What Does It Mean to be Genderqueer? 

Identity is ever-changing, it may be difficult to understand where you stand and that is totally okay! Sexuality and gender is fluid, the most important part is letting yourself explore and learn what you feel the most comfortable with.

In this article, we’ll tackle what it means to be genderqueer and what it entails to be a part of this community. 

What does being genderqueer mean?

Genderqueer is an umbrella term often synonymous with the word nonbinary. It refers to those who feel like their gender identity expands past the societal binaries and notions regarding what gender means. Someone who is genderqueer might also be agender, which means they do not identify with any form of gender. Genderqueer people might also combine genders such as male and female or move between several genders also known as being genderfluid.

Because it is an umbrella term there are many different subsections relating to what it means to be genderqueer. However, one thing all genderqueer people have in common is they consider their gender to exist outside of the binary. Genderqueer individuals do not look a certain way as identity has nothing to do with appearance or presentation. In addition to that genderqueer people may use a variety of pronouns such as they/them or she/her, a combination, or many other pronoun options. 

Learning that you might be a part of the LGBTQ+ community might be scary at first, but there are many ways to plug yourself into the community and learn to be comfortable with your sexuality. 

if you’re curious about how you might identify, here’s what you should know about what being genderqueer means:

History of the word agender 

The word genderqueer itself is relatively new. This does not mean that genderqueer people haven’t been around for centuries before its creation, because they sure have. The first time the word gender queer was used was in the 1980s within queer zines and it led to the creation of the word non-binary. American activists such as Riki Anne Wilchins helped popularize the word. In the 1990s Wilchins co-edited a collection of articles called “GenderQueer: Voices from beyond the Sexual Binary” which used the expression gender queer which helped familiarize the word for many. 

From then on the word gender queer took off in social conversations. Because in the early 2000s the makeup of the LGBTQ+ acronym was being slowly put together, many individuals started using labels to identify themselves. Seeing major celebrities speak about gender identity also helped many people feel as though they are not alone. 

Alternatives to the word genderqueer

Because identity is personal and different people are comfortable using different terms there are a variety of ways to say the word agender, including: 

  • Non-binary  
  • Genderfree
  • Neutrois

Over time language evolves and this creates new words derived from a multitude of historical nuances. Labels and terms can also carry connotations, bad or good, which is why one might identify more with one term over the other despite them meaning the same thing. It is also important to note that the word genderqueer can encompass asexual, lesbian, and intersex individuals, and so much more.

What NOT to call genderqueer people 

Hateful words that refer to the agender community should always be erased from conversations and speech. The word genderqueer has come a long way, but negative connotations and stereotypes remain. offensive words should be avoided at all costs, as they are derogatory. 

It is also critical to note that members of the genderqueer community have begun to reclaim derogatory terms to take back the oppression they have faced. Although within the community this is acceptable it is still not okay to refer to gender queer people with a derogatory term if one is not a part of the community themselves. Always ask before assuming someone’s sexuality and gender identity. 

What makes someone genderqueer?

As I mentioned above there is not one singular way to define a gender queer person. Some genderqueer people go through medical procedures and surgeries to better feel comfortable in their gender identity. Others might take hormones or dress a certain way. The options are limitless and there is no right way to do it. Appearance and gender affirmation can help many genderqueer people feel more comfortable regarding their gender identity. 

It is also important to note that some genderqueer people might also identify as transgender or non-binary. These terms can also at times be synonymous or adjectives for each other. One of the reasons people use the term genderqueer is because it is politically fueled. The connotation relates to the queering of gender and many feel like it better represents how they relate to gender. 

If you think you might be gender queer you might want to ask yourself this question: Do you feel like you don’t identify with binary genders? If the answer is yes it’s worth looking into how you might fit into the gender queer community. Another important thing to note is that some people might realize they are genderqueer at a super young age, others not until they are older, and some people might decide that they don’t identify with it anymore. All of this is totally okay. Gender and sexuality is fluid and it is very normal for identity to fluctuate and change over time. 

Perspectives on being genderqueer

The best way to understand the genderqueer perspective is to listen to the community and what experiences they have lived through. It is easy to assume things, but this can be very dangerous when dealing with identity. It never hurts to ask someone what their pronouns are or how they would like to be addressed. Asking these simple questions are some of the easiest ways to show your support for the genderqueer community. 

Advocating for policies that benefit the genderqueer community can also be a great way to support them. Gender-neutral bathrooms and the option to select “non-binary” or “genderqueer” when filling out a document are all things that make day-to-day much more stress-free for genderqueer individuals. 

As with many communities within the LGBTQ+ acronym there are a variety of myths and misconceptions that need to be debunked. The idea that genderqueer people are “confused” or will eventually “choose” a gender is harmful and, of course, very far from the truth.  It is important to read up on genderqueer voices to better understand their perspective. 

The genderqueer flag

The genderqueer flag was created by Marilyn Roxie in 2011 and is the 3rd and final version of the flag. It has three horizontal stripes in three colors. The colors symbolize as follows:

  • Lavender: androgyny and queerness. 
  • White: agender identity and gender neutrality.  
  • Green: Genders outside of the binary. 

Bottom Line 

All people are deserving of respect, regardless of gender, sexuality, or any other aspect of their identity. Understanding what it means to be genderqueer might change through the years, labels are always transforming and evolving. 

Gender queer people can’t be defined by a singular thing. Their identity is colorful, multidimensional, and ever-changing. It perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Gender queer people are deserving of respect and support despite the many trials and tribulations that this community has faced through the years. 

Being genderqueer can mean many things, it’s an umbrella term after all. Figuring out where you stand on the spectrum might take time and that’s completely fine. There should be no pressure when it comes to learning who you are as a person. 

If some of the ideas above resonate with you and you’re thinking of coming out, make sure the conditions are safe and have a plan of action regarding housing and food if things don’t go as planned. 

In addition, be sure to learn about the other identities that make up the LGBTQ+ community subscribe to the INTO newsletter to learn more.

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