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Demigender, Maverique, And Other Gender Terms You May Not Know

The language of queer identity is constantly evolving and expanding, and there will always be new terminology to learn. Pride Month is the perfect opportunity to increase understanding and awareness of the kind of emerging and newly prominent terms that we’re constantly adding to our Gender and Sexuality Dictionary.

Language is an important part of how queer people, and particularly nonbinary and trans people, express and define their experience and who they are, whether it’s through the use of new terms or new applications of existing terms.

Finding or coining the term that precisely reflects personal experience and identity can help a person to feel seen, accepted, or understood. It can be liberating and empowering both individually and in a way that creates community. And learning these terms helps to promote inclusion and respect.

The explanations of the terms provided here are meant to capture the ways that most people use them. But it’s important to note that many of these terms can be and are applied in different—and equally valid—ways, with nuances and interpretations varying from person to person. It’s also important to emphasize that this list is not meant to be exhaustive—it simply covers some of the terms that have become increasingly visible in the discussion of the diverse expanse of gender.

demigender 

Demigender is an umbrella term for people who identify partly, but not fully, with a certain gender. The prefix demi- means “half.” People who identify as demigender may use identifying terms like demigirl or demiboy.

Demigender is distinct from bigender, which indicates two genders or a combination of two. The term demigender is sometimes considered to overlap with genderflux, which is used by people who experience a range of intensity within a gender identity.

This means that a genderflux individual may experience the feeling of multiple genders on any given day (or moment). The term gender-fluid is sometimes used synonymously with genderflux.

femme

The word femme, occasionally spelled fem, comes from the French word for “woman.” It was first adopted into English to mean simply “woman” or “wife.” However, by the 1960s, it came to refer to “a lesbian who embraces identity markers that are associated with traditional expressions of femininity.” This sense of femme is often contrasted with butch, “a lesbian who embraces identity markers that are associated with traditional expressions of masculinity.”

Separate from this long-standing sense, the term femme has taken on a broader meaning in recent years. Femme is now also used to mean “any person who adopts a feminine appearance, manner, or persona.” This meaning of femme is inclusive of all genders with a feminine aspect—it may be used by someone who identifies as a trans woman or a demigirl, for example.

xenogender

When it comes to expressions of gender, there are many terms that go “beyond the binary” of masculine and feminine identities. One example is xenogender, an umbrella term for nonbinary genders that do not relate to the categories of “female” or “male.” Such gender identities are often expressed by attaching -gender to a word (often a noun) that’s representative of it, like an animal, concept, or symbol, such as staticgender or sciencegender.

The combining form xeno- means “alien” or “strange,” from the Greek xénos, meaning “stranger, guest.” Xenogender is meant to indicate a person’s sense of their gender as being completely unrelated to typical gender identities. Early uses of the term xenogender are thought to have emerged around 2017, with an increase in use beginning around 2020. Still, awareness of the term is relatively low.

neutrois

Like xenogender, neutrois refers to a gender identity that does not relate to male or female identities. Neutrois people are non-gendered and may transition away from having physical signifiers traditionally associated with gender expression. This is distinct from an androgynous identity, in which a person has “both masucline and feminine gender characteristics.” According to Neutrois Outpost, a website dedicated to neutrois people, the word neutrois was coined by H.A. Burnham in the 1990s. The origin of neutrois is unclear, but it is likely related to the French neutre, meaning “neuter, neither masculine nor feminine,” and trois, “three,” a reference to it representing a third gender.

aporagender

Another nonbinary gender identity is aporagender. Aporagender is distinct from male, female, or any gender along the binary spectrum, but still involves experiencing a strong gender identity. Like xenogender identities, aporagender identities are connected to an identity beyond a binary. This makes aporagender people different from neutrois people in that they have a gender identity.

The word aporagender is thought to have been coined in 2014 by a user of the website Tumblr. The apora- part of the word comes from the Greek apó, meaning “away off, apart,” or “separate.” In other words, aporagender is a “separate gender,” neither male nor female nor anything in between.

maverique

Like aporagender, maverique was coined in 2014 by a Tumblr user, Vesper H., who defines the term on their FAQ page as an “inner conviction regarding a sense of self that is entirely independent of male/masculinity, female/femininity or anything which derives from the two while still being neither without gender, nor of a neutral gender.” In this way, a maverique gender is said to be unique and separate from the gender binary.

The term comes from a combination of the English maverick, referring to someone who is “unorthodox” or “nonconformist,” and the French suffix -ique, meaning “having some characteristics of” or “-like,” similar to the English -ic. Maverique can be pronounced either [ mav-reek ] or [ mav-uhreek ].

gendervoid

Another set of gender identities that falls under the nonbinary umbrella is gendervoid, referring to the sense that there is “an empty space,” a void, where a gender identity would be. Those who identify as gendervoid may feel unable to experience gender. When describing gender identity, void- can also be used as a prefix, as in voidboy or voidgirl, which are used for a person who identifies with some aspect of masculinity or femininity while also experiencing a gender “void.” The term is sometimes used synonymously with agender, but some make the distinction that agender represents gender neutrality while gendervoid represents a complete lack of gender.

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māhū

Within Native Hawaiian and Tahitian cultures, the gender identity said to be between male and female is known as māhū [ ma-hoo ]. Traditionally, māhū people were highly respected in their communities for their knowledge of rituals and healing practices. While historically māhū people have faced marginalization and discrimination, there is growing recognition of them and their contributions to the life and culture of their communities.

hijra

While there is a variety of third genders in many cultures throughout the Indian subcontinent, one of the more common ones is hijra [ hijruh ], referring to “a person whose gender identity is neither male nor female, typically a person who was assigned male at birth but whose gender expression is female.” It can also more generally refer to a transgender person.

Members of the hijra community often live apart from other communities. Believed by many Hindus to have particular religious power due to their gender, the hijra are often hired to perform dances and blessings at momentous occasions, such as weddings and births.

fa’afafine and fa’afatama

In Samoan culture, both in Samoa and in Samoan communities around the world, the terms fa’afafine [ fa-af-ah-feen-eh ] and fa’afatama [ fa-af-ahtah-mah ] are used to refer to those who express both masculine and feminine gender characteristics. Fa’afafine refers to a person assigned male at birth with female characteristics, while fa’afatama refers to a person assigned female at birth with male characteristics. The prefix fa’a- means “in the manner of,” while fafine means “woman” and fatama means “man.”

Fa’afafine and fa’afatama people are particularly noted for their role as a ceremonial host—or taupou—during rituals.

It is important to note that māhū, hijra, fa’afafine, and fa’afatama are connected to specific cultural conceptions of gender and, as such, are not directly analogous to each other or other terms used by transgender people.

These are only a few of the many terms you may encounter in the discussion and expression of gender identity. You can find many more in our Gender and Sexuality Dictionary, which we regularly update with new terms and meanings to reflect evolving terminology.


Originally from Pittsburgh, Minrose Straussman is an instructor in the English department at the University of the New Sorbonne in Paris, where she teaches English language and American culture. A frequent contributor to Dictionary.com, she has also written for the Jewish online magazine Hey Alma, Shmoop.com, and other outlets. For more by Minrose, read: A Language Of Pride: Understand The Terms Around LGBTQ+ Identity | 12 Quotes For Pride Month That Highlight The Importance Of Pride | Terms For Understanding The Diversity Of Jewish American Life

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