Non-binary gender

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Non-binary (also spelled nonbinary) or genderqueer is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities that are outside the gender binary.[1][2] Non-binary identities can fall under the transgender umbrella, since many non-binary people identify with a gender that is different from their assigned sex.[3] Another term for non-binary is enby (from the abbreviation NB).[4]

A genderqueer pride flag held aloft with the words "El Futuro No Es Binario - Genderqueer" written across it
A genderqueer pride flag in Valencia reading "The future is not binary"
DefinitionA spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine
ClassificationGender identity
SubcategoriesVarious, see below
Other terms
Associated termsAndrogyny, queer, third gender, transgender, two-spirit
Non-binary Pride Flag
Flag nameNon-binary pride flag
DesignerKye Rowan

Non-binary people may identify as having two or more genders (being bigender or trigender);[5][6] having no gender (agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois); moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid);[7] being third gender or other-gendered (a category that includes those who do not place a name to their gender).[8]

Gender identity is separate from sexual or romantic orientation,[9] and non-binary people have a variety of sexual orientations, just as cisgender people do.[10]

Non-binary gender identities are not associated with a specific gender expression, such as androgyny. Non-binary people as a group have a wide variety of gender expressions, and some may reject gender "identities" altogether.[11] Some non-binary people are medically treated for gender dysphoria with surgery or hormones, as trans men and women often are.

Definitions and identity

A non-binary pride flag at a parade in Paris reading "Mon genre est non-binaire" ("My gender is non-binary")

The term genderqueer originated in queer zines of the 1980s as a precursor to the term non-binary.[12] In addition to being an umbrella term, genderqueer has been used as an adjective to refer to any people who are perceived to transcend or divert from traditional distinctions of gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity. Individuals may express gender non-normatively by not conforming into the binary gender categories of "man" and "woman".[13] Genderqueer is often used to self-identify by people who challenge binary social constructions of gender.[14]

The term[clarification needed] has also been applied by those describing what they see as a gender ambiguity.[15] Androgynous (also androgyne) is frequently used as a descriptive term for people in this category. This is because the term androgyny is closely associated with a blend of socially defined masculine and feminine traits.[16] However, not all genderqueer people identify as androgynous. Some genderqueer people identify as a masculine woman or a feminine man or combine genderqueer with another gender option.[17] Being non-binary is not the same as being intersex, and most intersex people identify as either male or female.[18] Some people use enby (from the letters NB) as a short form of non-binary.[19][20]

Many references use the term transgender to include genderqueer/non-binary people.[11][21][22] The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Gender Spectrum use the term gender-expansive to convey "a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system".[23]

Agender people ('a-' meaning "without"), also called genderless, gender-free, non-gendered, or ungendered,[24][25] are those who identify as having no gender or being without a gender identity.[26][27][28] Although this category includes a broad range of identities which do not conform to traditional gender norms, scholar Finn Enke states that people who identify with any of these positions may not necessarily self-identify as transgender.[29] Agender people have no specific set of pronouns; singular they is typically used, but it is not the default.[30] Neutrois and agender were two of 50 available custom genders on Facebook, which were added on 13 February 2014.[31] Agender is also available as a gender option on OkCupid since 17 November 2014.[32]

Bigender, bi-gender, or dual gender is a gender identity that includes any two gender identities and behaviors. Identifying as bigender is typically understood to mean that one identifies as both male and female or moves between masculine gender expression and feminine gender expression, having two distinct gender identities simultaneously or fluctuating between them.[33][34][35] This is different from identifying as genderfluid, as those who identify as genderfluid may not go back and forth between any fixed gender identities and may experience an entire range or spectrum of identities over time.[36][37] The American Psychological Association describes the bigender identity as part of the umbrella of transgender identities.[38] Some bigender individuals express two distinct personas, which may be feminine, masculine, agender, androgyne, or other gender identities; others find that they identify as two genders simultaneously. A 1999 survey conducted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health observed that, among the transgender community, 3% of those who were assigned male at birth and 8% of those who were assigned female at birth identified as either "a transvestite, cross-dresser, drag queen, or a bigendered person".[39] A 2016 Harris poll conducted on behalf of GLAAD found that 1% of millennials identify as bigender.[40][41]

Demigender is a gender identity of a person identifying partially or mostly with one gender and at the same time with another gender.[42][43] There are several subcategories of the identity. A demi-boy or demi-man, for example, identifies at least partially with being a boy or a man, no matter the sex and gender they were assigned at birth, while other parts of their identity might be assigned to other genders, genderfluid or no other gender (agender). A demiflux person feels that the stable part of their identity is non-binary.[43]

Genderfluid people often express a desire to remain flexible about their gender identity rather than committing to a single definition.[44] They may fluctuate between differing gender expressions over their lifetime, or express multiple aspects of various gender markers at the same time.[44][45] A genderfluid individual may also identify as bigender – shifting between masculine and feminine; or as trigender – shifting between these and a third gender.[5][6] Pangender may be defined as being more than one gender, or it may describe a person who feels they are a member of all genders at the same time.[46]

Transfeminine and transmasculine may be used by individuals to describe an aspect of femininity or masculinity within their identity. Transfeminine may be used by individuals who were assigned male at birth but align more closely with femininity, while not necessarily fully identifying as a woman. Transmasculine may be used by individuals who were assigned female at birth but align more closely with masculinity, while not necessarily fully identifying as a man.[47]


In 1992, after the publication of Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come by Leslie Feinberg, the term transgender was broadened to become a term for gender variation in general.[48] This is highlighted in 1994, when activist Kate Bornstein wrote "All the categories of transgender find a common ground in that they each break one or more of the rules of gender: What we have in common is that we are gender outlaws, every one of us."[49]

The term genderqueer came into use during the mid-1990s among political activists.[48] Riki Anne Wilchins is often associated with the word and claims to have coined it.[50] Wikchins used the term in a 1995 essay published in the first issue of In Your Face to describe anyone who is gender nonconforming.[51][52] They were also one of the main contributors to the anthology Genderqueer: Voices Beyond the Sexual Binary which was published in 2002.[53] Wilchins stated they identify as genderqueer in their 1997 autobiography.[51]

The internet popularized the term genderqueer, as a wide audience was able to be reached very quickly.[48] In 2008, The New York Times used the word genderqueer.[54][48] In the 2010s, this term became more popularized as many celebrities publicly identified as gender nonconforming.[55] In 2012, the Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project was started to advocate for expanding gender options on official documentation.[56] In 2016, Jamie Shupe was the first person to have a nonbinary gender on official documents in the United States.[57]

Pronouns and titles

Pronoun pin badges from a 2016 art and tech festival

Some non-binary/genderqueer people prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns. Usage of singular 'they', 'their' and 'them' is the most common;[58] non-standard pronouns such as ze, sie, hir, co, and ey are sometimes used as well. Some others prefer the conventional gender-specific pronouns 'her' or 'him', prefer to be referred to alternately as 'he' and 'she', or prefer to use only their name and not use pronouns at all.[59] Many prefer additional neutral language, such as the title 'Mx.' instead of Mr. or Ms.[60]

Legal recognition

In today's society, many non-binary/genderqueer people still use the gender they were given at birth to conduct everyday business, as many institutions and forms of identification – such as passports and driver's licenses – only accept, in the sense of recorded recognition, binary gender identities. However, with the increasing acceptance of non-binary gender identities and the rise in wider societal recognition, this is slowly changing, as a greater number of governments and institutions recognize and allow non-binary identities.[61]

Multiple countries legally recognize non-binary or third gender classifications. Some non-Western societies have long recognized transgender people as a third gender, though this may not (or may only recently)[62] include formal legal recognition. In Western societies, Australia may have been the first country to legally recognize a classification of sex outside of 'male' and 'female' on legal documentation, following the recognition of Alex MacFarlane's intersex status in 2003.[63] The wider legal recognition of nonbinary people – following the recognition of intersex people in 2003 – in Australian law followed between 2010 and 2014, with legal action taken against the New South Wales Government Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages by transgender activist Norrie May-Welby to recognize Norrie's legal gender identity as 'non-specific'.

While the United States does not federally recognize a non-binary gender, in 2016 Oregon became the first state to recognize a non-binary gender identity.[64] Following Oregon, in 2017 California passed an act allowing citizens to identify as "non-binary" on official documents.[64] As of 2019, eight states have passed acts that allow "non-binary" or "X" designations on certain identifying documents.[64] One of the main arguments against the inclusion of a third gender identifier in the U.S. is that it would make law enforcement and surveillance harder, however countries that have officially recognized a third gender marker have not reported these issues.[64] In the United States there are no explicit laws to protect non-binary people from discrimination, however it is illegal for an employer to require employees to conform to sex stereotypes.[65]


In the United States, the majority of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey chose "A gender not listed here". The "not listed here" respondents were nine percentage-points (33 percent) more likely to report forgoing healthcare due to fear of discrimination than the general sample (36 percent compared to 27 percent). Ninety percent reported experiencing anti-trans bias at work, and 43 percent reported having attempted suicide.[66]

The majority of reported discrimination faced by non-binary individuals often includes disregard, disbelief, condescending interactions, and disrespect.[64] People who are non-binary are also often viewed as partaking in part of a trend and are thus deemed insincere or attention-seeking. As an accumulation, erasure is often a large form of discrimination faced by non-binary individuals.[64]

Misgendering is also a problem that many individuals face, be it intentional or unintentional. In the case of intentional misgendering, transphobia is a driving force. Also, the use of they/them pronouns is lumped into the larger, controversial, subject of safe spaces and political correctness,[67] causing push back, and intentional misgendering from some individuals. In the case of unintentional misgendering, it is often expected for the person who is misgendered to console and forgive the person who made the mistake.[68]

Symbols and observances

Anjali Gopalan and Gopi Shankar Madurai inaugurating Asia's first Genderqueer Pride Parade at Madurai with a rainbow and genderqueer flag[69][70]

Many flags have been used in non-binary and genderqueer communities to represent various identities. There are distinct non-binary and genderqueer pride flags. The genderqueer pride flag was designed in 2011 by Marilyn Roxie. Lavender represents androgyny or queerness, white represents agender identity, and green represents those whose identities which are defined outside the binary.[71][72][73] The non-binary pride flag was created in 2014 by Kye Rowan.[74] Yellow represents people whose gender exists outside the binary, purple represents those whose gender is a mixture of – or between – male and female, black represents people who have no gender, and white represents those who embrace many or all genders.[75]

Genderfluid people, who also fall under the genderqueer umbrella, have their own flag as well. Pink represents femininity, white represents lack of gender, purple represents mixed gender or androgyny, black represents all other genders, and blue represents masculinity.[72][76]

Agender people, who also sometimes identify as genderqueer, have their own flag. This flag uses black and white stripes to represent an absence of gender, and a green stripe to represent non-binary genders.[77]

International Non-Binary People's Day is celebrated on 14 July.[78][79][80][81]

Population figures

A 2019 survey of the Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ population in the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario called Mapping the Void: Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ Experiences in Hamilton showed that 19% of the 906 respondents identified as non-binary.[84]

A 2017 survey of Canadian LGBT+ people called LGBT+ Realities Survey found that 4% of the 1,897 respondents identified as non-binary transgender and 1% identified as non-binary outside of the transgender umbrella.[85]

According to The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 35% of the nearly 28,000 transgender respondents to the anonymous online survey identified as non-binary.[86][87]

A 2011 survey conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK found that 0.4% of the 10,039 respondents identified as non-binary.[88]

See also


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Further reading