What Does Non-Binary Mean? A Comprehensive Guide


Gender identity is a complex and deeply personal aspect of our lives. For many people, their gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth – male or female. However, for others, this binary gender system does not accurately reflect their experience. This is where the concept of non-binary identity comes in.

According to a survey by Pew Research Center, about 35% of Gen Z adults know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns such as “they/them.” This indicates a growing awareness and acceptance of non-binary identities. However, there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding what it means to be non-binary.

In this guide, we will explore the topic of non-binary identity in depth, including what it means, common pronouns used by non-binary individuals, challenges they face, and ways to support them. Whether you are non-binary yourself or seeking to better understand and support non-binary individuals in your personal or professional life, this comprehensive guide aims to provide valuable insights and resources.


Gender identity is a fundamental aspect of our lives, shaping how we see ourselves and how others perceive us. The traditional binary gender system divides people into two categories – male and female – based on biological sex. However, this system fails to account for the many nuances and complexities of human identity. This is where non-binary comes in.

Non-binary refers to individuals who do not identify exclusively as male or female. Instead, they may identify as both, neither, or somewhere in between. Non-binary individuals may also express their gender in ways that go beyond traditional masculine or feminine norms.

Non-binary identity challenges the notion that gender is a fixed, immutable characteristic, and instead recognizes it as a fluid and individual experience. For many non-binary people, embracing this identity can be a powerful form of self-expression and affirmation.

At the same time, non-binary individuals often face significant challenges in a society that is still largely structured around binary gender norms. Discrimination, prejudice, and misunderstanding can all make it difficult for non-binary people to live authentically and navigate daily life.

By understanding what non-binary means and the unique experiences of non-binary people, we can begin to break down these barriers and create a more inclusive and accepting world.

What is Non-Binary?

Binary Gender System

Binary Gender System

The binary gender system is a social construct that categorizes individuals into two distinct and mutually exclusive categories: male and female. This means that society expects everyone to identify as either male or female based on their biological sex assigned at birth.

Individuals who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth are referred to as cisgender, while those who do not identify with their assigned gender are referred to as transgender. The binary gender system has been deeply ingrained in society for centuries, and it has had significant consequences for people who do not fit neatly into these categories.

Historically, the binary gender system has been used to assign roles and expectations based on gender. For example, men were expected to be providers and protectors, while women were expected to take care of the home and children. These roles were strictly enforced, and individuals who did not conform were often ostracized or punished.

The problem with the binary gender system is that it fails to acknowledge the diversity of gender identities and expressions. It assumes that everyone fits into one of two categories, which is simply not true. There are many people who identify as non-binary, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming, and their experiences cannot be explained by the binary gender system.

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the limitations of the binary gender system, and many people are working to dismantle it. This includes advocating for more inclusive language, recognizing the validity of non-binary identities, and creating spaces where people can express themselves without fear of judgment or discrimination.

In conclusion, the binary gender system is a flawed and outdated way of understanding gender. While it has been deeply ingrained in our society for centuries, it is time to recognize that there is much more to gender than just male and female. By embracing diversity and inclusivity, we can create a world where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued regardless of their gender identity.

Non-Binary Gender Identity

Non-Binary Gender Identity

Non-binary gender identity is a term used to describe individuals who do not identify exclusively as male or female. Instead, they may identify as agender, genderqueer, bigender, or another non-binary identity.

Agender individuals do not identify with any gender at all. They may feel that they are without gender, or that their gender is undefined. Genderqueer individuals may identify as both masculine and feminine, or neither, or as a combination of both. Bigender individuals may identify as both male and female, or as a combination of the two.

It’s important to note that non-binary identities are not a new phenomenon; many cultures have recognized gender diversity for centuries. However, their visibility and recognition in mainstream Western society is relatively recent.

One of the challenges that non-binary individuals face is a lack of understanding and acceptance from others. Because non-binary gender identities challenge the traditional binary gender system, some people may struggle to see them as valid. This can lead to discrimination and exclusion in various aspects of life, including healthcare, education, and employment.

To support non-binary individuals, it’s crucial to respect their preferred pronouns and use gender-neutral language whenever possible. It’s also important to educate oneself on terminology and identity, and to amplify the voices of non-binary people in media and advocacy efforts.

In conclusion, non-binary gender identity encompasses a range of identities that exist beyond the traditional male-female binary. While these identities have been present throughout history and across cultures, they continue to face challenges in gaining acceptance and recognition. By educating ourselves and advocating for non-binary individuals, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and welcoming society for everyone.

Gender Expression

Gender Expression

Gender expression refers to the way an individual expresses their gender identity through external characteristics such as clothing, hairstyle, and mannerisms. It is an important aspect of self-expression and can vary widely between individuals. Some people may express themselves in a more masculine way, while others may lean towards a more feminine expression. Others may choose to express themselves in a way that blends elements of both or falls into the category of androgynous expression.

Masculine Expression

Masculine gender expression typically involves characteristics that are traditionally associated with masculinity such as short haircuts, button-down shirts, and pants. Men who identify as masculine may be more inclined to have a deeper voice or to hold themselves in a way that is perceived as more dominant. However, it’s important to remember that these traits don’t necessarily determine one’s gender identity.

Feminine Expression

Feminine gender expression, on the other hand, usually involves characteristics that are traditionally associated with femininity such as long hair, dresses, and makeup. Women who identify as feminine may speak in a higher pitch or display behaviors that are considered more nurturing. However, it’s important to note that these gender expressions also do not necessarily determine one’s gender identity.

Androgynous Expression

Androgynous gender expression combines elements of both masculinity and femininity to create a unique expression that falls outside of traditional gender norms. People who identify as androgynous may choose to wear clothes that aren’t strictly gendered or may experiment with different hairstyles that challenge gender stereotypes. Androgyny provides an opportunity for people to express themselves in a way that feels most authentic to them.

In conclusion, gender expression is an essential component of a person’s gender identity. It allows individuals to express themselves authentically and free from societal expectations. Whether someone chooses to express themselves in a more masculine, feminine, or androgynous way, it’s important to respect their expression and identity.

Non-Binary Pronouns

Common Non-Binary Pronouns

Common Non-Binary Pronouns

Non-binary individuals often use pronouns that are different from the traditional binary gender pronouns, such as “he/him” and “she/her”. Two of the most common non-binary pronouns used are “they/them” and “ze/hir”.


The singular “they/them” has been used in the English language for centuries as a gender-neutral pronoun. It is an inclusive pronoun that can be used to refer to anyone regardless of their gender identity.

For example, instead of saying “he or she went to the store,” you could say “they went to the store”. It’s important to note that “they/them” can also be used as plural pronouns.


Another set of non-binary pronouns is “ze/hir”. These pronouns are less commonly used but are still important to know. “Ze” is used in place of “he/she” and “hir” is used in place of “him/her”.

For example, instead of saying “she went to the store with her friend,” you could say “ze went to the store with hir friend”.

Using the correct pronouns is crucial in respecting someone’s gender identity. If you are unsure about which pronouns to use for someone, don’t hesitate to ask them politely. It shows that you are respectful of their identity and are willing to learn.

It’s also important to note that some non-binary individuals may use other pronouns such as “xe/xem” or “fae/faer”. It’s always best to ask someone what their preferred pronouns are rather than assuming.

Less Common Non-Binary Pronouns

Less Common Non-Binary Pronouns

While they/them and ze/hir are becoming more widely recognized as non-binary pronouns, there are other options that are less known but still used by some individuals. In this section, we will explore fae/faer and ey/em pronouns.

Fae/Faer Pronouns

Fae/faer pronouns are a relatively new addition to the non-binary pronoun lexicon. They are typically used by individuals who feel that they do not fit into the gender binary of male or female, or even the non-binary categories of genderqueer or genderfluid.

The fae/faer pronoun set is based on the word “faerie,” and it can be spelled in different ways depending on the individual’s preference, such as “fey/fem” or “fei/fair.” The use of these pronouns is meant to convey a sense of magic or otherworldliness in the person’s gender identity.

Example: “Have you met my friend Alex? Fae uses fae/faer pronouns.”

Ey/Em Pronouns

Ey/em pronouns are another less common non-binary pronoun set. They are considered gender-neutral and are used by some individuals who do not identify with the traditional binary genders.

Ey/em are pronounced like “ay” and “em,” and they take the place of he/him or she/her in sentences. These pronouns have been around since the 1970s and are sometimes used in science fiction or fantasy genres to represent non-human characters.

Example: “I don’t know what to get my friend for their birthday. Maybe ey would like a gift card?”

In conclusion, while they/them and ze/hir are gaining widespread recognition as non-binary pronouns, it’s important to keep an open mind about the various pronoun sets that exist. Being respectful of an individual’s pronoun preferences can go a long way in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment.

Challenges faced by Non-Binary People



Non-binary people often experience discrimination in various aspects of their lives. Here are some areas where discrimination is most prevalent:


Employment discrimination against non-binary individuals can manifest in several ways. For instance, gender identity can be a factor in hiring decisions or promotions, leading to a biased work environment. Non-binary people may also face harassment and bullying from coworkers or supervisors who refuse to acknowledge their gender identity.

Moreover, job seekers who prefer using non-binary pronouns may experience difficulties while filling out job applications, as most forms only offer binary pronoun options (he/him or she/her). This lack of inclusivity can result in non-binary applicants feeling unwelcome or excluded from the job market.


Accessing healthcare services can be challenging for non-binary individuals due to the lack of awareness and training among healthcare providers. Non-binary people may encounter barriers when seeking medical care, such as being denied treatment, receiving inadequate or inappropriate care, or experiencing discrimination due to their gender identity.

For example, a non-binary person seeking hormone therapy may face challenges in finding a physician who has experience with prescribing hormones for non-binary individuals. Similarly, they may experience discomfort or distress during physical examinations due to the provider’s lack of knowledge about non-binary anatomy.

Legal Recognition

Legal recognition refers to the process of changing one’s gender marker on various government documents, such as driver’s licenses, passports, and birth certificates. However, non-binary individuals often face hurdles when attempting to change their legal gender marker as most countries do not recognize non-binary genders.

For instance, in the United States, only a handful of states allow individuals to select a non-binary gender marker on their driver’s license or identification card. Consequently, non-binary individuals who reside in states that do not offer this option may experience difficulty accessing essential services, such as banking or voting, due to inconsistencies between their legal documents and gender presentation.

In conclusion, discrimination against non-binary individuals is a pervasive issue that affects various aspects of their lives, including employment, healthcare, and legal recognition. Greater awareness and education about non-binary gender identities can help to create a more inclusive society where everyone feels valued and respected regardless of their gender identity.



One of the most significant challenges faced by non-binary people is misgendering. Misgendering occurs when someone uses the wrong pronoun or name to refer to a person’s gender identity. This can be incredibly hurtful and invalidating for non-binary individuals, who may already struggle with feeling seen and accepted in a world that largely operates within a binary gender system.

Pronouns are an essential part of many people’s gender identities. While some non-binary individuals use traditional pronouns like “he” or “she,” many prefer gender-neutral pronouns like “they/them” or “ze/hir.” Using the wrong pronoun for someone can create discomfort and dysphoria, which refers to the distress caused by the mismatch between a person’s gender identity and their assigned sex at birth.

Similarly, using the wrong name can also be incredibly invalidating for non-binary people. Many non-binary individuals choose names that reflect their gender identities, often opting for more gender-neutral options. Using the wrong name can make a person feel unseen, misunderstood, and disrespected.

It’s essential to take steps to avoid misgendering non-binary individuals. One way to do this is to ask for a person’s pronouns and respect them. If you’re not sure what pronoun someone uses, it’s okay to ask politely. Additionally, it’s crucial to listen to and respect a person’s chosen name and use it consistently.

If you do accidentally misgender someone, it’s essential to apologize sincerely and correct yourself. Avoid making excuses or minimizing the impact of your mistake. Remember that misgendering can be incredibly hurtful, and it’s your responsibility to take steps to avoid it in the future.

In conclusion, misgendering is a significant challenge faced by non-binary individuals. Pronouns and names are crucial components of a person’s gender identity, and using the wrong ones can cause significant harm. By respecting a person’s pronouns and name, we can create a more inclusive and accepting world for non-binary individuals.



Non-binary representation in media is important for increasing visibility and raising awareness about non-binary identities. Representation in media can help to normalize non-binary identities, reduce stigmas and stereotypes, and promote acceptance.

Unfortunately, non-binary representation in media is still limited and often inaccurate. Non-binary people are often portrayed as confused or abnormal, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and myths. This lack of accurate representation can lead to erasure of non-binary identities and a lack of understanding from the general public.

However, there have been some positive developments in recent years. Non-binary characters have begun appearing in TV shows and movies, and some media outlets have started using gender-neutral language and pronouns when referring to non-binary individuals.

One example of positive non-binary representation in media is the character of Taylor Mason on the TV show “Billions.” The character is portrayed as a successful, intelligent, and confident non-binary person who is respected and valued by their colleagues and friends.

Another example is the use of they/them pronouns for non-binary individuals in news articles and other media. This simple change of language helps to validate the existence of non-binary identities and promote inclusivity.

Overall, it is essential that media continues to increase representation of non-binary identities in a positive and accurate way. This will help to improve visibility, raise awareness, and promote acceptance of non-binary individuals in society.

How to Support Non-Binary People



Respect is a crucial aspect of supporting non-binary individuals. One of the most important ways to show respect is by using their correct pronouns. Non-binary people may use pronouns such as they/them or neopronouns like ze/hir and fae/faer. It is essential to ask for their preferred pronouns and use them consistently.

Another way to demonstrate respect towards non-binary individuals is by using gender-neutral language. This refers to words or phrases that are not specific to a particular gender, such as “partner” instead of “boyfriend/girlfriend” or “parent” instead of “mother/father.” Gender-neutral language acknowledges the existence of non-binary genders and creates a more inclusive environment.

Using incorrect pronouns or non-inclusive language can make non-binary individuals feel invalidated and disrespected. It is crucial to educate ourselves on the importance of respecting gender identities beyond the binary and to advocate for others to do the same.

For example, if you are unsure about someone’s pronouns, try asking them politely. A simple question like “Hey, what are your preferred pronouns?” can go a long way in showing that you care about their identity. Additionally, using gender-neutral language in our everyday conversations can become a habit with practice, and it helps to create a more welcoming and accepting environment for everyone.

In summary, showing respect to non-binary individuals through the use of correct pronouns and gender-neutral language is an essential step towards creating a more inclusive society. Let us all work together to promote and support gender diversity.


Education plays a crucial role in creating an inclusive and accepting society for non-binary individuals. One of the key aspects of this education is understanding the terminology used to describe non-binary identity.

Terminology can be confusing, especially for those who are not familiar with non-binary gender identities. For example, terms such as “genderqueer” or “agender” may be unfamiliar to some. However, taking the time to learn and understand these terms can make a significant difference in the lives of non-binary people.

Identity is also an essential aspect of non-binary education. It is important to recognize that everyone’s experience with gender is unique, and non-binary people are no exception. By listening to and respecting the experiences and identities of non-binary individuals, we can create a more welcoming and supportive environment.

One way to educate oneself on non-binary terminology and identity is by seeking out resources such as books, articles, and online communities. These resources can provide valuable insights and help to broaden one’s understanding of non-binary experiences.

For example, the book “Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity” edited by Micah Rajunov and A. Scott Duane features a collection of personal essays from non-binary people sharing their experiences with gender. This book provides an intimate look at the diversity of non-binary identities and experiences, making it a valuable resource for anyone looking to learn more.

Overall, education is a critical component of creating a more inclusive and accepting society for non-binary individuals. By taking the time to learn about non-binary terminology and identity, we can work towards building a world where everyone feels seen and valued.


Advocating for non-binary individuals involves using your voice to support policies and initiatives that promote their rights and wellbeing. This advocacy can take many forms, from supporting legislation that protects non-binary individuals from discrimination to amplifying their voices in conversations about gender identity.

Supporting legislation is a powerful way to advocate for non-binary individuals. In many countries, laws have yet to catch up with the reality of gender identity beyond the binary. For example, non-binary individuals may not have access to accurate identification documents that reflect their gender identity. Advocating for legislative changes that recognize non-binary identities can help break down these barriers and promote inclusivity.

Amplifying the voices of non-binary individuals is also crucial. Often, non-binary voices are marginalized and underrepresented in mainstream media and political discourse. By actively seeking out and listening to non-binary voices, we can better understand their perspectives and experiences. Amplifying these voices through social media, writing, or other means can help increase visibility, reduce stigma, and promote understanding.

In conclusion, advocacy plays an important role in promoting the rights and wellbeing of non-binary individuals. By supporting legislation and amplifying non-binary voices, we can help create a more inclusive and equitable society for all genders.
Non-binary gender identity has been around for centuries, but it is only in recent years that people are starting to recognize and acknowledge its existence. This comprehensive guide has aimed to shed light on what non-binary means, how non-binary individuals identify themselves, the challenges they face, and how we can support them.

It is essential to understand that gender is a spectrum, and there is more to it than just male or female. We need to respect and validate the gender identities of everyone, including non-binary individuals. By doing so, we can make our society more inclusive and welcoming for all.

Learning about non-binary gender identity and educating ourselves on how to support non-binary individuals is a crucial step towards creating a world where everyone can express their gender freely and without judgement. Let us continue to advocate for non-binary people’s rights, amplify their voices, and work towards a more equitable and just society.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button