Metagender is a term that has been coined multiple times with varying definitions, including as multiple non-binary gender identities, a sexual orientation, spiritual identities, a gender modality, a description for gender-nonconforming behavior, and a super-set for all gender possibilities. Different definitions have been used by LGBTA+ people and in academic settings, including self-identified and anthropological descriptions of multiple third gender spiritual and religious identities.
Usage through history
Metagender existed as a technical term prior to its use by LGBTA+ individuals, dating back at least to the 1980s, initially concerned with being outside or transcending binary gender, whether of imagery, perspectives, data, or people.
Metagender's early usage by queer communities was recorded in queer and feminist publications, where its definition included post-gender concepts, gender-bending, gender variance, and being neither a man nor a woman.
In a 1998 B*TCH essay titled "Metagender and the Slow Decline of the Either/Or," Lisa Voldeng and Laura Kloppenberg coined "metagenderism" to "encapsulat[e] all existing, evolving, and unborn gender models: It is the unlimited superset of all possible (non)genders and gender (non)identities, of individual and cultural existence free from binaristic categorization and definition." This definition was coined in contrast with the contemporary "transgenderism" as defined by trans woman and cultural theorist Sandy Stone. Where transgender was a category to "include everyone not covered by our culture's narrow terms man and woman," metagenderism entailed "a comprehensive reenvisioning of gender," to serve as "container for all gender identities, encompassing the two-gender system to transgender and beyond."
In a 1999 interview, musician/poet/filmmaker Phoebe Legere said that she was "metagender, metasexual, not a man or a woman."
The term was coined again in 1997 by Rook Thomas Hine, an identity Hine characterized as being a "conscientious objector" in "in the war of the sexes." This concept of metagender was further developed by a colleague. This coining's definition was given in a 2003 anthology as a spiritual gender that was "wholly other" and not derived from any combination of woman, man, feminine, masculine, neuter, or androgyne, similar to terms under the aporagender umbrella except with a spiritual component. The metagender identity was further developed into "a social gender that comes into play in a spiritual and religious context" inside neopaganism, which it has remained since 2008 as described by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus.
In 2004, another zine listed metagender as a term for "gender-bending."
In 2012, metagender was defined in HaifischGeweint's Gender 101 as "a gender identity describing a person whose subjective experience of gender is not adequately described by any existing terminology (i.e., I never “met a” gender like you before)."
In 2014, metagender was proposed for four different meanings on Tumblr.
- In February, "meta-gender" was suggested by Tumblr user unquietpirate as the label for one's relationship to one's assigned gender at birth, similar to gender modality, to contrast with "experiential gender." Unquietpirate listed cisgender, transgender, and genderqueer as examples of meta-gender, last also being an "experiential gender."
- In June, metagender was suggested by Tumblr user collectivetey as an alternative word for pangender.
- In July, metagender was re-coined by Tumblr users autisticlapis-blog, agenderchrismclean, and lordmoriarty as a gender identity for identifying around a gender aesthetically or emotionally, where your gender identity is almost that gender, but not quite, and also extends beyond that.
- In November, metagender was coined by Tumblr user arquus-malvaceae as "a tangential or tenuous connection to the concept of gender. Existing in that sort of floaty space where there is no gender, but still connecting with another label. Identifying with as opposed to identifying as. Can be narrowed down and specified as one sees fit. Eg, Metawoman, Metaman, Metaqueer, etc."
In 2017, metagender was used by a troll as "gender inside a gender inside a gender, either to infinity or untill you wind up just being a single gender".
In interviews for a 2018 thesis, an anonymous interviewee described metagender as an identity "beyond gender."
Bugis society of Indonesia
Bugis Society recognizes four genders, plus a fifth gender, bissu, which is seen to combine and transcend the four others. "Bissu embody elements of all genders within them, and thereby occupy a space outside or above any single gender identity. They are essentially beyond gender — ‘meta-gender’ or ‘gender-transcendent’ as they are sometimes described." Sometime after the term was coined in 2001 by anthropologist Sheryl Graham, it got adopted as a loan-word, and now the Bugis people use "metagender" to describe the Bissu in Indonesian, where "metagender" is a category for genders that transcend gender roles and a description of transcending gendered power relations to reach higher powers.
Theology, anthropology, and spirituality
Metagender has been used to describe gender variance in spirituality. Multiple religious or spiritual concepts and identities have been called metagender. In anthropology, spiritual third gender identities have been labeled metagender. In theology of multiple religions, spiritual identities—some divine and others obtainable by religious adherents—have been labeled metagender.
Metagender as a third gender also applies in pre-history. In Aegean scholarship of the genderless aspects of Minoan culture, scholars said applying meta-gender as a third gender concept "better conveys something above and beyond binary categories" than "genderless."
Metagender was used to describe the transcendent gender of virgin saints in scholarly reconstructions by 2003. Theorized in the writings of the Latin Doctors in the fourth and fifth centuries, the metagendered virum perfectum, belonging to the Body of Christ, encompassed and transcended masculine and feminine genders to become an angelic, otherworldly metagender. Through virginity and devotion to scripture, any sex could transcend earthly pleasures to become the heavenly metagender. Some Christians in the present day also use metagender to describe this state of transcending human gender to achieve a Godlike gender.
In addition to human spiritual identities, divine beings have been called "meta-gendered"—in the sense of transcending human gender categories—in religious scholarship and education of multiple religions. Examples include angels in Islam, the Christian God, and other spiritualities. One neopagan deity, Paneros of the Tetrad++, was "birthed" specifically as a metagendered deity.
Academic and technical usage
Metagender(ed) (sometimes meta-gender(ed) or metagenderism) has been used to describe "the academic engagement with or the theorizing of gender," spiritual identities that transcend gender, systems of gender, sets of gender, applying regardless of gender or to all genders equally, and otherwise being about gender.
- "These dynamics are meta-gendered, in that they impact men and women and those who don’t identify in the binary, without particular discrimination, putting all of us at risk for weirdly pervasive and unexamined suffering."
- "All the mapped gender types with valid annotations are split into a list of meta gender types, i.e., ‘Biological Male’, ‘Biological Female’, ‘Transgender Male’ and ‘Transgender Female.’"
The Metagender flag was made by Tumblr user imoga-pride. They gave it no defined meaning.
- "Annales D'archéologie Égéenne de L'Université de Liège". Aegaeum. 30: 231. 1987. "We can see...what does help us to approach the door that opens onto Minoan realities is to study the meta-gender of the aniconic. We discern a cluster of symbols that were definitely greater than just female or male."
- Bal, Mieke (1992). Murder and difference: gender, genre, and scholarship on Sisera's death. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 111–112. ISBN 978-0-585-02512-4. OCLC 42854270. "Just as with disciplinary codes, notably the theological and literary codes, the meta-gender code adopted by the interpreter in search of difference ought to be distinguished, first, from the personal gender code he or she has also adopted, most implicitly, by virtue of membership in a particular sexual group, and second, from the gender code he or she assumes the other has adopted...I will confront the possible contribution of a meta-gender code to the personal gender code, which, as we will see in the sample interpretations, remains implicit."
- Costello, Bonnie (1989)."Domestic Mysticism". Partisan Review. 56 (4): 671. ISSN 0031-2525 – via Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. "One challenge for contemporary women poets is to decide just how far they wish 'womanhood' to define the terms of their awareness. It is a good sign, I think, that 'the soul' has returned with a fresh, contemporary aura, not genderless, but metagendered. The metaphysical impulse arising in, altered and constrained by biology, runs through many of our best women-poets."
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- Kloppenberg, Laura. Voldeng, Lisa. (1998). "Metagender & the Slow Decline of the Either/Or." B*TCH, 3(1), p 33-34.
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