Agender: of, relating to, or being a person who has an internal sense of being neither male nor female nor some combination of male and female : of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is genderless or neutralMerriam Webster
I’m no gender expert. In fact, I don’t even have a gender. You’d be better off calling me a “no-gender” expert.
Expert? Still not accurate. That would be like calling a tree a “tree expert.” It’s a tree. It knows what it’s like to be a tree, and it can thrive as a tree without being an authority on the science of trees.
Agender is the word for a person without gender. Like me.
Many people, especially cisgender people, don’t understand what it means to be agender, and many folks even insist that we don’t exist. So this tree has had to learn a lot about how to explain its existence, how it functions, and the fact that trees aren’t imaginary—no matter how impossible you think it is that gallons of water could ever get so high in the air. I’m stretching the metaphor, but you get it.
If I can’t explain myself, it’s pretty tough to participate in society.
That’s what kind of “expert” I am.
Now that you know my credentials, let’s cover what it means to be agender.
What it means to be agender
An agender person is a person without gender. They are not a man or a woman. They are not some combination of both. They are a genderless human.
Agender people may go about their lives in bodies that have a variety of biological sex characteristics. Some may have bodies with female sex characteristics. Some may have bodies with male sex characteristics. Some may be intersex (people with a combination of male and female sex characteristics).
Some may use gender-neutral pronouns (like me: I use they/them pronouns). Others may use she/her or he/him pronouns.
Some agender folks may pursue surgeries (I got top surgery, for example) or hormone therapies that help them express their true selves more accurately. There is no standard “agender body.”
Agender is a term relating to the mind. And every mind has a distinct sense of self.
That being the case, you can’t determine whether or not someone is agender based on their body, or even how they present themselves.
Here’s what I look like, in case you’re wondering. But don’t assume that all agender people look like me.
I publicly came out as agender at the beginning of 2019.
If someone is agender, to them, gender is an arbitrary performance, and not a true expression of their real self.
Navigating society can be challenging for us agender folks, because almost every social interaction is gendered in some way.
Clothing is gendered. Language is gendered. Who people spend time with and why is gendered. Jobs are gendered. Mannerisms are gendered. Activities are gendered. You’d be amazed by how much everything you do revolves around gender.
For me, as an agender person, it seems like almost everyone is defining their lives by an incredibly complex system of bizarre rules that people are inexplicably not allowed to break. People rigidly hold each other to these rules for reasons that I can’t understand.
I can’t keep track of all the rules. They are nonsensical to me. They don’t have any mapping to right and wrong—they’re just customs, formalities, decorations, games. Maybe other folks experience them as instincts. That’s the only way I can make sense of how everyone seems to keep track of all the rules so effortlessly.
Whatever it is, it’s a sense I completely lack.
I spent almost three decades trying to learn and memorize the weird maze of rules before giving up and accepting that I don’t have gender, and that I shouldn’t waste my life trying to force myself to act like it.
Agender is a subcategory of nonbinary
Nonbinary is an umbrella term that includes all the gender identities that are not strictly man or woman. There’s a huge variety of nonbinary identities that showcase how varied, fascinating, and complex gender truly is. I’ll probably write more about these in future posts, but in the meantime, you can learn some more about them on my gender lexicon page.
Agender is one of those nonbinary identities. I often tell folks that I’m nonbinary, because it’s a more well-known word than agender, and it still accurately describes me—it’s just more broad. It’s like saying you live in California vs. saying you live in San Diego.
Nonbinary is a subcategory of transgender
There’s a huge variety of transgender people. I sometimes tell people I’m transgender, because it’s a very well-known word. The problem is that even though this word accurately describes me, it’s quite misunderstood. When I use it, people sometimes assume that I’m transitioning to male, because they don’t understand that nonbinary is a thing (let alone agender).
What is it like to be agender?
I can’t describe every agender person’s experience by a long shot, but I can tell you a little bit about mine.
The easiest way to describe it is this. It feels like I am in the wrong society.
It’s as though I belong to a completely different culture (maybe an alien culture, or one from a different dimension), and I somehow ended up here by some weird glitch in reality. I’ve never been able to see regular human behavior as “normal.” The most seemingly mundane human behavior is mind-bendingly strange to me.
All that is to say that however weird you think I am, I probably think you are at least that weird. There are just enough of you doing things the same way that it keeps you from feeling out of place. 😉
Speaking of feeling out of place, I’m used to that. This is a place for people who follow the weird rules of this dimension. I’m a foreign entity here. Strangely, I feel more foreign to human society than I feel about other parts of the living world that aren’t even human. Like the woods, for instance. They help me feel like maybe this planet can be my home, too.
Still got questions about what agender means?
You can ask me questions in the comments and I’ll give a shot at answering the ones that I feel like I can answer.
But remember, I’m not a tree expert. I’m just a tree.
*Note: not all nonbinary folks feel comfortable identifying with the term “transgender.”