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What does it mean?

Nonbinary is an umbrella term covering any gender identity that doesn’t fit within the gender binary (the way of thinking about gender that separates people into either “male” or “female”).

“Non-binary people are those who don’t feel male or female. They may feel like both or like something in between. They may have a gender that changes over time or they may not relate to gender at all”


“Denoting or relating to a gender or sexual identity that is not defined in terms of traditional binary oppositions such as male and female or homosexual and heterosexual.”

Oxford Dictionaries

Nonbinary is sometimes abbreviated to “NB” or enby.

A term with a similar meaning is genderqueer.

Nonbinary people and transgender people

Many nonbinary people consider themselves to be transgender, but some do not.

You should only describe nonbinary people as transgender if they have called themselves transgender.

To include nonbinary people who are not transgender, many organisations use the language “transgender and nonbinary people”.

Umbrella term

"Nonbinary" is a word that covers a large number of different people - it’s an umbrella term.

Words like this can:

  • help if you’re not sure what specific term describes you
  • help if how you relate to gender is fluid and changes over time
  • be more likely to be understood by the general public
  • be useful for ensuring that a wide range of different people can access resources and support

However, words like this can also:

  • hide how much people using the term actually differ
  • hide how much more discrimination some people using the term receive
  • include people in a term that they don’t like without asking them
  • include people in a term that they don't feel actually describes them

Think carefully before using this word to describe someone or a group of people - they may not wish to be described that way.

Defined by breaking norms

"Nonbinary" is a word that describes whether people are breaking the rules - “norms” - of how people are expected to behave or describe themselves.

Words like this can:

  • make visible that it is possible to break norms
  • help explain how people are discriminated against or targeted for breaking norms
  • help explain the privilege given to people who do not break norms

However, words like this can also:

  • imply that only certain people are allowed to break norms
  • be confusing, as almost everyone breaks at least some norms
  • be confusing, as people may not know whether they break enough norms to use the term
  • hide that some people don't just experience discrimination for breaking norms, and experience gender dysphoria too
  • result in the term being used to mean “normal person” or “abnormal person”

Think carefully before using this word to describe someone or a group of people - they may not wish to be described that way.

Errors and omissions

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