Being genderfluid means that your gender identity or expression is not fixed — it changes over time.
It’s possible to be who you are without having to rigidly define who you are. It’s also possible to find a community that supports you in exploring the edges of your identity or even others who are on the same journey as you.
After all, the LGBTQ+ community is vast, with nearly 20 million adults in the United States identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, according to a Human Rights Campaign analysis of census data.
Within the LGBTQIA+ community, people who identify as genderfluid do not align with just one identity all the time. Instead, they identify with several gender identities — or no gender identity — at different times.
Genderfluidity is sometimes thought of as the opposite of a social construct because it allows you to be flexible with how you see yourself and how you show up in the world.
“Genderfluidity is a rejection of a fixed binary of gender — that one has to identify as a man or a woman — and it allows for fluidity and for the idea that one’s gender, expression, or identity can change,” explains Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist and board certified art therapist.
“Genderfluidity could mean different things for different individuals, but it really allows for flexibility with your identity,” she says.
Lurie, who owns a group psychotherapy practice based in Los Angeles, dedicates her time to studying gender, identity, and sexuality and works with folks across various identity spectrums. She has found that people can identify differently across their life. Some may even identify differently at different times of the day or week.
“We are constantly changing, and, for some, that means our gender identity is also changing,” says Lurie. “Gender fluidity truly allows for an open experience and an unlimited expression of identity.”
Someone who is genderfluid may, at times, identify with being:
“A genderfluid individual could identify with all of the above or none of the above gender expressions,” explains Lurie. “In fact, genderfluidity can look more like emphasizing being, rather than a determined gender identity.”
Because of its place outside the gender binary, the genderfluid identity falls under both the nonbinary and transgender umbrellas. However, it’s up to each individual to determine which terms they most identify with.
People who identify as genderfluid often reject gender norms, and the way they identify in terms of pronouns is vast and varied. In Lurie’s opinion, people are often less focused on pronouns and more concerned about “expressing identity as their truest and most authentic selves.”
As a genderfluid person, you may find that you feel comfortable with he/him, she/her, she/him, or gender-neutral pronouns like they/them — or perhaps some or all of these during different times in your life.
If you’re trying to support a loved one who is exploring their gender identity, it’s always best to ask what pronouns your loved one or friend feels comfortable with.
Are sex and gender the same thing?
People often use the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably, but they have different meanings:
- Sex refers to the physical characteristics that differentiate male, female, and intersex bodies.
- Gender refers to a person’s identity and how they feel inside. Examples include man, woman, nonbinary, and agender. A person’s gender identity may differ from the sex they were assigned at birth.
“For some, it can be an easy question to answer, and for others, it may be very challenging,” says Lurie. “But it comes down to considering what feels like the most honest expression of who they are.”
If you’re questioning your gender identity, it may help to know that you are not alone in your journey. An increasing number of people are identifying outside the gender binary.
For example, 1 in 6 adults in Generation Z consider themselves LGBT, according to a 2021 Gallup survey, and individuals who identify as LGBT are on the rise (up more than 1% from 2017 data).
If you are looking for guidance in your gender exploration, consider asking yourself one of the following questions provided by Lurie:
- What does gender mean to me?
- What would it feel like to express myself freely?
- How would I identify if I didn’t feel afraid?
- How can I express and honor all of who I am?
You may run through this exercise and find that you feel aligned with genderfluidity — or come to that conclusion through another path. If so, a next step you may consider is offering yourself a chance to internally honor what you’ve discovered and to show yourself compassion.
You may want to let friends and family know how you identify, keep exploring how this new identity feels, seek support from like-minded communities, or do another option that feels safe and supportive.
There is no rulebook for how you explore your gender identity, so it’s an opportunity to really hone in on what aligns most with you.
Support is key for someone who is exploring their gender identity.
The Trevor Project’s 2020 national survey found that 48% of LGBTQ youth reported engaging in self-harm in the past 12 months, including over 60% of nonbinary youth and transgender youth. And according to a
Part of what’s driving mental health concerns in these communities is the stigma, bullying, social rejection, and a lack of support from parents and caregivers that many face.
“It can be very difficult and distressing to feel like there’s no space in the world for you to be who you are,” explains Lurie. “To feel like who you are is wrong can really be taxing, and it can be really exhausting to have to carry that every day.”
If you know someone exploring their identity, it’s vital to try your best to create “a safe, nonjudgmental experience for your loved one,” urges Lurie.
Creating a safe, nonjudgmental space could look like being thoughtful about your language and the terms you use and avoiding assumptions by asking your friend or loved one directly so that they feel seen and heard.
According to The Trevor Project’s 2021 survey, only 1 in 3 youth found their home to be LGBTQ affirming.
The report showed that youth who had LGBTQ-affirming homes and schools and had their pronouns respected by the people they live with reported lower rates of attempting suicide.
“Most importantly, don’t be afraid to speak up and speak out if there is intolerance, or inviting others into the conversation so they can also be better allies,” says Lurie.
“If you have the privilege of existing in the world and not being marginalized or moving around the world freely and comfortably, then think of what you can do to create more of an equitable space for your loved ones,” she adds.
If you’re taking on a supportive role, your job isn’t necessarily to help the other person but to make space for them. You don’t have to do it all. Sometimes, all the person needs is a safe space to be understood.
It may be helpful to avoid relying on your family member, loved one, friend — or whoever they may be — to educate you about genderfluidity. To aid in your own understanding, try exploring the research about this community, read up on varying perspectives, or seek out a community of allies to join.
If you’re looking for more information, consider reading Psych Central’s guide How to Support Your Child Exploring Their Gender Identity and The Trevor Project’s resource A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth.
If you’re considering self-harm or suicide, you’re not alone
You can access free support right away with these resources:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for English or 888-628-9454 for Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The Crisis Text Line. Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
- Veterans Crisis Line. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
- Deaf Crisis Line. Call 321-800-3323, text “HAND” to 839863, or visit their website.
- Befrienders Worldwide. This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
However you want to express yourself and whoever you want to express yourself as, your experiences are valid. It may look different today than it did yesterday, and that’s OK. What’s most important is that you give yourself the space and compassion to support your self-discovery.
If you’re looking for more information and support:
- The Trevor Project provides information, helplines, counseling, and community support for LGBTQ+ folks.
- Gender Spectrum offers online groups for trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive youth and parents.
- Trans Lifeline is an organization that offers emotional and financial support to trans people who are in crisis.
Other resources you may find helpful include:
- finding an online community that you connect with
- continuing to express and explore yourself through journaling
- reading supportive books or narratives on sexual orientation and gender identity, including checking out a list of gender identity–related books on Goodreads
- listening to other people’s stories of identity exploration, such as Cameron Esposito’s Queery podcast
- speaking with a certified professional to aid you in your journey; for youth, The Trevor Project is a great resource for trained counselors specializing in nonbinary kids
And as a last piece of advice, Lurie suggests exploring your curiosity.
“Even if the world around you is limiting, giving yourself unlimited space to be curious is a really beautiful way of honoring who you really are,” Lurie says.