To start – Gender references “the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles, and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed.” Many who live in today’s society feel like they do not exist on the same arbitrary gender binary. Those who do not identify with the gender binary would be called non-binary. Non-binary is an umbrella term that encompasses other identities, such as gender-fluid, agender, and many others. As non-binary identities become increasingly common, having information on the topic becomes more and more relevant.
Non-binary identities – Historically, there have been societies with a third gender, examples being civilizations in South Asia, Hawaii, India, and Africa. In today’s world, we have more and more people identifying with a third gender, non-binary. A 2015 study reported that out of “27,715 respondents, of whom 35% reported a nonbinary gender identity”, a “large and growing percentage of the transgender community.”
Just like any other group, non-binary people come in many different shapes and sizes. Some may opt to take hormones and get surgeries to help alleviate their gender dysphoria, while others may not feel the need. Specifically, in reference to non-binary people, there are many different identities that someone can adopt. It is not uncommon for someone to identify as only non-binary or an identity under the non-binary umbrella.
Gender-fluid – A gender-fluid person feels fluidity with their gender. They may feel like a man one day and a woman the next. As their gender fluctuates, their expression, presentation, and pronoun usage can do the same. Drag queens are a prime example; many drag queens use he/him pronouns and identify as men in their daily lives. However, on stage, they generally dress incredibly feminine while referring to themselves and other drag queens with she/her pronouns. Not all drag queens are gender-fluid, but drag queens, such as Courtney Act and Gigi Goode, are gender fluid.
For those who interact with a gender-fluid person, it can be helpful to have an indicator of what gender they are feeling. I’ve seen people use pink and blue bracelets and other jewelry to show what pronouns outsiders should use. In short, gender-fluid is an identity that is under the umbrella of non-binary. Not all non-binary people or drag queens are gender-fluid, yet every gender-fluid person is non-binary.
Genderqueer – Genderqueer is a broad word that describes anyone who doesn’t follow conventional gender norms yet identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female. Genderqueer people often dress in ways or manners that transcend gender and challenge a gender binary. Such examples are rocking a beard while wearing a dress. For some, having broad labels such as genderqueer is liberating, finally not having to worry about if your expression or presentation fits into arbitrary gender norms. Often genderqueer people will adopt they/them pronouns. However, pronoun usage is highly subjective and can differ from person to person.
Agender – Agender refers to someone who does not identify with a specific gender. It is common for agender people to dress more androgenously. However, they do not need to dress androgynously to be agender. The meaning of the word is derived from the prefix A, meaning without or not. Pronoun usage can depend on the person you are talking to, but it is common for agender people to adopt they/them pronouns.
Bigender – Someone who is bigender refers to a person who has two distinct genders, usually male and female, and who fluctuations between identifying as them. Bigender people may express themselves drastically different in their two genders. Being gender-fluid and being bigender are separate identities. For those who are gender-fluid, they may feel their gender exists on a broad spectrum. Over time, their gender spectrum may change; however, they will still exist on a spectrum. While bigender people function on a binary, switching between their two identities. Pronoun usage for bigender people is often dependent on which gender they currently identify. If they are feeling like a boy, they more than likely will adopt he/him pronouns. However, some may opt into using they/them pronouns.
*These are not all of the non-binary identities, these are merely some of the most common ones.*
Lived experience of a non-binary person – Non-binary people face drastic discrimination and scrutiny in today’s societies. On government identification, most states and countries do not offer a non-binary option. Not being able to have your correct gender on government paper can be dysphoria inducing for many. Additionally, the government not viewing your gender as valid or giving you an option can be depressing.
Even though the acceptance of non-binary people is increasing, there are still large amounts of discrimination. The average cis person may commonly conflate sex and gender or view being non-binary as not a valid identity. Not only that, but non-binary people face harassment and violence based on their identity in the same way that trans men or trans women do.
We must include non-binary people in the conversation of transgender rights. Non-binary people are transgender; they identify as something different than what they were born as. Non-binary people are just as valid and essential as binary trans people. The trans community needs to come together and realize that. We are stronger together than we are apart.
To finish – Non-binary people are a diverse group of individuals. Some may opt into hormones and surgeries to alleviate their dysphoria, while others do not. Not only that, but non-binary is an umbrella term that encompasses other identities such as genderfluid, agender, bigender, and genderqueer. Often non-binary people will adopt the pronouns they/them; however, pronouns usage is highly subjective and personal. If you are confused about the proper pronouns for someone, it is always a good idea to ask. 🙂
https://www.who.int/gender-equity-rights/knowledge/glossary/en/ – Definition of Gender.
https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/trgh.2018.0068 – Non-binary population in transgender youth.