Understanding Gender Fluidity

 By: Sara Moller
Have you ever taken a survey and been tripped up not by the subject matter that you’re being asked about, but by the question of what gender you identify with? Often times these surveys will only offer two options, male or female. If you self-identify as genderfluid, you may be tempted to leave this question blank. But wait, what does it mean to be genderfluid?
Genderfluid can mean a number of different things to a number of different people. According to nonbinary.org, “a genderfluid individual’s gender identity could be multiple genders at once, and then switch to none at all, or move between single gender identities”. The term fluidity is used to express the ranges that different people feel as part of their gender identity. To be clear, the word gender is used in this instance, rather than sex, as sex refers to what a person is determined at birth and gender is how the person identifies. Other terms some people use to are genderqueer, bigender, multigender, and polygender (Nonbinary.org).
“What’s in your pants does not determine your gender identity” a student here at Fitchburg State University stated. This is also true about a person’s outside exterior. Any person can express themselves and who they are in a number of ways, and the outside doesn’t always confirm how a person identifies. This is why if you don’t know a person well, or if you know for a fact that someone is genderfluid, you should always use “they” and “them” pronouns, rather than assuming “he” or “she”. However, some gender fluid people do use specific gender pronouns, either out of convenience to society’s norms or for their own personal reasons. When it comes to gender identity, never judge a book by its cover.
On campus, there are many students who identify as genderfluid. To help spread awareness, the Gay-Straight Alliance here on campus has a campaign in the form of an adorable rainbow colored teddy bear. Meet RuBear, named officially after famed drag queen RuPaul, a bear you may have seen around campus who identifies as genderfluid. Each week, a GSA member is randomly chosen in a raffle to watch over Ru for the week to help spread awareness and educate people about gender fluidity, while simultaneously being given the opportunity to tote around and play with a cute stuffed animal. The member who’s been given Ru documents in a journal how their week went and then Ru is passed along to another member. If you’re interested in taking care of Ru for a week, you can sign up at GSA at their meetings (Tuesday’s at 3:30 in Hammond 315) and be included in the raffle. Once you’re chosen, you too can help spread awareness.
Society as a whole is starting to become more aware of this form of self-identity in more recent years. The term genderfluid started becoming more commonplace in the last twenty-four years or so. Famous people, such as Orange is the New Black’s actor Ruby Rose, have stated their self-identity as non-binary. Books have been written from the perspective of characters who are genderfluid. A recent example is the newly published book Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin. Rap artist Angel Haze answers to “their/them” pronouns. In 2014, Facebook started providing the option for people to self-identify as genderfluid on their profiles. Slowly but surely, the term is starting to be more commonplace in people’s jargon and understanding.
Since you can never tell a person’s gender by the outside, always use “they” and/or “them” pronouns, unless you are specifically told by a person otherwise. People identify in many different ways in this world and it is good to be conscious and aware, rather than to just assume based on what you think the outside shows.