Your Guide to Understanding Gender Fluidity and Terminology

Your Guide to Understanding Gender Fluidity and Terminology

If you’ve been online lately, you’ve probably heard of more and more people pushing the boundaries of gender and identifying as something other than just male or female. That “other” is non-binary, an umbrella term (or lack thereof) to define what falls outside the male/female binary.

If you’re new to the idea of gender fluidity, the idea of a person not fitting into a traditional category might be confusion. Need some help? These FAQs will help you understand how the terminology works.


Are non-binary people trans?

Yes. Trans* is also an umbrella term that non-binary falls under. Trans* people run the gamut from physically transitioning to another gender (male to female, or female to male), to neither male nor female, to sometimes feeling male or sometimes feeling female. There are all sorts of variations, some of which may overlap.

This might sound confusing, but try to keep in mind that as perplexing as another person’s gender may be to you, it’s probably been a lot more confusing for the person who is struggling, or has struggled, to define their gender.


Do non-binary people experience dysphoria and/or want to transition?

Some do, some don’t. Some non-binary people choose and want to go on hormones to change their appearance, others don’t. Some non-binary people may use speech therapy to alter their tone of speech, while others are perfectly fine with their voice. Not everyone wants surgery or hormones or speech therapy, but none of those things make a person’s gender any less valid.


Is non-binary a sexual orientation?

No. Non-binary is a gender identity, and people who identify as it can have any sexual orientation. Also, remember that appearance and gender identity do not always coincide in the ways you think they would; try not to assume someone’s gender based solely off the way that person presents themself.


What pronouns do non-binary people use?

It depends! Some non-binary people use the more traditional she/her or he/him pronouns, while others go by they/them or something entirely different. A full list of pronouns can be found here.


What if I don’t know someone’s pronouns?

Just ask! As long as you ask politely, most people will be glad you asked, rather than assumed, their pronouns. For example, when you introduce yourself to someone, you can introduce your name and pronouns first, then ask them for theirs. If you already know the person, broach the subject casually. Something along the lines of, “Do you have any preferred pronouns?” or “I was reading about pronouns and gender the other day; what pronouns do you use?” should suffice.


Are there any non-binary people in the media?

Yes! Rapper Angel Haze is agender (meaning they don’t identify as any gender at all), and actor Ruby Rose, and singer Miley Cyrus are genderfluid. Other celebrities, such as Gerard Way, Tilda Swinton, and Steven Tyler have also expressed that they stray from the gender binary.


What if I’m non-binary?

If you think you may be non-binary, you’re far from alone. Blogs specifically dedicated to non-binary people have been popping up all over Tumblr, and even though these blogs probably aren’t the most reliable sources, they can still provide a sense of community. Many of them also allow you to delve deeper into research on the terms listed below, which can help you find what you identify as.

Some of these blogs are can be found here, here, and here.


What is some non-binary terminology?

As stated before, non-binary is an umbrella term. Some people choose to simply identify as non-binary, but there are other identifiers that fall under that umbrella. More and more gender identifiers have been popping up in online circles, but these seem to be the most universally known terms.


Agender: Genderless; to not identify as any gender

Demi boy/girl: To identify only partially as a girl or boy

Genderfluid: To “move” between genders; one day, you may feel more like one gender, the next you feel like another

Genderqueer: Another broad term for those who aren’t male or female. “Queer” is still considered a slur by some, which is why some people may not feel comfortable using it.

Two-spirit: This is a Native term for Native people. It means that somebody’s spirit is both “masculine” and “feminine”

Androgyne: Non-Native term that means somebody feels both “masculine” and “feminine”

Bigender: To identify as two genders, sometimes simultaneously

Pangender: To identify as more than two genders, also sometimes simultaneously


Knowing these terms and the answers to the questions above is a great start to an education on unconventional gender roles. However, this article by no means covers everything there is to know about being non-binary; if you’d like more information or resources, please check out the list below.


Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.