Gender non-conforming and nonbinary people are as unique and multifaceted as people who identify with the mainstream conceptions of binary gender (women or men). 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 –
This module will allow you to gain more familiarity with the topics mentioned in the video while proceeding at your own pace.
Gender Spectrum, a national organization for children and teens, defines non-binary as
[a]n umbrella term for gender identities that are not exclusively either boy/man, or girl/woman. People who identify their gender as non-binary may feel they have more than one gender, don’t identify with a specific gender, or something else altogether.
Gender Spectrum uses the term “gender-expansive” . They define gender-expansive as
[a]n umbrella term used for individuals that broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms. Gender-expansive individuals include those with transgender and non-binary identities, as well as those whose gender in some way is seen to be stretching society’s notions of gender.
The National Center for Transgender Equality offers a description of nonbinary in a broad discussion of gender.
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.
The Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project utilizes multiple definitions to define genderqueer. First among these is a definition from the UC Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center, which describes genderqueer as
[a] person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. This identity is usually related to or in reaction to the social construction of gender, gender stereotypes and the gender binary system. Some genderqueer people identify under the transgender umbrella while others do not.
An explanation of gender non-conformity is available in this article by Ellen Friedrichs.
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 module.
Looking for more information? See this Tumblr post for a list of trans and nonbinary vloggers.
Finished with the article? Click here for more information on gender neutral pronouns and other forms of address.