The binary gender system classifies all people into either female or male, man or woman. However not everyone fits neatly into these categories. Some people do not feel comfortable when assigned a traditional gender. Whether owing to choice or chance, many of these people are not readily gendered by others.
This state of perceived gender ambiguity can be described as androgyny.
Practical Androgyny is a resource for both those who are comfortably androgynous but struggle with the pressures of the binary gender system, and for those who wish to explore the possibilities of gender ambiguity. This site does not focus on the details of identity but on the practical aspects of living with, or obtaining, an appearance that defies gender classification.
Why ‘Practical Androgyny’?
Most websites and discussion communities about genderqueer and nonbinary gender tend to focus on identity. The discussions tend to be mainly theoretical, deconstructing society’s concepts of gender and exploring the diversity of gender identities and expressions possible for those of us who slip through the gaps in the binary gender system. The most commonly asked questions are ‘What is gender?’ or ‘What is my gender?’. These are hugely important questions and it’s a good idea for everyone to be asking them, not just those who experience gender dysphoria or feel out of place in a binary gender system. However for those of us who already asked and answered those questions for ourselves, it’s difficult to find resources about the practicalities of living as something other than female or male.
Historically nonbinary gender discourse has been focused on carving out ever more specific identity divisions and celebrating the diversity of our differences. But in our day to day lives, those of us who present ambiguity have more in common than we do different. If we’re presenting ourselves to the world as something other than female and male, women and men, it doesn’t make much of a difference if that’s because we see ourselves in terms of a gender continuum, as non-gender or as something else entirely. We deal with the same reactions from others, we have the same difficulties with gendered spaces, with forms and language, with mandatory gendering.
Take as you need, identify as you wish
‘Practical Androgyny’ also intends to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Resource sites that nonbinary gender people may find useful are often tied to a particular identity, with the assumption that the reader will hold that identity, or the implication that you must take on that identity label if you relate to what’s described. Practical Androgyny recognises that gender identity is highly personal and that there can be as many gender identities as there are people.
Practical Androgyny recognises that more than just nonbinary gender people will find androgynous living resources useful, and everyone will pick and choose from the resources this site provides. Plenty of genderqueer or nonbinary identified people choose to live within the gender binary to some degree and even highly androgynous people need to blend in under some circumstances. These are the sorts of practical choices this site supports.
Equally, there are circumstances under which binary identified people may find information on living with gender ambiguity of use.
The resources that are presented on this site are provided without implication that all genderqueer or nonbinary gendered people will find them useful, or that everyone who finds them useful must be transgender, genderqueer or nonbinary identified. Take as you need, identify as you wish.
What’s with the cube you keep using?
The Necker Cube was first proposed as the symbol for androgyny in c.1996 by Raphael Carter in The Angel’s Dictionary, part of the Androgyny RAQ. The Necker Cube is symbolic of the perceived ambiguity that androgynous individuals present to the world, read more thoughts about this symbolism here.