Jump to what you want:
- What Does It Mean to be Non-Binary?
- Let’s Clear Up Some Confusion
- Non-Binary Means Non-Cis
- Practical Ways to Know You’re Non-Binary
- Things to Help You Figure Out if You’re Non-Binary
- “How I Knew I Was Non-Binary” Personal Stories
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
“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 he says, 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).
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.