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What does it mean to identify as non-binary?

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  • 1.2 million LGBTQ+ adults in the United States identify as non-binary. 
  • What does it mean to identify as non-binary? 
  • 53% of non-binary people report being bullied.

What does non-binary mean? According to a 2021 study, in the United States at least 53% of members of the LGTBQ+ community who identify as non-binary report that they have suffered bullying on more than one occasion.

More than 1.2 million young people and adults in the US identify as non-binary. Most of them are between the ages of 18 and 29. Find out what you need to know to be a more empathetic and supportive ally for this group.

What does non-binary mean?

nonbinary identity

Although it might seem like a relatively new concept, the non-binary spectrum dates back to 400 BC, when there was talk of a ‘third gender’ to describe those who considered themselves neither male nor female. The term is used to refer to people whose gender identity cannot be exclusively described as male or female.

For some people, this means a gender expression such as male and female, while for others neither of these two describes their identity. In many cultures, the predominant genders are male and female and their roles vary according to social expectations. For non-binary people, their gender identity doesn’t fit into this norm.

Is non-binary the same as transgender?

LGBTQ+ flag

It is important to understand what it means to be non-binary, as it is often confused with being transgender. Transgender people often identify as either male or female, while non-binary people do not identify exclusively with one gender.

Transgender people can be non-binary, but the two terms are not interchangeable. It is also important to recognize that clothing or behaviors are part of how people express their identities but you shouldn’t make assumptions about how they identify based solely on appearance.

Understanding the different gender identities


What does science say about being non-binary? One of the most recurring themes in studies of non-binary people is the importance of understanding the different gender identities in order to use the appropriate pronouns and avoid emotional or psychological stress that can also affect one’s physical health.

Some of these identities include: genderqueer; agender; gender fluid; androgynous; bigender and multigender. Midgender also falls into the range of non-binary identities. This is used when a person feels a partial connection to a certain gender.

Debunking some myths

The non-binary experience

One’s gender identity or sexual identity is an important part of being human, that is why it is important to see beyond the labels and recognize people as individuals celebrating their essence and trying to learn more about their everyday challenges.

Non-binary people aren’t going through a phase where they can’t figure out their gender. It is not a plea for attention or an act of rebellion against the system, it is an expression of complex identity that must be understood from a human perspective and based on the experience of those who live it daily.

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