What Does Gender Fluid Mean Sexually?

Reviewed on 3/19/2021
Gender fluid people are individuals whose gender varies over time.
Gender fluid people are individuals whose gender varies over time.

Gender fluid people are individuals whose gender varies over time. A gender-fluid person may at any time identify as male, female, agender, other nonbinary identities, or some combination of identities. They may feel more like one gender on some days and another gender on other days. Gender fluid has more to do with gender identity and not sexual orientation. In fact, gender fluidity does not affect sexual preferences or orientation.

To understand gender fluidity, it is important to first know about gender identity, gender expression, and nonbinary:

  • Gender identity: It refers to the way a person sees themselves with regards to gender. It is an inherent sense and personal experience of gender. The person’s gender identity may or may not correspond to their biological sex or assigned sex at birth. The person’s gender identity may not be visible to others because it is an internal aspect.
  • Gender expression: It involves the way a person communicates their gender to society. Gender expression includes:
    • Physical appearance
    • Clothing
    • Accessories
    • Behavior that communicates an aspect of gender or gender role
  • Gender expression may or may not be in accordance with a person’s gender identity.
  • Nonbinary: The person does not categorize themselves as male or female.

Hence, gender fluidity refers to modification in a person’s gender expression or identity or both over time. Change might be visible in:

  • Expression but not in identity
  • Identity but not in the expression
  • Both in expression and identity

An example of gender fluidity may be that a person might feel more masculine in social situations. They might dress, speak, and behave like men. However, the person might feel more feminine at work and adopt more feminine traits while at the office or interacting with colleagues. Sometimes, the person might express both male and female traits.

It is different from transgender because a person with gender fluidity does not have intentions to transit from one gender to another. Instead, they are comfortable as male, female, somewhere in between, or another gender.

What is the difference between gender and sexual orientation?

It is essential to understand the difference between gender and sexual orientation because both are two distinct but related aspects of personality. Gender is personal whereas sexual orientation is interpersonal.

When we confuse gender with sexual orientation, there is a tendency to make false assumptions about a young person’s sexual orientation. For example, the boy who loves to play with a doll is assumed to be gay, and the girl who buys the boy’s clothes is presumed to be lesbian. These are faulty conclusions. One cannot determine the person’s sexual orientation by what they wear or like.

Our society’s conflation of these two concepts can interfere with a young person’s ability to communicate or understand aspects of their gender. For example, transgender or nonbinary youth may wonder if they are gay or lesbian.

How can you support a gender-fluid person in life?

As a family, it is crucial to accept and support the person who is going through this experience. Some of the ways to show acceptance include:

  • Listen to loved ones patiently when they narrate their perspective of their gender.
  • Connect them to support and resources, so they can talk to others with similar experiences.
  • Support the person in making informed decisions about gender-affirming care, such as hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries.

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References
Division of School Psychology. Key Terms and Concepts in Understanding Gender Diversity and Sexual Orientation Among Students. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/programs/safe-supportive/lgbt/key-terms.pdf

Gender Spectrum. Understanding Gender. https://genderspectrum.org/articles/understanding-gender

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