Androgyny is a term derived from the Greek words ανήρ (anér, meaning man) and γυνή (gyné, meaning woman) that can refer to either of two related concepts about gender. Either the mixing of masculine and feminine characteristics, be it fashion statements, or the balance of "anima and animus" in psychoanalytic theory.
Androgyne derives from two Greek words, but makes its first appearance as a compound word in Rabbinic Judaism (see, e.g., Genesis Rabba 8.1; Leviticus Rabba 14.1), most probably as an alternative to the Greek Pagan-related usage of hermaphrodite
The Online Etymology Dictionary dates its appearance in English to 1552, although it is sometimes (wrongly) claimed to have been coined by Prof. Sandra Bem, who helped to popularise the concept.
An androgyne in terms of gender identity, is a person who does not fit cleanly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society. They may also use the term ambigender to describe themselves. Many androgynes identify as being mentally "between" woman and man, or as entirely genderless. They may class themselves as non-gendered, genderneutral, agendered, between genders, Intergendered, bigendered or, genderfluid
Androgyne was once used as a synonym for hermaphrodite, a term since replaced by the word intersex.
Prof. Sandra Bem's work on androgyny preceded the current widespread use of the term as a gender identity, and uses the term more in terms of character traits than core gender identity. She considers an androgyous balance of traits to be desirable, stating that those who are able to draw on both traditionally masculine and feminine emotions and behaviours are best able to cope with life's challenges in a well-rounded way.
Androgynous traits are those that either have no gender value, or have some aspects generally attributed to the opposite gender. Physiological
androgyny (compare intersex
), which deals with physical traits, is distinct from behavioral androgyny which deals with personal and social anomalies
in gender, and from psychological
androgyny, which is a matter of gender identity
To say that a culture or relationship is androgynous is to say that it lacks rigid gender roles and that the people involved display characteristics or partake in activities traditionally associated with the other gender. The term androgynous is often used to refer to a person whose look or build make determining their gender difficult but is generally not used as a synonym for actual intersexuality, transgender or two-spirit people. Occasionally, people who do not actually define themselves as androgynes adapt their physical appearance to look androgynous. This outward androgyny has been used as a fashion statement, and some of the milder forms of it (women wearing men's trousers/men wearing skirts, for example) are not perceived as transgendered behavior.
Lesbians who don't define themselves as butch or femme may identify with various other labels including androgynous or andro for short. A few other examples include lipstick lesbian, tomboy, and 'tom suay' which is Thai for 'beautiful butch'. Some lesbians reject gender performativity labels altogether and resent their imposition by others. Note that androgynous and butch are often considered equivalent definitions, though less so in the butch/femme scene.
The recently-coined word genderqueer is often used to refer to androgynes, but the terms genderqueer and androgyne (or androgynous) are neither equivalent nor interchangeable. Genderqueer is not specific to androgynes, does not denote gender identity, and may refer to any person, cisgender or transgender, whose behavior falls outside conventional gender norms. Furthermore, genderqueer, by virtue of its linkage with queer culture, carries sociopolitical connotations that androgyne does not carry. For these reasons, some androgynes may find the label genderqueer inaccurate, inapplicable, or offensive.
An androgyne may be attracted to people of any sex or gender, though many identify as pansexual or asexual. Terms such as bisexual, heterosexual, and homosexual have less meaning for androgynes who do not identify as men or women to begin with. Infrequently the words gynephilia and androphilia are used, which refer to the gender of the person someone is attracted to, and do not imply any particular gender on the part of the person who is feeling the attraction.
Androgyny in culture
- The character Desire from the graphic novel series The Sandman has physical characteristics of both sexes, and maintains the gender balance among the character's three brothers and three sisters. Furthermore, Desire is a hermaphrodite, shifting genders often.
- The Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is described as having both masculine and feminine features, and has been played by both men and women in various dramatic adaptations.
- The elven wizard Vaarsuvius of the webcomic The Order of the Stick has never had his/her gender genuinely identified as a running gag.
- The Fool is a character from Robin Hobb's fantasy novels based in The Realm of the Elderlings. In the first and third trilogies The Fool is almost always referred to as a man. In the second, a woman named Amber. When asked his gender, The Fool says it doesn't matter.
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, one of Count Olaf's accomplices is described as looking "like neither a man nor a woman", being very fat, and having a very plain face. This character is only addressed twice in the series; once as "Orlando" by Sunny Baudelaire and as "Liza".
- In the Star Trek book series, Star Trek: New Frontier, by Peter David; one of the lead characters, Burgoyne 172, is a member of a hermaphrodite species known as Hermats. The Hermats possess both male and female genitalia as well as outward physical features of both sexes, and are referred to as androgynous.
- In Shakespeare's Macbeth the three Weird Sisters look like women but have beards, in accordance with their role as equivocators.
- Ursula Le Guin's novel The Left Hand of Darkness is set on a planet (Gethen) whose inhabitants are a sequentially hermaphroditic (technically, dichogamous) humanoid race, possessed of dual genitalia but androgynous for all but a few days a month.
- Aristophanes tells the Greek myth about when there were three sexes: the all male, the all female, and the "androgynous," who was half man, half woman. His account is found in the Symposium (Plato).
- Cal, the main character in Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, can be seen as an androgyne, possessing both male and female personality traits. He is also considered a hermaphrodite.
Movies and television
- The movie Orlando follows the young nobleman Orlando, who lives through four centuries in Britain and changes sex on the way, ending up as an androgynous being.
- In the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation titled "The Outcast", the crew of Enterprise help an androgynous race.
- In the episode of Star Trek: Enterprise titled "Fight or Flight", the crew of Enterprise investigate the murder of a crew of an androgynous species.
- Saturday Night Live's popular character Pat, played by Julia Sweeney, was deliberately portrayed with an indeterminate gender.
- In Constantine, the archangel Gabriel was depicted as being sexless (as angels are usually thought as such) although played by Tilda Swinton, wearing a suit in one scene while wearing genderless clothing in hir next appearance.
- Semiramis-Satan in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ is presented as genderless. The character was portrayed by a woman, Rosalinda Celentano.
- In the Angel episode "Orpheus", Willow Rosenberg calls the eponymous main character's son Connor androgynous, saying, "You must be Angel's handsome yet androgynous son."
- The movie Dogma directed by Kevin Smith features angels which appeared to be male (they are played by male actors, use the men's restroom, and are frequently mistaken for human men) but are anatomically neuter, and a muse played by Salma Hayek who appears female (and works as a performer in a strip bar) but is also anatomically neuter.
- The character Switch from The Matrix is described as an androgyne in the screenplay, and it is rumored that she was originally a man while still trapped in the Matrix, and switched genders after being freed and finding out her true gender.
- The character Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV from Cowboy Bebop.
- King Xerxes I in the movie 300.
- Pleakley from Lilo & Stitch wears women's clothes as a disguise, but often wears them even out of public view. Also, his first name is Wendy.
- Fernando Moronta from the Dominican TV show, Al Mediodia.
- Katherine Moennig is famous for playing many androgynous characters in several TV shows and films. Her most famous roles are for Jake in Young Americans (TV Series) and Shane McCutcheon in The L Word.
- The villain "Him" in the cartoon The Powerpuff Girls dresses in female clothes and wears makeup, and speaks in an effeminate voice at times.
- In the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, Cate Blanchett was cast as a purposefully androgynous rock star named Jude Quinn who represented a highly androgynous side of Dylan.
- Vince Nior from the television show The Mighty Boosh.
- Jaye Davidson in the movie "The Crying Game" by Neil Jordan.
- In the 1998 Disney feature film Mulan, the title character disguises herself as a man to fight for her father in the Chinese army.
The Visual Kei
movement of Japan often includes an androgynous look in its style.
Holy Wood the 2000 album by Marilyn Manson is divided into chapters ADAM, A being in the shadow, D being the Androgyne, A being of red Earth and M being the fallen.
The music video for the song Love Is A Stranger by Eurythmics plays with gender and androgyny
In the film Across the Universe, Lucy tells her brother "Androgyny suits you, Max" when discussing his rebellious haircut with their family
In the documentary "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey", there was an interview with Rob Jones. He talked about the glam metal scene, and a photo shoot he had with Poison, where he was given women's fashion magazines, such as "Elle", "Vogue" and "Cosmo" and showed him how they wanted to look. When their debut album was released, Rob said "there were guys on the Strip who wanted to fuck the chicks in Poison"
The following musicians are well known for their androgynous look in style:
Anime and manga
Androgynous characters are readily apparent in anime
, possibly due to the concept of beautifully feminine boys known as bishōnen
, which are a form of Moe (slang)
. Also, transsexual
characters are relatively common when compared to Western media. Bishounenism is not as popular as it was in the 70s, when long haired, skinny androgynous men were the norm for basically all main and secondary characters. Further on the moe of biseinen; effeminately gorgeous villains are very common in both shoujo, shounen anime, and manga. Aside from those forms of media, the music and television industry in Japan also seems to prefer effeminately pretty male musicians over masculinely handsome, like the way they prefer cute, big-eyed women over voluptuous, "silicone" women.
One example is the character Nuriko in Fushigi Yuugi. Another example is in the anime/manga series Saint Seiya is the silver knight Lizard Misty. While Misty is a male character his hairstyle makes him look like he is feminine.
Also, Haku from Naruto is presumed to be a girl, but it is later revealed that he is in fact male. he is shown in one scene wearing a women's style kimono and has a very feminine face, the same can be said for Kadzuki from Getbackers, who has the same character design as girls and humorously always keeps his bare chest hidden. He has very wide hips to boot. Examples include:
- Many characters in the works of Clamp including the angels and Demons in Wish and Ashura from RG Veda
- In the graphic novel series Fullmetal Alchemist, the character Envy is a hermaphrodite, usually taking a male gender.
- Prince Ludwig from the Kaori Yuki novel, Ludwig Kakumei possesses androgynous characteristics and has been mistaken for a woman on some occasions.
- Samus Aran, from the Metroid series. Her existence as a woman goes unnoticed until the end of the game.
- Birdo from Super Mario Bros. 2, Bridget from Guilty Gear XX, and Flea from Chrono Trigger all dress like females but are said to actually be males.
- Testament from the Guilty Gear series is also thought to be a woman at first by the fans, but has a clearly male, deep voice.
- Raiden of Metal Gear Solid 2 was given an androgynous appearance on purpose so that both male and female players could relate to him and draw themselves deeper into the experience, though the character was later parodied in Metal Gear Solid 3 as Major Ivan Raidenovitch Raikov.
- Similar reasoning was behind the choice to make Nights, the main character in the Sega Saturn game Nights into Dreams, androgynous.
- Jenna Angel from both Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga and Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 is known being an androgynous female character. As well as Seraph from Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 is a literal androgyne, created from the fusion of the lead male and female character.
- Doctor N. Gin in Crash Tag Team Racing, in which Crash must retrieve a ballerina outfit for the character so that he can feel "pretty".
- Endrance from the .hack//G.U. series is portrayed as an androgynous male character who seems to care deeply for the series' protagonist; Haseo.
- Ron DeLite from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations
- Sage Harpuia from the Mega Man Zero series is male, but his looks, voice, and name (derived from Harpy, a Greek monster that is half-bird and half-woman) have led some players to mistake him as female.
- Zhang He from the Dynasty Warriors series has been portray to be androgyne for his obsession with beauty, grace and elegance. He has been seen wearing silk clothing and high-heeled boots in Dynasty Warriors 6.
- Leo from Tekken 6, is actually a female character (at least, once fully customized) but looks like a young teenage boy.
- Makoto from Enchanted Arms looks like a real woman.
- In the Megami Tensei games, Lucifer's seraph form, Helel appears as an androgynous nude male along with the Greek youth Narcissus.
- In Persona 4, the female character Naoto possesses some masculine characteristics.
- In The World Ends with You, Rhyme, Beat's sister, looks very boyish due to her clothing style.
- Bem, Sandra L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 42, 155-62
- Dynes, Wayne Androgyny Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. Dynes, Wayne R. (ed.), Garland Publishing, 1990. pp. 56-68.
- LIlar, Suzanne, Le couple (1963), Paris, Grasset; Translated as Aspects of Love in Western Society in 1965, with a foreword by Jonathan Griffin, New York, McGraw-Hill.