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What Is Fluid?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Someone who is fluid -- also called gender fluid -- is a person whose gender identity (the gender they identify with most) is not fixed. It can change over time or from day-to-day. Fluid is a form of gender identity or gender expression, rather than a sexual orientation.

Fluid relates to how a person identifies themselves internally and presents themselves to the world. A person who is gender fluid may identify as male one day, female the next, both male and female, or neither. It affects their gender expression -- the way a person presents themself to society (masculine, feminine, both, or neither).

Other Names for Fluid

People who are fluid don’t abide by societal norms and expectations that classify people within a binary (either male or female; either masculine or feminine). The term “genderqueer” might also be used to describe a person who is fluid. Genderqueer describes someone whose gender identity doesn’t fit within the binary.

Other LGBT+ terms for fluid include agender (no gender), bigender (both male and female), demigender (partial connection to a certain gender), or another nonbinary identity. 

Instead of using binary-restricted pronouns, such as “his/him/he” and “her/she/hers,” a person who is gender fluid may use the more neutral terms “they/them/their” instead.

What Is the Difference Between Fluid and Gender Neutral?

Being gender fluid is sometimes confused with gender neutral. Gender fluid means a person embraces an adaptable nature to the concept of gender identity and gender expression. They can be one gender, multiple genders, or no gender.

Gender neutral is often a term used to describe people of any gender. As its name suggests, the sexual orientations or gender identities of gender neutral are not defined.

Misconceptions About Fluid

It’s not a phase. The very nature of being gender fluid means you may change the way you identify. If this happens, it doesn’t mean the person is no longer gender fluid. Only they can decide that.

Fluidity in children. Most medical experts believe that children notice gender stereotyped behaviors around ages 2 or 3. By preschool, even though children recognize the behavioral norms, cross-gender preferences and play are part of their normal exploration process and do not necessarily affect their future gender identity. However, if a child continues to identify as gender diverse over the years, then it’s more likely not a phase. 

Helping Your Loved Ones Understand Fluid

Discussing your gender identity or gender expression with loved ones might be difficult. There are resources to help you. You may want to:

  • Encourage your family or friends to listen first and ask questions without judgment.
  • Stress that fluidity isn’t about you wanting to display a masculine or feminine side, but an expression of your physical and emotional interaction with the world.
  • Provide research to support that being a gender fluid person is not a trend or linked to a mental illness.
  • Be open and honest about your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Even when you take these steps, your family or friends still might not understand. Have patience, and give them time. If after a while progress still hasn’t been made, ask trusted friends or a counselor to help you come up with a new discussion plan.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Parenting a Gender Diverse Child: Hard Questions Answered.”

Cambridge Dictionary: “gender-neutral.”

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “Scientist refutes notion that gender identity is an ‘unscientific liberal ideology’.”

European Journal of English Studies: “‘Embracing what is rightfully ours’: representing Australian Aboriginal Brotherboy identities.”

Health: “What Does It Mean to Be Gender Fluid? Here’s What Experts Say.”

Human Rights Campaign: “Talking to Grandparents and Other Adult Family Members.”

Mayo Clinic: “Children and gender identity.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “gender-fluid.”

New York Times: “The Peculiar Position of India’s Third Gender.”

Psychology Today: “A Guide to Genderqueer, Non-Binary, and Genderfluid Identity.”

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