What Does It Mean to Be Genderqueer or Nonbinary? (2023)

Discussions of gender have come a long way over the past few decades. Just as there has been a growing understanding of the iterations of sexual identity, there has also been an increasing awareness that the historically traditional gender categories of "woman" and "man" are overly restrictive.

These days, more and more people are describing themselves as genderqueer, genderfluid, nonbinary, agender, or gender nonconforming. These terms mean different things, but they all describe people whose gender identity is something other than simply woman or man.

Understanding the Gender Binary

Historically, most people have identified their gender as man or woman. These identities are most often correlated with a person's assigned sex at birth. However, there have always been people who identify as a gender that isn't traditionally correlated with their assigned sex at birth. All of those people are transgender, and some of them do not identify as woman or man.

The gender binary refers to the notion that gender is an either/or proposition. In a world with binary gender, people are either women or men—a binary choice. However, some people identify as neither, a combination of woman and man, or a different gender entirely.

For many years, transgender people were required by medical professionals to identify as the "opposite" gender and plan to transition to become a heterosexual member of that gender in order to qualify to start a medical orsurgicaltransition. Thoserequirementshave become substantially more relaxed over time, mostly thanks to the activism of the transgender community.

What Does It Mean to Be Genderqueer or Nonbinary?

Some individuals refer to themselves being nonbinary, an identity that is also known as "enby" (pronounced like the letters N and B). "Enby" is not preferred by some adults, as it sounds infantilizing to them; always make sure an individual identifies with a term before using it to describe them.

Nonbinary people have a wide range of gender expression. While nonbinary identify is often associated with thinness, whiteness, and androgyny, actual nonbinary people do not have to and don't look like that. Some people are woman- and/or man-aligned and may express themselves in a masculine and/or feminine way. There is no one way to be nonbinary.

Gender presentation or gender expression is what people choose to show the world, but gender identity is who they are.

Genderqueer and nonbinary are somewhat overlapping categories. Some people actually use the terms to mean the same thing. For others, a genderqueer identity is more equivalent to the sexual orientation of queer. Queer is an umbrella term that encompasses all sexual orientations other than heterosexual; queer is also a slur that is still weaponized against the LGBT community, so some members of the community are not comfortable being referred to as queer or genderqueer. Similarly, genderqueer encompasses all genders that are not cisgender. Some individuals specifically identify as either genderqueer and nonbinary, even though both terms are also umbrella terms.

Someone who identifies as genderfluidhas a gender that is not fixed over time. Their gender identity may shift over long or short periods of time. Some people identify very strongly with their gender or genders. They are very aware of their gender and are uncomfortable if misgendered (seen or referred to as a gender other than how they identify). Other people don't find gender to be as salient.

(Video) Whats the Difference Between Non Binary Identity vs Genderqueer?

Being Agender

When someone is agender, it means that they do not have a gender identity, or that their gender identity is neutral. People who are agender may also identify with genderqueer or nonbinary as umbrella terms. It is important to mention that just as a genderqueer person is not necessarily queer, an agender person is not necessary asexual. People of any gender can have any sexual orientation.

Neutrois and gender neutral are other terms that may be used by people who do not identify as having a gender, or who identify as having a neutral gender.

The Singular They—A Pronoun Primer

Not all genderqueer and nonbinary people use the same pronouns. Some use only "she/her/hers" and "he/him/his." However, one of the most common pronouns used by nonbinary people is the singular they. "They" is used in place of "he" or "she." "Them" is used in place of "him" or "her." Finally, "theirs" is used in place of "his" or "hers." Some nonbinary people use more than one set of pronouns with this format: "he/they." Someone with those pronouns is comfortable being referred to with he/him/his and they/them/theirs.

Some nonbinary people use neopronouns. These pronouns are those that do not exist in the nonbinary person's language like "ze/hir/hirs," "fae/faer/faers," and "xe/xem/xirs." In neopronouns, "X"s are often pronounced as "Z"s. It is best to ask a nonbinary or genderqueer individual how to pronounce or write their pronouns to make sure you gender them correctly. Pronoun dressing room is also an online resource for trans people to learn about and try out new pronouns, as well as for allies and loved ones of trans people to practice using a trans person's pronouns.

It is very possible that you will mess up a nonbinary or genderqueer person's pronouns in the future, even if you share the same identity. In such situations, it is best to give a quick apology ("Sorry!") and continue the conversation. You should not offer a drawn out apology where the trans person in question has the spotlight on them and is then forced to comfort you for misgendering them.

If you don't know what pronouns someone uses, it's alright to ask. In fact, it's far more polite to ask than it is to guess. All you have to do is say, "what pronouns do you use?" You can also set a clear example when you're introducing yourself by giving your pronouns. For example, you might say "Hello! I'm Elizabeth, and I use she/her/hers pronouns."

That said, if you're in a group where you're going to ask about one person's pronouns, you should ask about everyone's pronouns. It is inappropriate to single out one person to question, as that can feel like you're targeting them. Instead, you might say something like, "Can we all give our pronouns? I use they/them/theirs."

A Word From Verywell

The words used to refer to gender are constantly changing. Therefore, it's important to be aware that one person's self-definition may be very different from another's, even if they use the same words to describe their gender identity. The important thing is to respect people's declared gender identities. That means reflecting the words they use to describe themselves, rather than choosing your own. It also means respecting and using their pronouns. After all, every person is an expert in their own life and gets to share who they are with the world. Others are merely observers, not nearly as qualified to describe that person's experience.

If you are seeking support for issues with coming out, relationships, bullying, self-harm, and more, contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 for one-to-one peer support.

(Video) Genderqueer | What Being Genderqueer Means To Me | Genderqueer vs Nonbinary

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

What Does It Mean to Be Genderqueer or Nonbinary? (1)

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.

FAQs

What are the 4 genders? ›

In English, the four genders of noun are masculine, feminine, common, and neuter.

Whats the meaning of Nonbinary? ›

Non-Binary Defined

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.

What does non-binary mean UK? ›

Non-binary is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn't sit comfortably with 'man' or 'woman'. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.

What is 3rd gender called? ›

Often called transgender by outsiders, Indian society and most hijras consider themselves to be third gender—neither male nor female, not transitioning. They are a different gender altogether.

What type of gender is teacher? ›

The other words: student, scholar and teacher are nouns in common gender form as they can refer to both masculine and feminine genders. Was this answer helpful?

How do I know if I'm non-binary? ›

What does it mean when a person is nonbinary? Being nonbinary is identifying gender as not 100% male or 100% female. Someone who has a nonbinary gender could describe themselves as having no gender, multiple genders, a masculine or feminine gender, or any other gender that is not fully male or fully female.

What is a non-binary child? ›

Children who do continue to feel they are a different gender from the one assigned at birth could develop in different ways. Some may feel they do not belong to any gender and may identify as agender. Others will feel their gender is outside of male and female and may identify as non-binary.

When did non-binary become a thing? ›

As it turns out, nonbinary people – like all LGBTQ people – have always existed, everywhere. Out & Equal has created a resource that traces nonbinary identities back to 2000 BCE and locates historical touchpoints of these identities.

How many genders are there UK? ›

There are three sexes male, female and intersex (those whose bodily/hormonal variation means they are neither fully male/female). ❖ Gender is cultural, socio-economic.

How many legal genders are there in the UK? ›

Officially, UK law currently only recognises two gender options: male and female, which unfortunately excludes non-binary identities from being recorded on official documents like passports and birth certificates.

Can you be non-binary in the UK? ›

You can only apply to be recognised as male or female. Non-binary genders are not legally recognised in the UK.

What does LGBTQIA2S+ stand for? ›

LGBTQIA2S refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two spirit. Here are some definitions of sexual orientations and gender identities: Asexual: Asexual folks are not sexually attracted to people of any gender.

What is Maverique gender? ›

Maverique is a term for a non-binary gender identity that is defined by autonomy and view about one's internal sense of self which is not related to or derived from manhood or womanhood, but also is not neutrois or a form of agender.

How many sexes are there? ›

Based on the sole criterion of production of reproductive cells, there are two and only two sexes: the female sex, capable of producing large gametes (ovules), and the male sex, which produces small gametes (spermatozoa).

What are the main genders? ›

There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these.

What are the 7 genders? ›

Through these conversations with real people Benestad has observed seven unique genders: Female, Male, Intersex, Trans, Non-Conforming, Personal, and Eunuch.

What are all the different genders? ›

Gender is often categorized as male, female or nonbinary. Gender identity is one's own internal sense of self and their gender, whether that is man, woman, neither or both. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not outwardly visible to others.

What is a non-binary child? ›

Children who do continue to feel they are a different gender from the one assigned at birth could develop in different ways. Some may feel they do not belong to any gender and may identify as agender. Others will feel their gender is outside of male and female and may identify as non-binary.

Videos

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3. 5 Non-Binary People Explain What “Non-Binary” Means To Them
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4. Genderqueer and Non-Binary Identities
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