While some members of the LGBTQ community may be familiar with the term, “genderqueer” isn’t as well-known in society at large. So, what does the term “genderqueer” mean and how is it different from other identities it’s often confused with?
Read on to learn more about the term, its origins, and what it means to be genderqueer.
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What Does Genderqueer Mean?
Many genderqueer people have different explanations of what the term means to them. But, in the general sense, genderqueer is a gender identity that falls outside the categories of male and female. Some may define it as their gender belonging somewhere in the middle of the gender binary, while others are beyond the binary completely.
The origins of the word “genderqueer” are unclear, although it is believed to have been used as early as the 1980s during the rise of queer zine culture. Back then, queer writers and activists were challenging the notions of gender and wanted a term that existed beyond the gender binary.
Now, people often think of the word genderqueer as an umbrella term for people who are in between or outside the “male” and “female” binary, people who are fluid in their gender, or people who are of a third gender.
It’s important to note that not every genderqueer person uses they/them pronouns, so it’s best to ask them what pronouns to use.
Genderqueer vs. Nonbinary: What’s The Difference?
The distinction between the terms “genderqueer” and “nonbinary” may be confusing, as these two terms have a lot of overlap with each other. Both are terms for transgender identities that do not simply exist between “male” or “female”, and both are considered to be umbrella terms like the term “transgender”.
However, although they both have a big overlap, genderqueer and nonbinary identities are still separate from each other. Some nonbinary people do not consider themselves genderqueer or vice-versa, so it’s best to ask first if you’re unsure.
Additionally, while the term “genderqueer” largely refers to a gender that does not exist on binary terms, some consider it to mean “beyond mainstream perceptions of gender”, which some nonbinary people might not identify with.
Other Terms Associated With Genderqueer
There are other gender identities that fall under the genderqueer umbrella. Below are a few commonly associated with the genderqueer identity.
- Agender: This refers to a person whose gender is neither male nor female.
- Demigender: This refers to a person who has a partial but not full connection to a particular gender. For example, someone who is a demigirl is a person who partially identifies as a woman.
- Gender non-conforming: The term refers to people whose gender expression differs from what is conventionally “masculine” or “feminine”.
- Androgynous: The term refers to people whose gender expression has characteristics of both masculinity and femininity.
- Genderfluid: This refers to people whose gender is not fixed. Someone who is genderfluid has a gender that varies over time.
- Bigender: This refers to people who have two genders, either simultaneously or varied between their two genders.
Agender, demigender, genderfluid, and bigender all fall under the genderqueer umbrella. Gender non-conformity and androgyny are not necessarily part of being genderqueer, but some choose to express their gender in an androgynous or non-conforming way.
Genderqueer vs Transgender
Although the genderqueer identity falls under the transgender umbrella, it does not mean these two terms are the same.
“Transgender” refers to a person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned when they were born. Genderqueer people are transgender by this definition, but it does not mean all transgender people are genderqueer.
What Is It Like Being Genderqueer?
Not every genderqueer person has the same experience – some present themselves in an androgynous or gender non-confirming way, while others present either more masculine or feminine. Some socially and medically transition, others transition only socially, and some don’t even “transition” in the social or medical sense.
Even though no two people experience the genderqueer identity the same way, there are still common struggles within the community – namely, the challenges that come with identifying outside the mainstream notions of gender. Not being able to fully present as genderqueer because of gender norms and stereotypes can be confining, but it happens often in societies that aren’t accepting of gender non-conformity.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to know what right terminologies to use, especially as more “niche” communities, like the genderqueer community, grow in both number and visibility. Do your own research and respect people’s identities and pronouns – this will help you become a better ally, no matter how you identify.