What does it mean to be non-binary?

Non-binary is a term used to describe individuals whose gender identities are not exclusively feminine or masculine. Individuals who identify as non-binary choose to do so because they do not have an inherently female or male sense of identity.

Non-binary individuals can express a blend of masculinity and femininity in varying degrees, or express neither. They can choose to identify as agender, bigender, genderqueer or other terms that they feel describe them best. Some non-binary individuals may undergo medical procedures to better line up with gender identity.

Genderfluid often falls under the category of being non-binary. This means that a person’s gender changes over time, and can shift from male to female to genderless at times.

Intersex and non-binary are often confused with each other; however, intersex describes someone who is born with variations in sexual characteristics, such as chromosomes, gonads, sex chromosomes, and more. Non-binary people are those who do not identify as exclusively male or female; they do not have to be born as an intersex individual in order to identify as non-binary. All intersex people do not necessarily identify as non-binary either, it is their personal choice to decide what identity represents them best.

It is important to ask someone what pronouns they prefer so that you do not end up assuming things. While many non-binary people prefer they/them/theirs pronouns, some may prefer she/her/hers or he/him/his.

It is also important to shift from gendered language to more inclusive words. Simply replacing “ladies and gentlemen” with “everyone” can promote a safer, more inclusive environment. Many words such as “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are also gendered, so using “partner” or “significant other (S.O.)” instead can be more inclusive of non-binary individuals.

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