What is polygender?
Not many have heard of this gender identity — or many of the other non-binary (NB) genders.
To break it down by its name, “polygender” simply means “many genders.” Someone who is polygender can experience more than one gender. These genders can change from day to day, remain fluid or be experienced simultaneously. These can include male, female and non-binary genders such as genderqueer, genderfluid, bigender, etc., as well.
As I learned more about gender and gender identities, I learned that we’re often exposed to gender as a binary and told that our gender can fall in one place, either on — or off — the binary. The truth is, though, the way we identify our gender can fall in multiple places on a spectrum, and you can use whatever pronouns you feel fit you best, even if that means using different pronouns each day.
Gender isn’t as easy to define as many people think. The way we see, feel, hold and identify with gender differs from culture to culture. Also, our understanding of gender varies more than we realize. Because gender is so socially constructed, it looks completely different to each and every one of us. Traditionally, some cultures recognize more than one gender (some have up to five) while some only recognize male and female. The way we give meaning to genders varies from culture to culture as well. For example, males and masculinity look different in every culture.
There isn’t a whole lot of media representation around people with non-binary genders, but there are many of us throughout the world. While binary trans stars have been given ample space in the media, non-binary folks aren’t given much attention. Even celebs like Angel Haze, who are visible and living in their truth, have been dismissed and erased by media and fans for being NB.
Non-binary people are erased and silenced every single day. Many binary transgender people, even, will actively belittle and dehumanize non-binary people, especially those of us of color, because of intersecting systems of oppression. Binary trans people will hurl transphobic slurs at us, telling us that we’re just NB because it’s “trendy,” or tell us that we’re just trying to be “special snowflakes.” You would think that binary trans people would be welcoming and hold space and community for NB folks. Sadly, that’s typically not the case.
Most folks are raised with the idea that only two genders exist, male and female. This concept doesn’t check itself at the door if you’re transgender. Many binary trans folks don’t even know that NB genders exist. People usually think that gender is innate and static when, in reality, it’s actually very fluid and flexible, much like sexuality.
Non-binary folks are routinely invalidated and not respected very often. We are told that our gender(s) isn’t/aren’t real. Folks usually don’t respect pronouns that aren’t he/him/his or she/her/hers. It’s quite sad that people who are supposed to be our community don’t even recognize our genders as valid.
Polygender is a real, valid gender identity like any other gender. Being polygender can be difficult sometimes. Being constantly dismissed and erased by binary trans folks can be tiring. Living our truth can be difficult, but when I’m around other NB folks, all of that tends to melt away. It’s so wonderfully freeing, validating and liberating.
Shout out to all the folks who didn’t know that there was a word to describe what they’ve been feeling for so long. I was in that place not too long ago. You are a whole, a valid person. Binary trans folks need to educate themselves and actively work to dismantle non-binary erasure within and outside of our communities.