My sweetheart and I have been reading your columns for 20ish years. Your advice to others has been useful for even for us vanilla folk. Anyway, my question. My husband realized last year that he's demigendered. (He still prefers he/him/his.) Hardly a shock, honestly, though I hadn't heard the term before. Anyway, we were wondering about the terminology. If he's demigendered, then neither "straight" nor "lesbian" quite fits, does it? Would straight still work, since he's slightly more male than female? (I'm a cis woman.) Or is there a term we've not heard of yet? It's academic, true, but we're word nerds and you're more likely to know than any of our friends.

Just Wondering

"Some folks are gender-neutral, some are bigender, some are agender," as I wrote way, way back in 2014. "Then there's pangender, genderless, genderfluid, and genderqueer. There's also gender-nonconforming, gender-questioning, gender-variant, as well as genderfuck, trigender, and intergender... there are so many freshly minted gender identities and pronouns sloshing around out there that no one can keep up."

To be perfectly honest, JW, 2014 was the year I stopped trying to keep up. I simply didn't have the bandwidth to remember to file my taxes quarterly, floss my teeth daily, and commit to memory the brand-new, thinly-sliced gender identities and/or sexual orientations debuting on Tumblr hourly. Of course I don't begrudge anyone their identity, their orientation, or their pronouns; there's enough respect and to go around for everyone. (And your husband's gender identity is valid, JW, and some of the kindest, warmest, bravest, most wonderful human beings I've ever known in my life have no doubt been demigender.) But since your husband's particular gender identity seems to have emerged after I stopped trying to keep up, JW, I'm just as clueless about what your husband's gender identity means for your husband's sexual orientation as your (presumably) cishet friends. Of course I'd heard of and written about demisexuality ("someone who does not experience sexual attraction to another person unless or until they have formed an emotional connection with that person"), but this demigender stuff—your husband's valid and very real gender identity—was news to me.

So I googled it. Take it away, Nonbinary Wiki:

Demigender (from demi "half" + "gender") is an umbrella term for nonbinary gender identities that have a partial connection to a certain gender. This includes the partly female identity demigirl, and the partly male identity demiboy.... Like nonbinary, demigender is also an identity within itself, for people who feel connection to the concept of gender rather than certain genders. Being a demigender "is not dependent on how much (as in percentage) someone identities as one gender; it solely depends on if a person identifies as partially. For some, they may identify with two or more genders while others may not."

In addition to learning about demigirls ("someone who only partially (not wholly) identifies as a girl or woman") and demiboys ("someone whose gender identity is only partly male") at the demigender page on Nonbinary Wiki, I also learned about the deminonbinary ("someone who partially identifies as nonbinary"), the demifluid ("someone whose gender is partially fluid with the other parts being static"), and the demiflux ("someone whose gender is partially fluid with the other part(s) being static; this differs from 'demifluid' as '-flux' indicates that one of the genders is neutral"). And I got to admire—I think the very first time—the demigender pride flag...


That's the umbrella pride flag for all demigender people. But demigirls, demiboys, and the deminonbinary have their own distinct pride flags... and each of these three groups has four additional "alternate pride flags." The demifluid have their own distinct pride flag and three alternates and the demiflux have just one pride flag and no alternates, which hardly seems fair.

Anyway, JW, in answer to your question, I don't think your husband—who was assigned male at birth and continues to use he/him/his pronouns and feels slightly more male than female—is a lesbian. And the three lesbians I shared your letter with didn't think so either. And since you didn't include "bisexual" as an option, I can only assume your husband isn't attracted to men and/or AMAB persons with penises who may or may not identify as male. And while I think the label "straight" comes closest to describing your husband's desires and behavior, your husband isn't obligated to identify as straight... even if most people will perceive him to be straight... since he presents as male and has a female partner.

But if your husband does decide to embrace (or re-embrace) "straight" as an identity, JW, he can take comfort in knowing that these labels—gay, straight, lesbian, bi, asexual—aren't always perfect fits. He can embrace the label that comes closest to communicating the truth of his desires, experiences, and commitments—like many, many other people who are rounding themselves up or down—or he can reject all currently available labels and come up with a new one of his own and four different pride flag designs to go with it. Just don't ask me to commit it to memory.


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