Non-binary, or genderqueer, is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities that are outside the gender binary. Non-binary identities can fall under the transgender umbrella, since many non-binary people identify with a gender that is different from their assigned sex but does not necessarily, as some intersex people are also non-binary.
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Non-binary people may identify as having two or more genders (being bigender or trigender); having no gender (agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois); moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); being third gender or other-gendered (a category that includes those who do not place a name to their gender).
A non-binary gender is not associated with a specific gender expression, such as androgyny. Non-binary people as a group have a wide variety of gender expressions, and some may reject gender "identities" altogether.
Definitions and identity
The term genderqueer originated in queer zines of the 1980s and is a precursor to the term non-binary. In addition to being an umbrella term, genderqueer has been used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress distinctions of gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity, or who "queer" gender. Individuals may express gender non-normatively by not conforming into the binary gender categories of "man" and "woman". Genderqueer is often used to self-identify by people who challenge binary social constructions of gender.
The term has also been applied by those describing what they see as a gender ambiguity. Androgynous (also androgyne) is frequently used as a descriptive term for people in this category. This is because the term androgyny is closely associated with a blend of socially defined masculine and feminine traits. However, not all genderqueer people identify as androgynous. Some genderqueer people identify as a masculine woman or a feminine man or combine genderqueer with another gender option.
Many references use the term transgender to include genderqueer/non-binary people. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Gender Spectrum use the term gender-expansive to convey "a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system".
Genderfluid people often express a desire to remain flexible about their gender identity rather than committing to a single definition. They may fluctuate between differing gender expressions over their lifetime, or express multiple aspects of various gender markers at the same time. They may at times identify as bigender - shifting between masculine and feminine; or as trigender - shifting between these and a third gender.
Agender people ('a-' meaning "without"), also called genderless, genderfree, non-gendered, or ungendered, are those who identify as having no gender or being without a gender identity. Although this category includes a broad range of identities which do not conform to traditional gender norms, scholar Finn Enke states that people who identify with any of these positions may not necessarily self-identify as transgender. Agender people have no specific set of pronouns; singular they is typically used, but it is not the default. Neutrois and agender were two of 50 available custom genders on Facebook, which were added on 13 February 2014. Agender is also available as a gender option on OkCupid since 17 November 2014.
Demigender is a gender identity of a person identifying partially or mostly with one gender and at the same time with another gender. There are several subcategories of the identity. A demi-boy or demi-man, for example, identifies at least partially with being a boy or a man, no matter the sex and gender they were assigned at birth, while other parts of their identity might be assigned to other genders, genderfluid or no other gender (agender). A demiflux person feels that the stable part of their identity is non-binary.
Transfeminine and transmasculine may be used to describe individuals who, respectively, were assigned male or female at birth, but align more closely with femininity or masculinity, while not necessarily fully identifying as a woman or a man.
In 1992, after the publication of Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come by Leslie Feinberg, the term transgender was broadened to become a term that represented a political term for gender variation in general. This is highlighted in 1994, when activist Kate Bornstein wrote “All the categories of transgender find a common ground in that they each break one or more of the rules of gender: What we have in common is that we are gender outlaws, every one of us.” The term genderqueer came into use during the mid-1990s. Riki Anne Wilchins is often associated with the word genderqueer, especially because of her contributions to Genderqueer: Voices Beyond the Sexual Binary which was published in 2002. In 1995, she was also published in the newsletter In Your Face, where she used the term genderqueer. In the newsletter, the term appears to refer to people with complex or unnamed gender expressions, which does not match with the general definition used today. Wilchins stated she identifies as genderqueer in her 1997 autobiography.
The internet popularized the term genderqueer, as a wide audience was able to be reached very quickly. In 2008, The New York Times was the paper of record to publish the word genderqueer. In the 2010s, this term became more popularized as many celebrities publicly identified as gender nonconforming. In 2012, the Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project was started to advocate for expanding gender options on official documentation. In 2016, Jamie Shupe was the first person to have a nonbinary gender on official documents in the United States.
Pronouns and titles
Some non-binary/genderqueer people prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns. Usage of singular 'they', 'their' and 'them' is the most common; and ze, sie, hir, co, and ey are used as well. Some others prefer the conventional gender-specific pronouns 'her' or 'him', prefer to be referred to alternately as 'he' and 'she', or prefer to use only their name and not use pronouns at all. Many prefer additional neutral language, such as the title 'Mx.' instead of Mr. or Ms.
In today's society, many non-binary/genderqueer people still use the gender they were given at birth to conduct everyday business because many areas of life still conduct business with binary genders. Things are changing though as more businesses are becoming more accepting of non-binary genders. Multiple countries legally recognize non-binary or third gender classifications. Some non-western societies have long recognized transgender people as a third gender, though this may not (or may only recently) include formal legal recognition. In western societies, Australia may have been the first country to legally recognize third classifications, following recognition of Alex MacFarlane as having indeterminate sex, reported in 2003.
While the United States does not federally recognize a non-binary gender, in 2016 Oregon became the first state to recognize a non-binary gender identity. Following Oregon, in 2017 California passed an act allowing citizens to identify as "non-binary" on official documents. As of 2019, eight states have passed acts that allow "non-binary" or "X" designations on certain identifying documents. One of the main arguments against the inclusion of a third gender identifier in the U.S. is that it would make law enforcement and surveillance harder, however countries that have officially recognized a third gender marker have not reported these issues. In the United States there are no explicit laws to protect non-binary people from discrimination, however it is illegal for an employer to require employees to conform to sex stereotypes.
In the United States, the majority of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey chose "A gender not listed here." The "not listed here" respondents were nine percentage-points (33 percent) more likely to report forgoing healthcare due to fear of discrimination than the general sample (36 percent compared to 27 percent). Ninety percent reported experiencing anti-trans bias at work, and 43 percent reported having attempted suicide.
The majority of reported discrimination faced by non-binary individuals often includes disregard, disbelief, condescending interactions, and disrespect. People who are non-binary are also often viewed as partaking in part of a trend, and are thus deemed insincere or attention seeking. As an accumulation, erasure is often a large form of discrimination faced by non-binary individuals.
Misgendering is also a problem that many individuals face, be it intentional or unintentional. In the case of intentional misgendering, transphobia is a driving force. Also, the use of they/them pronouns is lumped into the larger, controversial, subject of safe spaces and political correctness, causing push back, and intentional misgendering from some individuals. In the case of unintentional misgendering, it is often expected for the person who is misgendered to console and forgive the person who made the mistake.
Symbols and observances
Many flags have been used in non-binary and genderqueer communities to represent various identities. There are distinct non-binary and genderqueer pride flags. The genderqueer pride flag was designed in 2011 by Marilyn Roxie. Lavender represents androgyny or queerness, white represents agender identity, and green represents those whose identities which are defined outside the binary. The non-binary pride flag was created in 2014. Yellow represents people whose gender exists outside the binary, purple represents those who feel their gender is a mixture of – or between – male and female, black represents people who feel as if they have no gender, and white represents those who embrace many or all genders.
Genderfluid people, who also fall under the genderqueer umbrella, have their own flag as well. Pink represents femininity, white represents lack of gender, purple represents mixed gender or androgyny, black represents all other genders, and blue represents masculinity.
Agender people, who also sometimes identify as genderqueer, have their own flag. This flag uses black and white stripes to represent an absence of gender, and a green stripe to represent non-binary genders.
A 2019 survey of the Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ population in the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario called Mapping the Void: Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ Experiences in Hamilton showed that 19% of the 906 respondents identified as non-binary.
A 2017 survey of Canadian LGBT+ people called LGBT+ Realities Survey found that 4% of the 1,897 respondents identified as non-binary transgender and 1% identified as non-binary outside of the transgender umbrella.
A 2011 survey conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK found that 0.4% of the 10,039 respondents identified as non-binary.
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