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Non-binary is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine—identities that are outside the gender binary. Genderqueer is an earlier term with the same meaning, originating from queer zines of the 1980s.
Non-binary people may identify as having two or more genders (being bigender or trigender); having no gender (agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois); moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); being third gender or other-gendered (a category that includes those who do not place a name to their gender).
A non-binary gender is not associated with a specific gender expression, such as androgyny. Non-binary people as a group have a wide variety of gender expressions, and some may reject gender "identities" altogether.
Definitions and identity
In addition to being an umbrella term, genderqueer has been used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress distinctions of gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity, or who "queer" gender. Individuals may express gender non-normatively by not conforming into the binary gender categories of "man" and "woman". Genderqueer is often used to self-identify by people who challenge binary social constructions of gender.
The term has also been applied by those describing what they see as a gender ambiguity. Androgynous (also androgyne) is frequently used as a descriptive term for people in this category. This is because the term androgyny is closely associated with a blend of socially defined masculine and feminine traits. However, not all genderqueer people identify as androgynous. Some genderqueer people identify as a masculine woman or a feminine man or combine genderqueer with another gender option.
Some references use the term transgender broadly, in such a way that it includes genderqueer/non-binary people. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Gender Spectrum use the term gender-expansive to convey "a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system".
Genderfluid people often express a desire to remain flexible about their gender identity rather than committing to a single definition. They may fluctuate between differing gender expressions over their lifetime, or express multiple aspects of various gender markers at the same time. They may at times identify as bigender - shifting between masculine and feminine; or as trigender - shifting between these and a third gender.
Agender people ('a-' meaning "without"), also called genderless, genderfree, non-gendered, or ungendered, are those who identify as having no gender or being without a gender identity. Although this category includes a broad range of identities which do not conform to traditional gender norms, scholar Finn Enke states that people who identify with any of these positions may not necessarily self-identify as transgender. Agender people have no specific set of pronouns; singular they is typically used, but it is not the default. Neutrois and agender were two of 50 available custom genders on Facebook, which were added on 13 February 2014. Agender is also available as a gender option on OkCupid since 17 November 2014.
Demigender is a gender identity of a person identifying partially or mostly with one gender and at the same time with another gender. There are several subcategories of the identity. A demi-boy or demi-man, for example, identifies at least partially with being a boy or a man, no matter the sex and gender they were assigned at birth, while other parts of their identity might be assigned to other genders, genderfluid or no other gender (agender). A demiflux person feels that the stable part of their identity is non-binary.
Anthropologists such as April Scarlett Callis believe that the traditional binary system of sexual identity can be traced to the 19th century when sexuality was first medicalized. People started to identify as gay when biological sciences grew in influence, churches became less powerful, and social and political structure began to change. George Chauncey, professor of history at Yale University, notes that during the early 20th-century gender roles rather than sexual partners were used to determine sexuality. For instance, "feminine" men who had sex with other men were labeled as "mollies" or "fairies", whereas masculine men who had sex with other men remained unlabeled. The mid-20th century signaled the start of labeling individuals as either heterosexual or homosexual.
The term genderqueer came into use during the mid-1990s. Riki Anne Wilchins is often associated with the word genderqueer, especially because of her contributions to Genderqueer: Voices Beyond the Sexual Binary which was published in 2002. In 1995 she was also published in the newsletter In Your Face, where she used the term genderqueer. In the newsletter, the term appears to refer to people with complex or unnamed gender expressions, which does not match with the general definition used today. Wilchins stated she identifies as genderqueer in her 1997 autobiography.
Pronouns and titles
Some non-binary/genderqueer people prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns. Usage of singular 'they', 'their' and 'them' is the most common; and ze, sie, hir, co, and ey are used as well. Some others prefer the conventional gender-specific pronouns 'her' or 'him', prefer to be referred to alternately as 'he' and 'she', or prefer to use only their name and not use pronouns at all. Many prefer additional neutral language, such as the title 'Mx.' instead of Mr. or Ms.
In today's society, many non-binary/genderqueer people still use the gender they were given at birth to conduct everyday business because many areas of life still conduct business with binary genders. Things are changing though as more businesses are becoming more accepting of non-binary genders. Multiple countries legally recognize non-binary or third gender classifications. Some non-western societies have long recognized transgender people as a third gender, though this may not (or may only recently) include formal legal recognition. In western societies, Australia may have been the first country to legally recognize third classifications, following recognition of Alex MacFarlane as having indeterminate sex, reported in 2003.
In the United States, the majority of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey chose "A gender not listed here." The "not listed here" respondents were nine percentage-points (33 percent) more likely to report forgoing healthcare due to fear of discrimination than the general sample (36 percent compared to 27 percent). Ninety percent reported experiencing anti-trans bias at work, and 43 percent reported having attempted suicide.
Symbols and observances
Many flags have been used in non-binary and genderqueer communities to represent various identities. There are distinct non-binary and genderqueer pride flags. The genderqueer pride flag was designed in 2011. Lavender represents androgyny or queerness, white represents agender identity, and green represents those whose identities which are defined outside the binary. The non-binary pride flag was created in 2014. Yellow represents people whose gender exists outside the binary, purple represents those who feel their gender is a mixture of – or between – male and female, black represents people who feel as if they have no gender, and white represents those who embrace many or all genders.
Genderfluid people, who also fall under the genderqueer umbrella, have their own flag as well. Pink represents femininity, white represents lack of gender, purple represents mixed gender or androgyny, black represents all other genders, and blue represents masculinity.
Agender people, who also sometimes identify as genderqueer, have their own flag. This flag uses black and white stripes to represent an absence of gender, and a green stripe to represent non-binary genders.
A 2019 survey of the Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ population in the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario called Mapping the Void: Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ Experiences in Hamilton showed that 19% of the 906 respondents identified as non-binary.
A 2017 survey of Canadian LGBT+ people called LGBT+ Realities Survey found that 4% of the 1,897 respondents identified as non-binary transgender and 1% identified as non-binary outside of the transgender umbrella.
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