With the increased visibility of non-binary people in recent years, many people new to the world of gender identity are now curious about the meaning of “non-binary”, identities that can be held within the term’s umbrella (like “genderfluid” and “agender”), and what pronouns are best to use.

This isn’t because non-binary people are a new phenomenon. History aside, many cultures around the world still recognise more than two genders and genderfluid identities. So, what is the meaning of non-binary?

Non-Binary Identity

“Non-binary” describes a gender identity that is neither male nor female. In shorthand, you’ll see the term written as “enby” or “NB”.

Male and female are binary identities that exist at opposite ends of the gender spectrum. Gender identities that fall between the two binaries (or are not on the spectrum at all) fall under the NB umbrella. People who are assigned male at birth and those assigned female at birth can identify as NB.

Genderfluid and Gender Flexible

Within the NB umbrella, there’s some diversity. Some people have fluid, shifting identities and see themselves as “genderfluid” or “gender flexible”.

Each person’s identity is different, and it’s important to listen to the individual and believe what they tell you when they describe their gender experience.

Agender and Genderless

Others may feel like they don’t identify with any gender at all, which may be called “agender” or “genderless”.

You don’t have to have any medical interventions to be NB. This is true of all gender identities – it’s about how you feel that matters, regardless of the way your body looks or how it is made up.

Do Non-Binary People Experience Gender Dysphoria?

Some NB people experience gender dysphoria, or want to pursue a more androgynous appearance (a mixture of masculine and feminine, or neither masculine nor feminine). To achieve this they may pursue gender-affirming hormones or elect to have surgery.

Learn more about hormones for non-binary people.

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Non-binary people may not want to undergo “full” transmasculine or transfeminine transition. However, some of the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are permanent, so it’s important that you discuss your transition goals with your clinician to ensure you know what to expect. You can find further information in our article on hormone use for NB people.

Start your journey here.

Non-Binary Pronouns

Because non-binary describes a range of identities with different meaning and experiences, enby people use a range of pronouns. Many NB people use singular “they/them” pronouns and gender-neutral titles, like Mx., to avoid gendering as masculine or feminine. However, this is not always the case, and it is fine for enby people to use any pronouns they are comfortable with.

NB, Transgender, and Intersex

Like transgender people, non-binary people are gender-incongruent (they don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth). It’s common to consider NB people as part of the trans community with a shared sense of identity. However, some ENBY people do not identify as transgender. 78.2% of respondents to a GenderGP survey were fine with the usage of “trans” as an umbrella term. However, if in doubt, you can use “trans and non-binary” to promote inclusivity.

It’s important to note that NB people are not the same as intersex people. “Intersex” is not a gender identity, but refers to a range of variations where a person is born with both male and female reproductive characteristics. Intersex people are not necessarily trans nor enby, and should not be treated as such.

Recent Rise in NB Identification

There are a number of reasons for the increase in people self-identifying as non-binary. These include the rising prominence of enby people in the media (like actor Asia Kate Dillon, writer Noelle Stevenson, or musicians Sam Smith and Demi Lovato) as well as the development of new ways of talking about identity, and younger people moving away from traditional gender roles.

Although NB identities may seem more recent, they are an important part of culture and history. NB people should be treated with the same respect as any other identity.


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