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The term agender translates to ‘not having a gender’. When people identify as agender, they often describe it as a lack of gender or being genderless or genderfree. However, the term is sometimes used by people who identify as gender-neutral or have an undefinable gender. Agender people fall under the non-binary umbrella (outside of the gender binary).
Salem, who identifies as an agender and panromantic demisexual with they/she pronouns, designed the agender flag on February 18, 2014. The flag was designed by this New York-based artist at a point when Tumblr was experiencing an inflow of identity expressions, making it difficult for individuals to distinguish between legitimate identities and “internet fads.”
Taking advantage of the momentum, Salem designed the agender flag (among other things) to raise awareness of agender identities and help them regain their own space. The transgender flag was a major inspiration, as Salem adopted a similar stripe design and symmetry. From top to bottom, the flag has seven horizontal stripes: black, grey, white, green, white, grey, and black again.
The black and white stripes symbolise the agender experience, the grey represents the demi-agender experience, and the green represents agender as part of the larger non-binary community. While the flag’s monochrome theme represents a range of internal identities ranging from those who have a strong sense of gender to those who don’t, the green in the middle was purposefully chosen to be the inversion of the shade of purple on the non-binary flag, which refers to those who relate to the gender binary, indicating that agender does not fall into the binary.
Since 2017, the 19th of May has been designated as Agender Pride Day. It is one of the more recent LGBTQIA+ awareness days that has been recognised to promote discourse on what it means to be an agender. While the label is relatively new, the idea is certainly not a novelty. The first recorded use of the term “agender” was on the internet in the year 2000, on the UseNet discussion board. “God is amorphous, agender, […] therefore image can’t be a bodily, gender, or sexual entity,” a user wrote in a chat room conversation.
While the idea initially was used by spiritual schools to situate God as an entity above the confines of human labels, its usage as we understand it currently, took off soon. In 2013, a New York Times profile of “Generation LGBTQIA”, featured the term agender along with the experiences of young individuals who identified so. Kate, who saw gender as an ‘amorphous blob’, is an example.
Patch, a 27-year-old video game creator from Portland, was granted permission to legally identify as an agender by an Oregon judge in March 2017. The same ruling also permitted people to change their names and become mononymous, which means they just had one name rather than a given surname.
The larger idea that anchors identities like agender is the perception of gender as a spectrum rather than as a binary. Gender, today, is perceived as a complex construct, majorly created out of the intersection of body, identity, and social gender. The experiences of our bodies, along with the way we want to present them to the world when combined with the society’s interactions with such a presentation forms gender.
The biological, emotional, and social traits that construct gender are understood as existing in a continuum. The confusing view of gender as a binary could have arisen from the bimodal (NOT binary) nature – the presence of two clusters that show up as peaks in a graph – of sex characteristics. Even still, such a model can only be described as a spectrum with clusters.
The term and its dimensions
While the term agender has been used interchangeably with gender-neutral or gender void and similar words, there are subtle differences in their connotations. Gendervoid individuals experience emptiness in the place of gender, whereas agender people feel that they do not have one.
Although agender can be classified as nonbinary, not all nonbinary persons are agender. Some nonbinary people may identify as demi boy, demi girls, bigenders, polygenders, or other gender identities. The term “nonbinary” refers to a variety of genders that do not fit neatly into either the “male” or “female” categories.
Genderqueer persons, on the whole, do not identify as entirely male or female. The term “genderqueer” refers to people who do not identify as male or female in the traditional sense. Gender fluidity refers to the fact that your gender moves and evolves. While agender and genderfluid are both possible, they are not the same thing. At the same time, you can identify as agender, nonbinary, genderqueer, and/or genderfluid.
To different people, being agender means different things. The terms used to describe one’s gender are influenced by one’s own identity, feelings, and beliefs. Agender is a term for someone who doesn’t identify with any one gender. If someone has a greater emotional or intellectual connection to the term, they may pick it over related words (like genderless or gendervoid). If they believe it is best for them, some agender people may transition medically by undergoing gender confirmation surgery or taking hormones.
Many agender people, on the other hand, do not transition medically – it is a personal choice. Some agender people also change their names, pronouns, and gender presentation (which is, the clothing they wear, how they style themselves, etc.). This is, however, entirely up to them, and there is no “correct” way to be agender.
Probably due to the cis-normative landscape our discourses take, the concept of being agender did not come to the forefront or was confused with apathy towards gender. However, with the establishment of the pride day and separate flag, the agender community has been receiving more visibility. Celebrities like singer-songwriter Shamir Bailey, rapper Angel Haze, and model Tyler Ford have publicly come out as agender and have utilised their platforms to create awareness about the identity.
Featured Image Source: Business Insider