Guide to Understanding Non-Binary & Genderqueer Identities
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. What are non-binary and genderqueer identities?
  2. How to respect non-binary and genderqueer identities
  3. Language and Terminology
  4. Non-binary and genderqueer identities in history
  5. Why visibility matters
  6. Identifying and expressing gender
  7. Non-binary vs. genderqueer vs. genderfluid
  8. Challenges faced by non-binary and genderqueer individuals
  9. Resources and support for non-binary and genderqueer people

Let's dive right into the heart of a topic that's been gaining visibility these days: non-binary and genderqueer identities. It's more than just a buzzword. For many, it's a significant part of their life and identity. Understanding these identities helps us respect and support the diverse range of human experiences. So, let's get started!

What are non-binary and genderqueer identities?

At its root, the term non-binary describes a gender identity that doesn't fit neatly into the traditional categories of male or female. It's a broad term that can encompass a variety of gender experiences.

  • Some non-binary people may identify as having a gender that blends elements of both male and female.
  • Others might feel that their gender identity changes over time or depending on the circumstance.
  • And still, some might not identify with any gender at all.

Similarly, genderqueer is another term used by folks who don't fit the male-female binary. Like non-binary, genderqueer identities are complex and can vary widely from person to person. They may identify as both male and female, neither, or a mix.

It's important to understand that gender identity is personal and unique to each individual. That means what being non-binary or genderqueer means to one person might be different from what it means to another. So, when you meet someone who uses these terms, it's a great idea to ask—respectfully—what they mean to them.

By learning about non-binary and genderqueer identities, we can create a more inclusive world where everyone feels validated and accepted for who they are. It's a journey of understanding, and you've taken the first step. Let's keep going!

How to respect non-binary and genderqueer identities

Now that we've touched on what non-binary and genderqueer identities are, the next step is understanding how we can respect these identities. It's about creating environments where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued. Here's how:

  • Use Correct Pronouns: When someone shares their pronouns with you, use them consistently and correctly. If you're unsure, it's always okay to ask. Remember, using someone's correct pronouns is a basic way to respect their identity.
  • Listen and Learn: Everyone's experience with their gender identity is unique. So, when a non-binary or genderqueer person shares their experience with you, listen. It's a chance to learn more about the diversity of human experiences.
  • Challenge Binary Thinking: Our society often thinks in terms of male and female, but this leaves out so many folks. Try to challenge this binary thinking in your day-to-day life. For example, instead of saying "ladies and gentlemen," you could say "everyone" or "folks."
  • Stand Up: If you see a non-binary or genderqueer person being disrespected or mistreated because of their identity, stand up for them. It's important to be an ally and support non-binary and genderqueer people in our communities.

Remember, respecting non-binary and genderqueer identities isn't a one-time thing, it's a continuous process of learning and growing. And by doing so, you're helping to make our world a more inclusive and accepting place. Keep up the good work!

Language and Terminology

Language is a powerful tool — it can both empower and alienate individuals. When discussing non-binary and genderqueer identities, it's important to use inclusive and respectful language. Here's what you need to know:

  • Pronouns: These are words we use to refer to people. For non-binary and genderqueer people, they might use pronouns outside of the traditional he/she binary. This could be they/them, ze/hir, or others. Always use the pronouns a person asks you to use for them.
  • Gender Identity: This is a person's internal sense of their own gender. It may not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-binary and genderqueer are types of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine.
  • Sex vs. Gender: Sex is typically assigned at birth based on physical characteristics, while gender is a social construct related to behaviors, roles, and expectations in society. Remember, they're not the same thing!
  • Gender Expression: This is how a person presents their gender outwardly, through things like clothing, hairstyle, or mannerisms. Some non-binary and genderqueer people may choose to express their gender in a way that challenges traditional gender norms.

Understanding these terms can help you to better appreciate the diverse experiences of non-binary and genderqueer people. Remember, language is always evolving, so it's important to keep learning and stay updated!

Non-binary and genderqueer identities in history

It's a common misconception that non-binary and genderqueer identities are a new phenomenon. In reality, these identities have been recognized and respected in many cultures throughout history. Let's take a look at a few examples:

  • Two-Spirit: Many Native American cultures have long recognized Two-Spirit people, who encompass a variety of gender identities outside the binary. This term was coined in 1990 to unify various gender identities in native communities across North America.
  • Hijra: In South Asia, Hijras have been recognized as a third gender for centuries. They have a rich history and unique social role within South Asian societies, particularly in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
  • Fa'afafine: In Samoa, Fa'afafine are individuals who identify as a third-gender, embodying both masculine and feminine traits. They are well-accepted and integrated into Samoan society.

These historical examples help to highlight the reality that non-binary and genderqueer identities are not new, but rather a part of our collective human history. Understanding this can help to challenge and dismantle the binary view of gender that prevails in many societies today.

Why visibility matters

Visibility matters for non-binary and genderqueer identities—just like it does for all identities. But why? For starters, visibility promotes understanding. When we see non-binary and genderqueer people in our communities, on our screens, and in our history, we learn that these identities are part of the rich tapestry of human diversity.

Visibility also helps to challenge stereotypes and prejudices. When we only see binary genders represented, it can reinforce the idea that these are the only 'normal' or 'valid' identities. This can lead to discrimination and harm against those who don't fit within these categories. But when non-binary and genderqueer identities are visible, these harmful notions can start to break down.

Finally, visibility can provide a sense of community and belonging. Imagine being a young person exploring your gender identity, unsure of where you fit. Seeing others who identify in the same way you do can provide immense comfort and validation. It sends the message: "You're not alone. You're okay just as you are."

So, for all these reasons and more, visibility truly matters. Let's celebrate and uplift non-binary and genderqueer identities, not just in Pride month, but every day of the year. Because everyone deserves to be seen and respected for who they are.

Identifying and Expressing Gender

Identifying and expressing gender can be a deeply personal journey. While some people might identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, others may not. People who identify as non-binary or genderqueer, for instance, don't neatly fit into the categories of "male" or "female".

Understanding this concept starts with recognizing that gender is not just about biology. It's a complex mix of biology, identity, culture, and personal experience. It's about how you see yourself and how you feel inside.

Non-binary and genderqueer individuals may express their gender in a multitude of ways. Some might choose to dress in a way that disrupts traditional gender norms. Others might adopt a mix of masculine and feminine traits in their appearance or behavior. Then there are those who prefer to express their gender in a way that is unique to them and doesn't adhere to any predefined expectations.

It's important to remember that there's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to express gender. Each person's identity is valid and should be respected. So, if someone tells you they're non-binary or genderqueer, it's key to honor their self-identification and use the pronouns they prefer.

In understanding non-binary and genderqueer identities, we are taking necessary steps towards a more inclusive and accepting society. A society where everyone can freely express their gender without fear of judgment or prejudice.

Non-binary vs. genderqueer vs. genderfluid

Understanding non-binary and genderqueer identities can get a bit tricky, especially when terms like "genderfluid" are added to the mix. Don't worry though, we'll break it down for you.

Non-binary is a term used when a person doesn’t identify as exclusively male or female. It's an umbrella term that can include many different identities that fall outside the traditional binary gender definitions.

Moving on to genderqueer, it's a term often used by individuals who reject the notion of static, binary genders. They might identify as both, neither, or a combination of male and female genders.

Lastly, we have genderfluid. This term is used by individuals who experience shifts or changes in their gender identity. One day, they might identify more with being a man, another day a woman, or they might identify as neither or both.

Now, you might be thinking: "Wait, aren't these terms somewhat overlapping?" And you'd be right. Many non-binary people might also identify as genderqueer or genderfluid. Others might prefer one term over the other. It all comes down to personal preference and what each individual feels best represents their experience.

Remember, the most important thing is to respect each person’s self-identified labels. Whether someone identifies as non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, or another term, what matters most is acknowledging and respecting their personal identity.

Challenges faced by non-binary and genderqueer individuals

Although we are in the 21st century, acceptance is not universal, and individuals who identify as non-binary or genderqueer often face unique challenges. Here, we will discuss some of the most common struggles they encounter.

Firstly, there's misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. Many people don't fully understand non-binary and genderqueer identities, often due to lack of exposure or education. This can lead to harmful misconceptions and stereotypes.

Next, we have discrimination and prejudice. From job opportunities to housing access, non-binary and genderqueer individuals may face unjust obstacles and biases. This discrimination can extend to various facets of life, making it difficult for them to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as their cisgender peers.

Another significant challenge is related to healthcare. Many healthcare providers lack the necessary training to care for non-binary and genderqueer individuals appropriately. This often results in inadequate or discriminatory healthcare services.

Finally, there's the emotional toll. Facing constant misunderstanding, discrimination, and other challenges can be emotionally draining and lead to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Understanding the challenges faced by non-binary and genderqueer individuals is the first step towards creating a more inclusive and supportive society. Remember, everyone deserves respect, acceptance, and equal opportunity, regardless of their gender identity.

Resources and support for non-binary and genderqueer people

Let's not forget that the journey of understanding and navigating one's non-binary or genderqueer identity can be tough, but thankfully, there are resources available to help. Here, we'll highlight some of these valuable aids.

First off, support groups and communities can be a lifeline. They offer a safe space where individuals can share experiences, learn from others, and find solace in the feeling of not being alone. These groups can be found in many cities, and there are also online platforms where people can connect from anywhere.

Professional assistance can also be a game-changer. Therapists and counselors who specialize in gender identity issues can provide guidance, support, and strategies to cope with any challenges that come along the way. It's important to find a professional who is knowledgeable and respectful of non-binary and genderqueer identities.

Then, there are educational resources. Books, documentaries, websites, and articles can provide a wealth of knowledge about non-binary and genderqueer identities. They can help individuals understand their own identities better and provide insights to friends and family members who wish to be supportive.

Lastly, legal resources are available to protect the rights of non-binary and genderqueer individuals. These include advocacy organizations that work to protect and advance the rights of these individuals, such as the right to non-discrimination in employment and healthcare.

Remember, the path to understanding one's identity is personal and unique. It's okay to seek help, learn at your own pace, and lean on others when needed. With the right resources and support, anyone can navigate their journey with confidence and dignity.

If you're looking to expand your understanding of non-binary and genderqueer identities further and explore their impact on fashion and self-expression, don't miss the workshop 'Queering Fashion: From Dress Codes to Wardrobe Hacks' by Lou Croff Blake. This workshop will provide you with fantastic insights into the intersection of gender identity and fashion, empowering you to express yourself authentically and support others in their journey.