The terms gender variance and
gender variant are used by scholars of psychology, psychiatry,
anthropology, and gender studies, as well as advocacy groups of
gender variant people themselves. The term gender-variant is
deliberately broad, encompassing such specific terms as
transsexual, butch and femme, queen, sissy, tomboy, travesti, or
The word transgender usually has a narrower meaning and somewhat
different connotations, including a non-identification with the
gender assigned at birth. Transgender can be defined as an
"umbrella term for people whose gender identity or gender
expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth."
But, not all gender variant people identify as transgender, and
not all transgender people identify as gender variant — many
identify simply as men or women. Gender identity is one's
internal sense of their own gender; while most people have a
gender identity of a boy or a man, or a girl or a woman, gender
identity for other people is more complex than two choices.
Furthermore, gender expression is the external manifestation of
one's gender identity, usually through "masculine," "feminine,"
or gender variant presentation or behavior.
"Gender nonconforming" was among
the 56 genders made available on Facebook in 2014.
Will Smith's Gender Bending Son Jaden
Mother's Story: Raising a Gender Non-Conforming Child
Wikipedia: Gender Variance
Lessons for Parents of Gender Non-Conforming Kids
Gender Non-Conforming Children: Myths, Misconceptions, Lies
Young Boy's Dream of Being a Princess
How I Chased Away the Bullies of My Gender Creative Child
Shadows: Short Film
GLSEN: Non-Binary Students Need Allies
8 Things Not to Say to Boys Who Wear Pink
Dispelling Myths About Gender Non-Conforming Children
Whittington Family: Ryland's Story
Raising my Rainbow: What Gender Non-Conforming Kids Want You to
Clothing Store: Just for Girls?
No Such Thing as Girl Toys and Boy Toys
What does it mean to be gender
non conforming? Childhood gender nonconformity (CGN) is a
phenomenon in which prepubescent children do not conform to expected
gender-related sociological or psychological patterns, or identify with
the opposite sex/gender.
What is gender diversity? Gender
diversity is how different genders are represented in a relevant
setting. Primarily this term is often used to refer to females and
males, though in some contexts and research the term may also refer to
those who fall into non-binary categories of gender.
What does it mean to be gender fluid?
Gender fluid is a gender identity which refers to a gender which varies
over time. A gender fluid person may at any time identify as male,
female, neutrois, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination
of identities. Their gender can also vary at random or vary in response
to different circumstances.
What is gender questioning?
The questioning of one's gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, or
all three is a process of exploration by people who may be unsure, still
exploring, and concerned about applying a social label to themselves for
What is genderqueer?
Genderqueer is a term that is growing in usage, representing a blurring
of the lines surrounding society’s rigid views of both gender identity
and sexual orientation. Genderqueer people embrace a fluidity of gender
expression that is not limiting. They may not identify as male or
female, but as both, neither, or as a blend. Similarly, genderqueer is a
more inclusive term with respect to sexual orientation. It does not
limit a person to identifying strictly as heterosexual or homosexual.
(Note: This term is NOT typically used in connection with gender
identity in pre-adolescent children).
What is androgyny? Androgyny
is a state in which gendered behaviors, presentations and roles include
aspects of both masculinity and femininity. People of any gender
identity or sexual orientation can be androgynous, but it is often
favored by non-binary people as a means to externally express their
gender identity. At way of expressing androgyny can include dressing in
way where one is unable to tell if they are male or female. People who
feel that their gender identity is androgynous often identify as
I Am a Gender
Documentary About a Gender Fluid Child
Ted Talk: Gender
is Not a Straight Line
Pot Noodle TV Ad: Young Man's Dream in the
Ring (You Can Make It)
Ted Talk: Gender
A Different Gender
Identity: In and
Beyond the Binary
Seven Things You
Should Never Ask a Gender Non-Conforming Person
Miles Jai: What is
Ted Talk: Why is
Gender Identity so Important?
Is Gender a Social
Genderqueer, also termed
non-binary or gender-expansive, is a catch-all category for
gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or
feminine—identities which are thus outside of the gender
binary and cisnormativity. Genderqueer people may identify as
one or more of the following:
--having an overlap of, or
indefinite lines between, gender identity
--having two or more genders (being bigender, trigender, or
--having no gender (being agender, nongendered, genderless,
genderfree or neutrois)
--moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity
--being third gender or other-gendered, a category which
includes those who do not place a name to their gender
Some genderqueer people use that
as their only description of their gender identity, while others
also identify as another gender identity such as androgyne,
bigender etc. Genderqueer people may also identify as
transgender and/or nonbinary. Some genderqueer people may wish
to transition, either medically or by changing their name and/or
pronouns to suit their preferred gender expression. Genderqueer
people can have any sexual orientation.
Many genderqueer individuals see gender and sex as separable
aspects of a person and sometimes identify as a male woman, a
female man, or a male/female/intersex genderqueer. Genderqueer
identification may also occur for political reasons.
"Genderqueer", along with being an umbrella term, has been used
as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress mainstream
distinctions of gender, regardless of their self-defined gender
identity, for example, those who "queer" gender, expressing it
non-normatively. Androgynous is sometimes also used as a
descriptive term for people in this category, but genderqueer is
used to indicate that gender norms can be transgressed through a
combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither, and
because not all genderqueer people identify as androgyne.
Washington Post: Meet Someone Who Identifies as Genderqueer
Slate: What the Heck is Genderqueer?
New Genderqueer Terminology
What is Gender Non-Conformity?
On matters of sex and
sexuality, there is no avoiding discussing gender. It is important
to start by defining “gender,” and distinguishing it from “(biological)
sex.” Too often, biological sex is thought to be synonymous with the
social category of gender. Although they are consistent for the majority
of the population (i.e., feminine women and masculine men), sex and
gender are not consistent for a sizable number of people. And, for some
individuals, the typical categories of sex (i.e., female and male) and
gender (i.e., feminine and masculine) simply do not fit.
What Is Gender Non-Conformity?
Typically, when attempting to answer such a question, we jump to focus
on gender non-conformity, while taking gender conformity as a given.
Gender conformity can be defined most simply as behavior and appearance
that conforms to the social expectations for one’s gender. So, for
gender conforming women, this means behaving and appearing in ways that
are considered feminine. Gender non-conformity, then, is behaving and
appearing in ways that are considered atypical for one’s gender.
Confusing Gender Non-Conformity And Sexual Orientation
Similar to the way in which gender is treated as synonymous with
(biological) sex, so, too, is sexual orientation with gender expression.
Gender nonconforming people are often assumed to also be lesbian, gay,
or bisexual, while gender conforming people are assumed to be
heterosexual. (Some scholars call this heterocentricism, meaning that
everyone is assumed to be heterosexual unless something, like gender
non-conformity, makes one think otherwise.) Indeed, gender expectations
are intertwined with attitudes about sexual orientation; for example,
boys who fail to live up to the societal standards of masculinity may be
teased and harassed, even called a “fag” or some other pejorative term
that questions his heterosexuality.
Gender Non-Conformity, Sexual Orientation, And Health
Researchers have noted that there may be real differences in terms of
gender between lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (LGB) and heterosexual
people. In particular, there are higher rates of gender non-conformity
in both childhood and adulthood among LGB people than among heterosexual
people. But, it is important to note that gender non-conformity is not
universal among LGB people, nor is it absent among heterosexuals.
A new study by Gerulf Rieger and Ritch C. Savin-Williams suggests that
different rates of gender non-conformity may actually be the reason for
differences in psychological well-being and mental health between
heterosexual and LGB youth. That is, while many researchers have
documented worse mental health and well-being among sexual minorities
compared to heterosexuals, Rieger and Savin-Williams have found that
this difference is at least partly due to differences in gender
non-conformity; even among heterosexuals, gender non-conformity is
associated with worse mental health, likely due to teasing and
harassment from peers and family. As other scholars have suggested, it
may be the case that prejudice and discrimination against LGB people is
more about enforcing strict gender norms than it is about sex and
Putting “Gender Non-Conformity” Into Context
While it is critical that we better understand the role gender
non-conformity plays in society, it is important that we understand what
this concept means. As many sociologists, like myself, emphasize, we
must understand that this concept is not naturally occurring, rather, it
is defined (and redefined) by society. And, as something that is
socially constructed or defined, its meaning and significance varies
across time, space, and even groups.
To give an example, think about the way women were expected to dress 60
years ago compared to today. Women are freer to wear pants, blazers,
flat shoes, even ties and dress shirts. (Of course, we must be mindful
that the same loosening of gendered clothing expectations have not
occurred as extensively for men.) While it is uncommon for men to hold
hands and kiss in many Western countries, including the US, it is
somewhat common in other parts of the world (e.g., Egypt). So, in
recognizing the importance of understanding what gender conformity and
nonconformity are, we must acknowledge that such concepts are not
universally defined nor naturally occurring.
(From the Kinsey Institute)
Gender Variant Definitions
Gender identity” refers to how
people see and identify themselves; for example, some people
identify as female; some people identify as male; some people as
a combination of genders; as a gender other than male or female;
or as no gender. For example, transgender girls identify as
girls but were classified as males when they were born.
Transgender boys identify as boys but were classified female
when they were born. Everyone has a gender identity.
“Gender Expression” refers to how people express their gender
identity. Everyone expresses their gender identity in different
ways: for example, in the way they dress, the length of their
hair, the way they act or speak and in their choice of whether
or not to wear make-up.
“Transgender” is a general term used to describe people whose
gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at
“Gender nonconforming” refers to people who do not follow other
people’s ideas or stereotypes about how they should look or act
based on the female or male sex they were assigned at birth.
“Transgender” and “Gender nonconforming” are umbrella terms that
often encompass other terms such as transsexual, cross dresser,
gender queer, femme queen, agender, Two Spirit, and many more. It
is important to refer to people with the term they prefer.
“Gender Questioning” People who are questioning their gender
identity might be wondering whether they identify as a boy, a
girl or another gender. They might also be experimenting with
BuzzFeed: Stunningly Beautiful Androgynous Models
My Son Wears Heels
Julie Tarney is the author of
My Son Wears Heels: One Mom's Journey From Clueless to Kickass.
She is a speaker, educator, and an advocate for lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth.
In her book she tells the story of her son:
"In 1992, my only child, Harry,
told me, 'Inside my head I’m a girl.' He was two years old.
I had no idea what that meant. I felt disoriented even trying to
process it. Wasn’t it my role to encourage and support my child?
But surely I had to set some limits to his self-expression—or
did I? Would he be bullied? What kind of guidance would he need?
Could I do the right thing? And what was the right thing?"
She wrote My Son Wears Heels to share what she learned
about gender identity, gender expression, and self-acceptance
from her only child, Harry, and what her parenting journey with
Harry taught her about herself.
“I know from emails I get on my blog that many families are
searching,” Tarney said, “so confused, or worried, about what
the implications might be for their child, or themselves,
because the world is not often kind, accepting, or safe for kids
who ‘do’ gender differently.”
Julie serves on the board of the It Gets Better Project. She
blogs for Huffington Post’s “Queer Voices” and “Parenting”
pages, and is a contributing writer for My Kids Is Gay and the
True Colors Fund’s Give a Damn Campaign. She also volunteers for
the PFLAG NYC Save Schools Program.
A longtime resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Julie now lives in
Brooklyn, New York. She can often be found cheering in the
audience at her creative director/photographer and
sometimes-drag-artist son Harry’s performances.
Article: Lessons for Parents of Gender Non-Conforming Kids
Book: My Son Wears Heels
by Julie Tarney
Blog: First Halloween My Boy
Wanted to be a Girl
Blog: My Son's Second Halloween
Tips for Parents
1. Gender may not be what you
think it is. Gender for me used to mean one of two boxes you
checked on a driver’s license application. But I now know that I
was confusing sex and gender to mean the same thing, which I
think a lot of people still do. Gender identity is about how you
feel inside, who you know yourself to be. And it develops over
time. We all discover ourselves as we grow, and finding our true
gender selves is part of that discovery. The gender experts will
tell you that if a child’s sense of self is being denied, they
will likely become distressed, low-spirited, or depressed. And
for me, any one of those words connotes a child struggling not
with their identity but with a search for freedom within their
2. There’s no right way to be a boy or a girl. Transgender kids
will tell you that a girl can have a penis and a boy can have a
vagina. A gender-nonconforming, gender-creative, or
gender-diverse child knows that boys can be happy wearing
dresses, playing with Barbie dolls or liking the color pink.
Kids are as unique as their fingerprints, so it follows that not
every child will fit inside the boundaries of pink or blue that
our historically rigid society has constructed as the norm.
3. Every child is a whole person. Each child — and adult — has
traits that our society has deemed as either “masculine” or
“feminine” but are in fact just the characteristics that make up
a complete person. Some boys like to express the “feminine” side
of their whole being, while the same can be said for girls and
those traits labeled “masculine.” I like to project how much
kinder and more accepting our society would be if sensitivity
and nurturing qualities in all kids were as valued as strength
4. A gender-nonconforming or trans child is a thought leader. If
your child is defying gender norms and stereotypes, they are
r-shaping the way we think about gender. They are at the center
of a sea change not only among families but in schools where
diversity and fairness are key and among those legislators who
want to ensure all children are treated equally under the law. I
compare gender-nonconformity to handedness. Being right- or
left-handed is just who you are. Right-handedness is more
common, but that doesn’t make it correct, more “normal,” or the
only way to be. Increased visibility of our less common trans
and gender-nonconforming children is broadening awareness and
expanding the national conversation about gender. I like to
think they are among the leaders on progress to rework society’s
rules about gender identity, gender expression, and the
expectations that follow an “M” or “F” stamped on a birth
(From Julie Tarney)
Books and Films on the
Tomboy: French Film by Celine
Tomgirl: Film Written by Stephen
Przybylowshi, Directed by Jeremy Asher Lynch
Tomboy: Graphic Memoir by Liz
Gender Creative Child:
Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes:
Book by Diane Ehrensaft
2011 French Film:
2016 Book: Gender Creative Child
2014 Book: Tomboy
What is Gender? Gender
refers to the behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits
typically associated with males and females. However this view
is limiting since people can be male, female, transgender,
genderqueer (GQ), gender non-binary (NB or Enby), gender non-conforming, or agender
(AG), for example.
Gender non-conforming refers to people who do not adhere to
society's rules about dress and activities for people that are
based on their biological sex and gender assignment. A
gender non-conforming person may choose to present as neither
clearly male, nor clearly female, but rather as a gender-free
individual. Some gender non-conformists are transgender,
gay, lesbian or bisexual. Others do not identify with any of
these categories. It is also common for people to be
gender conforming along some gender markers (like how they
dress) but conform to their assigned gender on others (like the
pronouns they chose to use).
In a world that like to divide things into clear "male" /
"female" boxes, many people are gender conformist without
adopting gender non-conforming as an identity.
Isn't That the Same as Being Gender Non-Binary? Sometimes
the term gender non-binary is used as an umbrella term that can
include people who are genderqueer, agender, and genderfluid, or
Other times it is an identity of its own. The term comes
from the idea that most people see gender as "binary," or
divided into two. These divisions are generally presented as:
male and female, man and woman, or for children, boy and girl.
The binary division also divides people's gender expression,
into masculine and feminine behaviors. People who identify
as gender non-binary have gender identities that don't fit into
the gender binary.
So Then, Being Gender Non-Conforming is Part of Being
Transgender? Again, some people who are gender
non-conforming may identify as transgender and others won't.
Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity
and / or gender expression differs from what is typically
associated with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Transgender individuals may have the bodies of one sex, but a
gender identity usually associated with the other.
Different Ways People Identify. Some people consider
themselves neither men nor women. Others identify as both men
and women. It is also possible to be non-binary and identify
outside of the male/female divisions, but still identify with a
clear gender identity.
Gender Identity is Just Not an Either or Thing. Despite
the fact that many people identify along a clear male or female
division, plenty of others do not. Acknowledging the range of
ways that individuals can experience gender can help affirm
people's identities and is also just a more accurate way to
Gender non-conformity can be an identity or just how someone
chooses to move through a very gendered world.
"Agender" is a term which can be
literally translated as 'without gender'. It can be seen either
as a non-binary gender identity or as a statement of not having
a gender identity. People who identify as agender may describe
themselves as one or more of the following:
--Genderless or lacking gender.
--Gender neutral. This may be meant in the sense of being
neither man or woman yet still having a gender.
--Neutrois or neutrally gendered.
--Having an unknown or undefinable gender; not aligning with any
--Having no other words that fit their gender identity.
--Not knowing or not caring about
gender, as an internal identity and/or as an external label.
--Deciding not to label their gender.
--Identifying more as a person than any gender at all.
Many agender people also identify as genderqueer, non-binary
and/or transgender. However, some agender people prefer to avoid
these terms, especially transgender, as they feel this implies
identifying as a gender other than their assigned gender, while
they in fact do not identify as any gender at all.
Agender people can have any preference for pronouns, although
some prefer to avoid using gendered language about themselves as
much as possible. They can also present in any way - masculine,
feminine, both or neither. Agender people can experience
dysphoria if they are unable to express their identity in a way
they are comfortable with.
Agender people who wish to appear gender-neutral or genderless
may have gender nullification surgery to achieve a body that
lacks sex characteristics. Chromosome therapy is currently being
studied by researchers at UC Berkeley which attempts to nullify
those chromosomes which stereotypically identify the individual
by a sex.
Agender people can be of any sexuality and should not be
confused with being asexual.
Agender is also called genderblank, genderfree, genderless,
gendervoid, non-gendered, or null gender. Agender is an identity
under the nonbinary and transgender umbrella terms. Agender
individuals find that they have no gender identity, although
some define this more as having a gender identity that is
Some agender people feel that they
have no gender identity, while others feel that agender is
itself a gender identity. This is similar to and overlaps with
the experience of being gender neutral or having a neutral
As some agender people have no gender identity, it is important
to not talk about nonbinary or transgender people's experiences
only in the sense of gender identity.
What is Neutrois? Neutrois is a
non-binary gender identity that falls under the genderqueer or
transgender umbrellas. There is no one definition of Neutrois,
since each person that self-identifies as such experiences their
gender differently. The most common ones are: Neutral-gender,
Null-gender, Neither male nor female, Genderless, Agender.
It is often said that non-gender or genderlessness is the
experience of having no gender identity at all, whereas gender
neutral or neutrois is the experience of having a gender
identity, a gender identity which is not male or female, but
neutral. However, these statements don't match the experiences
of everyone who has taken up these identities as their own. This
is a problem of a difference between word definitions that are
prescriptivist (telling everyone how they should use a word, and
saying that many people use it wrong) and descriptivist
(describing how people have actually been using a word, without
telling them to change).
What is Neutrois?
Myths About Non-Binary People
to Wikipedia, a gender bender is one who genderfucks. A
gender bender is a person who disrupts, "bends", "messes with,"
or "fucks with", expected gender roles. Gender bending is
sometimes a form of social activism undertaken to destroy rigid
gender roles and defy sex-role stereotypes, notably in cases
where the gender-nonconforming person finds these roles
oppressive. It can be a reaction to, and protest of, homophobia,
transphobia or misogyny.
gender benders identify with the sex assigned them at birth, but
challenge the societal norms that assign expectations of
particular, gendered behavior to that sex. This rebellion can
involve androgynous dress, adornment, behavior, and atypical
gender roles. Gender benders may self-identify as trans or
genderqueer. However, many trans people do not consider
themselves "gender benders".
reported in Daily Gazette (Jan
“genderfuck” is a term used to describe “a person's gender
identity (as in male, female, no gender, queer) or the act of
consciously and conspicuously challenging traditional ideas of
the gender binary through androgyny, hyperbole, and
Atypical Gender Roles
An atypical gender role is a
gender role comprising gender-typed behaviors not typically
associated with a cultural norm. Gender role stereotypes are the
socially determined model which contains the cultural beliefs
about what the gender roles should be. It is what a society
expects men and women to think, look like, and behave. Gender
role stereotypes are often based on gender norms. Examples of
some atypical gender roles:
Househusbands - Men
who stay at home and take care of the house and children while
their partner goes to work. According to Sam Roberts of the New
York Times, in 1970 four percent of American men earned less
than their wives. National Public Radio reported that by 2015
this had risen to 38%.
Metrosexual - A man of
any sexual orientation who has interest in style and fashion and
Androgyne - An
androgynous person, identifying as neither male nor female; OR
presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.
Crossdresser - A
person who dresses in the clothing and approximating the
appearance of members of the opposite gender, in public or
solely in private, without proclaiming themselves to be that
gender. Cross dressers may be cisgender, or they may be trans
people who have not yet transitioned.
Hijra - A (sometimes
neutered) person whose anatomy is in most cases identified as
male (more rarely female or intersex), but whose gender identity
is neither masculine nor feminine, whose gender role includes
special clothing that identifies them as a hijra, and whose
gender role includes a special place in society and special
Khanith - The
gynecomimetic partner in a heterogender homosexual relationship,
who may retain his public status as a man, despite his departure
in dress and behavior from a socio-normal male role. The
clothing of these individuals must be intermediate between that
of a male and a female. His social role includes the freedom to
associate with women in the entire range of their social
interactions, including singing with them at a wedding.
According to Merriam-Webster, a
metrosexual is usually urban heterosexual male given to
enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty
treatments, and fashionable clothes.
The term "metrosexual" is a
merging of the words "metropolitan" and "sexual," coined in 1994
describing a man (especially one living in an urban,
post-industrial, capitalist culture) who is especially
meticulous about his grooming and appearance, typically spending
a significant amount of time and money on shopping as part of
this. The term is thought to describe heterosexual men who adopt
fashions and lifestyles stereotypically associated with
homosexual men. While the term suggests that a metrosexual is
heterosexual, it can refer to anyone with any sexual
The term "metrosexual" originated
in an article by Mark Simpson published on November 15, 1994, in
The Independent. Simpson wrote: "Metrosexual man, the single
young man with a high disposable income, living or working in
the city (because that's where all the best shops are), is
perhaps the most promising consumer market of the decade. In the
Eighties he was only to be found inside fashion magazines such
as GQ. In the Nineties, he’s everywhere and he's going
However, it was not until the early 2000s when Simpson returned
to the subject that the term became globally popular. In 2002,
Salon.com published an article by Simpson, which described David
Beckham as "the biggest metrosexual in Britain" and offered this
updated definition: "The typical metrosexual is a young man with
money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis —
because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and
hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or
bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly
taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual
Metrosexuals may be the modern
incarnation of the 19th century "dandy."
In its soundbite diffusion through
the channels of marketeers and popular media, who eagerly and
constantly reminded their audience that the metrosexual was
straight, the metrosexual has congealed into something more
digestible for consumers: a heterosexual male who is in touch
with his feminine side—he color-coordinates, cares deeply about
exfoliation, and has perhaps manscaped. Men did not go to
shopping malls, so consumer culture promoted the idea of a
sensitive man who went to malls, bought magazines and spent
freely to improve his personal appearance.
According to the Urban Dictionary,
You might be "metrosexual" if...
--You just can't walk past a Banana Republic store without
making a purchase.
--You own 20 pairs of shoes, half a dozen pairs of sunglasses,
just as many watches and you carry a man-purse.
--You see a stylist instead of a barber, because barbers don't
--You can make her lamb shanks and risotto for dinner and Eggs
Benedict for breakfast... all from scratch.
--You only wear Calvin Klein boxer-briefs.
--You shave more than just your face. You also exfoliate and
--You would never, ever own a pickup truck.
--You can't imagine a day without hair styling products.
--You'd rather drink wine than beer... but you'll find out what
estate and vintage first.
--Despite being flattered (even proud) that gay guys hit on you,
you still find the thought of actually getting intimate with
another man truly repulsive.