Androgyny and gender fluidity are two concepts that are increasingly mentioned with regard to gender expression and gender identity in today’s world. A person who is androgynous is someone who partakes of psychological characteristics and behavior of both sexes. A person who is gender fluid is a person who goes back and forth in his identification and self-presentation with regard to both sexes. One moment he feels like and acts like a male and an hour later he feels like and acts like a female. Whereas the notion of androgyny is something I have been aware of for a long time, I have only recently become aware of gender fluidity. It seems to be found primarily among young people. As, for that matter, is androgyny today.
So, the question is why has androgyny become so prominent in today’s world, and why has gender fluidity started to become such a big thing? As in the explanations for so many other modern situations, it seems to me that one of the major causes for these gender transformations is the living environment in which people are living.
Now there are two basic ways for people to ground themselves where they live. First, there is grounding oneself in one’s physical living environment. This is much easier to do in more traditional natural environments where there are a lot of organic flowing blendable continual stimuli to help someone to merge with and to root in the place where he lives. Without good grounding in one’s living environment, it is much more difficult to access the second kind of grounding: grounding in one’s relationships with other people. In particular, grounding in a relationship with a lover or spouse. And this is because the first kind of grounding acts as a template for grounding in intimate relationships with others. It is no wonder that one of the most popular kinds of destinations for a honeymoon is on a tropical island, like one of the islands in the Caribbean or like Hawaii. The warm temperatures, the lush tropical vegetation and the sandy beaches that seem to stretch endlessly all provide a template for human bonding and, therefore, human grounding. The bonding leads to a kind of emotional placement in the world that acts as an accessory placement to that which one feels in a traditional natural living environment.
So, the fleeting grounding that one obtains on a honeymoon doesn’t last forever. What happens when the couple returns to a modern technological living environment? The couple loses the environmental template and, as a result, also loses the environmental experiential support to help the couple stay emotionally bonded. Increased numbness from the experiential vacuum of modern technological society leads to a desire from both members of the couple to magnify differences and conflicts in order to feel alive. Differences and conflicts are forms of abrasive stimuli, emotional tension pockets that can provide enough friction to temporarily lift the members of the couple out of their numbness. However, sustained tension pockets of this nature can lead to a breakdown in the marriage. Which is a major reason that there is such a high divorce rate today.
One way for a person to avoid this situation altogether is to activate the potential for androgyny that we all have. This becomes a way to incorporate traits from the opposite sex into oneself, and thus develop a more secure bonding with the qualities of the opposite sex, and thus develop a greater sense of grounding. It is an internalized grounding rather than an external world grounding. But it can still give a person a sense of a real place in the world, a real rootedness.
Perhaps all of us do have a capacity for androgynous expression , but up until now, in most of us, it hasn’t been triggered to any major extent. Now it is being triggered more and more as a defense against the experiential vacuum created by the frictionlessness and the extreme mediation caused by the increasing use of modern technology.
The same is also true for gender fluidity. Although here the two forms of gender expression are not bonded so strongly with one another. It is almost as if a person has dual sexual personalities vying for dominance with each other. Nevertheless, in both cases, there is this attempt to bring the bonded other, the grounded other closer to the person’s core sense of self as a substitute for a lack of a good experiential template in the living environment.
So, what significance does all this have for individual humans today as well as human communities? Individuals are sacrificing coherence of identity in order to have a complete grounded sense of self. And the latter is developed as a defense against numbness in an experiential vacuum. Perhaps as dual gender individuals, androgynous and gender fluid people have the capacity to make and receive a greater variety of organic imprints in relation to other people and thus a greater vibrancy of living. But, on the other hand, this is balanced off by a greater incapacity for preserving organic imprints for a personal surrogate immortality in preparation for death. Because the dual gender nature means that the two gender sides of a person are constantly pulling in different directions to see which gender remains dominant for directing the course of the person’s life.
Which means that in intimate relations, there is greater stress that develops in maintaining enough individual coherence of identity so that two individuals can develop a stable relationship. Androgyny and gender fluidity start appearing more as a result of a lack of grounding and lack of templates in modern technological living environments. But the complexity and lack of coherence in androgynous and gender fluid individuals would appear to lead to more difficulties in bonding and grounding with other people. Hence, it would appear to be increasingly difficult to create stable romantic relationships. And, by extension, stable family situations. The complexity of androgynous and gender fluid personalities means there is always some confusion of presentation of self at any given moment leading to a greater unpredictability of encounters with others and particularly with one’s significant others and spouses.
Perhaps being just male or female narrows the potential field of experience for an individual. But it probably leads to greater stability for the community. And a community definitely has interests that are distinct from the individual constituent members that form it. If a community is going to preserve itself, it needs to have members that aren’t so complex and so differentiated that they are incapable of creating secure mating relationships for passing on community structures and community knowledge to the next generation. And it would appear that androgynous and gender fluid senses of self may not necessarily be the best for creating such secure grounded mating relationships.
© 2021 Laurence Mesirow