By Raven Hawkins
What Does Non-Binary Even Mean?
Non-binary is a gender identity which is also used as an umbrella term for someone who does not exclusively identify as male or female. All non-binary people have a place in the trans community, and it’s never okay to tell a non-binary person that they aren’t part of our community. On the other hand, if a non-binary person doesn’t want to describe themselves as trans, or prefers a different term (like genderqueer or gender diverse) it’s important to respect that too!
The non-binary umbrella covers people who identify as two or more genders (including bigender, or trigender), as no gender (including agender, genderless, non-gender, and neutrois identities), as moving between gender identities (genderfluid), or people who identify with a gender that’s totally separate from woman or man (other gender, non-binary, includes people who don’t have a name/label for their gender identity). It’s important to note that people who identify as genderfluid or as two or more genders could identify as male, female, both, neither, or a mix of any of these identities.
A U.K census showed that about 0.4% of the population identify as neither male nor female. This may not seem like much but that means there are around 16,000 non-binary people in Melbourne alone. Using this statistic we can estimate there to be roughly 28,400,000 non-binary people in the world, and since not everyone feels safe sharing their gender identity, these studies have actually underestimated how many of us there are. These numbers are also a lot higher if you only look at young people, because people are feeling safer in coming out and affirming their gender!
For me being non-binary means that I don’t exclusively id as male or female. Learning about non-binary identities was a game changer for me because it gave me the words to articulate something very integral to me that I didn’t have the language to describe for a really long time. Interacting with my gender often feels like a very personal, intimate experience. I would describe my gender as in flux, and whilst it sometimes had ties to elements of femininity and masculinity, exists for the most part entirely outside of that.
[Being non-binary] means to me to identify outside of today’s social norms or gender. Recently my dad started using my pronouns and that made me really happy!
I’m a non-binary trans masculine person. Being nonbinary is different for everyone. To me, it means that some days I am a boy, some days I am not entirely a boy and other days I am not a boy. This doesn’t mean that my gender has any elements of being a girl. My gender fluctuates between being a boy and of a gender that is entirely beyond the girl-boy binary. Being non-binary is a very important part of my identity that I would never want to be different in any other way.
Pronouns in the non-binary community vary greatly from person to person. If you aren’t sure of someone’s pronouns, using they/them is generally safe until you can get a chance to ask. They/them pronouns are commonly used by non-binary and genderqueer people, but people use pronouns such as he/him, she/her or xe/xem often as well. Some less common (but still used!) pronouns include, ze/hir, fae/faer, and heaps more!
Some non-binary people change or shorten their name to sound more gender neutral, too. Find more information on changing your name here. Some non-binary people also prefer other gender neutral language such as the title Mx instead of using Mr or Ms. If you aren’t sure what pronouns you want to use, you can use tools such as the pronoun dressing room to try out pronouns in a safe environment.
Things like starting a speech with “ladies and gentlemen”, asking someone if they have a “boyfriend or girlfriend”, or referring to a group of people as “girls and boys” all erase non-binary identities, and that exclusion can be really harmful. Using gender neutral language like friends, students, everyone, or honoured guest is a great way to make your space more inclusive by acknowledging that we don’t all fit into the gender binary.
External validation of your gender, such as people using the right pronouns and name, can be incredibly affirming. But self love is very important too! Take some time to relax, even if it’s just an hour on the weekends spending time with friends, or 20 minutes reading your favourite book or listening to music. Being non-binary in a world that’s filled with gender roles can really take its toll. It’s okay to put yourself first. You don’t have to apologise for wanting respect, for wanting someone to use the correct pronouns or to not refer to you as a girl or boy. When it comes to you and your gender identity, there’s no wrong way to be non-binary. Only you can put a label on your gender, if that’s something you want to do. Remember that it’s okay to question your gender, and to change your mind about your gender identity.
Being non-binary can seem like a lonely road at times – but it doesn’t have to be. Organisations like Ygender are trans inclusive spaces where you can meet other non-binary people. Remember that you are not alone, there are over 92,000 non-binary Australians who stand with you.