All About Gender

Everything you need to know about gender, sexuality, and more.

Non-Binary

How to Know If You’re Non-Binary

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People often have “gender reveal” parties for their babies. You’ll see balloons in grocery stores that say, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”

But what if it’s neither? Or both? 

Most parents don’t consider their children being anything other than a boy or a girl, so you, the gender questioning individual, must figure that out for yourself.

In such a gendered society, it’s tough to figure out if you’re non-binary or transgender. But after this article, you’ll have a little more insight on how to know if you’re non-binary, not transgender.

(Conversely, if you think you might be transgender click here)

Let’s begin with some definitions, shall we? 

What does it mean to be non-binary?

Let’s start with the word “non-binary” itself. A non-binary individual is someone who identifies outside of a binary.

A binary is a categorization with only two options. Salt and pepper are a binary. Black and white are a binary. Man and woman, too, are a binary.

But there are more spices than just salt or pepper. There’s an infinite shade of gray between black and white. And, you guessed it, there are more ways to express yourself than just “man” or “woman.”

So a non-binary individual is simply someone who does not consider themself a man or a woman. They can feel most comfortable in between the two, switch from a man to woman and vice versa, or identify in multiple different ways.

At the end of the day, though, a non-binary individual does not feel solely like a man or solely like a woman, as cisgender people do. 

Now to clear up some points of confusion that may result from these definitions:

A non-binary individual is not to be confused with an intersex individual. An intersex individual is someone who was born with various male or female sex characteristics. For example, someone can have a vagina and a Y chromosome.  

Intersex people are biologically between male and female. However, a person’s body parts or sex characteristics does not always dictate how this person will identify. So if you’re intersex, you can still identify as a man or a woman. Or neither.

Because it’s not the body that dictates gender identity, but simply how a person feels within their body. 

And if you’re reading this, you’re probably feeling some type of way about the body you were born into. Let’s dig into that a little deeper. 

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Non-binary means not-cis.

What is being cis?

Cis is shorthand for cisgender, or someone whose biological sexual characteristics matches up with the traditional gender identity for that body.

    • So when you see someone with boobs, wide hips, no Adam’s apple, long hair, etc, you’d think that person is woman.
  • And when you see someone with broad shoulders, short hair, muscles, body hair, etc, you’d think that person is man.

But you can have those biological characteristics and not be a man, because, again, a body does not dictate gender identity.

How we express ourselves can be in different ways in the gender spectrum. Short hair and painted fingernails can no longer be assigned to just one gender or the other. Both genders are taking it up, or no gender at all.

So with that let’s talk about practical ways you can know if you’re non-binary:

  • You don’t feel comfortable on either gender binary. You don’t want to be seen as a man, you don’t want to be seen as woman. You don’t like she/her or he/him pronouns. All in all, you feel someplace in the middle of male and female.
  • You feel as if you have to be reminded that you’re a man or woman.
  • You feel weird when someone calls you he/him or she/her. Something about they/them pronouns honor you, or you feel the best knowing that you’re not being seen as a male or female.
  • You’ve changed your appearance to be more androgynous. 

Things you’re already doing that might indicate you’re non-binary:

  • Shortening or changing your name so that it’s gender neutral.
  • Using “They/them” when describing the gender of people you don’t know. This might be because you wish someone called you by those neutral pronouns.
  • Wishing there were more gender-neutral bathrooms in this world.
  • Wishing parts of your body were different (less pronounced, fuller — especially in an androgynous way).
  • Wearing baggy, ill-fitting clothing that hides your body and secondary sex characteristics (breasts, hips, thighs, neck, etc).
  • Speaking less because of voice dysphoria. (I get misgendered the SECOND I open my mouth.)
  • Eating less. It’s sad to say, but some causes of eating disorders is latent gender dysphoria. Transgender and genderqueer individuals are about 5 times more likely to develop eating disorders than cisgender LGBTQ or heterosexual individuals.
  • Wishing you had a different name or pronouns.
  • Wanting the masculinization/feminization of hormone treatment. While you don’t have to completely masculinize/feminize yourself, some people do hormone treats to make their body more androgynous. 

Things to help figure out if you’re non-binary:

    • Change your hairstyle. Cut it, grow it, shave it, dye it.
    • Experiment with makeup. Or don’t. Buy some eyeliner and lipstick. Throw the ones you do have away. Or, hey, if you want to, give yourself a beard with some mascara. Whatever works!
    • Try on different clothing. Raid a sibling’s closet, a parent’s wardrobe, or try stuff on at goodwill. Do you like what you see?
  • Ask people to call you different pronouns or names. Sometimes that’s all you need to reaffirm your gender. If you’re not in a place where you can ask people that, websites like Pronoun Changing Room can help you out.
    • Specifically, start asking people to use “they/them” pronouns with you.

The absolute best way to figure out if you’re non-binary: navigate your euphoria and dysphoria. 

  • Euphoria is when something feels good. Dysphoria is when something feels bad (especially in relation to your gender).
  • Try to notice each time you feel good when gendered one way and feel bad gendered another way.
  • If you find non-gendered traits make you feel better than gendered traits, you’re most likely non-binary.
    • For example: You don’t like being called “sir/ma’am,” (or maybe neither elicits a response from you). You do feel good, though, when someone uses they/them pronouns with you. You feel uncomfortable in male or female bathrooms but are always relieved to find a gender-neutral bathroom.
  • Give yourself some time. It’s hard to understand euphoria and dysphoria in the moment (as other environmental/contextual factors can influence those feelings in the moment), but looking back and perhaps writing down a few key experiences may give insight to your gender identity.

A lot of this sounds like how to know if you’re trans (as a lot of these behaviors are also found on the transgender article).

At the end of the day, a lot of the same feelings of dysphoria for transgender and non-binary individuals stem from the same body issues. A lot of people who think they’re trans eventually realize that they’re non-binary and vice versa.

But I’d say the biggest indication that you’re non-binary rather than trans is that you don’t want to be seen as either male/female or man/woman. Your pronouns and gender presentation may reflect that. Or they might not.

Thing To Remember: 

  • You can feel non-binary and look like a traditional man or woman.
  • You don’t have to use they/them pronouns to be non-binary (you can use any pronoun you want.)
  • You don’t have to feel any negative feelings toward your body to be non-binary.
  • Pretty much, the only criterion to being non-binary is feeling like you’re not a man or woman. (E.g., “I’m not a man or woman, I’m a human” or “I’m just me.”)

At the end of the day, you decide how you feel. But hearing other people’s stories helps validate things you’re feeling or help you realize that you’ve been feeling some type of way this whole time.

Below are some insightful YouTube videos I found. 

“How I Knew I Was Non-Binary” Personal Stories

I really like Charlie’s video describing what it feels like to be non-binary.

    • “I don’t go walking around thinking about how gosh darn neutral I am. It’s…a thing I get reminded of. When I see something for men or women it reminds me I’m neither of those.”
  • I think Charlie hits the nail. You can be androgynous and feel an affinity to male or female. But if you feel like neither you’re probably non-binary.

Jeff Miller’s video being transmasculine: being assigned female at birth but identifying more with masculine presentation and things, while not feeling like a “man.” As they say, gendered language like “man,” “dude,” “bro” makes them uncomfortable.

A video compilation by Ryan Cassata which includes a buuuunch of non-binary individuals saying what it is that makes them non-binary. Most of the responses describe feeling neutral to gender or simply not feeling male or female.

A popular non-binary bean, Ashley Wylde, describes how it feels to be non-binary. They say that being non-binary feels like having blonde hair or brown eyes. Their gender, or lack of gender, feels pretty normal.

(Please check out more great content from these YouTubers on their channels! Give ’em all the love and views they deserve).

In conclusion…

You can resonate with someone else’s coming out story or you can totally feel like your experience is unique. That’s okay.

You don’t have to rush to any conclusions. Just take your time, read up on other coming out stories and experiment with your gender until you find something you’re the most comfortable with.

Hope this helped!

I love you. So much.

– MK

23 Comments

  1. Alex

    This helped me so, so much. Thank you. <3

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  3. Raven

    Is it possible to be both girl and non-binary? Because for a while I addressed myself as demigirl but now I’m think I’m more of non binary but I also feel like a girl. I like her/she and they/them so is that possible?

    (I’m thinking it is, I just wanted to ask)

    • MK

      Absolutely! You can absolutely go by both pronouns. For a while I felt comfortable going by she/her and they/them, but then I realized I didn’t like being gendered female so I exclusively use ‘them.’ I know people who use any pronouns (she/they/him). There are no rules! If the pronouns feel comfortable to you, use them! If not, shop around and see what works.

      Thanks for stopping by the website and leaving a comment! I really appreciate it! 😀

    • ReesesPuff

      Yes it is. And there’s a term for this: transfeminine 🙂

  4. Chris

    I really love this article, it helped a lot. But how would I express myself as non-binary without people thinking I’m some “whiny entitled snowflake millennial wanting attention”

    • MK

      I might write an article about this very same topic. I’ve struggled with the same feeling. I want to bask in the open-mindedness of this generation’s attitude toward gender, but gender non-conformity comes with social baggage. Why is being non-binary so “uncool?” Why is it “snowflakey?” (What does it really mean to be a “snowflake” anyway? I want to analyze that too!)

      I think it just comes down to how you express your non-binariness. If you adopt traits similar to the “whiny entitled snowflake millennial” image you have in your head, then other people will too. If you go about it chill and self-assured, people with think it’s a part of you’re character and not what defines you. Consider the relation to veganism (I love vegans, but you know what I’m talking about, haha). You’ve probably met a vegan who’s in your face and wanting to educate you about why you should think/eat the way they do. You probably met another vegan who’s super chill and doesn’t care what you do, they’re just doing what they think is best for them. One is more socially acceptable and less “snowflakey” than the other.

      I hope that helps. If you want practical advice on what to dress and what to say, I’d say just do what feels natural to you and stop worrying about what other people think (I know that’s hard, but self-esteem is a muscle). Take care, and let me know if you have anymore questions!

  5. Gabe

    I’m pretty young and struggling with gender identity in a place where everything is so close minded. Reading this made me feel at home i still like she/her pronouns because thats what I’m used to but i dont feel like a girl, or a guy for that matter. Thanks for the article, it was comforting.

  6. Alec

    I was wondering how would I come out to my parents they completely support me in a lot of things! But I’m fairly sure my parents would laugh and say “you’re not non-binary!” Cause they refer to me as a girl so just wondering

    Thank you!

    • MK

      I’d say just tell your parents you’re non-binary! If they support you in a lot of things then they’ll probably support your gender identity too! It will probably take them time to truly understand and accept your identity, though. Our parents grew up with a different idea of gender (sex=gender) so they’ll have to take time to learn about gender nuance. But if your parents are open and supportive, they’ll probably be open to such learning from you, especially if you have first-hand experience you can impart on them. Open conversation is key to familial support, and the sooner you come out, the sooner you can have those conversations and fully understand each other.
      Thanks for commenting, and I hope all goes well with your parents!

  7. James

    Because I am so short and have a higher pitched voice for a male I often get misgendered as a female, despite my facial hair. I find myself uncomfortable being called miss or ma’am. But at the same time I feel I don’t fit what is expected to be a male. I’m naturally androgynous and I sometimes indulge my feminine side a bit but feel more masculine usually. Does this make me non-binary? Because even though I feel more comfortable with masculine pronouns, I don’t feel like I I’m completely male. Hell I’ve even confused straight guys with my androgynous look and behavior. Also my political leanings tends to conflict with the concept of non-binary so I’m not sure what to do.

    • MK

      Being non-binary isn’t necessarily how you look, more how you feel. Since you don’t feel completely male and aren’t comfortable being called miss or ma’am, you sound pretty non-binary to me, but you’re the ultimate judge of that. I’m trying to make content that can appeal to anyone of all political leanings, since I don’t think gender (eg, how you feel within your body and to the world) should be a political matter. Thanks for commenting, James, and I hope this helps you!

      • James

        Thanks! Yeah I have been doing more reading and self reflection. I do believe I feel non-binary. And I agree it shouldn’t be a political thing.

        • MK

          I’m happy you came to that conclusion! Ah, self-discovery and growth. Gotta love it. Take care, James!

  8. Eva

    Thank you so so much for writing this article. I’ve always felt weird when people call me “she”, but I thought, well, it’s probably a phase. But now that I think about it, I may be non-binary. When I go into a women’s restroom, I get anxious and I leave as quickly as possible. I dress more like a man, but with a feminine touch. Some people assume I’m transgender. This article let me think more about how I feel about my body. One thing I’m confused about is that sometimes I enjoy wearing more feminine clothing and sometimes I dress more masculine the next day. It’s like switching genders every day! I’m kind of afraid to tell people how I feel because I live in a Christian household/community.

    • MK

      I’m happy this article resonated with you. Trust me, I know how confusing it is to live in a body that feels weird to inhabit, but I’m happy you’re figuring yourself out. I wish you luck exploring your identity further and navigating your household/community. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Ria

    I’ve been pretty sure I’m non-binary even before reading this article but now I’m 100% certain. I’ve always been okay with being called female but feel uncomfortable presenting myself in a feminine way (dresses, make up etc) which I always just ascribed to being tomboyish (big “I’m not like other girls”-phase in my teenage years). My dream for a while has been to appear androgynous enough to make people wonder whether I’m male or female and being fine with whatever it is they decide on and I’d still love to achieve that. I’d probably be most comfortable with gender neutral pronouns but sadly such a thing doesn’t exist in my language. Thanks for helping me be sure about my identity though

  10. Marya

    Thank you so so so so much. This helped me so much and I feel like a lot of things have an explanation right now. Thank you

  11. Maya

    I’m bisexual but I also feel like I might be non binary and I think people are going to think I’m just trying to be special by being bi and non binary what should I do (I’m out as bi to some people at school and my parents but I haven’t expressed my feelings about my gender expression.) Also any gender neutral names? I’m trying some out but I can’t seem to find ones I like. (I find I like Peyton, Shay and Riley.)

    • MK

      Hello Maya, I totally get that. It’s hard to go against the negative expectations of what people will think of you. However, just know that thoughts won’t actually hurt you and that people tend to adjust to new information, so if you tell people you’re non-binary (and be patient as you educate them, which you’ll probably have to), they’ll accept the new normal. It just takes time and patience! As for names, I personally like acronyms (hi hello my name is MK), as it’s a way to still retain your old name while not at the same time. Idk, you’ll eventually find something you like and won’t be able to let it go, which is a sign the name you found is the one for you! Good luck on your journey — MK 🙂

  12. Hello there! This blog post could not be written any better!

    Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!

    He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to send this article to
    him. Fairly certain he will have a very good
    read. I appreciate you for sharing!

  13. Jess

    I hate people calling me a ‘woman’ or a ‘young lady’. I love not having a gender-I love dresses and i also really, really, really love having short hair. I don’t like it when people literally call me ‘she’; and I’ve always liked the idea of being a male and female; i’d be able to wear whatever the hell I want and nobody could tell me that it’s “wrong” or that “It’s not womanly”. I just like being gender less, this actually helped me identify myself. Thanks!

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