“Non-binary” is an umbrella term for anyone who feels like they’re something other than a man or woman. Some people have binary genders like man or woman. But neither feels right for people with non-binary genders.
Some people who fit under the non-binary umbrella call themselves “non-binary.” Others prefer something more specific like “genderqueer”, “gender non-conforming”, “genderfluid”, “agender” or other words.
Non-binary people can fit under the “transgender” umbrella because they don’t only identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. But, some non-binary people don’t identify as transgender.
What’s being non-binary like?
Every non-binary person has a different experience with gender. For example, some feel feminine for a while, and then masculine for a while. Some feel like neither all the time. Others feel like both all the time. There’s a big variety!
Like trans identities, non-binary isn’t a sexual orientation. Non-binary people can be attracted to a range of genders and people. They can identify their sexual orientation as straight, gay, bisexual, queer, asexual or anything else!
Why do non-binary people use so many different words?
Everyone uses certain words to talk about themselves. Non-binary people use the words that match their gender the best. Not every non-binary person you meet will use the same words, and they can mean different things to different people. It’s really important to respect the words that someone uses or wants you to use.
Here of some examples of words non-binary people use and what they can mean:
- Genderqueer, someone whose gender doesn’t fit into the categories of man or woman
- Genderfluid, someone whose gender changes over time
- Agender, someone who’s genderless, neither a man nor a woman
- Bigender, someone who’s both a man and a woman, or somewhere in the middle
- Gender non-conforming, someone who dresses or acts in way that is different from how society expects they will based on their gender
Non-binary people can also use other words. These include “femme,” “masc,” “butch,” or lots of other words. It’s a good idea to only use these words to talk about someone after they tell you that they’re okay with them.
Do non-binary people change their names?
Some transgender and non-binary people use a different name than the one their parents gave them when they were born. The name that they don’t use anymore is sometimes called a “dead name”.
Calling someone by their dead name can be very hurtful. If someone asks you to call them by a new name, it’s important to use that name.
What pronouns do non-binary people use?
Pronouns are words that you use when someone is out of the room and you are talking about them. For example, “Alex went to get some water. He is so nice!” The pronoun in that sentence is the word “he”.
Non-binary people might prefer it if you used pronouns other than “he” or “she” when you talk about them. For example, some non-binary people might use the pronouns “they”, “them”, and “theirs” in place of “she”, “her”, “hers”, or “he”, “him”, “his.” For example, “Alex went to get some water. They are so nice!”
You may also hear non-binary people use pronouns “ze” (pronounced zee) and “hir” (pronounced hear). These pronouns were created as an alternative to “she”, “he”, and “they”. For example, “Alex went to get some water. Ze is so nice!”
Sometimes learning to use new pronouns takes a little practice and that’s okay. But using the right pronouns is an important part of respecting a non-binary person. If you’re not sure which pronouns someone uses, you can ask!
Do non-binary people take hormones or have surgery?
Some non-binary people take hormones or have surgery to help them feel more comfortable in their bodies. Others don’t feel like they need hormones or surgery. It’s important to respect someone’s identity whether or not they choose hormones or surgery.
Sometimes non-binary people can have a hard time finding a doctor who will prescribe them hormones or perform surgery. Most doctors and other medical professionals aren’t trained on how to treat them. This means that non-binary people sometimes have to live without the medical care they need.