Let’s start with a definition:
Describes someone who does not identify within the gender binary. For some folks this means identifying somewhere between the binary ”ends” (male and female), for some it means identifying as a combination of genders, and for others it means feeling a complete lack of a gender. For many folks, being non-binary entails liberation from the stereotypes and gender roles attached to the gender they were assigned at birth.
Note: Many folks use the term “enby” as a short term for non-binary. This is the spelling of the abbreviation “NB” but folks have strayed away from using “NB” to refer to non-binary folks as “NB” is used more widely as an abbreviation for non-Black folks.
A few misconceptions & corrections about non-binary folks:
1. NOT ALL NON-BINARY FOLKS ARE THIN, WHITE, AND AFAB*
Anyone can be non-binary if that’s how they identify! Gender identity does not equal gender expression. Many folks assume that identifying as non-binary means that one must present in an androgynous manner. This is false. Non-binary folks do not owe anyone androgyny! Anyone can present their gender any way they’d like. Just because a non-binary person doesn’t pass as or want to be androgynous doesn’t mean they are any less non-binary.
*AFAB: Assigned female at birth.
2. NOT ALL NON-BINARY FOLKS ARE ANDROGYNOUS.
…And not all people who look androgynous are non-binary. Many folks assume that being non-binary means that one is androgynous or must present in an androgynous manner. This is false. Non-binary folks do not owe anyone androgyny! Anyone can present their gender any way they’d like, and gender expression does not always equal gender identity. That is, a non-binary person is no less non-binary if you do not read them as androgynous.
3. NOT ALL NON-BINARY FOLKS USE THEY/THEM PRONOUNS
Many non-binary folks use they/them pronouns, but some folks use she/her, he/him, ze/zir, and other pronouns! If you’re not sure what pronouns someone uses, introduces yourself with yours to make a safe space for them to introduce theirs. More about pronouns here.
3. NON-BINARY IDENTITIES ARE NOT A TREND.
Non-binary identities are real, valid, and have existed for millennia. The earliest records of non-binary identities date back to ancient Mesopotamian times (1700BCE). Non-binary folks are not expressing their identities for attention or to ”be cool”; a non-binary person’s identity and declaration of their identity is not for you or for me; it is for them and their own self and their own peace.
4. NOT ALL NON-BINARY FOLKS ARE ‘GENDERLESS’
Being non-binary does not necessarily mean experiencing a complete absence of gender. Many non-binary folks identify their gender itself as non-binary; many folks experience their gender as feminine, masculine, or a combination of the two at different times or in different intensities.
Being non-binary does NOT equal “half girl and half boy.” Being non-binary is not a “third gender.” A “third gender” would just add another binary. Non-binary individuals’ identities are outside of the binary. Do not place non-binary folks in the binary by referring to their gender as a “third gender.”
5. NON-BINARY FOLKS CAN IDENTIFY AS OTHER LGBTQ+ IDENTITIES AS WELL.
Many non-binary folks also identify as trans masculine or trans feminine, as lesbian or gay, queer, pansexual, asexual, bisexual, etc. It’s also important to note that not all non-binary folks identify as trans!
6. SOME NON-BINARY FOLKS TRANSITION, SOME DON’T!
Some non-binary folks shift their presentation as a part of a gender-affirming process. Some get surgeries or take hormones, and some don’t. Non-binary folks are valid regardless of what they do or don’t do with their bodies. They are no less non-binary either way.
7. THEY/THEM IS GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT
Many folks attempt to hide their transphobia beneath the guise of “correct grammar,” but this is wrong. The use of they/them pronouns to refer to a single individual is grammatically CORRECT. Merriam-Webster even made ‘they’ the word of the year in 2019.
Additionally, I’ll bet you have actually used they/them pronouns to refer to a singular individual when gender is unclear. If you found a hat on the ground, you’d say, “Oh, someone lost their hat!” That’s a singular ‘they.’
CELEBRATE NON-BINARY PEOPLE’S DAY BY FOLLOWING NON-BINARY CREATORS!
- Alok V. Menon (they/them)
- Indya Moore (they/she)
- Jeffrey Marsh (they/them)
- Wednesday Holmes (they/them)
- Dylan Kapit (they/them)
- Meg Emiko (they/them)
- Rose Montoya (she/they)
- Devin-Norelle (ze/zim)
- Ren Fernandez-Kim (she/they)