Miley Cyrus Says She Identifies As Neither Male Nor Female. We’re Finding Out What That Means

In a recent interview Miley said she identified as neither male or female. We're taking a look at gender flexibility.

Miley Cyrus

It’s been a good few weeks for gender awareness: we were heartened by the mostly positive reaction to Caitlyn Jenner, when she completed her gender re-assignment and graced the cover of Vanity Fair.  Sure, her celebrity status no doubt helped put gender issues onto the public agenda, but she’s not the only celebrity determined to make it a discussion point.

Step forward Miley Cyrus, the millennial on a gender fluidity mission.

I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t want to have my partner relate to boy or girl.

Miley recently spoke to Out Magazine saying she didn’t want to identify as male or female when she was growing up. “I didn’t want to be a boy. I kind of wanted to be nothing,” she explained. “I don’t relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy, and I think that’s what I had to understand: Being a girl isn’t what I hate, it’s the box that I get put into. I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t want to have my partner relate to boy or girl.”

Ruby Rose

And next up to the soapbox is Ruby Rose, a newbie to Orange Is The New Black. She’s playing an androgynous, gender-fluid character on the show, but it just so happens that this is how she identifies IRL, too.

“Gender fluidity is not really feeling like you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other. For the most part, I definitely don’t identify as any gender,” she told Elle. “I’m not a guy; I don’t really feel like a woman, but obviously I was born one. So, I’m somewhere in the middle, which – in my perfect imagination – is like having the best of both sexes. I have a lot of characteristics that would normally be present in a guy and then less that would be present in a woman. But then sometimes I’ll put on a skirt.”

Ruby Rose and Miley are both describing something that’s often referred to as gender-queer or non-binary, but as Anne-Marie O’Toole, a psychotherapist with Insight Matters, notes, it’s important that we allow the person to self-identify.

“It’s not up to us to label them ‘gender-queer’ or ‘non-binary’,” Anne-Marie explains. “It’s up to the individual to decide how they want to be referred to – some don’t want to identify as anything.”

In science, there’s been increased research into this area and a recent study by the University of Maryland found that gender is very flexible during pre-natal development. Researchers in the study succeeded in transforming the brain of a female rat to the a brain with male characteristics, proving that gender may not be as rigid as we once thought.

Sex differences are not hardwired in our DNA but programmed during development.

One of the researchers, Bridget Nugent, explained, “it was thought that once established, sexual differentiation could not be undone. Our work shows that sex differences in brain and behaviour are epigenetically regulated, meaning that sex differences are not hardwired in our DNA but programmed during development.”

As more and more celebrities speak about their gender-fluid experiences, the issue is opened up to a wider audience for debate and enlightenment. But it’s something that’s actually been happening – and which has been the subject of activism – for a long time: In the UK, many government departments, banks and services already allow you to register using the title Mx, as opposed to the limiting Ms, Mr or Mrs. Mx is also being considered as an addition to the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

In Ireland, we too are becoming increasingly open-minded when it comes to gender flexibility. Joan Burton, the minister for social protection, recently introduced legislation that will allow anyone older than 18 to declare their chosen gender, without the need of medical proof or psychiatric evaluation.

So what does that mean? In a nutshell, those who identify as transgender or transsexual will be able to have their chosen gender recognised by the state.

What do you think about the issue? Let us know your thoughts in a comment.

By Laura Somers.