Gender fluidity relates to a person whose gender expression or gender identity (or both) is non-fixed, but can shift over time.

What is gender fluid – meaning and explanation

A gender fluid individual can go through several non-fixed expressions of gender. 

For some, it’s a transitory phase which allows people to explore different aspects of their own gender identity before finding their true gender identification. For others, it’s an ongoing process that lasts throughout their lifetime.

The need for an inclusive gender fluid meaning is important in order to challenge traditional stereotypes and norms. A person who identifies as gender fluid may be non-binary or transgender, but they can also identify with their biological or birth-assigned gender.

The term ‘gender fluidity’ has come to acknowledge that gender doesn’t need to be fixed, and that we don’t need to align ourselves with one specific gender. Some people feel their identity fits outside the gender binary, or somewhere in between. 

In short, the term recognizes that there are alternate ways of expressing gender identity.

The difference between gender identity and gender expression

When speaking of gender fluidity, the terms gender identity and gender expression are often interchangeably used. However, there is an important difference between the two. 

A person’s gender identity relates to their experienced gender identification, whereas gender expression refers to how the person expresses themselves through their gender identity. Some people have a predominantly masculine or feminine way of expressing their gender – but they may also express themselves in ways that are neither, or both.

What is cisgender?

Cisgender refers to a person who identifies with their birth-assigned gender, which matches their sex (male or female) on their birth certificate. 

A gender fluid person can, depending on the situation or their experienced gender identification at the time, identify as cisgender. However, this is a non-fixed identification that can very well shift later in life.

It is also important to mention that a person’s gender fluidity might be only in the way they express themselves, but not in their identity. It can also be the other way around. Likewise, gender identity and gender expression can evolve together.

Gender fluidity has always existed, even though the concept is new

The concept of gender fluidity hasn’t been around very long. Still, history has many examples that prove the concept has existed for a very long time.

Gender fluid or non-binary?

As an identity, being gender fluid is typically associated with transgender and nonbinary identities and, even though there are some similarities, they aren’t exactly the same. In all three cases, these are terms that apply to individuals whose gender identity diverges from their assigned gender at birth. 

But far from every individual who identifies as non-binary also identifies as gender-fluid.

Non-binary gender identities are often outside of the traditional gender binary. Therefore, non-binary is an umbrella term for many different non-binary identifications, including:

Gender fluidity and sexual fluidity

Gender fluidity has its roots in the concept of sexual fluidity – the idea that sexual orientations exist beyond the conventional norms of heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. As in the case of gender fluidity, a person’s sexual identity can also be fluid, meaning it might change repeatedly over the time.

Different people will define gender fluidity in different ways, but one thing most agree on is the basic idea that gender isn’t one fixed point. It is flexible and can shift depending on the person’s own internal self or the context they find themselves in.

Gender fluidity and transgender identity

Most people develop their gender identity in early childhood, typically around the age of 3 or 4. Gender identity is influenced by many factors, such as:

Each of these factors can have different, sometimes conflicting, norms about gender identity and gender expression

An example of conflicting gender values

An adolescent might live in a family that encourages diversity when it comes to expressions of gender and identity, but also live in a community where boys and girls are expected to dress and act according to their sex. It also might be the other way around. 

Depending on the situation, this adolescent will feel more or less free to express their true self at home or out in public.

How is transgender identity different from gender fluidity?

For a lot of people, gender identity remains the same over time. For others, it can shift at some point. Some people may identify with one gender throughout their childhood, then identify with another gender as adults. This person might be considered transgender rather than gender-fluid, because they experience one single gender identity shift rather than a series of changes throughout their lives.

How to support gender fluidity

Gender fluidity is intimately linked with our internal sense of self. How we express ourselves, and how we choose to define ourselves are integral parts of our individuality.

Studies show that non-binary individuals encounter a disproportionate amount of bias and discrimination in all areas of their lives, and especially in the workplace.

Here are some ways in which companies can work toward creating a more inclusive workplace for all employees, regardless of gender:

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