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Gender bender: what it is and how it transgresses gender roles

Gender bender: what it is and how it transgresses gender roles

May 2, 2024

David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Prince ... all of them are or were great professionals highly recognized worldwide for the quality of their songs. Likewise, they were also seen as eccentric because of their wardrobe or their search for an androgynous appearance. They gather characteristics of people gender bender , a concept that we are going to talk about throughout this article.

  • Related article: "Gender dysphoria: being born in the wrong body"

Gender bender: what is it?

The term gender bender refers to that person which is revealed against gender roles and stereotypes and the binary system that these establish , being said rupture for them shown to the public in an active way.


The manifestation of this rebellion towards gender roles can be carried out in innumerable ways. One of the most common is to show roles and behaviors attributed by gender roles to the opposite sex. Another one (and probably the most visible externally) is the use of a costume or appearance that is either associated with that other sex or employs elements of both , achieving an androgynous look in the last case. It is also common for both forms of expression to occur, as drag queens or drag kings do.

The gender bender may be trying to generate social change, as a movement or activism. However, it is important to bear in mind that gender bending does not have to be a radical activist position, being merely a form of self-expression or even of exploration to forge one's own identity independent of the opinion of others.


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The gender bending as a social movement

While not on all occasions, gender bending can be understood (being the trend itself and the gender bender the person who practices it) as a form of movement and social activism .

In this sense, there would be a protest against gender roles, which are excessively restricted and tend to exclude those who do not limit themselves to them. It would be expressing a greater desire for freedom to be as you want to be, being able to be and express freely without being constrained or constrained by patterns not chosen by oneself and without that discrimination or social criticism.

This activism usually acts in a demanding but peaceful way, sometimes acting through parody and theatricality to express the artificiality of the gender construct. As we have indicated, elements associated with the other gender are usually used, although non-gender and androgeneity, or the mixture of characteristics linked to each of the genres, can also be sought.


It should also be borne in mind that this type of activism occurs in societies with a binary system and with gender roles such as ours, but not in other cultures that even recognize a third sex or identity in a traditional way.

Differentiation of other concepts

Even though gender bending is a type of reaction to gender stereotypes that is associated with the LGTBI collective population , due among other aspects to the fact that this group has had to fight against discrimination and defends the right to sexual and identity freedom, in reality it covers and is addressed to the entire population.

In fact, this relationship often causes the gender bending to be identified with other concepts that, although in some cases they may have some connection, it would be incorrect to consider them as synonyms.

1. Confusion with sexual orientation

In the first place, it is important to consider that gender bending is a reaction to gender stereotypes , this being independent of the sexual orientation of the person in question. And it is that the sexual orientation marks the preference and sexual attraction towards the people of a certain sex.

Thus, although socially considered to be linked to homosexuality or bisexuality, the truth is that a gender bender can have any type of sexual orientation, being in fact many of them heterosexual. And conversely, any person or dependent of your orientation can follow or fulfill gender roles.

2. Transexuality

Another aspect, which in fact is often identified when selling bender, is transsexuality. But also in this case the identification between both concepts is not correct .

Transsexuality implies the presence of an identification with a sex that is not the one given to us by birth, not necessarily implying a rejection of gender roles (although the majority of transsexuals must face stigmas linked to them) .

Also, the gender bending it does not have to involve feeling in the wrong body .

3. Cross-dressing: not always a means of expression of the gender bender

Finally, there is the concept of transvestism, perhaps the most socially linked to the gender bender. And it is true that one of the ways to manifest the rejection of gender roles and stereotypes is through the use of clothing, accessories and makeup linked to the opposite sex, or to mix styles typically considered male and female.

However, not all the people who go through it do so as a sign of social activism or to break with stereotypes, in addition to the gender bender can show his break with gender roles in other ways beyond his wardrobe (for example at the behavioral level).

Appearance in multiple contexts

We have started this would be talking about different singers that have marked and been relevant in the collective imagination and that on more than one occasion have used androgynous looks as a way of expression.

This is because the world of music in general generates easily recognizable figures and icons by all. But gender-benders do not only exist in this sphere: actors and actresses, writers or dramatists have introduced or represented this dispute or break with gender stereotypes.

In any case it should be noted that in part because of the poor social consideration that until a few years ago have had different options to those established by tradition, many people of this group have not been able to freely express their way of living. see themselves, as well as being often ignored, marginalized and even persecuted .

That yes, although the gender bending as movement would not begin until the sixties this does not mean that the concept behind it is not something that has been talked about over the centuries.

And not only in reality, but also in multiple works of fiction can be seen cases of gender bending. It is said that even Shakespeare introduced in some of his characters some kind of mention of stereotypes or gender roles or acting in a way attributed to the opposite sex.

Bibliographic references:

  • Butler, J. (1988). Performative Acts and Gender Construction: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory (PDF).
  • Butler, J. (2006). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. 1st Edition. Routledge Classics
  • Lonc, C. (1974). Genderfuck and Its Delights. Gay Sunshine, 21

How Do We and The Sims Perform Gender? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios (May 2024).


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