Genderfluid: Gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression, with interests and behaviors that may even change from day to day. Genderfluid persons may change their name and/or pronouns according to their gender identity and expression.
Developing a Genderfluid Character
Here are some thoughtful questions that you can ask yourself about your character to help you better understand how they see themselves and how they interact with the world:
Which genders do your character identify with?
How do these genders manifest themselves/how does your character show/perform them?
When did your character discover that they are genderfluid?
What kind of experience was it? Was it a gradual realization or something they’d known since they were young?
How do they think/feel about being genderfluid?
Does it give them an advantage/disadvantage? Is it a big deal to them or not?
How do they interact with the world while performing these genders?
Does your character perform one gender or another depending on the circumstance/setting?
How does your character want their genders to be perceived by others?
How are they actually perceived? How do other characters react to these genders if/when your character switches between them? How does your character react to these reactions?
How does the society in your story treat your character?
Is it different if your character switches from one gender to another?
Writing A Genderfluid Character
While gender can be a very important part of a character, it is only one facet to a complete, complex, and believable character.
- Genderfluid doesn’t necessarily mean androgynous. Don’t fall into gendered stereotypes for gender expression. There is nothing wrong with any of the activities themselves, but be careful about using them to portray a specific gender expression.
- Personality traits are not gender dependent. How your character expresses their genders should fall in line with their personality. They are still the same person no matter which gender they are expressing.
- As with pronouns, names should stay consistent within a scene. If your character prefers a particular name for a certain gender expression make sure this is clearly stated for the reader and that switches between names are clearly defined.
Pronoun usage should not confuse the reader. Most readers will find the singular ‘they’ easiest if others are addressing your character, or your character can specify which pronouns they prefer. As with point of view, it is best to stick with one pronoun per scene for the genderfluid character. If the character is switching from one gender to another this needs to be made clear to the reader. You are welcome to use other non gendered pronouns though be aware that these can throw a reader who is not familiar.
Don’t fall into gendered stereotypes for gender expression. There is nothing wrong with any of the stereotypical activities themselves, but be careful about using them to portray a specific gender expression.
Things to Keep in Mind
Gender identity and expression don’t always align due to societal constraints and the individual’s comfort level in expressing their identity. Expressing one’s gender, if it conflicts with societal norms, can make a person a subject of ridicule or violence. Being unable to express one’s gender doesn’t negate their gender and chosen pronouns should always be used regardless of how the individual may appear to outsiders.
Tropes are tropes for a reason and most of these are not bad in and of themselves, however they often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and thus should be used cautiously. Some include:
Genderfluid Characters in Fiction
Lafayette Goddard/Genevieve Merlot from The Jeweled Dagger | The Radchaai from Ancillary Justice | The oankali from Lilith’s Brood |
Orlando from Orlando | The Dwarves from the Discworld series| Vaarsuvius from The Order of the Stick | LaFontaine from Carmilla | Angela Blank/Ash Landers from Kuroshitsuji | Timothy/Camellia Mattei from But I’m a Cat Person
Famous Genderfluid People
Genderfluidity as a gender identity is a more modern term, however this does not mean there have not always been genderfluid persons throughout history as there most certainly have been. However, we do not impose gender identities on historical figures. The people listed below have confirmed their identities in one way or another.