Huge disclaimer before you read this piece: I identify as a cisgendered woman. All information I’ve gleaned about being gender neutral has been in effort to better understand and be a good ally. Any misinformation is unintentional and I’d welcome any addition or correction you all have.
That being said, if you are feeling gender curious or gender creative and experiencing feelings of dysphoria about finding the right expression and words to describe your experience and identity: there are options outside of the binary! Gender is fluid, just like sexuality, and you aren’t limited to identifying as either heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. As the world is slowly learning, you might also identify as gender neutral, or agender aka the absence of gender identity.
What does this mean? A lot of gender queer people feel themselves in a state of flux: mostly feeling female one week, a little bit more masculine another week, and all the way male at another time. The difference between being genderqueer and being gender neutral is that being genderqueer still ascribes to gender, it’s just that much it’s in a state of flow. Gender neutral means that you disavow being associated with any one gender, including being gender fluid. It means that you don’t identify as male or female. You don’t identify with a gender.
I understand that this can be a strange concept for other cisgender people and some transgender people (I am fully aware that some agender people still identify as trans because it’s the word that best describes their sense of being assigned one gender at birth and actually being of a different gender). We so identify with being only one gender or experiencing a dysphoria that’s more linear, so how could anyone be neutral? Or both? Or variant? The truth is that it’s not our job to understand everyone’s personal journey. Our only job is to act as good allies and respect everyone’s identity and expression. So, where to start? To begin with, these are eight facts about identifying as gender neutral that are good starting points to understanding this gender identity (or lack thereof). Again, I welcome all discussion about this topic as I am not gender neutral! Please discuss in the comments below.
You Should Ask About Preferred Pronouns Before Assuming OneThere are more pronouns than just the masculine/feminine "him" or "her." A lot of people prefer the singular "they" pronoun. There's Xie/Xir and even the Mx. prefix where you'd normally address someone as Mr. or Mrs. whoever. There are literally so many of them that it's impossible to guess unless you know for sure that you're speaking to someone who is cisgender. Just ask. Some people like to mix up masculine and feminine pronouns, go plural, or stay far away from any gendered connotations altogether. It may feel awkward to ask, and in all truth, it may feel awkward to *be* asked, but misgendering someone is going to feel a lot worse for all parties involved. It's best to stay informed and as always, remember to be polite when asking.Source: iStock
Gender Neutral People Can Have Varied Gender PresentationGender presentation can exist outside of the strict masculine or feminine box. It can even be more than androgynous. For example, you can still be femme and wear a binder. You can present as masculine and prefer female pronouns. You can rock a beard, lipstick, long hair, and boxer briefs. Everyone's gender presentation is their own business. Some agender people undergo gender confirmation surgery to better match their outward expression to their gender identity. Not all gender neutral individuals look alike. There is no wrong or right way to look in order to be agender.Source: iStock
Gender Neutral People Also Experience Gender Dysphoria.Hello, fellow cis-people. We have no idea what it's like to be a gender other than the one we are assigned at birth. Gender dysphoria is experienced when you have to reckon with not being your assigned gender based on your genitals. We often speak about it in terms of being transgender within a certain gender binary (for example, male to female or female to male), but it is also experienced by those who identify as genderqueer or gender neutral. Finding the right combination of gender expression and appropriate words to match your true identity is a process and while you can land on one "answer" that feels right, that can change and evolve over time to include better fitting words or a more true gender expression that matches how you really feel.Source: iStock
Sexual Orientations Can Exist Outside Of The Gender Binary As WellSo, are agender people who are only attracted to women considered lesbians? Probably not. How do you say that you're attracted to women without also somehow labeling yourself one gender or another? It's easy to be unaware of how deeply gendered the words are that we use to describe sexuality. Gender neutral people can experience sexual attraction, too, so what gives? Only each specific person can tell you how they identify. This is where labels like "pansexual" come into play for those attracted to people who are not on the gender binary or ascribe to any one gender. A lot of agender people choose to coin their own term to describe their sexual orientation or choose to only date people who are also gender neutral because they feel the need to be understood in that way in their relationships.Source: iStock
Genitals Have Nothing To Do With Gender IdentityFor some of you, this may be a no-brainer. However, when someone is intersex, it may not be clear at birth what gender they are. So, what then? Intersex is a chromosomal anomaly where your genes, genitals, and gender presentation may be totally different. For example, you could be an intersex woman with testes! Gender neutral individuals can have a penis, a vagina, a mix of the two, or neither and still be gender neutral. Being without gender does not mean that you are without genitalia.Source: iStock
There Are Culturally Specific Gender Neutral IdentitiesThe same way you wouldn't be culturally appropriative by saying words like "spirit animal" to describe something you really like, you wouldn't also co-op the word "two spirit" to express your gender identity unless you are a Native American. A lot of cultures have more than one word to describe more than one gender or sexual orientation. Their labels are not meant to be used by people outside of their community. For example, the term "two spirit" existed pre-colonization and these new words we're using to describe gender and sexual variance are not of that culture. The two spirit identity is so deeply enmeshed across all tribes who've all experienced the colonists taking their land and customs that we shouldn't colonize their vocabulary as well.Source: iStock
Gender Neutral People Still Experience Gender Based ViolenceTransphobia is the oppression of the trans experience and transmisogyny happens when trans issues intersect with misogyny (and if there's an alternate word instead of trans- that the agender community prefers, let us know). Unfortunately, if a person exists outside of the strict cisgender binary, these gender variant people are more vulnerable to gender-based violence. The discriminatory bathroom law passed in North Carolina stating that people are only to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate is pretty limiting because - hello - there's more than one gender. So, where do they go?Source: iStock
All Gender Identities Are Valid And Not A Subject For DebateIt does not matter if you perceive someone to be of one gender and they tell you explicitly that they are not that gender, your opinion doesn't matter. Respect that person's gender identity and move on with your life. Constantly questioning and debating back and forth with a person about what they prefer to be called or what their genitals look like (rude) is harassment. Implying that someone is "faking it" or misgendering someone is an act of violence. It's not a joke and it's not funny.Source: iStock
Are you gender neutral? What did we forget to include? How do think cis-people can be better allies to the gender neutral community? Let us know in the comments.
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.