What Does It Mean To Be Non-Binary?

As we look ahead to International Trans Day of Awareness 2018, Morven Loh asks: what does it mean to be Non-Binary?

Being non-binary is saying that your gender identity doesn’t fit into two neat boxes of being either a man or a woman.

Identifying as non-binary is a rejection of the gender binary (man/woman).

It’s also rejecting the idea that your gender should correspond to your sex (male/female). Non-Binary is often used as an umbrella term for a whole load of identities that fall outside of the man/woman dichotomy.

What pronouns should I use?

A lot of non-binary people adopt the pronouns they/them, or sometimes ze/zir. Some use a mix of gendered and non-gendered pronouns, while some prefer to be addressed by their name. It’s really very different for everyone, so the best thing to do is just ask.

What does being non-binary look like?

Non-binary people don’t really ‘look’ like anything: gender expression is entirely dependent on how an individual chooses to express themselves, and there is no right or wrong way to be.

For example, you may be born into a male body, but you don’t identify with what society categorises as a ‘male’ identity. But you also don’t identify with what society categorises as a ‘female’ identity.

There may be parts of your personality that are more masculine, and others which are more feminine. The way you present yourself, or dress, may play with elements of masculinity and femininity. But it does not have to correspond to what we currently understand as being a ‘man’ or ‘woman.’

Non-binary identities allow you to play with gender in a way that doesn’t restrict how you act and present yourself, or how you identify and understand yourself.

Is there a right way to dress?

There is no one way to dress to fit a non-binary identity. A lot of people expect non-binary people to dress androgynously, have short hair and present themselves as gender-ambiguous, but non-binary people can be born female and look, act and present in a feminine way, or male, and look, act and present in a masculine way.

This can often lead to people mis-gendering, so it’s important to remember that non-binary identities can present in a vast range of different forms.

Are all non-binary people intersex?

Some people confuse non-binary with being intersex – a body not traditionally classed as either male of female. Being non-binary also has nothing to do with sex/biology.

Intersex people can identify as non-binary, they can also identify within the gender binary too. Also, not all non-binary people are transgender, and not all transgender people are non-binary.


Can straight people identify as non-binary?

Identifying as non-binary has absolutely no relation to sexuality. Non-binary identity is about rejecting gender as it is imposed on us. This doesn’t change who we’re sexually attracted to. You can be attracted to other non-binary people, to cis-people, transgender people, gay, straight, bi, pan, queer etc etc etc… the possibilities are endless!

Everyone’s experience of being non-binary is different!

Non-Binary Discrimination

Sadly, there is a lot of non-binary discrimination out there. Non-binary identities may sound quite complicated at first, so a lot of people struggle with the concept.

Misgendering is also very common – and can be really painful for non-binary people – so it’s best to not just assume people’s genders by using non-gendered pronouns, or by asking what pronoun they would like you to use.

A lot of people still hide their identity in the workplace for fear of discrimination. People who present as obviously gender non-conforming and gender-queer are disproportionality targeted by discrimination, and street violence is still a massive issue.

The good news is that we are slowly but surely starting to learn about how diverse gender identities really are. Having to box ourselves in to 2 gender categories doesn’t do justice to our beautiful, creative and highly complicated selves!


If you think you identify as non-binary and want to find out more Brook are an amazing organisation for advice on sexual health and wellbeing, click here to go to their site

For more stories and information on non-binary identities follow these links:

Healthline: ‘What Does It Mean To Identify As Non-Binary’

BBC 1Xtra: ‘Being Non-Binary’ podcast

Teen Vogue: ‘9 Things People Get Wrong About Being Non-Binary’

Everyday Feminism: ‘9 Things Not To Say To A Non-Binary Person’


The Gender Unicorn – a cute graphic design explaining gender, sex and sexuality

Non-Binary Wiki

Travis Alabanza – they’re a London based artist, actor and activist and an amazing influenctial queer figure

Scarlateen: ‘Genderpalooza! A Sex and Gender Primer’

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