A person’s gender identity refers to their inner sense of self with regard to their gender. One might identify as a man, a woman, a combination of genders, or no gender at all.
Cisgender individuals identify as the gender that matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender people are individuals whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth such as a person who was assigned female at birth but identifies as a man.
Not everyone’s gender identity fits into a binary view of gender as being either male or female. Some individuals may identify as nonbinary, which means that their gender identity may exist between or beyond the male-female binary. There are many other terms that are used to describe different gender identities.
Sometimes, a person’s gender identity is not fixed, and they may identify as gender fluid. To be gender fluid means that a person’s gender identity may change or shift over time or from day to day. This person may identify as male at times and female at other times. They may also identify as a combination of genders or as having no gender.
The term “gender fluid” can also refer to a fluid form of gender expression (i.e., the way that a person expresses their gender, typically through clothing, appearance, behavior, mannerisms, etc.) For example, one may wear clothing that is generally associated with women (e.g., dresses, high heels, etc.) at some points in their life, and clothing that is generally associated with men such as suits and ties at other points in their life.
While some gender fluid individuals may identify as nonbinary, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, gender diverse, or gender expansive, others may prefer to use different terms. There are many terms that refer to gender identity and gender fluidity, so it may be confusing for a person as they try to find a term that they identify with.
It is important to use the terms and descriptors that a person requests that you use with regard to their gender identity. If you are unsure about which terms or pronouns a person uses, the best way to find out is by simply asking them.
For more information on this topic, please read this publication from The Journal of Sexual Medicine:
Katz-Wise, S.L. (2020, December 3). Gender fluidity: What it means and why support matters. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/gender-fluidity-what-it-means-and-why-support-matters-2020120321544
PFLAG. (Updated 2023). PFLAG LGBTQ+ Glossary of Terms. https://pflag.org/glossary/
WebMD. (2021, June 28). What Is Fluid? https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-fluid