AskDefine | Define androgynous

Dictionary Definition

androgynous adj : having both male and female characteristics [ant: male, female]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • a UK /ˈænˌdɹɒdʒ.ɛn.əs/ /"

Extensive Definition

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" male and female, or as entirely genderless. They may class themselves as non-gendered, 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

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. A psychologically androgynous person is commonly known as an androgyne (and, less commonly, as a non-binary gender variant, or intergendered), and there is a politicized version known as genderqueer.
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.
A recently-coined word, often used to refer to androgynes, is genderqueer. However, this term can be used to refer to anyone who identifies as transgender, or even someone who identifies as cisgender but whose behavior falls outside the average standard gender norms. An androgyne may be attracted to people of any 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 male or female 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


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 entitled "The Outcast", the crew of Enterprise help an androgynous race.
  • In the episode of Star Trek: Enterprise entitled "Fight or Flight", the crew of Enterprise investigate the murder of a crew of an androgynous species.
  • Saturday Night Lives 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 his-her 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 in the movie 300.
  • Fernando Moronta from the Dominican TV show, Al Mediodia.
  • Katherine Moennig is famous for playing many androgynous chatacters 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 Visual Kei movement often (but not always) includes an androgynous look in its style.
  • For the cover of Marilyn Manson's studio album, Mechanical Animals, Marilyn Manson donned prosthetic breasts (without nipples) and a bulge where his penis would be, recalling both mannequins designed to display men's wear and those designed to display women's wear.
  • The 1970s glam rock genre had artists such as Queen, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper (see cover of Easy Action) and Suzi Quatro who dressed in an androgynous manner.
  • The English band Suede, well known, not only for their music, but also for their quasi-androgynous looks has physically androgynous members namely, Brett Anderson, Richard Oakes and Neil Codling, who are often mistaken as women and/or homosexuals though they are either bisexual (Brett Anderson) or straight.
  • The song and subsequent video "Androgyny" by Garbage 2001
  • The song "Be My Human Tonight" by Norman Iceberg talk about the concept.
  • The song "Androgynous" by The Replacements, and covered by Crash Test Dummies and Joan Jett.
  • The Japanese musician Yoshiki Hayashi had an androgynous appearance while his band X Japan still pertained to the visual kei movement, which often explores androgyny along with macabre or eccentric themes.
  • The music video for the song Love Is A Stranger by Eurythmics plays with gender and androgyny
  • Brian Molko of the alternative rock band Placebo is well known for his androgynous attire
  • Davey Havok, lead singer of AFI (A Fire Inside) is known for his use of make-up and his angrogynous hairstyles and facial features.
  • Mana from former Visual Kei Band Malice Mizer is often mistaken for a woman, as his makeup and long dresses disguise his true male image.
  • 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.
  • Prince takes on an androgynous, messianic persona in the lyrics of "I Would Die 4 U"; the song also implies Jesus Christ was an androgyne.
  • Lucy, from Across the universe tells her brother "Androgyne suits you, Max." when discussing his rebellious haircut with her parents and him.
  • 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 release, Rob said "there were guys on the Strip who wanted to fuck the chicks in Poison"
  • K.D. Lang is a Grammy Award-winning Canadian singer and songwriter who is androgynous.
  • Bill Kaulitz from the German rock band Tokio Hotel is known for his androgynous appearance.

Anime and manga

Androgynous characters are readily apparent in anime and manga, possibly due to the concept of beautifully feminine boys known as bishōnen. Also, transsexual or crossdressing characters are relatively common when compared to Western media.
An example of this 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 womens style kimono and has a very feminine face.

Video games


  • 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.

External links

androgynous in Malay (macrolanguage): Androgyni
androgynous in German: Androgynie
androgynous in Estonian: Androgüün
androgynous in Spanish: Andrógino
androgynous in French: Androgyne
androgynous in Italian: Androgino
androgynous in Macedonian: Андрогина личност
androgynous in Dutch: Androgynie
androgynous in Norwegian: Androgyn
androgynous in Norwegian Nynorsk: Androgyn
androgynous in Polish: Androgynia (psychologia)
androgynous in Portuguese: Androginia
androgynous in Russian: Андрогинность
androgynous in Slovak: Androgyn
androgynous in Serbian: Андрогинија
androgynous in Finnish: Androgyyni
androgynous in Swedish: Androgyn
androgynous in Tajik: Гермофродит
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