Sportopedia Glossary



Androgyny is a blending of male and female characteristics within one’s physical appearance. Historically, this was one of the first words to describe people who identified themselves beyond the gender binary of being feminine or being masculine. Androgynous persons challenge gender. For example, someone born female who physically expresses herself, through hair style and clothing choices, as more masculine, may be described as androgynous; however, she still may identify her gender as female.

Although becoming more accepted, individuals displaying Androgyny may experience discrimination and stigma. Androgyny is related to, but not synonymous with, genderqueer persons. Whereas genderqueer persons do not identify as male or female, androgynous persons may identify their gender as male, female, genderqueer, or something else. Androgyny is also not about sexual orientation.

Within sport, societal expectations of traditional masculine and traditional feminine sport often reveal Androgyny. Male figure skaters displaying grace and flexibility may be perceived as androgynous, as well as female basketball players who are muscular and powerful. Because of the belief that sport will turn women masculine, Androgyny is often associated with female athletes who blend masculinity and femininity into their physical appearance.

Many have used the term ‘female athlete paradox’ to describe the lived experience of negotiating masculinity and femininity in women’s sport. Although powerful, muscular female athletes have received greater social acceptance over time, many female athletes are still compelled to display their femininity.

***Contributed by Jennifer J. Waldron for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.