One of the things that is emblematic of the 2020s is an increasing understanding of how diverse our experience of gender can be. In the past, most people who felt uncomfortable with the binary choice of ‘man’ or ‘woman’ had to just deal with it. Slowly but surely, we are casting off the gender binary and proclaiming who we are, introducing non-binary identities.
Often though, the first step to understanding something so nebulous is having the words to mould our ideas around. For a long time, I thought I was just weird and wrong in some way. The label of ‘woman’ made my skin crawl, but ‘man’ felt even more wrong, and my limited understanding of ‘non-binary’ meant I didn’t feel like I fit that either. I figured I was just bad at being a person.
When I was introduced to the term ‘genderqueer’ things really started to slot into place. I finally felt like I had a place in the world.
Labels aren’t the be-all-end-all but vocabulary can lead to understanding, so without further ado, let me present:
Braw’s Guide to Non-Binary Identities
Non-binary is both an identity in itself and an umbrella term. Any gender outside the male-female binary is by definition non-binary, and it encompasses people who feel like they are a combination of male and female, neither male nor female, nor something completely disconnected from male and female. They can also be very fluid identities.
If someone says they are non-binary, they are really just saying that they aren’t a man and they aren’t a woman. That level of distinction might be enough for them and there’s no need to get more specific.
This term is often, but not always, interchangeable with other similar ones, such as gender non-conforming or gender variant. Each individual will have a preferred term and you should respect their choice. A genderqueer person’s sense of identity is often wrapped up in the word ‘queer’ and can be quite a personal experience. Some people use it while they are still figuring out the finer details of their identity before switching to something that fits them better, and some people set up camp in genderqueer.
The prefix ‘a’ is often used to denote being without something, and someone who identifies as agender is someone who does not identify with gender at all. This can be a very complex identity to come to terms with because of the gendered nature of our society.
A fluid form of gender identity usually used when someone feels that they move between the two ends of the binary gender spectrum of male and female. Some bigender people feel they identify as both male and female.
Demigender people usually identify more with one gender identity than another, but still not as completely as a cisgender person. They also often have some degree of identifying with another gender to a lesser degree. A demigirl will identify as being a girl more than other genders, but may also feel a connection to another gender.
These are not all the non-binary gender identities that exist, but they are some of the more common ones. If a person tells you they experience gender in a certain way, trust them to be the arbiter of their own experience.
Are all non-binary people trans?
In a strictly definitional sense, yes. Someone who is transgender is someone who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Because humans tend to assign genders based on external genitalia and there are no physical elements associated with being non-binary, everyone is assigned either male or female, and identifying outwith that is a transgender experience.
However, not all non-binary people identify with the label of transgender. Gender is something that is hard to stratify based on strict definitions and hard lines, so the idea that someone can be non-binary but not feel they live a trans experience is entirely unsurprising.
A note on pronouns
For some people, pronouns are small bursts of gender euphoria or shards of dysphoria, whereas for some they are simply language tools. No set of pronouns is attached to any non-binary identity and the only way to know for sure what someone prefers is to ask them and then to respect their choice.
Featured Image Credit: Ali Rees/Canva