What is Androgyny?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2019
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Androgyny is a term that was formulated by joining two Greek words. One of those words means male and the other means female. Androgyny, thereafter, was used to refer to a situation in which a person’s gender is not clearly defined.

There are some things that men do that are generally considered feminine, such as crying and cooking. Likewise, there are some characteristics considered masculine which can be used to describe some women, such as strong or tough. Some degree of masculine traits in women and feminine traits in men is considered normal and will not generate interest. However, when a person possesses too many characteristics of the opposite sex, that individual may be considered androgynous.

It is important not to confuse androgyny with hermaphroditism. When a person is a hermaphrodite, he or she is of mixed sex. A hermaphrodite is physically affected by a body that includes both masculine and feminine organs. Therefore, the person’s sex may not be absolutely definable.

An androgynous person has mixed gender. It must be understood that gender and sex are not synonyms. Gender is determined by characteristics that society generally deems appropriate for a given sex. This can include things such as style, hobbies, and occupational preferences.


When a person is androgynous, these characteristics may seem balanced. That balance commonly causes sexual identification to be difficult. However, such a person can be determined, from physical evaluation, to be absolutely male or female.

Although, androgyny can be said to be psychological, it is not generally recognized as an illness. Contrary to the beliefs of many, there is no recognized connection between androgyny and homosexuality. Although an androgynous male may have more feminine characteristics than other males, there is no evidence to suggest that he is more likely to be homosexual. The same is true when considering masculine females and the likelihood of lesbianism.

Androgyny does not typically affect anything other than how a person is perceived. Gender is largely defined by stereotypes. Many of these stereotypes have historical roots. For example, historically, women were homemakers while men were providers. Therefore, a woman in modern times who enters a male dominant workforce and dresses in a masculine fashion may be considered androgynous.

Some scholars believe it is actually society that is at fault. These individuals argue that there are not two separate genders. Instead, every individual possesses some characteristics that are commonly associated with the opposite sex. These individuals argue that instead of society determining how those characteristics are balanced, each individual should have the opportunity to do so for himself or herself.


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Post 3

The word 'hermaphrodite' is considered offensive and should be changed to intersex.

Post 2

I think androgyny works best when it's subtle. A man can put on make-up and appear more feminine, but it's more like drag than androgyny. I see an actress like Cate Blanchett portray a man like Bob Dylan and see how she projects both masculine and feminine qualities without trying so hard.

Post 1

When I think of androgyny, I think of flamboyant performers like David Bowie or Tim Curry. They achieve a lot of their androgynous looks through makeup and costumes and personality. I'd even call Mick Jagger androgynous, even though his stage persona is definitely masculine. I think there's a difference between a stage androgyny and real life androgyny. I'm supposed to look at David Bowie during a concert and see both masculine and feminine features. It's a deliberate part of the act. With real life androgyny, however, I have to decide if that person is mostly masculine with a little feminine energy, or feminine with a masculine undertone.

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