Gender identity: non-binary or genderqueer


Sometimes it might seem like there are only two genders, male and female, but there are actually many people who don’t identify with either of those. These people consider themselves gender neutral and identify as non-binary. Where does this term come from and what does it mean exactly? We’ll tell you all about it.

What is non-binary?

Non-binary gender identity is actually an umbrella term for people who don’t identify with the male or female gender. This is more common than you might think: research conducted in the US among young people shows that 3% out of its 80,000 participants doesn’t feel comfortable identifying with the male or female gender. Non-binary people generally don’t relate to a particular gender, they consider themselves ‘people’ instead of men and women. Non-binary is also sometimes called genderqueer or gender-expansive. Non-binary identity is not related to sexual orientation, like pansexuality, but only says something about identity.

Various non-binary identities

Non-binary people don’t attach value to labels, so you don’t necessarily have to call yourself genderfluid or polygender in order to identify with the non-binary gender. Although there aren’t any clear rules, it varies per person. These terms are used most often when it comes to non-binary gender identities:

Two or more genders

If you belong to two or more genders, you can identify as bigender, trigender, polygender, or pangender.

No gender

Not identifying with any gender is called agender, nongender, gender-free, genderless, postgender, or neutrois.

Varying between different genders

Varying between genders is called genderfluid. Genderfluid people don’t feel very manly or feminine, or very manly at one moment and feminine at the next. Actor Ruby Rose is a famous genderfluid person.

Third gender

People who identify with the third gender (not male, not female) also have a non-binary identity. Transsexuals sometimes fall into this category.

History of the genderqueer identity

Genderqueer is a 21st century term and is mostly used by young people. The term was first used in 1995 by Riki Anne Wilchins in an essay about people who don’t identify with the male of female gender. Before that time – in the eighties and nineties – people usually spoke of ‘transgenderism’ or ‘transgenderists’. These terms were used for people whose male and female character traits were equally prevalent  in their personality.

Which pronouns can you use as a non-binary person?

Some non-binary people use ‘they’/’them’ pronouns, others continue to use ‘he’/’him’ or ‘she’/’her’. Find out what feels right to you and ask people to use those pronouns when they address you. In the UK ‘they’, ‘them’, and ‘their’ are the most used non-binary pronouns. Every country has its own version. For example, a couple of years ago the neutral pronoun ‘hen’ was introduced in Sweden as an addition to ‘hon’ (female) and ‘han’ (male).

‘X’ gender option in passports

In 2011, a third gender option was introduced during population census registration in Nepal. In 2018, Dutch court announced that it was time to recognise the existence of a third gender. It’s now possible to change the gender status in your passport to the gender neutral ‘X’ in the Netherlands. This is also possible in India, New Zealand, Bangladesh, and Denmark.  Unfortunately, it is currectly not an option in the UK. In March 2020, UK court rejected the idea of gender neutral passports. Transgenders are allowed to legally change the gender in their passport from male to female or from female to male.

Famous non-binary people

Australian actor Ruby Rose is one of the most famous non-binary people. Miley Cyrus came out as non-binary some time ago. Singer Sam Smith announced in 2019 that he identifies as genderqueer and uses ‘they’/’them’ pronouns. The same goes for Australian singer-songwriter Tash Sultana.

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