What Does It Mean To Be Non-Binary? | Enby Meaning Beyond the Binary
When people think about gender and gender identity, most of the time male and female are the only things that come to mind. Society is set up to fit in nice little boxes to be gift wrapped and shared with the world, but not everything fits in the box of “male" or “female”. Some people feel that they don’t fit in either box or that they don’t want a box at all. Our world likes things to be categorized, and when something falls outside of those boundaries it can cause confusion, discomfort, and even fear -- fear of the unknown. However, by learning about different concepts we can see that there isn’t a reason to fear in the first place. We can embrace those we deem as “different” and love the diversity that humanity offers. So, what does it mean to be non-binary? According to the Oxford Dictionary, non-binary is “not relating to, composed of, or involving just two things.” But what does that look like for an individual? While it may be confused with transgender, non-binary isn’t as defined with one gender or another. There are many identities used in the non-binary umbrella such as:
Most transgender individuals identify as the opposite gender from what they were
assigned at birth. This is often accompanied by medical transitioning, such as:
● taking testosterone or estrogen hormones (pill, patch, shot, gel, pellet, etc.)
● undergoing surgery for their body to match their gender identity (facial feminization,
breast augmentation, mastectomy, etc.)
● changing their legal name on documents (government I.D., Social Security Card, Birth
Most transgender individuals fit into the box of male or female. Non-binary people
experience gender outside of the gender binary many associate with the xy or xx
chromosomes. Instead of using pronouns such as he or she, many non-binary individuals prefer neutral terms such as:
● they, them, theirs, themself
● zie, zim, zir, zis, zieself
● sie, hir, hirs, or hirself
● ey, em, eir, eirs, or eirself
● ve, ver, vis, vers, or verself
● tey, ter, tem, ters, or terself
● e, em, eir, eirs, or emself
There are many in the non-binary community who accept any pronoun. You may recognize Aja, best known for competing in the third season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. They have been quoted in an exclusive interview with them.us saying, “Through drag, I learned I didn’t really want to be at one place on the gender spectrum. Drag being performative gender allowed me to explore the spectrum’s different parts, whether it be feminine, masculine, both, or none. Aja is drag but it’s also not drag: drag is an art and I do feel like I’m art. But on the flipside, whether I making art or not, I’m Aja. My whole life is a performance at the end of the day. I have to write my music, go to the studio, lay the music out, get it produced, then I have to rehearse, get onstage and do my music live, find out what I’m gonna wear to tour, find dancers, teach dancers. It’s all one huge performance. At the same time, it’s reality.”
While some in the non-binary community may take hormones or undergo surgery to look or sound more in alignment with their internal self, it is a personal decision and not done by all, but only to better match their gender identity. This can be a mash-up of male, female, both, in between, or neither at all. For some non-binary people, gender can change over time and be more of a spectrum. It can be a journey to discover oneself in their gender identity. Starting out, non-binary individuals might feel more comfortable using gender-specific pronouns, slowly working up to neutral terms. It can be difficult to determine someone’s gender at times, and it’s best to not assume.
So, what does it mean to be non-binary? For some, it means living outside of the gender binary boxes that society has so rigorously constructed. It could mean allowing themself to experiment to find what best fits them. Or maybe spend their life enjoying the freedom outside the black and white spaces of “male” or “female” and existing in the gray that so few allow themselves to experience. Ultimately, It means that there is more to the world than just two boxes. There isn’t a cliff when it comes to gender identity that once you jump over you can’t come back from. Sometimes you can climb back up and keep jumping.
Sometimes you can find another cliff to jump from entirely. Or maybe you choose to not jump and just observe the beauty of it. Whatever a person decides, it is just that -- their decision. No one can tell them how they feel, how they should identify, or place any label upon them that they didn’t have an active choice in making. But at the end of the day, we shouldn’t just assume how someone self-identifies. We should give them that space to determine for themself. And really, it is a wonderful thing to ask a non-binary person and what it means to them.