What Is Gender Fluid?

A person who is gender fluid is flexible in regard to the sex with which they identify. They believe that gender is non-binary, meaning that not all humans fit squarely into either the male or female category. Gender, then, is different from biological sex, which refers to the genitalia with which you are born.

Dr. Margaret Seide, Board-certified Psychiatrist

Being gender fluid means that you don’t have a set gender or set place on the gender spectrum.

— Dr. Margaret Seide, Board-certified Psychiatrist

She adds, “The term is an acknowledgment that there is a spectrum and that gender is not binary. How you experience your gender can change over time or depending on the situation.”

The History of Gender Fluidity

Gender fluidity is a fairly new term and, to that extent, concept. That doesn’t mean that gender fluid people didn’t exist until recently; in fact, there are many examples of people throughout history who fell outside of binary sexual identification. The difference is that the topic simply was not widely discussed. Even today, the term gender fluid is fairly uncommon in certain communities.

“There are socio-cultural norms, some of which have their basis in religion. Also, almost every society we know of has some sort of societally imposed gender-normative expectations, whether that is dress, relationship roles, or general behavior,” says Dr. Seide.

“As you experience the world, you are exposed to these social constructs that define masculinity and femininity and that shapes our expectations of our own behavior.” 

All that said, since about the mid-2000s, conversations about sexuality and gender identity have started to trickle into mainstream. Though gender is still quite rigid in our culture, we are now seeing increased sensitivity around the topic.

Is Gender Fluidity a Fixed Identification?

Currently, we do not have a huge amount of data regarding how innate or fixed gender fluidity is because it is still such a relatively new topic and concept. However, you cannot argue with how a person feels. If someone does not personally identify with either the male or female gender, and/or if they do not wish to put themselves into a certain box according to societal expectations, that’s all there is to it. 

The bottom line is that whether or not someone personally accepts the concept of gender fluidity, it’s in best practice to respect anyone’s gender identity

How to Determine if You’re Gender Fluid

“It is pretty difficult to tap into your true gender journey if it doesn’t match up to societal expectations because if you look in a clothing store, a television commercial, or even conventional romantic relationships, there are pretty clearly defined roles,” says Dr. Seide. “You know what is expected of you based on your genitals, and finding your voice in all that isn’t easy.”

Though complex, there are ways to navigate that confusion and external noise. One of your best options is to speak with a mental health professional — ideally someone who is well-versed in gender identity.

This person will know the right questions to ask in order to provide you more clarity. For example, they may discuss your role is in your own sexual fantasies, which Dr. Seide says is particularly helpful since you’re the writer and the script is often unedited.

A therapist might also ask you questions such as:

  • How do you feel about your biological sex?
  • Do you feel like you identify more with one sex or another?
  • Do you feel like you don’t identify with either sex?
  • How do you feel when someone assumes that you are one sex or another?

You can, of course, determine that you’re gender fluid without outside help. This often requires introspection, pushing away societal norms and expectations, and connecting with others who are navigating the same journey as you.

There are many resources that can help you along the way, including books, articles, online forums, and even groups that meet in the real-world.

How to Discuss Your Gender Fluidity

We want to be clear that you are under no obligation to discuss your gender fluidity with others. However, there are instances when you might want to do so, including with close friends, romantic partners, and family members. This can be tricky since the topic is not that common, and because there are, unfortunately, some lingering stigmas and assumptions.

Though it might not be easy, society is coming along slowly but surely in regard to knowledge and acceptance of gender and sexuality issues. Expect for people to have questions about what gender identity even is, and what gender fluidity means to you. With romantic partners, you might want to discuss how (if at all) your gender fluidity might impact your relationship. 

Gender Fluidity Vs. Sexual Fluidity

Though often conflated and somewhat similar, gender fluidity and sexual fluidity are actually quite different from each other. While gender fluidity implies flexibility regarding what gender you identify with, sexual fluidity refers to flexibility regarding to whom you’re attracted. 

“Sexual fluidity encompasses terms such as pansexual, asexual, and bisexual — just a few examples — and is no longer seen as occurring in a fixed way with two or three categories,” says Dr. Seide.

She adds that scientific data has greatly contributed to today’s better understanding of sexuality in general, and that it’s more of a continuum versus something that is rigid. Interestingly, with the help of science we can now gather empirical data via technology that observes how the brain and sexual organs react to certain stimuli.

“For example, we can say this person is bisexual based on the fact that they experience the physical response associated with sexual attraction when shown pictures of both men and women. This has also been able to demonstrate that some people are more sexual than others,” explains Dr. Seide.

A Word From Verywell

A person who is gender fluid is flexible in regard to where they identify on the gender spectrum. Though a relatively new term, there’s a long history of people who fit within this description. Whether you are gender fluid or know someone who is, practicing acceptance and kindness is of utmost importance.

 

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