This article was published on October 8th, 2016
Androgyny is a word that we have all come across at some point or another in a variety of contexts. A particularly popular buzzword within the fashion industry at the moment, it is often used to describe gender ambiguity. A desired look among models for its versatility with fashion, in this industry it is meant to describe people who physically don’t conform to male or female norms. However, as with many gender/sexuality profiles, social trends often glamorise or perpetuate unrealistic and restrictive ideas about those living within these parameters.
So what does it actually mean for those outside the fashion world, living day to day as androgynous?
To begin, it’s important to understand what androgyny is.
Androgyny is not a sexual preference, you can be gay, straight, bi, pan or fall anywhere on the sexuality spectrum. It is purely a gender identity and doesn’t affect sexual preference. It refers to those who identify as both male and female internally.
This can be a difficult thing to come to terms with because of the societal pressure on us all, as individuals, to conform and to fit into boxes. This is something bisexuals have often voiced and criticised heavily as it puts immense pressure on people to be one or the other, not both. Gay or straight, not bi; man or woman, not androgynous. Androgyny isn’t as black and white as being transgender, gay, straight or cis. That’s not to say that there is any comparison in the difficulty of accepting any of these aspects of oneself, any preference or identity that is outside the ‘normal parameters’ set out by ones own society carries its own set of risks, struggles, boundaries and difficulties. Some are just more visible than others and androgyny is a much less clear-cut gender identity which can make it harder to understand and harder to explain to others.
It is also heavily culturally biased. Gender roles, perceptions and norms change based on countries, so a masculine behaviour in one place would be perceived as feminine in another which makes androgyny an even more complex identity. It is also associated heavily with creativity. Innovation has long been linked with the ability to think outside the box and therefore often connected to individuals who, for a variety of reasons, live life outside the box.
“A great mind must be androgynous”
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, 1932
Being androgynous is tough, because society doesn’t like things that don’t fit into boxes, it doesn’t like free radicals or things that fall all over the spectrum rather than slotting nicely into on section of it. But being androgynous is also liberating, free from the social constructs of just one gender, it allows the individual to embrace elements from both genders and smash the gender barriers behaviourally, socially, physically and with fashion.