Jean. Hernandez, Michael M. (1994). GenderFlex. 4(23). p 13. Retrieved at https://www.digitaltransgenderarchive.net/files/gx41mh96x "There was an interesting letter in the S.F. Bay Times (August 25, 1994) from a person born intersexed who identified as a feminist member of the womyn's community. This person was highly critical of ' ... this newly expanded, all-inclusive "transgendered" category' and resented being lumped into said category. This person does not openly identify as a TS '...increasingly because of the new tendency to lump all metagender situations together to include men who play at drag.' Railing against the '... insulting-to-womyn draggy/tv posturing', the writer also omitted any mention of FTMs."
- Kloppenberg, Laura. Voldeng, Lisa. (1998). "Metagender & the Slow Decline of the Either/Or." BITCH, 3(1), p 33-34.
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It's great that people decided there should be a word for those who aren't cis and aren't trans but I wish they had not chosen the word [metagender] I've been using since 1992 and defined me out of my own identity and then told me I don't matter because I'm old and my identity is only history
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I am female but not a woman because I'm also male (and not a man). I'm an epicene. I'm metagender. I'm transmasculine.
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I’m performing the poem “Reclaiming Cunt” as an affirmation and validation of my gender and how I express it, as a metagender person with a masculine body presentation.
- Sparrow, Maxfield. [@UnstrangeMind] (13 March 2018). "Thank you. I think words are changing a lot these days. Non-binary didn't exist when I first started identifying as metagender. And I went 26 years not realizing I was Trans until I felt the need to transition. I'm glad the Trans umbrella is opening up now & more inclusive" – via Twitter.
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I referred to myself as metagender for many years
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I didn't begin identifying as metagender until my 30s. Metagender means that I don't feel like a woman and I don't feel like a man. I don't feel like a gender at all. But I don't feel 'genderless,' either. Metagender is a word that expresses feeling outside the entire paradigm of gender...I am metagender because I don't grasp gender at all.
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Raz be-lieves that androgyny or meta-gender is the ideal in his materials.
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Applying the concept of a third gender is rare in Aegean scholarship... Cadogan observes that the genderless aspects of Minoan culture... are understudied. He believes that the term 'meta-gender' better conveys something above and beyond binary categories.
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...a triadic logos that interrelates "[b]lood and brain and spirit, three," which if "parted," "[s]ome one sailing will be wrecked!" ("Woods" 352, 355, 356). (8) This logos is meta-gender, and it can accommodate a broad spectrum of socioeconomic positions, from the liberal to the conservative.
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The Victorian woman’s discourse is dominated by the situational and contextual factors; on the other hand, the factor of gender is of relative importance. This testifies preeminence of the metagender (common to the society / mankind on the whole) in the stereotypic communication of the Victorian woman.
- Devlin-Glass, Frances (1998). "'Teasing the audience with the play': feminism and Shakespeare at the Melbourne Theatre Company, 1984-93". Australasian Drama Studies (33): 21–39. ISSN 0810-4123 – via https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=200000904;res=IELAPA.
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