With the FIFA World Cup 2022 coming to an end, the tournament was mired with controversies such as the human rights violations of immigrant workers in Qatar. Even LGBTQIA+ activists raised concerns as the display of flags in support of the community was barred in stadiums.
Conversations have been held about creating a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community. As it is important to break stereotypes and have conversations beyond heteronormativity, activists have also flagged the need to explore ‘gender fluidity’.
According to WebMD, “Someone who is fluid — also called gender fluid — is a person whose gender identity (the gender they identify with most) is not fixed.”
Swati Bhagchandani, Clinical Psychologist, says, “While growing up, a child may or may not relate to the gender assigned to them. They may keep evolving through the way they wish to express themselves beyond the assigned gender norms (dressing up, the way they appear, talk, behaviourally) or identify themselves beyond that assigned gender — for example non-binary, agender, transperson, etc — is known as gender fluidity.”
Bhagchandani adds, “The fact that one can keep evolving in their gender identity from time to time is what defines gender fluidity.”
Gender Fluidity in itself is a term that we are hardly aware of. Often, we get confused between gender and sexual fluidity. So, what’s the difference?
“Gender fluidity is about how one feels about themselves, how they find themselves as an individual, how fluid they are. Sexual fluidity has more to do with their sexuality, their orientations, their sexual expression, their sexual behaviour, “says Shanmathi Senthil Kumar, Counselling Psychologist.
Most of the time, when we talk about pronouns, we categories them as he or her. Heteronormativity has made us confined within our own thoughts.
“For most these labels and idea of queerness becomes confusing to understand because of the internalised idea of heteronormativity, and it is easier to stay with what is known than to dwell in what is unknown,“ says Bhagchandani.
How important are pronouns?
“Assuming another person’s pronoun is not an inclusive or a respective way of addressing a person,“ says Kumar. “There are people who fall out of the binary and he/she is very restricted. There are very respectful pronouns that each person uses for themselves. Now, a lot of them use they/them as a pronoun. So, using the right pronoun is the bare minimum to respect the person. And once we have started respecting things outside the binary, we learn to understand what pronoun each person thinks for themselves.”
Adam, a gender-fluid person, hails from New Delhi. Working as a Community Manager, Adam manages both college and work to support his family. He goes by the pronouns she, they and Lk. Lk is Adam’s neo-pronoun. Simply speaking, neo pronouns are gender-neutral pronouns. “If someone calls me, he/him, it reminds me of the trauma that I went through during my childhood.”
Using a wrong pronoun is like calling someone with the wrong name, says Bhagchandani. Thus, using the correct pronoun of a person is the most basic step towards respecting them.
Living as a gender fluid
Ayeshafirst explored her gender fluidity during her college’s annual day function when she was asked to do the role of a woman. She felt a sense of resemblance and comfort after that day. Ayesha goes by the pronoun she/her. Society identifies Ayesha as a man.
As she explored herself, Ayesha realised that she identifies as a woman. However, the pressure of society made her closeted. While Ayesha tried to hint at her gender fluidity to her wife, it didn’t work out.
Living as a gender fluid person isn’t easy. One of the most basic hurdles that Ayesha faces is the acceptance part. Wearing a woman’s attire with a masculine voice makes Ayesha prone to criticism.
She says, “People tend to think of you as a sexual object. Whenever I stand somewhere for a cab, people think I am there to ask out some guy. There were times when people asked me my rate as well.”
Amid the everyday objection that she faces, Ayesha knows that it is important to have conversations about gender fluidity. When her daughter grows up, Ayesha says that she will surely have a discussion about gender and sexuality with her daughter.
On being asked about their experience as a gender fluid person, Adam says that it has been “terrible.” Faced with bullying and hardships, Adam feels it is important to create a safe space for the marginalised. “I exist to create a safe space for the next generation,” says Adam.
Sexually assaulted by their schoolmates, it was Clubhouse (a social networking app) where Adam found their community. They found their people who supported them, and pushed them throughout.
“When you live in a village in Haryana, you cannot live as a queer person,” says Adam. While educating your family is always a solution, however, it becomes hard to break stereotypes which are so deep rooted.
How to increase gender fluidity awareness?
“Gender Fluidity is something that people cannot think of. There are certain stages that people need to reach and then they need to come to gender fluidity. Before understanding what is gender fluidity, we need to make people aware of gender. It’s a step-by-step process,” says Adam.
Abolishing gender-assigned washrooms and opting for a gender-neutral washroom will be an important step, adds Adam. Adam feels that the education system has to make people aware of gender fluidity.
Ayesha has mentioned that it is important for families to talk about the complex structure of gender and sexuality.
”To make a person understand the idea of gender fluidity start by asking them what gender norms have they outgrown for themselves in their lives or they wish they could. That gives a start to the conversation with no attack.”