The LGBT+ Lib Dems Agender Pride Day FAQ
LGBT+ Lib Dems executive member Holly Cosmo answers common questions for Agender Pride Day.
May 19th is commemorated as Agender Pride Day. I'm agender, and I'm used to that not being a terribly well-understood word, so today I'd like to answer some questions people might have for agender people.
What does agender mean?
Agender means "without gender." Agender people don't align with any gender identity. We may particularly feel a distinct lack of gender or we may feel distant from the concept of gender altogether.
Is agender the same as asexual?
No. Asexual is a sexuality, it's about how people relate to each other. Agender is a gender identity, it's about a person's internal feeling of themselves. It's not any more the same than being heterosexual is the same as being a man. A person may be both agender and asexual, and they're both part of the LGBT+ community that we as Lib Dems want to support and celebrate, but they're not the same thing.
So are you saying gender doesn't exist or something?
Definitely not. Like any other gender identity, it isn't universal. There are plenty of things I don't have, like a car, or a sister, but a lot of people do have them! Gender plays a pervasive role in society; we know that as well as anyone.
How did you discover agender, and then how do you decide it applies to you?
In my experience, it can be tricky to discover! I've known and learned about binary trans people for more than twenty years now, and I've known and learned about non-binary people for more than ten, but I didn't encounter anyone agender, or the idea that anyone could be agender, until a few years ago.
This is one reason I'm really glad Agender Pride Day exists; I want to help everyone understand agender people but I also want people who might be drawn to this label to find out about it and not feel adrift in other gender identities like I did before.
I decided it applied to me after some good conversations with friends who helped me compare my experience of gender to theirs. I was surprised when they said they really do have consistent internal feelings of maleness, or femaleness, or having a gender that is neither of those but still definitely exists. I've never had that feeling at all.
What are the things to look for so you don't misgender someone?
It's unlikely that anyone is ever going to look at me and think "there's a person with no gender!" We reflexively gender strangers immediately, and we call them "mate" or "sweetheart," "that guy" or "that lady," and so on. One thing we can all do is try to re-train our habits of thinking, so that we don't assume people's genders like this. This would help a lot of people - and doesn't hurt anybody, since we can always say "this person" instead and it's still perfectly correct - and one of the groups it helps is agender people.
What are the best (and worst) ways to react to someone coming out as agender?
As with any gender coming-out, the best reactions are respectful and supportive. Coming out is usually a gesture of good faith, and should be treated as such. If you're not familiar with agender as a concept, your first instinct might be to say "I haven't heard of that, you must have made it up" or "don't be silly, everyone has to have a gender." If you don't understand it, you can always ask if the person has resources to recommend rather than peppering them with questions. If you're expected to use a new name or set of pronouns for someone, please do so. And if you find it difficult to get it right, try practicing when the person isn't around; speaking or writing about them often helps and the person doesn't have to be present for your flubs.
Agender people will make different requests of you regarding their pronouns, names or titles. It's always best to ask, not assume. There are no agender-specific pronouns (that I know of!), and agender people can have any pronouns ("he," "she," "they," or many others) or even, like me, might welcome all pronouns. I really don't feel more attached to one set of pronouns over the others, I like Mx as a title, and I haven't changed my given name but I've added a new middle name. The next agender person you meet might be completely different in all of these aspects.
What legal recognition would agender people benefit from?
One thing agender people share with non-binary people is a lack of legal recognition in the UK and most other countries. I'm frustrated when gender is both mandatory on important documents like passports and yet offers us only Male and Female as options. I'm glad the Lib Dems policy is to allow an X as well as the M and F on passports.