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GxG Format: NB

Gender(s): Any gender not wholly man nor wholly woman

Non-Binary or nonbinary (sometimes shortened to NBY or N.B.) refers to someone whose gender does not fall strictly within the category of the binary genders (man or woman) that are used in Western society.[1] Anyone who is not always and solely 100% a woman nor always and solely 100% man can be considered non-binary. Some non-binary individuals may identify with one or both of the binary genders, at least in part, while others are completely unrelated to the binary genders.

Non-binary can be used as a gender identity on its own, or it can be used as an umbrella term for anyone whose gender is something other than male or female. Some individuals may also use the term genderqueer interchangeably with non-binary or something else entirely.

Non-binary individuals may call themselves an enby (with enbies being used as a plural form), a borl (the combination of boys and girls) or an enban (the equivalent of man or woman, with enben being used as a plural form).[2][3][4] As non-binary is not a gender that is assigned-at-birth, all non-binary individuals are inherently partly transgender, though not all non-binary individuals identify as such. Reasons for this may include not wanting to use another label for their identity, or feeling that they don't resonate with the typical transgender experience. The latter is especially common for those that still partly align with their assigned-gender-at-birth, meaning partly cisgender and partly transgender.

Some non-binary people can be partly connected to or aligned to one or both of the binary genders.[5] For example, a man-aligned non-binary individual may have an experience similar to binary men or have some connection to boyhood/manhood, but not enough to warrant identifying solely as a man. Non-binary individuals can also be aligned to a gender quality, such as masculine-aligned.


As non-binary encompasses an extraordinarily large amount of unique experiences, there is no standard as to how a non-binary individual should appear, what pronouns they have, or how they should behave.[6] Non-binary individuals typically have a unique gender identity and thus a unique set of goals that may be similar to some non-binary individuals, and dissimilar to others. Some non-binary individuals do not transition at all and present as the gender assigned to them at birth.[7]

Some non-binary individuals may socially transition but do not medically transition. Other non-binary individuals may take certain elements of binary transgender transitions. For example, an AFAB (assigned-female-at-birth) non-binary individual may take micro-doses of testosterone, or wear a binder. Some non-binary individuals may only desire a partial transition in order to look androgynous.[8]

In terms of pronouns, many non-binary individuals prefer gender-neutral language; In English this is the use of singular 'they/them' pronouns. Singular they/them pronouns have historically been used to refer to living beings of unknown gender, but this has since been adopted widely amongst the queer community as a neutral pronoun set.[9] Some non-binary individuals may go by she/her pronouns or he/him pronouns.[10] Others may go by it/its pronouns, however these pronouns have been criticized as dehumanising, due to said pronouns being used for non-living objects. Non-binary individuals may also neopronouns. Non-English speakers especially tend to use neopronouns, as their language may not have a gender-neutral singular pronoun like the English they/them. Additionally, some may go by multiple pronoun sets, and others will go by no pronouns, using just a name in place of where pronouns would be.


Ancient History

The existence of non-binary individuals has been recorded by many cultures throughout history. Many non-western cultures recognized three or sometimes more genders, dating back to antiquity, however the existence of these genders were often suppressed during colonization.

  • Some of the earliest recorded instances of non-binary individuals come from Mesopotamia. In Mesopotamian mythology, there are references to the types of individuals who are not men and not women. Many priests or individuals who performed religious duties were described as a third gender.[11][12]
  • The Māhū in Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) cultures are third gender persons that traditionally played spiritual roles within the culture.[13]
  • The Buddhist Tipitaka documents four gender categories: female, male, ubhatobyanjanaka (individuals with both male and female characteristics), and pandaka (a complex term with no English translation).[14]
  • Prior to western contact, some Native American tribes had third-gender roles. European anthropologists usually referred to them as "berdaches", which Natives considered a slur. In 1990, some Indigenous North Americans adopted the term two-spirit.[15]
  • Across the Indian subcontinent there are several similar gender identities that are collectively known as hijra in English. Hijra is neither completely male nor female and they typically have a feminine gender expression.[16]
  • Jewish sacred texts recognize six genders: zachar (cisgender men), nekeivah (cisgender women), ay'lonit (transgender men), saris (transgender women), androgynos (someone with both male and female characteristics, roughly equivalent to androgyne or bigender), and tumtum (someone whose sex is indeterminate or obscured, roughly equivalent to agender).[17]
  • Bissu is a gender from the Bugis culture of southern Indonesia which represent all aspects of gender combined to form a whole. They play an important role in religious ceremonies among those who practice the pre-Islamic religion of the area. Traditionally the Bugis recognized five genders, and believed that all five genders must live in harmony for there to be peace in the world.[18]

Victorian Era (17th-19th Century)

In the 17th century, English laws concerning inheritance sometimes referred to individuals who didn’t fit the gender binary using the pronoun "it". While dehumanizing, it was considered the most grammatically fit answer to gendered pronouns around then. This is an example of individuals being considered legally outside of male and female.[9]

Although the "singular they" had been in use in English for hundreds of years in 1745, prescriptive grammarians began to say that it was no longer acceptable. Their reasoning was that neutral pronouns don't exist in Latin, which was thought to be a better language, so English shouldn't use them either. They instead recommended using "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun. This started the dispute over the problem of acceptable gender-neutral pronouns in English.[19]

Modern History

The earliest known use of the word "genderqueer" is by Riki Anne Wilchins in the Spring 1995 newsletter of Transexual Menace. In 1995 they were published in the newsletter In Your Face, wherethey used the term genderqueer In the newsletter, the term appears to refer to individuals with complex or unnamed gender expressions. Wilchins stated they identify as genderqueer in their 1997 autobiography.[20]

In 1998, an article from a transgender community on the Internet, Sphere, used the words "queergendered" and "polygendered" interchangeably as umbrella terms for everyone whose gender was outside the gender binary, specifying that these included individuals who were "bi-gendered, non-gendered, or third-gendered," explaining that some faced difficulty in seeking a gender-ambiguous physical transition.[21]

Related Terms

Label Relationship Description Difference
Abinary Similar A gender that has no connection with the binary genders nor inbetween. Non-binary can have a connection to the binary geners.
Andrognye Similar Both a man/masculine and woman/feminine. Non-binary can include genders outside of man+woman.
Exobinary Similar A gender that has no connection with the binary genders nor inbetween. Non-binary can have a connection to the binary geners.
Ideobinary Similar Non-binary but with an aligned gender quality. Non-binary does not have to have an alignment.
Mesobinary Similar Non-binary but connected to both binary genders. Non-binary can include genders outside of man+woman.
Neutral Similar A gender that that is neither binary gender nor inbetween. Non-binary can have a connection to the binary genders.
Viabinary Similar Non-binary but leaning to a binary gender. Non-binary does not have to have a binary lean.

Flags and Symbols

The official non-binary flag was designed by Tumblr user thejasmineelf-blog on February 17th, 2014, after winning a contest hosted by Tumblr user plantextract.[22] The colours are as follows:

  • Yellow, representing the outside of the binary, as it is a colour often used to distinguish something as its own.
  • White, being the photological presence of all colour/light, representing individuals who are many or all genders.
  • Purple, representing the fluidity and multiplicity of many gender experiences, the uniqueness and flexibility of nonbinary people, as well as representing those whose gender experiences include being of or between female and male.
  • Black, being the photological absence of color/light, representing agender or genderlessness.


  1. "What Does The Term “Nonbinary” Really Mean?". Dictionary, 14 Jul, 2021,
  2. "enby". Dictionary, 16 Jan, 2019,
  3. datingsitepredator. "Borl". Urban Dictionary, 20 Nov, 2011,
  4. Ask a Non-Binary. "Okay everyone I want your input on this". Tumblr, 21 Jan, 2024,
  5. "The Non-Binary Identity". LGBT Health & Wellbeing,,they%20were%20assigned%20at%20birth.. Accessed on 6 May, 2023.
  6. Ferguson, Joshua M.. "What It Means to Transition When You're Non-Binary". Teen Vogue, 30 Nov, 2017,
  7. "What do I need to know about transitioning?". Planned Parenthood, Accessed on 6 May, 2023.
  8. Compton, Julie. "Neither male nor female: Why some nonbinary people are 'microdosing' hormones". NBC News, 16 Jul, 2019,
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Singular 'They'". Merriam-Webster, Sep, 2019,
  10. "Understanding Nonbinary People: How to Be Respectful and Supportive". National Center for Transgender Equality, 12 Jan, 2023,,show%20respect%20for%20someone's%20identity..
  11. Murray, Stephen O., and Roscoe, Will (1997). Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literature. New York: New York University Press.
  12. Nissinen, Martti (1998). Homoeroticism in the Biblical World, Translated by Kirsi Stjedna. Fortress Press (November 1998) p. 30. ISBN|0-8006-2985-X
  13. Ravida, Meldrick. "The Māhū". Ka Leo, 11 Feb, 2018,
  14. Jackson, Peter A.. "Non-normative Sex/Gender Categories in the Theravada Buddhist Scriptures". Open Research Repository, Apr, 1996,
  15. de Vries, Kylan Mattias. "berdache". Britannica, 13 Mar, 2023,
  16. "The Third Gender and Hijras". Harvard Divinity School, 2018,
  17. Freidson, Sarah. "More Than Just Male and Female: The Six Genders in Ancient Jewish Thought". Sefaria, Accessed on 6 May, 2023.
  18. Stables, Daniel. "Asia's isle of five separate genders". BBC, 13 Apr, 2021,
  19. Bustillos, Maria. "Our Desperate, 250-Year-Long Search for a Gender-Neutral Pronoun". The Awl, 6 Jan, 2011,
  20. "Answering Gender Questions: Coining Genderqueer, Queer Fluidity, Gender-Normative". Genderqueer and Non-Binary Identities, 11 Aug, 2011,
  21. Nuccitelli, Danica. "A Queergendered FAQ". Gender-Sphere, 26 May, 1998, Archived on 4 Feb, 2020.
  22. thejasmineelf. "After counting up all the ‘votes’". Tumblr, 2012, Archived on 26 Jun, 2023.