When people consider the concept of gender, there is usually only one answer: MALE or FEMALE. A non-binary gender is something that exists beyond these two options. It can be a more fluid interpretation of gender identity, with many people not identifying as either strictly male or female.

Although most people use two words to define their sex (woman/man), no single word can bring all aspects of a person’s identity into consideration. Sometimes this leads to uncomfortable situations when dealing with familial and societal pressures. Non-binary genders are important in society because they help deal with social expectations tied to assumed genders.

nonbinary gender
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What does non-binary gender identity mean?

The non-binary gender identity was first recognized in the fourth century, when a Christian monk identified as neither male nor female. In ancient Greece and Rome, some were born with physical characteristics of both genders and were considered hermaphrodites. The modern concept of non-binary genders was first coined by Ray Blanchard, who defined the transgender identity as “individuals whose gender identities or roles do not correspond with their assigned sex at birth.”

Blanchard’s definition includes people who are not exclusively male or female, and not always with an emphasis on physical characteristics. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2002 published an article by Frank Kameny, who proposed that “transsexuals and transgenderists should be referred to as non-gender-conforming people.” In a study conducted in 2011, researchers at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health found that 13 percent of Americans identify as non-binary gender. This number increases to 33 percent when considering the LGBTQIA+ community. Although this number is still fairly small, it represents a growing trend in society toward accepting non-binary genders.

The understandings of the term “non-binary gender” have evolved over time, with its current definition being an individual who does not identify as exclusively male or female. This leaves ample room for non-binary gender identities to be more or less masculine or feminine.

The terms “third gender” and “genderqueer” are often used interchangeably with non-binary genders in different parts of the world. The term “genderqueer,” however, has a more specific definition that is much less common in America and parts of Europe.

A “genderqueer” or non-binary person is someone whose gender identity falls outside the traditional man/woman. This means that a non-binary person does not identify as exclusively male or female, meaning they may be male or female, but do not identify as one of those genders. It also refers to an individual whose gender does not fit into the rigid expectations that society has for those assigned at birth. Non-binary gender encompasses a wide range of identities beyond the standard definitions of either male or female, and sometimes encompasses bisexuality.

The term “third gender” is often associated with different indigenous communities in parts of Asia. There are many different ways that these groups define themselves, but they all share the common characteristic of not identifying as exclusively male or female. Some indigenous groups identify with specific third or non-binary genders, while others consider themselves to be both male and female, or neither.

This is an important discussion because it shows how people’s understanding of non-binary gender identities can be very different depending on the community they live in.

Gender is a Spectrum

It is a continuum of the social norms that govern people’s knowledge and understanding of the genders. Despite males and females being two different sexes, most people believe that gender goes beyond these two mutually exclusive categories.

When non-binary genders are considered as an option for themselves or family members, it can be uncomfortable because many people are not familiar with how to handle this new concept. Gender identity is something that has been historically considered as very rigid, so when there are any non-conforming notions around who people identify with sexually or socially, it creates discomfort for those on both sides of the discussion.

Many LGBTQIA+ individuals feel this way because society often expects them to identify within the binary gender system. However, for those who identify outside of the binary, they may feel uncomfortable when this is invalidated in other people’s point of view.

Non-binary Pronouns

Non-binary pronouns are used to refer to something or someone that isn’t female or male. Non-binary pronouns may be used by those who identify as any spectrum of genders, and they don’t identify exclusively as male and female ones such as “she/her” and “he/him.” They also include “they/them” and “ze/hir,” both made popular in recent years by authors such as Akwaeke Emezi.


Non-binary genders are important in society because they help deal with social expectations tied to assumed genders. The existence of non-binary genders is important and necessary because it allows people who don’t identify as male or female to feel comfortable and safe. Non-binary gender is the new norm, and as our understanding of gender expands, people are more likely to be able to identify themselves without feeling constrained by two options.

Non-binary genders are important because they force people to face the idea that gender is a spectrum rather than a binary system. When treated within this paradigm, non-binary genders become a wonderful way to challenge the system.

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