Non-binary gender describes various types of gender identities. They can be identities that are neither male nor female, meaning gender does not fall within the traditional gender binary. Non-binary identities can be classified under the transgender umbrella since non-binary persons identify with a gender that does not align with their sex assigned at birth. However, some non-binary people do not consider themselves to be transgender, whereas some do.
Non-binary persons aka enbies might identify as having more than one gender (bigender or trigender), having no gender (agender), being a third gender (a group that does not use a name to their gender), or moving between genders (genderfluid).
Understanding Gender Identity
An individual’s gender identity is their internal sense of self. Cisgender persons are those whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned at birth. Transgender is a general term used to describe people whose gender identity does not align with their sex assigned at birth.
Gender identity and gender expression are two different things. While gender identity refers to one’s personal sense of gender, gender expression is all about expressing this identity externally. Even though gender expression is how people present themselves externally, it might not indicate their gender identity.
Gender identity also differs from sex and sexual orientation. Sex refers to an individual’s biology (hormonal, anatomical, and chromosomal). On the other hand, gender is a culturally, socially, and environmentally established construct. Sexual orientation refers to someone’s interest in people of different gender, same gender, no gender, or all genders. People of any sex may have any gender identity and sexual orientation since the concepts are independent.
What Is Gender Binary?
The gender binary is a concept that there are only two genders, and a person is either male or female. Most people argue that there are only two sexes and therefore there are only two genders, but that argument is inaccurate.
Although most infants are categorized as either male or female, sex is more diverse than that since the biology of sex is complex. The majority of people have XX or XY chromosomes, but some people have XXY or XO chromosomes.
Additionally, a person’s chromosomes do not fully determine their sexual anatomy. There are those with XY chromosomes and are born with uteruses. In this case, the term intersex can best describe these individuals because they have a mix of hormonal and anatomical features typically associated with males and females.
Different cultures have been recognizing genders that are beyond male or female throughout history all over the world. It’s just that there is a development of English language terms to describe different gender identities that exist.
Understanding the Terminology of Non-binary Gender
Non-binary describes gender identities that are not within the binary. Although there are many types of non-binary gender, some are more common than others. They include:
- Agender: Having a gender identity that is undefined or neutral. People who identify as agender do not have a specific gender identity. The term can be used interchangeably with neutrois or genderless.
- Bigender: Bigender is when a person has two different gender identities, either alternatively or simultaneously.
- Genderfluid: A person who is genderfluid moves between two or more gender identities.
- Genderqueer: A general term for people with nonbinary gender identities, with some taking genderqueer as their primary identity.
- Non-binary: Describes all gender identities that are not within the gender binary. It includes individuals who identify as non-binary as their specific identity. Non-binary folks also refer to themselves as enbies, a phonetic pronunciation of NB. Since NB also means non-Black, some Black cisgender people and non-binary people are not comfortable with it as a shortened term for non-binary. However, some non-binary adults are uncomfortable with the term enby because they think it sounds childish.
- Demigender: It’s a gender identity of someone who identifies primarily with one gender and at the same time with another. For example, a demi-boy or a demi-man partially identifies as a boy or a man regardless of the sex assigned at birth. They may also identify as other genders or gender-fluid. A demigender person feels that the stable part of their identity is non-binary.
- Transfeminine and Transmasculine: These terms describe people with an aspect of femininity or masculinity within their identities. Transfeminine can describe persons assigned male at birth but position themselves closely to femininity although not fully identifying as a woman. Transmasculine may be used by persons assigned female at birth but position themselves closely with masculinity, although they don’t fully identify as a man.
- Two-Spirit: This is a pan-tribal term created by and for indigenous Americans to refer to various genders with specific social or ceremonial roles. Most tribes have specific gender identities that are not within the binary.
Non-binary Gender – Gender and Pronouns
Persons who are non-binary may use gender-neutral pronouns. The most common gender-neutral pronoun is the plural “they/them,” although there are many others. For example, instead of saying “she went,” you can say” they went” when referring to someone with they/them pronouns.
Although referring to someone who uses “they” as a pronoun is great, referring to a binary trans person, especially transwomen who use “she or her” with “they” is transphobic.
It may seem difficult, but it’s easy with practice. Remember, using someone’s correct pronouns is truthful and respectful. Misgendering may cause mental health challenges for trans people.