What Does It Mean To Be Gender Fluid? Genderfluid Terms & Pronouns Explained

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Self

As we come to understand the vast nuances in gender identity and expression, there are a lot of words that we use to describe aspects of someone’s gender experience.

It can be difficult for the uninitiated to understand them and the differences between them.

What does it mean to be gender fluid?

Gender fluidity is a label that people can choose to take on that describes their gender identity and gender expression as transient, denoted by change.

Social Psychologist and Astroglide's Resident Sex Researcher Dr. Justin Lehmiller describes gender fluidity as, "the capacity to experience shifts in gender expression and/or identity over time."

As Dr. Lehmiller explains, a gender fluid person’s gender identity or expression may change slowly or quickly. "For some, shifts may occur day-to-day, whereas for others, shifts may take place over much longer periods of time."

Put simply, gender fluidity just indicates that a person’s gender fluctuates over time.

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A gender fluid person’s pronouns are also liable to change along with their identity and expression.

An example of someone who identifies as gender fluid could be a person who, as a young adult, identifies as a woman using the pronouns she/her/hers. Over the course of the next few months, she feels that her previous gender identity and expression no longer describe her, so she instead begins to identify as a man and takes on the pronouns he/him/his.

While the above example demonstrates a single change in gender identity and expression that takes place over months, everyone’s experience with gender is different and a change can take far less or more time.

It's important to note that the distinction between gender identity/expression and sexual attraction cannot be understated.

Keep in mind that Terms like gender-fluid and nonbinary tend to refer to someone's gender identity, not their sexual attraction. Therefore, gender fluid doesn't necessarily mean anything sexually.

A gender-fluid person may also be sexually fluid, but not necessarily. This means that, as a gender-fluid person's gender and expression change, their sexual attraction will not necessarily change.

Gender Fluid vs. Nonbinary

A gender-fluid person is sometimes nonbinary, but not necessarily. A person who identifies as nonbinary is someone that doesn’t fit into the traditional binary gender division of man or woman.

A gender-fluid person that does not describe themselves as nonbinary might fluctuate between male and female, while a gender-fluid person that does describe themselves as nonbinary may not necessarily have a gender identity that fits into that gender dichotomy.

It’s important to note that a nonbinary person may identify as a combination of male and female, only part of one or both, or may not identify with either of the sides of the standard gender division at all.

Gender Fluid vs. Genderqueer

A gender-fluid person isn’t necessarily genderqueer, similarly to nonbinary. Genderqueer and nonbinary share similar definitions and are often confused with one another.

In short, a genderqueer person is someone that, just like nonbinary, doesn’t fit into the culturally standard understanding of gender.

Genderqueer and nonbinary are used interchangeably, but genderqueer is also used as an umbrella term to describe non-cisgender people so, by that definition, a gender-fluid person could swap between being genderqueer and not over time.

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Gender Fluid vs. Gender-Neutral

Gender-neutral typically describes something that is not gendered, such as the gender-neutral pronouns "they, them."

Gender-neutral sometimes also refers to anything, regardless of and without defining gender.

Gender fluid conversely refers to an expression of gender that changes by nature. One day, a gender-fluid person may describe themselves as one gender and the next as a gender-neutral person, a person whose gender is not defined.

Does a gender-fluid person use gender-neutral pronouns?

A person that describes themselves as gender-fluid may use gender-neutral pronouns at one time or another, depending on what their gender identity and expression are.

A gender-fluid person may use he/him/his or she/her/hers, depending on what suits their identity and expression. In such cases, they would be using gendered pronouns.

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If the gender-fluid person felt that they/them/theirs better suited their identity and expression, then they would be using gender-neutral pronouns or neopronouns such as xe/xem/xyr.

Am I gender fluid?

As is the case with questions of identity and expression, you are usually the only person that can answer that sort of question.

Introspection and research are the best ways for each of us to try and understand our own identities.

"There isn’t just one way to be gender-fluid, so there are no hard and fast 'rules,'" explains Dr. Lehmiller. "However, if you experience shifts in how you identify your gender, your preferred pronouns change from time to time, you oscillate between masculine and feminine gender expression, and/or you find it difficult to pin down your gender, you may be gender-fluid."

According to Psychologist and Sex and Relationship Advisor Barbara Santini, author at Giejo Magazine, there are some key signs that you might be gender fluid. These include:

"Feeling offended when your partner calls you their boyfriend today and feeling fine if they call you that another day. Experiencing dysphoria sometimes. Getting uncomfortable with the idea of being known as male or female alone for the rest of your life. Difficulty in pinning down your exact gender. Being fascinated with the gender fluidity concept," she explains.

Doing research online and seeking out resources like The Trevor Project can go a long way in helping each of us better understand ourselves and others.

It's important to use resources available online, including YouTube videos, essays, articles, and studies to develop a fuller understanding of what gender identity and expression are and how it applies to you.

As for specific steps, if you know people who have analyzed and come to conclusions regarding their gender identity, then they could be a great resource to speak to.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.