This is an overview of some of the Non-Binary Identities that people are that one of our board members wrote this week.
For the most up to date version, click here.
By Miki Foster (They/Them/Theirs)
Basic information on Non-Binary Identities: ‘Non-Binary’ (ENBY) is defined as “not consisting of, indicating, or involving two” in literal terms but in regards to gender, it is defined as “having a gender which is neither ‘male nor female’ aka man or woman, and may identify as both ‘male and female’ at one time, as different genders at different times, as no gender at all, or dispute the very idea of only two genders”. Non-Binary is both a single gender identity for some and a broad umbrella term for others. Obviously like all genders, your sex/reproducive organs or your body do not inherently determine your gender(s), identity or expression. However, because nothing is truly binary, some people do feel a connection between their bodies and their genders but that is not only specific to cis people. Not all trans, nonbinary, or intersex people hate their bodies, want to or can have surgery, etc. and that does not make them cis and it really only reinforces that body ≠ gender and also that female/male body parts/reproductive organs ≠ man or woman. This does not mean a person is not who they say they are, it means that body parts do not belong to any one specific gender, and men, women, and everyone else can look however they look and have whatever they have and be valid in their identities whether they want to change their appearance/body or not.
There are also terms under the Non-Binary umbrella that mean different things specifically (if you do want a more specific label), or describe Genders outside of Western norms. Listed Below:
- Gender-Non-Comforting (GNC) is a term used to describe people who do not conform to a culture’s societal norms, expectations and perceived assignments of gender through their gender expression, behavior, mannerisms, identity, or other means. This term applies to both Trans/Non-Binary and Cis people. Men like Prince, Dennis Rodman, David Bowie, and Women like Grace Jones have been referred to/labeled Gender Non-Conforming by media/fans/culture for how they pushed the boundaries of cisgender and binary gender roles, despite not using the term themselves as an identifier – thus, it is used based on their appearances and behaviors. In context to Non-Binary/Trans/Cis, this is seen when people dress or express/present themselves however they want regardless if their gender identiy and/or notions connected to it (such as a Trans Masc person who uses he/him/they pronouns wearing feminine clothing, makeup etc., a Trans Femme person who uses she/her/they wearing masculine clothing, no makeup, a Non-Binary/Genderfluid etc. person choosing not to present in an androgynous fashion but rather in masculine or feminine ways, etc.). This term is *generally* used to describe people who present outside of gender norms and social assignment/perception of their gender and gender as a whole, in both style and behavior/occupation etc., regardless of their gender identity. As stated, this applies to all Genders, Binary and Non-Binary, Cis and Trans, as a term to describe presentation. However, some people do use this term as an identity or in conjunction with their Gender Identity – such as Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye, who is Non-Binary but uses the term Gender Non-Conforming in tandem with his identity (as examples, “I am Trans Gender Non-Conforming”, “I am a Non-Binary Gender Non-Conforming person”, I am a Gender Non-Conforming Woman/Trans Woman” etc.).
- GenderQueer (GQ), is a newer term historically in regards to linguistics, although it was used at least 10 years prior to “Non-Binary”. It was coined in the 1980’s by a collection of queer folks. It is used as both a gender identity by itself to mean something more specific than just ‘non binary or trans’, as an umbrella term for all Non-Binary and/or non-normative genders. It is often also used simutaneously with/substitued for Non-Binary to mean essentially the same thing depending on whos using it and in what way. It was *originally* intended to politicize gender identity and expression by ‘making it queer’ or allowing space for those who experienced gender through queerness, and ‘provocatizing the idea and notions of gender and the stereotypes around gender norms”. Deeper than that, as an identity, most consider it/use it to mean that they not only are nonbinary, but they dont subscribe to even the idea of the binary and gender as it is known, used and culturally accepted (aka, ‘not only outside of the box, but the box doesnt exist to me’). However, the term ‘Queer’ is also only recently been reclaimed in a wide spread manner, and refers to ones sexual and romantic orientations that are outside of heterosexuality, but the term GenderQueer is not tied to sexuality. Celebrities like Ezra Miller and Sam Smith both identify as GenderQueer along with Non-Binary and/or GenderFluid.
- GenderFluid is a term used to describe a person who has more than one gender identity, at different times, simultaneously, or moves from one gender identity to a different one. GenderFluid is often confused with or used with/in place of both GQ and ENBY, which is of course 100% up to the person who identifies that way. ‘Genderfluid’ as an identity also overlaps with other identities such as BiGender, MultiGender, and PolyGender. In general, ‘Genderfluid’ on its own means someone who identifies as either both man/woman (or ‘male/female’), one or the other at different times or as a combination of the two, as neither, or any other genders that are listed below in any sequence. Thus it is also a Non-Binary identity (and is often used in tandem or as replacement for the term Non-Binary), but it is still inclusive to the acknowledgement and existence of binary genders when applicable, depending on ther person – but in a way that is fluid in nature and does not maintain that one must be on either end or directly in the middle of the gender ‘spectrum’. Celebrities like Ruby Rose, Asia Kate Dillon, and Avok Vaid-Menon identify as GenderFluid.
- Amalgagender, is a gender that is only applicable to certain people. It is a Non-Binary gender identity, but it is specific to intersex people and how their gender interacts with their intersex identity/body.
- DemiGender is a term used to describe either someone’s partial – but not full – connection to a gender, or someone’s connection to a concept of gender rather than certain genders. DemiGenders entail a ‘weak or partial connection or feeling to/of a certain gender – commonly binary but also nonbinary – such as, DemiBoys and DemiGirls, and DemiNonbinary, Demifluid, DemiFlux, etc..
- BiGender is specific to the experience/feeling/connection to TWO genders only, whether binary or other nonbinary genders, and either ‘switching’ or being both simultaneously. There is also TriGender (which is essentially similar to BiGender), and PolyGender/PluriGender/MultiGender, which all essentially mean the same or similar things but differentiate depending on the number of genders the person feels connected to, their personal experiences and their comfort with the language.
- PanGender (or OmniGender) is a term used to describe a person who either identifies with numerous separate genders/identities that are fluid, or that identify with multiple genders under one encompassing identity. Similarly to how ‘pansexual’ means being attracted to ALL genders to some extent or being attracted to people regardless of gender, PanGender means identifying with a vast range or multiple Gender identities, or ALL genders – either simultaneously at the same time or in a fluid/switching manner.
- AGender describes people who *don’t* identify with any particular gender, any gender at all, as ‘lacking gender’ or as the absence of gender as a whole (both binary and enby, or the construct of ‘gender identity’ entirely). This identity can also mean someone who does not ‘care’ about gender identities or labels, or someone who does not feel a physical/mental/emotional/spiritual connection to any gender identity or language surrounding gender. Agender (Agen for short) also exist on a spectrum (Agender, Gendervoid, Greygender, Libragender, Agenderflux, Smallgender/Half Gender, Gxnderfluix, Apogender).
- Genderflux is a gender identity that varies in intensity in time. It can be included under the genderfluid umbrella as well as the nonbinary and trans umbrellas. Some people conceptualize Genderflux as being fluid between an agender identity and one or more other gender identities. Another way to conceptualize it is by imagining the intensity of one or more gender identities as ranging from 0% to 100%.
- XenoGender is used as both a direct and umbrella term for Non-Binary gender identities that do not relate to or be fully described by a relation to concepts typically used to describe gender such as masculinity, femininity, androgyny, neutrality, agenrity, or outherinity. Instead, xenogenders can best be described through how they relate to things, beings, or concepts that most people don’t think of as having to do with gender, such as animals, plants, things, or concepts. People who identify this way may call themselves “Xenic”. There is a wide spectrum of Xenogenders and language/pronouns used to describe them.
- AnthroGender is a gender best explained as the opposite of XenoGender. These genders can be described by their relation or lack of relation to concepts such as masculinity, femininity, androgyny, neutrality, agrenity, or outherinity.
- “Butch” was coined in the 1940’s by Bi and Lesbian women as an ‘add on’ term to their queer identities, and over the years has been used to represent masculine women, as a ‘status’ within the wlw culture as a masc lesbian/bisexual (similar to stud, a.g, and stem in the black community, or d*ke, etc.), to differentiate between “femmes” or other queer women, etc. It can be used by people/women who hold various queer identities, etc. This term is often used just as a reference to sexuality or gender expression, however some claim it as a Non-Binary identity as well, and note that it is open for any person to use if they identify with it as a gender. It is used to describe someone who dresses, presents and identifies with Masculinity (regardless of gender identity).
- “Androgyne” is a term used to describe a gender identity, a gender presentation or a physical appearance/body/expression/style, and a ‘mental identity’ (meaning someone who inwardly identifies as androgyne but does not dress/present in an androgynous fashion). Some people who identify as Androgyne as a nonbinary gender, to mean they have a ‘blend’ of both binary genders, the idea of Femininity and Masculinity, or neither of them and exist as just a ‘third’ Androgynous gender. Androgyne and Androgynous are both used in tandem, synonymously, or separately. Both can mean a gender identity or a physical expression/style/body/features, or both at the same time. Some Andro people also identify or present with the intention or feeling of ‘Neutralness”. Some Andro people also identify with “Androgyneity” to distinguish between their inner Androgyny as an identity and their outward appearance which may not be androgynous. Along the same lines, some people identify as “psychological androgynes”. Conversely, some Andro people only use Androgyne in reference to their physical appearance/expression, and may hold a different gender identity (i.e, ‘they are a Genderfluid Androgyne”). Historically ‘Androgyne’ has also been seen as problematic in some ways, being that it might reinforce the idea of a gender binary (androgynous being translated to “partly male and partly female” in broad terms). The term has also been used in reference or replacement for “Intersex”, which some find this useful and accurate and some find it obsolete and harmful.
- Similar in essence but different in notion to Agender identities, some people also identify as “Neutrois” (someone who identifies as being non-gendered and seeks to ‘transition’ or change their physical appearance to remove any ‘gendered’ appearance, ie. breasts, facial hair, etc. to appear entirely ungendered, neutral, ambiguous, or androgynous.) Neutrois people are not androgynous however, as this identity is specifically tied to the experience of gender dysphoria stemming from both masculine and feminine features/body parts/outward perception.
- “Aporagender” is a term used to describe a strong sense of having a gender identity, however said identity is anything/everything that isn’t male, female, between male and female, or agender. It differs from Agender or genderless identities because those insinuate a lack of gender, where as Aporagender is a presence of gender with no relation to binary genders or nonbinary genders that relate in anyway to male/female/man/woman/masculine/feminine. This term can be used as an umbrella term for different nonbinary and genderfluid identities, but does not apply to those that are agender/genderless, ‘between man/woman’, or the binary genders.
- “Maverique”, coined in 2014, is a gender identity used to describe a gender completely separate from the binary (man/male and woman/female), but is also separate from neurtal/agenders, fluid genders, and any genders derived from them. It is a presence of gender that is entirely outside of other genders. It differs from Aporagender in few but distinct ways. These two genders do have overlap, however Aporagender can both be used as an Umbrella term and also can describe a gender neutral identity, while Maverique is completely distinct from neutrality.
- “Two-Spirit” (or Two-Spirited) is specific term created by Indigenous people as a ‘unifying Pan-Indian’ term to distinguish North American Native/First Nation/FNIM people from non-Native queer people, and non-Native queer terminology. It is intentionally exclusive to only Native people. However, it is an umbrella term for numerous genders, sexualities, and sexes. It also does not replace the preexisting Indigenous terms/language used by different Indigenous cultures to describe gender (non-binary and trans genders), sexuality, or sexes (female, male, intersex). One does not have to be Non-Binary to be Two-Spirit, or be Two-Spirit to be Non-Binary, etc.
- Other Indigenous terms/identities: Multiple indigenous cultures have historically viewed gender outside of colonial influence/assimilation/colonization/western standards/norms. Nonbinary, Trans, and Queer people have been noted as sacred, leaders, and ‘noble’ people in many indigenous histories. 1: South Asian cultures (ie. India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.) use the term “Hijra” – a gender identity that describes AMAB people who have ‘feminine expressions/presentations’. This is used as both a nom-binary and transgender term. Other Asian cultures use different historical terms as well. 2: The Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) and Maohi (Tahitian) cultures have the term “Māhū”, which translates to “in the middle” and describes people who are “third-gender” (and in modern times, gender fluidity and transgender people across the board). 3: In Somoan culture, the term “Fa’afafine” is used to describe people who identify themselves as a “third-gender” or Non-binary/Transgender. This term refers to AMAB people.
- “Third Gender” is described as “is a concept in which individuals are categorized, either by themselves, by their society, or by outsiders to their society, as not fitting into the *Western* ideas of binary gender and heterosexual roles”. While some (non Western) cultures use this term willingly, in much of Western and Global society is is deemed problematic for the way it has been used historically to marginalized Trans/GNC/Non-Binary people, Queer people, and women. It is also often used in a problematic nature to refer to Non-Binary as an identity, making it out to be an ‘othered’ gender, only one gender, and leans on harmful ideas that Binary Genders are the norm and the precondition for Non-Binary genders.
- “Third Sex” is nearly synonymous with “Third Gender”, although it also has been used to refer to Intersex people. Most people also find this is also problematic, especially Intersex people.
- “Ceterosexual” is not a gender identity, but a label for a sexual/romantic orientation for those who are exclusively/only attracted to Non-Binary people. This is also sometimes known as Allotroposexual, Enbysexual, or Idemosexual in formal terms and “Enbian” etc. in modern terms.
- “Transsexual” is a wildly misused and outdated term. It refers to a Trans person who undergoes surgical transitions to alleviate body dysmorphia. However, this word has been used as a slur for decades, and originates from doctors treating Trans patients and their needs as pathological issues. Trans identities also should not be reduced to their bodies, reproductive organs, or whether or not they surgically transition.
- Femme/Feminine-Of-Center is a term used to describe people who feel and often present in feminine ways, who may or may not identify as women (may also identify as Transfeminine).
- Masc/Masculine-Of-Center is a term used to describe people who feel and often present in masculine ways, who may or may not identify as men (may also identify as Transmasculine, butch, boi, etc.).
- Pronouns: Despite the common misconception that there are only two sets of pronouns someone can use (she/her and he/him), there are many. Please note that any and all pronouns can be used by anybody of any gender identity, at their will and request. I will focus on gender neutral ones, some of which are becoming more commonly acknowledged in current times. Please also note that I will reference each pronoun in it’s five forms (Nominative, Accusative, Pronominal Possessive, Predictive Possessive, and Reflexive) to ensure proper use.
- 1: They/Them/Their/Theirs/Themself (also noted as ‘singular they pronoun’), or any combination including they, ex. she/they – They/Them is the ‘standard’ Gender Neutral pronoun for addressing anyone who’s gender is unknown or unspecified, and is the third most used pronoun in the English language, and the most used pronoun by Non-Binary people. These are also becoming very common – although still often disputed as “grammatically incorrect” when referring to a single person. However, the single They pronoun is both grammatically correct within the English and Indo-European languages, and has been used for centuries. These pronouns remove gender from speech when referring to someone. These pronouns can be used to describe anyone, not only those who are Non-Binary, especialy if you are unaware of someone gender identity or ‘prefered’ pronouns. Other variations of these used by some are Thy/Thee/Thou/Thine/Ye.
- 2: It/It/Its/Its/Itself – The use of It/Its pronouns are inherently genderless, standard use English pronoun – although they are generally used in reference to inanimate objects, animals, infants/young children, etc.. The use of the word/pronouns It has been historically used to dehumanize Trans/GNC/Non-Binary people, which has led to conflict over people choosing to use It/Its pronouns in recent years. However, some people choose to use these for numerous reasons (reclaiming the word and its power, it feels validating/comfortable/empowering to them, to challenge transphobia and the idea that Transness is dehuman, etc.) and they are equally as valid as any other pronoun and are traditionally grammatically correct.
- 3: Neo-Pronouns: Neo-Pronouns are third person pronouns that are not officially recognized within the language they are used in (English), and are often newly created(neologisms)/used with the intention to create gender neutral language, or align with a specific gender identity outside of binary or commonly recognized genders (although applicable to all genders). Contrary to popular belief, Neopronouns – although technically new in regards to the history of the English language – have been around for centuries.
- 3.a: There are several similar sets of neologistic gender-neutral pronouns that use “Xe,” “Ze,” “Zhe,” or “Zie” in nominative form. Regardless of spelling, their nominative form is pronounced “Zee”. Some of these forms are listed below in Alphabetical order –
- 3.b: Ve/Ver(Vir)/Vis/Vis/Verself
- 3.c: Thon/Thon/Thons/Thon’s/Thonself
- s/He(sHe)/Hir/Hir/Hirs/Hirself or s/He – h/er – h/er – h/ers – h/erself
- 3.d: Nounself Pronouns – Nounself pronouns are sets of Neopronouns that adapt any noun into a pronoun to be used and conjugated. These can and often include concepts, objects, media, metaphors, etc. that someone is connected to.
- Fae Pronouns – Fae/Faer/Faer/Faers/Faerself
- 4: Alternating Pronouns – Instead of using an alternative or neutral pronoun set, some people prefer an alternation between different sets. This can include any pronouns, and any variation (ex. “She went down stairs, he told me to remind you to pick up groceries. They are excited to make dinner tonight.”)
- 4.a: No Pronouns/Null Pronouns – Some people prefer to not be addressed or spoken to/of with the use of third person pronouns or pronouns at all. This usually results in simply referring to said person by their name or something else they may like to be called.
- 5: There are many other pronouns used to describe Non-Binary people, as well as more terms/language/identities, this was just a short list. You can find a longer list, how to use them, and even ‘try them out’ in the links below.