For some people, finding the right labels to describe their gender experience and expression can be confusing.
Some people go through life with a feeling that they don’t quite ‘fit in’, and if you’ve ever felt like this in your teenage years, you’ll know that the struggles of adolescence can only exacerbate those feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Even if you’re well into your adult life, staring down the barrel of uncertainty about your gender and sexuality can be confusing and sometimes even terrifying.
If you’re on a journey to understand your gender, you may have heard of the term nonbinary. But what exactly does it mean to be nonbinary, and how can you tell if you are?
What Is Nonbinary?
Nonbinary is often used as an umbrella term to describe people who don’t feel that they subscribe to the binary gender categories and norms of being exclusively female or male.
However, to be nonbinary is an experience that’s unique to everyone.
For example, some people may feel like they identify as both male and female (either at the same time or at different points), and others can feel that they identify with a gender that’s neither female nor male.
Some people may feel like they have no gender at all (this identity is also called ‘agender’).
The definition of nonbinary is rather broad and often means different things to different people.
Ultimately, though, it’s used to describe the experience of people whose genders fall outside of the male or female dichotomy. Some nonbinary people may have a more ‘specific’ gender than others.
Self-Identifying: What You Need To Know
Identifying as nonbinary is a unique experience for each individual. Remember: you don’t need to subscribe to any one definition of nonbinary to be nonbinary!
If you’re questioning your gender and you think you might be nonbinary, the best thing you can do is research, research, research.
Take some time to explore some of the gender identities that fall under the nonbinary umbrella, and see if any of them relate to your experience.
Ultimately, you can use whichever gender identity best relates to you and your experience.
Choose what feels right, and don’t feel restricted by your decision – gender is fluid, and understanding gender can be challenging.
So it’s perfectly fine to change your mind about the way you define your gender.
Remember: Choosing to label and define your gender doesn’t have to define who you are as a person. Understanding our gender can help others communicate with us, but it should never feel restrictive.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the identities that fall under the nonbinary umbrella, so you can see if any of them feel right to you.
If you feel like your gender has changed over time, or that gender changes from day to day? If so, you may be genderfluid.
To be genderfluid means that your gender changes frequently or has changed throughout your life. You can be nonbinary and genderfluid, but not always.
Transfeminine Or Transmasculine
You may be transfeminine or transmasculine if you feel like you are mostly feminine or masculine or that parts of your identity defy these descriptions.
These terms are usually used to describe a nonbinary person who feels like they identify closely with one gender but don’t feel limited to it.
Bigender Or Trigender
If you’re bigender or trigender, you might feel like some aspects of your gender are female while others are male, or vice versa.
You may also feel that your gender defies the definition. You can usually identify as more than one gender.
Perhaps you feel like you don’t have a gender. If you feel like you don’t identify as male or female or feel gender neutral, you may be agender.
Terms such as genderless, gender-free, and non-gendered can also be used to describe the agender experience.
If you embrace all aspects of gender or feel like your gender can’t be defined by any current description, you might be pangender.
To be pangender means that gender norms do not restrict you, and you have no desire to explore all aspects of gender.
Some people feel that their gender is distinctive with its own unique characteristics. For example, if you feel this way, you might feel neither masculine nor feminine.
This experience is often described as ‘third gendered’ and describes anyone whose gender challenges the binary.
Nonbinary And Pronouns
If you define yourself as nonbinary, it’s common to feel that the pronouns you were assigned at birth don’t suit your current gender.
This experience can be dysphoric and may encourage you to explore other pronouns to reflect your identity better.
However, not all nonbinary people feel this way. Some people are comfortable with their assigned pronouns and have no desire to change them.
There’s no right or wrong way to be nonbinary, and you don’t always need to have different pronouns to be nonbinary.
Pronouns are unique to your experience. For example, you may prefer to be called she/her, she/they, they/them, he/him, he/they, or any other combination of pronouns that feels right.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your assigned pronouns, we encourage you to explore different variations.
Pronouns can shape the ways that people communicate with us, so choosing pronouns that feel right for you is an important part of your identity and how others relate to you.
Pronouns don’t just have to be a variation of she/he/they. Other pronouns can include ze/zir/zirs, which were created specifically for people who identify as nonbinary.
Play around with your pronouns, and choose which ones feel right for you.
The Bottom Line
To be nonbinary is a unique experience for each individual. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be nonbinary, which can be confusing if you’re trying to define your gender.
However, it’s also one of the best parts of gender exploration. If you think you may be nonbinary, talk to people you trust, research the genders under the umbrella, and feel free to explore different pronouns.
So do what feels right for you, and never be ashamed to be who you are.