An Identity in Flux // Notes on Genderfluidity

P writes about her experience of genderfluid identity. 

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Grace Jones, pioneer in Genderfluidity discourse in pop-culture

In June I, very slyly, came out as Genderfluid in a piece which was published on Boshemia Blog as part of the “Letters to June” series.

In the millennial age, a range of newly accepted sexualities and gender identities are becoming more widely accepted, but from my experience, I have found that there seems to still be quite a bit of misunderstanding surrounding what it means to be Genderfluid. Many people I speak with seem to be under the impression that this is a form of Trans, or that it is synonymous with Non-Binary. In this piece, I’m going to do my very best to dispel assumptions about what it means to be Genderfluid, and clarify what exactly Genderfluidity is.

Let me start by saying that one of the most important aspects of the identity Genderfluid is that Genderfluidity can mean something completely different to each person who ascribes to it. [Just because I identify this way does not mean I am an expert in this by any means; I am still learning every day.] The most unifying factor of genderfluidity is that it is a gender identity in-flux, whether it be a predictable pattern of fluctuation that the individual has come to know, or an ever-evolving pattern which changes many times over the course of an individual’s life. Just as gender, (and how we express it) is a spectrum, Genderfluid folks have identities in a broad spectrum—ranging from nearly non-binary, mostly binary, demi-boys/demi-girls, androgynous men or women, or individuals which have an identity which flows between some combination of these traits with no fixed gender.

Some Genderfluid folks feel non-binary, or agender; meaning that they feel absolutely no gender at all. Mostly, these folks identify as non-binary, which is a separate identity that is often overlooked,  but sometimes genderfluid folks who feel like they don’t fall within the gender binary may fluctuate between feeling primarily agender and, at other times, like demi-boys or demi-girls. You may be asking yourself: what is a demi-boy or a demi-girl? This is very simple, if you break down the meaning of the prefix -demi: stemming from Old French meaning “half,” and the Latin root word dīmidium, meaning “divided in half.” In other words, demi-boys and demi-girls feel like they are half boy or half girl. Some Genderfluid folks may identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, but sometimes feel agender, androgynous, or that they possess both masculine and feminine qualities either all at once, or varying based upon days, moods, or seasons. Some Gender-fluid folks identify as Gay or Lesbian, but others identify as Queer (a broad term which,  is to sexuality as Genderfluid is to gender), Bisexual, or Straight. It’s important to realise that being genderfluid does not automatically mean you are Gay, Lesbian, Bi or Queer, though many of us do identify with a fluid sexuality. Just don’t make that assumption!

I, myself, feel mostly like a woman, but at times feel like a demi-girl, androgynous, or kind of just neutral, not really any gender, just “me.” For me, I’ve noticed that this fluctuation is mostly seasonal. In the summer, I feel that I possess more masculine traits in my appearance and my mannerisms. In the winter, I feel a bit softer, more feminine. This, however, is also very fluid and can vary based upon the day, primarily in how I wish to present myself aesthetically. Some days I want to wear a dress because I feel femme, or wear a full face of makeup for the same reason. Some days, I want to go fresh-faced and wear clothing that is “boyish.” Sometimes I feel soft and feminine, and wish to be perceived as such, so am soft-spoken, gentler in a sense, and welcome attention to my feminine traits. Sometimes, I feel more masculine and would rather my appearance not be noticed, or at least not be a focus, am brusquer in my speech, more assertive in my actions. The biggest aspect of my fluctuating gender identity is in my appearance, but it is not comprised solely of physical appearance. Overall, I feel that my appearance is androgynous, and my intellectual mind is androgynous as well. I don’t ascribe to traditional gender constructs, and I raise my daughter the same way. I don’t explicitly make her aware of the fact that I’m doing it, but I encourage her to do activities and have interests that she enjoys; in that, gender has no bearing.

I think Grace Jones sums up this feeling in the most effortless, and relatable way that I’ve encountered, when she said: “I feel feminine when I feel feminine. I feel masculine when I feel masculine. I am a role switcher.” Jones was a pioneer in the idea of Genderfluidity, along with others like David Bowie and Elton John, but she specifically carries a tone with which I feel a kinship. She was a truly androgynous mind, whose appearance morphed to fit the ideas in her head. In a 1985 interview she was asked why she would prefer to be masculine, by an interviewer who assumed this was the case. Her response to the interviewer was one which those of us who identify as Genderfluid wish we could tell everyone who makes this assumption: “I like being both actually. It’s not being masculine, it’s an attitude really. Being masculine, what is that? I mean can you tell me? What is being masculine? I just act the way I feel.”

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Grace Jones

Those of us who are Genderfluid, but identify as our birth-given female gender have felt a unifying frustration, as many people assume that our Genderfluidity means we prefer to be masculine and shun our feminine qualities. This applies to Genderfluid folks who feel at peace with their identities as birth-given males, but feel feminine qualities as well. Just because they identify as gender fluid doesn’t mean they feel feminine only while shunning their male qualities. But, for some folks, maybe it does mean that. This is the beauty of Genderfluidity, it is fluid because it is an identity in-flux for everyone who identifies as such, and flows easily from one spectrum to the other, or lingers in multiple spectrums simultaneously. There is no one way to be Genderfluid, and it means something different for each of us Genderfluid folks. But, one thing’s for sure: it’s more than just stealing clothes from your boyfriend’s closet because that oversized t-shirt or pair of boyfriend jeans fits your OOTD best, (Sorry, Gigi.)

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