Androgynous traits are those that either have no gender value, or have some aspects generally attributed to the opposite gender. Physiological androgyny (compare intersex), which deals with physical traits, is distinct from behavioral androgyny which deals with personal and social anomalies in gender, and from psychological androgyny, which is a matter of gender identity. A psychologically androgynous person is commonly known as an androgyne [How to reference and link to summary or text], although there is a politicized version known as genderqueer.
To say that a culture or relationship is androgynous is to say that it lacks rigid gender roles and that the people involved display characteristics or partake in activities traditionally associated with the other gender. The term androgynous is often used to refer to a person whose look or build make determining their gender difficult but is generally not used as a synonym for actual intersexuality, transgender or two-spirit people. Occasionally, people who do not actually define themselves as androgynes adapt their physical appearance to look androgynous. This outward androgyny has been used as a fashion statement, and some of the milder forms of it (women wearing men's pants/men wearing skirts, for example) are not perceived as transgendered behavior.
Lesbians who don't define themselves as butch or femme may identify with various other labels including androgynous or andro for short. A few other examples include lipstick lesbian, tomboy, and 'tom suay' which is Thai for 'beautiful butch'. Some lesbians reject gender performativity labels altogether and resent their imposition by others. Note that androgynous and butch are often considered equivalent definitions, though less so in the butch/femme scene.
A recently-coined word, often used to refer to androgynes, is genderqueer. However, this term can be used to refer to anyone who identifies as transgender, or even someone who identifies as cisgender but whose behavior falls outside the average standard gender norms. An androgyne may be attracted to people of any gender, though many identify as pansexual or asexual. Terms such as bisexual, heterosexual, and homosexual have less meaning for androgynes who do not identify as male or female to begin with. Infrequently the words gynephilia and androphilia are used, which refer to the gender of the person someone is attracted to, and do not imply any particular gender on the part of the person who is feeling the attraction.
People who show Androgyny traits are seen in Psychology as being the most mentally stable individuals because they can see situations from both a masculine and feminine perspective. They tend to also handle social situations better than people who are typically defined as solely masculine or solely feminine. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
An androgyne is a person who does not fit cleanly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society. [How to reference and link to summary or text] Many androgynes identify as being mentally "between" male and female, or as entirely genderless.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The former may also use the term ambigender, the latter non-gendered or agender. They may experience mental swings between genders, sometimes referred to as being bigender or gender fluid.
Intergender is also a word that androgynes can use to describe being between or beyond genders. Androgyne used to be primarily used as a synonym for hermaphrodite (a term since replaced by the word intersex), but this usage has fallen out of favor.
Androgynes sometimes refer to themselves using gender-neutral pronouns or the singular they.[How to reference and link to summary or text] A few even take steps toward transitioning from their birth sex into a physically androgynous form.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
- Feldman, Stephe. Androgyne Online. Transgender Tapestry Issue 107 (Fall/Winter 2004), pp. 38-39.
- Sell, Ingrid M. Third gender: A Qualitative Study of the Experience of Individuals Who Identify as Being Neither Man nor Woman. Doctoral Dissertation, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 2001). UMI No. 3011299.
- Bem, Sandra L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 42, 155-62
- Dynes, Wayne Androgyny Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. Dynes, Wayne R. (ed.), Garland Publishing, 1990. pp. 56-68.
- LIlar, Suzanne, Le couple (1963), Paris, Grasset; Translated as Aspects of Love in Western Society in 1965, with a foreword by Jonathan Griffin, New York, McGraw-Hill.