CW: some discussion of misgendering, transphobia, homophobia, reclaimed q slur
Hi! I'm Grace, and I'm genderfluid!
While of course I do not speak for every genderfluid person out there, and my experiences are tinted through the lens of my other identities and privileges, I thought that answering some questions I get asked a lot could be a useful resource, since we seem to be rather few and far between.
Given that, to my knowledge, I am the only genderfluid person I've ever met, please understand that my experiences are subjective and that I am by no means an authority on this subject - when in doubt, respectfully ask the person in question. I represent but a drop in the genderfluid river (pun very intended)!
Let's get started!
Q: What's that? I haven't heard of that.
A: For me, being genderfluid means that I change genders and pronouns day to day, hour to hour, even moment to moment!
More broadly, it means that one's gender is not fixed or set in stone, and can vary between a wide variety of presentations, feelings, and pronouns. For some, this means variation within one identity, although having a fluctuating experience of the presence of gender (e.g., sometimes you have a gender, sometimes you don't) is more often referred to as "genderflux." It can also vary between a select group of genders or pronouns, like for me. I use they/them, she/her, fey/fem/feirs, and he/him depending on the day/hour/moment, and each feels distinct to me. Some vary between she and he, or she and they, or he, e, and ve, or any of the infinite combinations possible. There are many, many ways to be genderfluid.
Q: I'm confused. How am I supposed to know which pronouns you're using?
A: Some people wear pronoun pins or patches to indicate which set they're using at that time. I personally have a little bag of pronoun necklaces that I switch when appropriate. This can be helpful when meeting a group of people, because you have something to point to, in case of confusion.
That said, it is also totally valid not to have visual signposting of one's pronouns, for any reason. Some of those reasons may include if the person is living somewhere less accepting of queerness, or if they're not out to everyone in their life, or if they don't want to label themselves so concretely, or a variety of other reasons. In this case, it's best to just talk to the individual person about what they're OK with, because everyone is different and experience varies.
Q: OK, that makes sense, but what if I'm talking about you and you're not there? What pronouns do I use then?
A: Some folks, like me, have "default" pronouns that are always OK to use if you're unsure - mine are they/them. Others prefer to be referred to as whatever they last told you, and I'm sure there are many other preferences out there. Best just to ask the person in question what they prefer.
Q: Wait, if sometimes you're a girl and sometimes you're a guy, does liking girls make you gay or straight? How do you navigate that kind of identity?
A: this is entirely dependent upon the person. I'm bi, so it doesn't really matter to me. My only comment here is that sexuality can be as fluid or as fixed as gender is for each person.
Q: You've been using *insert pronouns here* a lot lately. Are you sure you're not secretly *that gender*?
A: I'm not secretly anything. Some people gravitate more towards one gender, others are more varied. For instance, some people identify as genderfluid women/men. Reasons could include growing up with one identity and realizing later that it wasn't fixed, or one gender occurring more often than others, but everyone they interact with isn't entitled to that information any more than they're entitled to their credit card number.
Just because someone is "mostly" one thing doesn't discount their other experiences. For instance, someone who is pansexual with a preference for one gender is still pansexual. Thusly, someone who is genderfluid and uses she/her more often than other pronouns is still genderfluid. Impermanence is a human condition, not an abnormality.
That said, many kinds of identity are transient and shifting, and someone who used to ID as genderfluid coming out as a fixed gender isn't any less valid than someone who used to ID as a fixed gender coming out as genderfluid. We are all constantly changing as people, and discounting someone else's impermanent experience as "not real" or "just a phase" isn't the way to support them or help them - it just hurts.
Q: Why haven't I heard about this before?
A: I can count the genderfluid representation I've seen in media on my fingers. It almost fits on one hand, and almost half of it is by one guy. There are also prevalent stereotypes and prejudices that aim to discount trans identities that are fixed with the general idea of "well if that were true, I could identify as something different every day!", and undoubtedly this perpetuation contributes to the erasure of genderfluid identity.
On a less depressing note, if you want to consume media with genderfluid folks in it, here's a few!
- the Magnus Chase series (book) (Rick Riordan)
- The Gay And Wondrous Life Of Caleb Gallo (Youtube series)
- the Agents of Asgard run of Marvel comics portrays Loki as genderfluid, in response to the varying interpretations of Loki's gender in Norse mythology, similar to the modern interpretation of the Greek god Dionysus as the patron of nonbinary gender
I found these on the wikipedia page, so I don't know if they're good or not
- Annabel (book) (Kathleen Winter)
- Symptoms of being human (book) (Jeff Garvin)
- They (movie) (Rhys Fehrenbacher)
- Star (the character's name is Miss Bruce, its a TV show so it might just be one episode)