Genderqueer and intergender are catchall terms for gender identities other than man or woman. People who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as being both a man and a woman, as being neither a man nor a woman, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. Some wish to have certain features of the opposite sex and not all characteristics; others want it all.
Some genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders other than man or woman, while others see "genderqueer" as an umbrella term that encompasses all of those possible genders. Still others see "genderqueer" as a third gender to complement the traditional two, while others identify as genderless or a-gender. Genderqueer people are united by their rejection of the notion that there are only two genders.
The term "genderqueer" can also be used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity (see Alternate Meanings, below).
Related gender terminology
People who identify outside the usual binary genders may use any or all of the following terms to describe themselves:
- Third gender
Genderqueer and transgender
Some genderqueer people identify as transgender, using the word "transgender" as an umbrella term for a broad range of people who identify as a gender other than the expected gender for their assigned sex, and some do not. (This usage is only one of multiple conflicting definitions of the term "transgender" in use.) The terms "transgender" and "genderqueer" are not synonymous, but there is some overlap between people who identify as transgender and people who identify as genderqueer.
Like transgender people, genderqueer people may transition physically with surgery, hormones, electrolysis, and other practices, or they may not choose to alter their bodies by these means. They may also transition socially, or they may continue to dress and go by the pronouns of their assigned gender.
History of the term
The term genderqueer originated as an identity utilized mainly by white, middle and upper-class Americans who were born female or are otherwise on the FtM (female-to-male) or transmasculine spectrum, but today there are many self-identified genderqueer people who are from different racial, ethnic, class, gender, and national backgrounds. However, people who identify as genderqueer are still disproportionately from that group.
Gender and pronouns
How genderqueer people view gender as a whole and its relationship to themselves varies. Some genderqueer people view gender as a continuum between man and woman, with the two traditional genders at the two poles and their own genderqueer place as somewhere within the continuum. Others believe there are as many genders as there are people. Still others believe that binary gender is a social construct, and choose not to adhere to that construct. Some genderqueers do fit into the stereotypical gender roles expected of their sex, but still identify outside of that and reject a two-pole gendered system. Some genderqueers experience their gender as fluid, varying from day to day or year to year. Some genderqueer people reject any gender system as a valid method of classifying individuals.
Some genderqueers prefer to go by the conventional binary pronouns "he" or "she," while others prefer gender-neutral pronouns such as "ze", "per", "zir", "sie" and "hir", "zhe", "hir", "zes" or singular "they" instead of her/his. Some genderqueer people prefer to have people alternate between he and she (and/or gender neutral pronouns) in reference to themselves, and some prefer to use only their name and not use pronouns at all.
The terms pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual and multisexual exist specifically to express a view that there are many genders. Some people prefer to identify themselves using one of these terms rather than identifying as "bisexual," which implies that there are only two genders and sexes. Pansexuality means being attracted to or open to attraction to people of all different gender identities, and reflects a non-binary understanding of gender and its interplay with sexuality.
Note: Some people see "genderqueer" as a more consciously politicized version of the term androgyne, popularized by Androgyne Online, which is linked below. Androgynes are also people who identify as both man and woman, or as neither. "Androgyne" is synonymous to the more cumbersome "non-binary gender variant" or to "intergendered".
The term genderqueer is also sometimes used in a broader context as an adjective to refer to any person who challenges gender roles and binary notions of gender. This is similar to the way homosexual, bisexual, and other people may identify as queer as a broader, umbrella term. However, because genderqueer also refers to a more specific gender identity, the terms gender-variant, gender-transgressive, or gender-nonconforming are applied more broadly to refer to the wide range of people whose gender identity or expression transgress societal expectations.
- Gender Queer. Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary, Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, Riki Wilchins (2002) Alyson Books, New York.
- The Transgender Studies Reader Susan Stryker, Stephen White (2006) Routledge, New York.
- Official Site of GenderQueer Revolution
- United Genders of the Universe a genderqueer organisation
- Androgyne Online: non-binary gender variants/variance
- T-Vox - International resource and information wiki.
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