What Is Gender Fluid?

Having a gender identity or expression that is moving, not constant

In This Article

People who describe themselves as gender fluid usually mean that their gender identity or expression is moving, rather than constant. For example, they may move between a non-binary and male gender identity and expression.

They may never describe their identity as anything but fluid, but present themselves differently depending on the day. Or some gender fluid people may present themselves in a consistent manner but identify as man, woman, or agender at different times. Gender fluidity is very much an individual experience.

Meaning of Gender Fluid

In addition to gender fluid identities, there is a growing move towards using gender fluid philosophies in parenting, teaching , and other realms. In those circumstances, gender fluid refers to an explicit recognition that gender, and gendered expectations, play an enormous role across numerous aspects of society and that that role is not necessarily helpful.

Therefore, gender fluid teaching or parenting talks about all genders, instead of men and women. It does not assign colors, toys, or activities as male or female. It encourages exploration of all options rather than limiting to those that would be expected based on a person's assigned sex or gender identity.

It does not police gender, but instead allows for a broad experience of gendered possibilities. Gender fluid methodologies may both remove gender as irrelevant and encourage a broader embrace of the meaning of gender.

Relevant Terminology

There are a number of terms that gender fluid people might use when discussing their gender or related concepts. These include:

  • Agender: Means "without gender," an identity expressed by people who feel that gender is not a relevant concept for them
  • Bigender: Having two genders
  • Binary gender: The idea that all individuals must be male or female, or asserting a male or female, rather than non-binary gender
  • Gender expectations: The assumptions that we make about how people should behave based on their gender identity and expression
  • Gender expression: The way one presents oneself that reflects one's gender. For example, hair cuts and clothing are often gendered in a particular way. Vocal mannerisms and movement can also be a part of gender expression
  • Gender identity: A person's internal sense of themselves as gendered—male, female, non-binary, gender fluid, etc. Individuals whose gender identity is what would be expected for their recorded sex at birth are described as cisgender.
  • Gender spectrum: The idea that, like sex, gender exists along a spectrum. This spectrum not only goes from male to female but may have elements that are orthogonal to maleness and femaleness, in other words outside the binary.
  • Genderqueer: Someone whose gender identity queers gender. Individuals who identify as gender queer may be describing their gender as "other" or have a meaning that is particular to them.
  • Neutrois: A "neutral" gender or non-gender, which is one type of non-binary gender
  • Non-binary: Sometimes used as a catch-all for genders other than male or female, and sometimes as an identity in and of itself
  • Recorded sex at birth: Also called assigned sex at birth. The sex that is recorded on the birth certificate. Usually recorded as male or female, although some jurisdictions allow for individuals with certain differences in sexual development (i.e. intersex individuals) to receive a different marker.

Healthcare Issues

Individuals who identify as gender fluid may or may not have healthcare needs that are particular to their gender. Some gender fluid individuals do not experience gender dysphoria and, as such, may have no interest in medical or surgical gender transition.

Other gender fluid individuals experience that fluidity in a range that is not comfortable given their physiology, and may wish to address any subsequent dysphoria with gender affirming hormone therapy or certain types of gender surgery.

For example, some gender fluid individuals who are assigned female at birth may be interested in top surgery that reduces the size of their chest so that they feel more able to present in both masculine and feminine manners.

Regardless of their interest in gender care, gender fluid individuals may experience difficulty navigating the healthcare system. As with other transgender groups, gender fluid people may experience either overt or subtle discrimination from providers who have difficulty understanding their gender or hold forms of bias against those who subvert gender norms.

They may particularly experience issues when accessing sexual health care from providers who are poorly educated about, or uncomfortable with, gender and sexual diversity.

Awareness

Gender fluidity is not a new concept. Individuals have moved between gendered identities and presentations throughout recorded history. What is new is the growing, explicit awareness of the many ways that gendered expectations affect the ways that people move through the world.

This awareness has taken place, at least in part, because of an increase in highly gendered marketing and production of commercial goods. Unnecessary gendering is used for products that are marketed to people across the lifespan, including everything from toys to adult beverages.

These are all products that could easily be bought and used by people of any gender, but which are targeted at a particular gender in ways that often invoke problematic stereotypes. This way of assigning gender to inanimate objects can have the effect of making gendered expectations more rigid, both consciously and unconsciously.

Awareness of gender fluidity as a concept has the potential to help people disentangle the ways that the cultural construction of gender both benefits and impairs them as they move through the world.

Broadening acceptance of gender fluidity means there are more opportunities for people to express their whole selves, even when those selves do not necessarily conform to expectations for their gender or sex.

A Word From Verywell

Most people have a gender identity that is relatively consistent, not fluid, which may make it difficult for them to understand how gender could fluctuate across hours, days, or years.

However, it is not necessary to fully understand another person's gender identity to treat them with respect and kindness. It's simply necessary to treat them as the person they are—reflecting their name and pronouns and changing them as appropriate. Then, if a mistake is made, apologize and do better moving forward.

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