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, or some other combination therein. 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 could also fit under 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 use other labels such as genderqueer, bigender, multigender, or polygender. It's important to understand that each person has the right to decide what to call their gender identity.
The word "genderfluid" has been in use since at least the 1990s. In the 1990s and 2000s, it might have been more common for genderfluid people 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. Some move from one gender to the next on a regular cycle, resembling a lunar cycle, or synchronizing with their menstrual cycle. Other genderfluid people are sometimes able to use their willpower to guide their gender to change in a way and/or at the time that they want it to.
Menstrual cycle and its effect on gender fluidity
While it is still unclear, changes in gender that correlate with the menstrual cycle could be caused by how hormone levels naturally rise and fall during menstruation. However, it's also possible to mistakenly believe that gender identity moves with the menstrual cycle, and the only way to be sure is to keep a daily journal. Such a journal could look 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|
After enough data is collected, any patterns that exist should become visible. These patterns could include feeling like a certain gender during a certain day in the cycle or feeling like a certain gender at times when a certain hormone, such as estrogen, is highest/lowest. Similar tables can be used to track if gender identity is connected to a different cycle.
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 "hypothesize[d] 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." Case and Ramachandran believe that when bigender people feel a change between their gender identities, it may have to do with a change in how they use parts of their brains. The gender change might also have to do with a natural body cycle, specifically, a valve in the nose that changes sides every two days (the nasal cycle). However, this idea is still only a hypothesis, and more study is needed to confirm it.
Genderfluid people often 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, in some situations, changing gender expression isn't possible. This could be because the changes happen more than once a day, because they don't look androgynous, or because 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.
Gender dysphoria, or feeling painfully uncomfortable about how one's body and social role don't match one's gender, isn't a requirement in order to be genderfluid. 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 choose to transition because 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 or names that don't sound similar 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.
Gender fluidity and dissociative identity disorder
Genderfluid people usually don't think of themselves as having alters. Most genderfluid people feel like the same person all the time, with the same likes and dislikes but a different gender. However, some genderfluid people switch between specific personas as they change genders, and each persona has their own likes and dislikes. This is different from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which is a disorder characterized by dissociation and the existence of alters. DID is frequently caused by traumatic abuse that happens early in childhood and almost always exists alongside PTSD or cPTSD. Gender fluidity is not caused by abuse and is not more common in people with PTSD or cPTSD.
Multiple/plural systems where some alters have different genders from the others are not automatically genderfluid. However, an individual alter can be genderfluid.
Notable genderfluid people
See main article: Notable nonbinary people
There are many more notable people who have a gender identity outside of the binary. The following are only some of those notable people who specifically use the words genderfluid or fluid gender for themselves.
- Jonathan Rachel Clynch (b. 1971) is a well-known journalist in Ireland. "One of Irish broadcaster RTE’s best-known journalists just [in 2015] came out as 'gender fluid,' and the response so far seems wholly positive. ... The 44-year-old, who has yet to make a public statement, told his bosses that he wishes to now be known as Jonathan Rachel and would sometimes dress as a female. ... Clynch has worked with RTE for 16 years, often filling in on Radio One’s flagship 'News at One.' ... 'He has been open about it for a while now and his friends and family were all aware of his situation. He is going through a process at the moment and will speak about it in his own time and he hopes everyone will be respectful of that.'"
- Dorian Electra (b. 1992) is an American singer, songwriter, video and performance artist. "Styling is so important to me as a genderfluid person, to be able to say “I’m a very flaming flammable guy”... it’s just very satisfying, ’cause that’s how I see myself, but I know it’s not necessarily how other people see me – they still call me ‘ma’am’ and stuff like that."
- Ruby Rose (b. 1986) is an actor who has won the ASTRA Awards, GQ Australia, GLAAD Media Awards, and the Australian LGBTI Awards. "On 22 July 2014, Rose came out as genderfluid, saying, "I am very gender fluid and feel more like I wake up every day sort of gender neutral.". This announcement came approximately a week after she released a short film called "Break Free," in which she visually transitions from a very feminine woman to a heavily tattooed man."
Genderfluid characters in fiction
See main article: Nonbinary gender in fiction
There are many more nonbinary characters in fiction who have a gender identity outside of the binary. The following are only some of those characters who are specifically called by the words genderfluid or fluid gender, either in their canon, or by their creators. At the very least, characters in this section should be known to present different gender expressions at different times, if the word "genderfluid" isn't used.
- Brendan Chase. At the end of the novel, Freakboy, the main character, Brendan Chase identifies themselves as genderfluid. The book is primarily about their transition, and does end on a depressing note regarding their gender.
- Alex Fierro, in Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, is a genderfluid character who first appears in the second book and uses both he/him and she/her pronouns.
- Tedd. El Goonish Shive includes a main character who identifies as genderfluid several years into the comic. Author Dan Shive has said that Tedd, like the author, has always been genderfluid but did not realise there was a word for it or even a concept of being nonbinary until much later in life. The comic also includes various other LGBT characters as well as shapeshifting technology.
- Kami / Porcelain. The 'New 52' version of Secret Six introduces new character Kami / Porcelain, who is genderfluid and has been shown presenting as male, female and androgynously.
- Tattoo'd by Antonia Bea features an intersex, genderfluid protagonist.
- TOMCAT. In the video game Read Only Memories the character TOMCAT uses they/them pronouns. While it is not directly stated in-game that TOMCAT is nonbinary, artist and director John James has stated in an interview that TOMCAT "is gender fluid".The game also includes other nonbinary characters, including the robot Turing and the protagonist if the player chooses so.
- This quote is a snippet from an answer to the survey conducted in the year 2018. Note for editors: the text of the quote, as well as the name, age and gender identity of its author shouldn't be changed.
- Eve Shapiro, Gender circuits: Bodies and identities in a technological age. Unpaged.
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- Tom Sykes, "A ‘Gender Fluid’ Journalist Comes Out To Irish Cheers." 2015-09-18. Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/18/a-gender-fluid-journalist-comes-out-to-irish-cheers.html
- "Tear Down The Wall" music video released, watchtheswitch.tumblr.com, June 17, 2014
- Jesse Tannous, "Read Only Memories Director discusses LGBTQ themes in gaming." June 20, 2015. The Examiner. https://web.archive.org/web/20151023215026/http://www.examiner.com/article/read-only-memories-director-discusses-lgbtq-themes-gaming