For many people, the terms ‘gender’ is interchangeably. Both Miley Cyrus and Ruby Rose have spoken publicly how they about identifying as gender fluid. But what exactly is it and is it on the rise? If you’re not familiar with the term, gender fluidity refers to somebody viewing themselves as both male and female.

Some gender fluid people will alter their clothing depending on whether they feel more masculine or feminine while for others it’s a state of mind that they don’t outwardly express.

While you might have put Miley’s transition from girlie Hannah Montana to her current androgynous style down to fashion preference, but the child star has announced she doesn’t want to be boxed into one gender identity.

She recently told Out.

I didn’t want to be a boy … I kind of wanted to be nothing. I don’t relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy, and I think that’s what I had to understand: Being a girl isn’t what I hate, it’s the box that I get put into.”

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Also read: Miley Cyrus: “I’m Not Hiding My Sexuality”

Meanwhile, Ruby Rose, soon to be star of Orange Is The New Black, shared a rare insight into being gender fluid in her short film Break Free, where she transitioned from an ultra feminine version of herself with long blonde hair to a masculine version in a suit.

The only reason it was a surprise was because gender fluidity doesn’t get talked about enough. Once the film went viral, the floodgate opened; to me, that said that this was something much bigger than I thought it was.”

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Gender is all around us. It is actually taught to us from the moment we are born. Gender expectations and messages bombard us constantly. Upbringing, culture, peers, schools, community, media, and religion are some of the many influences that shape our understanding of this core aspect of self. How you learned and interacted with gender as a young child directly influences how you view the world today.

However, the diversity of gender is a normal part of the human experience, across cultures and throughout history.

Non-binary gender diversity exists all over the world, documented by countless historians and anthropologists. Examples of individuals living comfortably outside of typical male/female expectations and/or identities are found in every region of the globe.

The calabai, and calalai of Indonesia, two-spirit Native Americans, and the hijra of India all represent more complex understandings of gender than allowed for by a simplistic binary model.

Further, what might be considered gender-expansive in one period of history may become gender normative in another.

One need only examine trends related to men wearing earrings or women sporting tattoos to quickly see the malleability of social expectations about gender. Even the seemingly intractable “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” notions are relatively new. While there is some debate about the reasons why they reversed, what is well documented is that not until the mid-twentieth century were notions of pink for girls or blue for boys so firmly ensconced.

So, you can make the case that “pink is the new blue!”

Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of a person’s identity, gender deeply influences every part of their life.

In a society where this crucial aspect of self has been so narrowly defined and rigidly enforced, individuals who exists outside its norms face innumerable challenges.

Even those who vary only slightly from the norm can become targets of disapproval. Yet this does not have to be the case forever. Through a thoughtful consideration of the uniqueness and validity of every person’s experiences of self, we can develop greater acceptance for all.

Not only will this create greater inclusion for individuals who challenge the norms of gender, it will actually create space for all individuals to more fully explore and celebrate who they are.

 

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