Traditional sex and gender roles are changing, culminating in a new culture of inclusivity. Curiosity, transparency and acceptance are the norms, instead of the cisgender heteronormativity people have grown accustomed to. These ideas may be new for many people, and thoughtful media portrayals can be helpful. “Fluidum,” a new series on Webtoon, highlights the intricacies of gender performance and individuality.
What Is “Fluidum”?
“Fluidum” creates a space for nonbinary identity and gender fluidity. It explores the idea of traditional gender choices against the backdrop of a world founded in the freedom of choice. Citizens of Fluidum can shift between genders before being forced to permanently choose a body on their 21st birthday. The government encourages a culture of self-awareness so its citizens will be ready to accept the decision with certainty and happiness.
What Is “the Choice”?
The decision regarding gender is crucial in the lives of the main characters in “Fluidum.” Jesse, Rachel and Milo each approach the social discourse that surrounds “the choice” in different ways. As such, their social identity is contorted to conform to society’s expectations. The civilization of Fluidum institutionalizes an identity of choice; however, it does not foster an identity of freedom without discomfort.
The easiest way to address these themes is to understand the fears that surround the choice. “Fluidum” establishes the pain of the decision in the first chapter, where the audience gets a clear picture of what the choice looks like. Uncertainty around their decision haunts both those who are under 21 as well as some who have already chosen. Jesse laments this feeling when their professor asks about it in class, questioning how the choice could offer freedom if one is forced to choose.
Jesse expresses anxiety for the change, in stark contrast to their peers. When Jesse’s professor discusses the alternative of a world where people could keep both bodies, most of the students express ridicule because they believe they inherently know who they are when they turn 14. “Fluidum” questions this narrative by asking the characters, and ultimately the audience, what if there was never a choice, and people did not have to identify as either male or female and could keep both bodies?
How Do People Decide?
The citizens and government alike celebrate the tradition of the choosing ceremony, and thus, they take comfort in the fact that their choices will ultimately identify them. Citizens take pride in presenting their “final” body, despite the emotional turmoil that takes place the moment before the choice takes place. The societal slogan, “May your choices be right for you,” stamps the identification process as intimate, but also permanent. This implication leads Jesse to the idea that experimentation and doing new tasks within both bodies will help them select a permanent body as they near their 21st birthday. Other characters view the choice as an opportunity to live life without regret.
Rachel has always known that her personal identity resides in her female body. Rachel believes her decision to live in this body is what makes her most comfortable, and that experimenting by switching bodies is unnecessary. Though people around Rachel find her ability to understand her identity at a young age as odd and condemn her lack of exploration, Rachel is comfortable in the life she willingly accepts. Those who have gone before Rachel, such as her teacher, understand how intimate identity can be, and they celebrate her self-acceptance, stating, “We don’t let anyone or anything stop us from doing what feels right for each of us”.
Figuring Out Gender Identity
The path to self-discovery is long and treacherous when you do not know where to begin. However, “Fluidum” allows its characters to explore their thoughts and feelings as catalysts for their choices where they learn to grow through them. The idea of self-acceptance and the freedom of self-exploration through gender offers a journey that people can relate to.
Although people cannot switch between bodies in this world, people implement their preferences and personal choices through their gender presentation, making changes that feel right for themselves rather than conforming to societal convention.
Those of us who identify as nonbinary and non-cisgender can find representation in a media form that is not toxic or the product of misinformation. “Fluidum” uses the implication of choice to create a narrative of self-love; exploration does not come at the expense of loss, and it allows the audience to engage and ask questions about the mechanics of identity.
Media portrayal of gender fluidity on platforms such as Webtoon offers the opportunity for the general public to understand the concept of nonconformity to traditional gender roles. By engaging and actively questioning these notions through its characters, “Fluidum” not only offers a representation of healthy inclusivity, acceptance and self-love, but it actively portrays the power of choice.