Jennifer Arnold is a gender-fluid writer, producer, host and content creator.
What Is Androgyny?
Androgyny is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics, or neither particularly masculine or feminine."
Examples of androgynous figures in the media include David Bowie, Grace Jones and Marilyn Manson. They straddle the line between feminine and masculine style as a means of personal artistic expression. It is intriguing to those watching and allows them to ask questions about gender identity and artistic freedom.
Androgyny is different than gender fluidity because "androgyny" describes an aesthetic. It is a reflection; it is a means of self-expression through clothing, make-up, jewelry, and overall attire and style. It is the physical characteristics of a person, viewed by the objective bystander, as both male and female.
What Is Gender Fluidity?
Gender fluidity (also known as genderqueer) does not have a definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Urban Dictionary defines it as "a gender identity best described as a dynamic mix between boy and girl. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more boy some days and more girl other days. Being gender fluid has nothing to do with which set of genitalia one has, nor their sexual orientation."
Gender Fluid is also used as an umbrella term for gender and sexual identities such as non-gender, gender-neutral, agender, pangender, multigender, or intergender.
Gender fluidity is different than androgyny because it is a means of self-identification. It is not only crossing gender boundaries of appearance, but also behavior, emotion, and thought. It is a personal and independent feeling they have from the moment they wake up to the moment they go back to sleep, that classifies them as male or female on any given day.
My Personal Experience
Being gender fluid is something that I had struggled to identify as a child and as a young adult. I had no exposure to anyone who had openly stated feeling both male and female. The closest thing I could find in the 90's were the androgynous styles of Diane Keaton, and Annie Lennox. I wished I could dress like them and have a short haircut that was comfortable and manageable, having the appearance that reflected the masculine and feminine sides of my thinking.
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I rarely enjoyed wearing dresses as a child. I always felt like a boy that was forced into one, feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed with myself in front of others. On the other hand, there were times I appreciated wearing my dresses and decorative shoes. It was confusing to grow up this way, as feelings like this are difficult to classify. With every day feeling different, it became problematic explaining to others how I felt and why I dressed the way I did.
As I got older I considered what it would be like to be a born as a boy, believing that it would have been easier to enjoy the things I was doing without answering a barrage of questions or being pushed into groups of girls with the expectation of liking Barbies instead of Hot Wheels. Was there no one like me? Was there not a single person who would understand that I didn't have to play dress-up to feel important or be a boy to love sports? The answer to these questions, like many others, arrived as I set off for college.
During my studies, I discovered that I was spending more and more time with people who identified as gay, queer, pansexual, or otherwise open minded to those outlets of expressions. I realized that there were others like me, but something still didn't seem right. I came out of the closet at 19, but it didn't lift the tremendous weight off me shoulders that i hoped it would. I was still hiding something. It was after I graduated and moved back home that I found the real secret behind my feelings and memories.
'Break Free': starring Ruby Rose
The Beacons of Hope and Change
Androgynous models were always people I looked up to. I believed they resembled the true form of beauty, taking both masculine and feminine traits and transforming into a creature and an art piece that didn't fit traditional gender traits. I sought to emulate these models, doing research on androgynous blogs and tumblr pages, idolizing their courage and confidence to break gender boundaries and stand alone as objects of personal freedom and expression.
In July of 2014, an Australian model, presenter and actress named Ruby Rose released a video entitled 'Break Free', illustrating the transition from looking traditionally female to dressing and acting like a traditional male. It was eye-opening. It was sublime. I had found it. She was the first openly gender fluid role model I had, and her story was so closely linked to mine. The weight I had felt bearing over me was finally being lifted away, and I felt like I could breathe.
Ruby Rose showed me that there were not only others who were gender fluid and proud, but that it was okay to be gender fluid and proud. I didn't have to live in shame anymore. I still occasionally feel like a man in a woman's body, but I felt closure, because I found strength in Ruby's story and her bravery to admit something I'd never seen anyone else mention or identify.
Androgyny and Gender Fluidity Are Not the Same
Gender fluidity and androgyny can seem very similar on the outside, as they both share aspects of the male and female identity, whether aesthetically or emotionally, but being androgynous and being gender fluid are not the same thing. Many believe that these terms are interchangeable, which as I have stated above, is not necessarily true.
"Androgyny is static. It is one gender, which is neither male nor female.
Gender fluidity is fluid. It can be any gender."
They contribute to each other, but they are fundamentally different.
-Reddit user mysterydecetivemyst
Androgyny can be seen as a vehicle for fashion trends, growing more popular now as the gay community is becoming more prevalent in mainstream media. It catches the attention of successful fashion designers, and finally allows the gender fluid community to have options and more breathing room in terms of how they want to dress. Androgynous clothing sites are gathering momentum and popularity every day, and gender fluid people do not have to hide anymore, or make choices solely for the benefit of others or the lack of representation. This is a good step forward for those in the community and outside of it, allowing insight into the lives and struggles of those who did not have a voice before.