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Genderqueer Identities & Terminology

Last updated December 17, 2013. Original was a project for an LGBT American History class by Marilyn Roxie, May 17 2011. Revision made as recent as the last update indicated above. Click here for a bibliography of sources utilized and cited for this project.

Related Identities and Concepts:

While the term is new, many of the identities lumped under the genderqueer umbrella are not, particularly the concept of androgyny, one of the oldest of any of these associated identities. “Androgyne” was originally synonymous with hermaphrodite (now considered a derogatory term for intersex individuals) and the origin according to Oxford Online is “mid 16th century (as a noun): via Latin from Greek androgunos, from anēr, andr- ‘man’ + gunē ‘woman’”. “The Greeks possessed a really astonishing notion of the double sexual (hermaphrodite) nature of the human being in the embryonic condition and of the androgynous idea of life generally,” according to Sexual Life in Ancient Greece (1974), though this notion was not limited to the Greeks, with many Native American tribes having an understanding of two-spirited people. From The Mythology of Transgression (1997):

In English…ultimately our language calls on us to describe only a living creature by either male or female gender…For the Zuni, the connotations of maleness and femaleness are closely linked to spiritual powers and are not references to genitalia…The rich mosaic of male/female power possessed by the supreme Zuni deity Awonawilona is at once omnipotent and omniscient. It is, in Western terms, an androgynous energy that transcends identity…

Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis (1965) details androgyny, describing it as a “mental hermaphrodism”, though focusing on the physical form as well as expression of sexual desire. The term “androgynous” in modern times, and outside of pathology, has often found its use in describing those who combine masculine and feminine attributes in their outward presentation (e.g. clothing), though the exploration of androgyne as an identity reawakened in the women’s movement. Feminist scholar Carolyn Heilbrun wrote in Toward a Recognition of Androgyny (1973): “Androgyny suggests a spirit of reconciliation between the sexes; it suggests, further, a full range of experience…it suggests a spectrum upon which human beings choose their places without regard to propriety or custom.”

Commonly recognized identities and concepts under the genderqueer umbrella include those listed below. Definitions are most frequently quoted directly from The Midwest Trans* and Queer Wellness Initiative resource Trans*, GenderQueer and Queer Terms (originally compiled by JAC Stringer), in which case the quote will be followed by the acronym MTQWI. If not from this source, the source of information will be given as a clickable [*], or the absence of quotation marks will indicate that I have written the description myself. Please note that an identity not listed here does not mean that the identity is not potentially genderqueer or non-binary, but if you have a term and definition for something that should be here please let me know.

Identities:

Agender (non-gender): “not identifying with any gender, the feeling of having no gender.” (MTQWI) “a term used to describe a person without gender. This person can be any physical sex, but their body does not necessarily correspond with their lack of gender identity” [*]

Androgyne: “1. A person whose biological sex is not readily apparent. 2. A person who is intermediate between the two traditional genders. 3. A person who rejects gender roles entirely.” (MTQWI)

Bigender: “To identify as both genders and/or to have a tendency to move between masculine and feminine gender-typed behavior depending on context, expressing a distinctly male persona and a distinctly female persona, two separate genders in one body.” (MTQWI)

(Nonbinary) Butch: “Holding a nonbinary gender identity and a butch gender expression, or claiming Butch as an identity outside of the gender binary” [*]

Crossdresser: “A person who, regardless of motivation, wears clothes, makeup, etc. that are considered by the culture to be appropriate for another gender but no one’s own (preferred term to “transvestite”). This gender non-conforming behavior should not be conflated with queer sexualities. Many cross-dressers are heterosexual and conduct their cross-dressing on a part-time basis. Cross-dressing might also be termed gender non-conforming behavior.” (MTQWI)

Demigirl: “Can be used to describe either someone assigned female at birth who feels but the barest association with that identification, though not a significant enough dissociation to create real physical discomfort or dysphoria, or someone assigned male at birth who is transfeminine but not wholly binary-identified, so that they feel more strongly associated with “female” than “male,” socially or physically, but not strongly enough to justify an absolute self-identification as “woman.” [*]

Demiguy: “Can be used to describe either someone assigned male at birth who feels but the barest association with that identification or as someone assigned female at birth who is transmasculine but not wholly binary-identified, so that they feel a vague association with social or physical “masculinity” but not one strong enough to justify an absolute self-identification as a “man.” [*]

Epicene: “The term epicene literally means “common to both sexes.” It sometimes refers to individuals who have characteristics of both genders or someone who cannot be classified as one sex or the other. Most often, it refers to effeminate males.” [*]

(Nonbinary) Femme: “Holding a nonbinary gender identity and a femme gender expression, or claiming Femme as an identity outside of the gender binary.” [*]

Gender fluid: “Referring to a gender identity that changes with time and/or situation as opposed to a fix sex-role or gender queer expression” [10]

GenderFuck: “The idea of playing with gender cues to purposely confuse, mix, or combine a culture’s standard or stereotypical gender expressions.” (MTQWI)

Girlfag: “A woman who is very attracted to gay/bi men. She may (or may not) also feel she is (fully or partly) a “gay man in a woman’s body”. Girlfags may identify primarily as bi or straight or lesbian, and are often attracted to more types of people than just gay/bi men.” [11]

Guydyke: “A man who is very attracted to lesbian/bi women. He may (or may not) also feel he is (fully or partly) a “lesbian in a man’s body”. Guydykes may identify primarily as bi or straight or gay, and are often attracted to more types of people than just lesbian/bi women.” [11]

Intergender: “A person whose gender identity is between genders or a combination of genders.” (MTQWI)

Neutrois: “An identity used by individuals who feel they fall outside the gender binary. Many feel Neutrois is a gender, like a third gender while others feel agendered.” [12]

Pangender:  “A person whose gender identity is comprised of many gender expressions.” (MTQWI)

Pomosexual: “the queer erotic reality beyond the boundaries of gender, separatism, and essentialist notions of sexual orientation”. Generally used conceptually rather than a stand-alone identity term. See also PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality (1997).

Third Gender: Term often used in anthropological studies to set apart identities other than man or woman that appear across different cultures. Can have colonial connotations, use with caution. See also Gilbert H. Herdt’s Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History (1996) and Serena Nanda’s Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations (2000).

Trigender: “People who feel they are neither male nor female, but not androgynous either and construct their own gender.” (MTQWI) Trigender may also be used to refer to one who moves between three genders, as bigender is used to refer to those who move between two genders.

Transmasculine: “A term used to describe those were were assigned female at birth who feel wholly dissociated from female gender identification, and are, if not wholly male-identified, are at a place much closer to that end of the binary spectrum, either through a preference towards behavioral or physical “masculinity,” or through being in a state similar to that of a demiguy, where they may feel “weakly male,” but not very attached to the idea of being a “man.” [*]

Transfeminine: “A term used to describe those who were assigned the male gender at birth, but who feel wholly dissociated from male gender identification, and who, if not wholly female-identified, are at a place much closer to that end of the binary spectrum, either through a preference towards behavioral or physical “femininity,” or through being in a state similar to that of a demigirl, where they may feel “weakly female,” but not very attached to the idea of being a “woman.” [*]

Concepts:

Gender IdentityGender can refer to sense of self (gender identity), perception of self by others (including gender recognition or misgendering), behavior, expression, and role. There are both psychological (arising in the mind) and socio-cultural (determined by others, ideas about what is masculine and feminine, and role expectation) aspects of gender.

Pronouns: “There are several non-gender specific pronouns that some people opt to use to describe themselves. “Hir” is used to replace “her” and “him.” “S/he” or “ze” is used instead of “he” and “she.” If you are unsure of how a person identifies or what pronouns to use, it never hurts to ask politely.” (MTQWI(

Queer: “Originally a synonym for “odd,” this term—as both noun and adjective—became a derogatory epithet for gay men and lesbians in the twentieth century, especially in the United States, where it emphasized the alleged “unnaturalness” of homosexuality. Although many people still use “queer” as an anti-gay slur, there emerged a movement in the 1980s that sought to reclaim the term and rob it of its negative meaning. In this usage, “queer” is an inclusive umbrella term that designates all those who are sexually dissident, even if they are not strictly homosexual, and all “transgressive” forms of sexuality. Many lesbians and gay men, transsexuals, bisexuals, and even heterosexuals whose sexuality does not fit into the cultural standard of monogamous heterosexual marriage have adopted the “queer” label. Some gay men and lesbians, however, remembering the hurt caused by its pejorative meaning, dislike the term, even in its “reclaimed” usage, and feel that it has the effect of diluting the specificity of the narrower categories. The term is sometimes used as a verb. To queer something is to replace normative, heterosexual values with values of minority sexualities, in effect, to make non-normative values the norm.” [13]

Questioning: “Being uncertain of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”[*]

Romantic Orientation: “An individual’s pattern of romantic attraction to men, women, neither gender, either gender, or another gender. For many sexuals, their romantic orientation and their sexual orientation are in alignment, so the gender(s) of the people they fall in love with are also the gender(s) they are sexually attracted to. For an asexual, who does not experience sexual attraction, it is their romantic orientation that determines which gender(s), if any, they are inclined to form romantic relationships with. A person may be aromantic or romantic, or somewhere in between.” [*]

Sexual Orientation: “Sexual orientation” is a term frequently used to describe a person’s romantic, emotional or sexual attraction to another person.” [*] Increasingly, sexual orientation is being differentiated from romantic orientation - see also AVENWiki: Attraction.

Transgender: As defined by Practical Androgyny: “‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term that can potentially cover all people who transgress or transcend (go beyond the limits of) society’s rules and concepts of gender. People may be transgender due to their self expression, identity or personal history.”

Previous section: Defining genderqueer ← OR Genderqueer History

Notes:

[10]: Winter, Claire R. Understanding Transgender Diversity: A Sensible Explanation of Sexual and Gender Identities. S.l.: Claire Ruth Winter, 2010. Print.

[11]: Rampling, Claire T. “GirlFags — The FAQ!” GirlFags — The HomePage! n.p., 1 Feb. 2002. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://www.girlfags.com/faq.html>.

[12]: Feldman, Stephe. “What is Neutrois?” Neutrois. 1 Nov. 2006. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://neutrois.com/neutrois.html>.

Please also see the GenderQueer and Queer Terms page at The GenderQueer Coalition for more identities and information.