I should start this post by stating that I am no expert in this field. I am still navigating my own gender identity, and each day can be a struggle. However, it doesn’t mean I won’t share what I feel and what I find in my own search for understand who I am as a person.
The first time I truly was educated on the concept of gender I was in college. Stereotypically so, I was in a women’s studies course, and naturally we were talking about sex, sexuality and gender. If I’m not mistaken I think the class was titled that, but it has been so many years. I digress, there was I was, a young adult, sitting in an uncomfortable desk having my concepts of gender completely torn asunder.
The professor saw us struggling so she bluntly put the definition of sex and gender into the simplest definitions possible. Sex was what physically existed between your legs. Gender is what exists between your ears. Can you chew on that concept for a moment. My body. My physical body was female. I have a vagina. I have breasts. I have all the internal makings of a human female. That is what sex means in this discussion.
However, that doesn’t mean I’m female in terms of gender. Gender falls into the more grey social and cultural aspects of identity. It’s a noun, but also a descriptor. The online Oxford dictionary has a good breakdown of the term: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/gender
So who was I? I have to admit that originally that question did not use the term who; instead, I had used the term what. What was I? I didn’t feel like I fit into the socially constructed frames of being a female, but I didn’t fit wholly into the same constructs as male. What did that mean? If I wasn’t male, and if I wasn’t female, what was I? I have to admit that I was not kind to myself during this time of my life. I still find myself being cruel to myself, but I know it is out of fear and frustration. I’ve been on the receiving end of violence in result of those initially perceiving my masculinity, only for my femininity to send them reeling against their own preconceived notions of male/female. I decided that it was more important to focus on my sexuality, than my gender, thinking that one would follow the other.
I was wrong.
I got caught up in the ideology that androgyny existed within sexuality. Androgyny was “cross-dressing”, and presenting (as a female) a masculinity that was defined by the fact my sex was female. You see it a lot in androgyny-specific clothing lines. Not to take away anything from those that wear certain clothing to present their gender identity or sexuality in any specific way. Gender identity is as unique as a fingerprint, and no two can ever be truly alike because no two people can ever truly be the same. But as I got older, and started to pay more attention to the clothing I placed on my body, to the roles I found myself performing, and my resulting actions, my gender issues started to flare up more and more.
And then I cut my hair.
I cut my hair for a simple, practical reason. It is hard to breathe when performing CPR to begin with, but it is twice as difficult to do so when thick hair is falling into your face. So I shaved 85% of my hair off. And there they were…where has he been all the time. She was ecstatic. I looked handsome, and I felt so relieved. I knew I looked good, something that I could never say before without some form of sarcasm and self-esteem insecurity melting into my words. But the haircut awoke in me something that I wasn’t truly ready to explore. I was still combining my sexuality with my gender, and felt that I would somehow demean the impact of my sexuality with my gender. I couldn’t have been more ignorant to myself.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, androgynous means:
1: having the characteristics or nature of both male and female androgynous heroines
2: a: neither specifically feminine nor masculine the androgynous pronoun them
b : suitable to or for either sex androgynous clothing
3 : having traditional male and female roles obscured or reversed an androgynous marriage.
It’s an adjective. A descriptor. First known use of the term was roughly 1651, so for those who argue this is a new concept brought on by today’s societal shift, you are mistaken.
This has been around pushing 400 years, give or take a few decades. But I wasn’t looking for a description of myself. I already had plenty of those. I was trying to figure out, on a ladder, what I was. Some days masculine, some days feminine, some days both, and some days neither. I tried defining my gender through my sexuality, because I identify as pansexual, but that didn’t work either. Who was I? Who are you when you are neither male or female, but both at the same time as well? What do you do when you can pass as both primary genders that society holds so tightly to. (I do find the irony in that fact. That I’ve had friends not recognize me because my attitude, the way I held my body, and how I acted, placed my gender as masculine thus causing their subconscious to place me as male instead of female.)
Then I realized that I didn’t have to be one or the other. I lived on a spectrum. I was a spectrum. That being a spectrum itself was a gender identity, and that identity has a name that fits how I feel. Androgyne.
Androgyne is a gender identity. It isn’t reflected in clothing, or a hair cut, or any other ideological conception of gender. It is a very broad term for many in regards to gender, because it doesn’t necessarily have an answer to a person’s gender, which in itself is reflective of our deeper need for categorization (but I’m delving into theory, and god I still had theory.) Basically, androgyne is a gender, like male or female is a gender, that doesn’t need further classification. For example, if a person tells you that his gender is masculine, that he identifies as a male, one doesn’t tend to require any further explanation.
The only problem an androgyne person faces is a societal need to classify people on a binary spectrum, a ladder if you will. The problem with that system is that you only have two directions one can travel, up or down. But life doesn’t work on a ladder, and people are prime examples of that. Race, culture, language etc, all of these things do not exist on a ladder, but along a spectrum. A spectrum that is constantly changing, evolving. Gender identity is no different. Androgyne, androgynous, androgyny, all different forms of the same word with distinct differences in definition. A state of being; an expression, behavior, form of communication; social interactions, culture.
I am still androgyne if I wear a dress. I am still androgyne if I wear a tuxedo. I’m still androgyne standing in my room in a bra and boxers. I answer to male and female pronouns. I answer to they/them (having a degree in English studies, I found I had bigger issues with the decidedly rigid grammatical applications of them/they, then I did with the words being used to address myself in a singular fashion…I will not apologize for being a nerd).
I fully believe that you can be androgynous, and not identify as androgyne, and that makes perfect sense. How many women dress androgynously, but identify as women? It’s really more about breaking down the concept of someone having to “be” something readily identifiable, or even unidentifiable, as long as what they are is easily explained. Being androgyne is not easy to explain because it does cause those who decide to address it to think upon their own ideologies of gender identity and expression. My existence breaks down walls, and that is very uncomfortable. I know, intimately, how hard it is to break down preconceived ideologies.
But I’ve never felt more free to be me, to explore who I am and how being me impacts those around me. It kind of feels like flying.
So to me, androgyne means me, and that is a great place to start.