Gender Fluidity: Not A Contemporary Concept
Written by Nandini Sethi
The ultimate form of self-expression, the touchstone of one’s identity, but also a contemporary matter of great discussion and debate- gender.
Firstly, addressing the elephant in the room; while the sex of an individual is assigned at birth based on genitals, gender is a social construct with an established set of norms and for the lack of a better word, stereotypes.
‘Gender Fluidity’ as a concept has surfaced with great prominence on social media platforms, particularly among millennials. By ‘cross-dressing’, young people are able to reveal their most intimate side, and the online world has given them the support that they previously could not factor in.
But the notion that gender isn’t binary can be seen across cultures, and through different ages in history. This idea that has emerged as ‘trendy’ in recent times, is not the product of a 21st-century innovation, and not a consequence of millennials in the west attempting to adopt various cultures as a means to make a fashion statement.
Taking mythological instances as our standing ground, we see that gender reversal is a re-occurring theme.
Artemis, in ancient Greece, also known by the Romans as Diana, was the favorite Goddess among the populace; she was the Goddess of chastity and childbirth. At the same time she was addressed as the ‘Bear-Goddess’, being the Goddess of hunt and wilderness. She acted out in anger if the well-being of any animals sacred to her was threatened. Virtues such as rage in the ancient era were associated mainly with men.
The Sumerian Goddess Inanna was associated with love, sex, and war, and apparently lived the life of a young man, a warrior, consistently seeking new lovers.
Through religion we see several examples of non-conformity to gender stereotypes. In Japan, for instance, Amatarasu-No-Omikami, was regarded as the Sun Goddess, and the most important deity in Shinto pantheon. Even now, when a new emperor is coronated, he is dressed in the traditional attire of this Goddess, a symbolic incarnation, known as the Daijosai ceremony.
In fact, BBC one released a documentary on the impact of colonization on gender fluidity. In many tribes, such as the Aborgines of Australia, the history of their native ‘brotherboys’ and ‘sistergirls’ has been destroyed.
Thus, through the diversity of different ethnicities and celebration of cultures all around the world, we see that the concept of gender fluidity has been prevalent through history, across the globe.
We have evolved from fluidity, to indulging in stereotypes and toxic masculinity, and back to fluidity in the 21st century.