Gaining perspective on gender non-conforming and nonbinary identities can provide a grounded understanding of why utilizing the correct pronouns for people is necessary.
Gender non-conforming and nonbinary people are as unique and multifaceted as people who identify with binary gender (women or men / feminine or masculine). They do, however, tend to share an inability to identify with or aversion to conceptions of conventional definitions of gender. Instead, they may identify along a spectrum between either ‘woman’ or ‘man’, may not believe there is a spectrum or true gender binary, may identify as agender (without gender), or may hold another conception of gender. There is a wide variety in how gender non-conforming people identify, but all identifications are valid and should be respected.
Here is a short video created by Riley J. Dennis, a nonbinary vlogger, that provides a quick introduction to these concepts –
Gender Spectrum uses the term “gender-expansive.” They define gender-expansive as
[a]n umbrella term used for individuals who broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms.
Most people – including most transgender people – are either male or female. But some people don’t neatly fit into the categories of “man” or “woman,” or “male” or “female.” For example, some people have a gender that blends elements of being a man or a woman, or a gender that is different than either male or female. Some people don’t identify with any gender. Some people’s gender changes over time.
People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender, and more. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing – but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female.
(Note: NCTE uses both the adjectives “male” and “female” and the nouns “man” and “woman” to refer to a person’s gender identity.)
The Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project advocates for gender expansive legal recognition as a shared need for gender nonbinary and intersex people. They provide definitions of these identities on their FAQ page
Nonbinary (adj.) refers to people who identify between or beyond the gender binary of man-woman. Nonbinary is an umbrella term for identities such as genderqueer, agender, gender fluid, and much more. Nonbinary is not the same as intersex as it refers to gender not sex. About 35% of transgender people are nonbinary.
Intersex (adj.) refers to people who do not fit into the traditional sex binary of male-female. Intersex is an umbrella term for differences in sex traits or anatomy. There are many possible variations in genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy or chromosomes. Intersex people make up 1.7% of the population, as common as red hair.
Before moving to the next page, which delves into the use of they/them pronouns, spend some time with the article linked below. It includes interviews with gender non-conforming and nonbinary people who share their experiences with gender. This review will help you to reflect on your own understandings of gender later in the tutorial.
Nonbinary people are often subject to others’ misconceptions of their experiences. This 2018 Teen Vogue article by Suzanna Weiss dispels nine common misconceptions.
To continue, click through to the next page — Gender Neutral Pronouns.