What does it mean to be “nonbinary”?
The term “non-binary” is one of many identities that have gained popularity in recent years, largely due to a surge in young people adopting the label.
In fact, a 2021 report by the Williams Institute, a research center at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that nearly 1.2 million non-binary people between the ages of 18 and 60 live in the United States. Of these, three quarters were under the age of 30, suggesting that younger people have explored gender identity to a degree that older people do not.
More research backs up this claim: A 2022 Pew Research Center poll showed that 3% of young US adults (18 to 30) identify as non-binary, while 2% identify as transgender (about 10 to 20 in total). 15 million people). In contrast, trans and non-binary adults aged 50 and over accounted for only 0.3% (around 900,000 people).
Making it even more relevant is the growing number of celebrities like Sam Smith, Demi Lovato, Janelle Monáe, Jonathan Van Ness, Emma Corrin and others who have embraced the nonbinary label and sparked a desire among parents and LGBTQ allies to know more about it to learn how they can support trans and non-binary youth. On the other hand, this visibility has helped spark backlash from conservative lawmakers, many of whom have made sweeping proposals in state courts aimed at restricting access to gender-affirming care for transgender and non-binary youth.
But at the end of the day, what does it all mean?
To fully understand the non-binary experience, experts must first recognize the fact that modern views of “sex” and “gender” are constantly evolving. This requires a lot of education and, above all, patience.
What is nonbinary? Is it the same as transgender?
First let’s define “binary”. According to Merriam-Webster, its basic meaning refers to “something made up of two things or parts”. In the context of gender and gender, it is typically referred to as “gender binary” and is intended to describe a traditional belief that gender and gender exist only as two distinct, opposite forms of masculine and feminine (male/man/boy and female/woman) . /Girl).
Essentially, “nonbinary” is a generic term that refers to a person who does not identify exclusively as one or the other in relation to their gender identity — the social and psychological sense of being male or female, as opposed to biological gender or growing language, gender assigned at birth.
Being non-binary can manifest itself in a variety of ways depending on the person, as stated on the National Center for Transgender Equality website. For example, some have a gender that “mixes elements of male or female,” while others have a gender that differs from “either male or female.” Some may not identify with a gender at all, while others are more fluid, meaning their gender identity may change over time.
It’s important to note that “non-binary” and “transgender” are not necessarily the same thing. While non-binary refers to those who do not identify exclusively as male or female, very often transgender people are Do identify as either one or the other (but not always). Some can even identify as non-binary And Transgender, depending on the person.
As noted by the American Psychological Association, “transgender is an umbrella term for individuals whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not match what is typically associated with the gender they were assigned at birth,” whereas nonbinary by the APA is defined as those who “identify their gender as outside the binary constructs of ‘male’ and ‘female'”.
“People who are nonbinary experience their gender in ways that don’t conform to normal notions of male or female,” CP Hoffman, who serves as senior policy adviser at the National Center for Transgender Equality and identifies as nonbinary (using them/them pronouns), tells Yahoo Life. But even that description is “too simplistic,” they add, and this is where things get grim.
“People often imagine a straight line that has ‘male’ on one end and ‘female’ on the other end, with ‘nonbinary’ in the middle,” explains Hoffman. “But I think that’s too simplistic a way of looking at it, because you’re looking at something three- or four-dimensional in a one-dimensional way. So they need to at least add more access.”
For this reason, Hoffman points out, it’s important for people to understand that “nonbinary” is an umbrella term meant to describe a range of gender variations that exist outside of conventional definitions — including “micro-labels” like “genderfluid” (in which where one’s gender identity is located). no fixed constant), genderqueer (when gender can shift or change at any time), or agender (someone with no gender identity at all).
Just as important, Hoffman continues, is to understand that “nonbinary people don’t necessarily experience gender dysphoria in the same way as many binary trans people do,” which is partly why “there’s a lower percentage of nonbinary people.” there are looking for it [gender-affirming care].”
Gender dysphoria, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is a diagnosis made by transgender people and some non-binary people who “experience psychological distress resulting from an incongruity between the gender assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.”
For many trans/nonbinary people, coming to the conclusion that their gender identity is inconsistent with their biological sex is a drawn-out, painful experience.
“The psychology of being non-binary is very similar [to the trans experience] because regardless of whether you’re nonbinary or a binary trans person, society is still trying to label you,” explains Hoffman. “It’s still trying to say, ‘Oh, you’re a boy, so you should like it this Things; or you are a girl so you should like it this Things.’ So if you’re non-binary, you resist this notion as much as trans people do. You are trying to explain who you are to a society that is often hostile and thinks you should be something else.”
Breaking down misunderstandings, tropes and finding common ground
Christy Olezeski, director and co-founder of Yale School of Medicine’s Pediatric Gender Program, an interdisciplinary team that provides services for transgender and gender-biased youth and families, says people’s biggest misconception about nonbinary people is that they are “a phase,” which she explains is far from true.
“Some misconceptions about non-binary people are that it’s just a phase, a fad, or people who are unclear or confused about their identity,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Indeed, throughout history individuals have been recorded living outside of the traditional cisgender binary form.”
In fact, cultures around the world have recognized people of multiple genders for centuries – including “Hijras” in India, “Two Spirit People” in Native American culture, “Muxes” in Mexico, and “Bakla” in the Philippines.
Accepting the fact that nonbinary people are not new, Hoffman argues, is crucial to building compassion and empathy for their lived experiences.
“There’s this idea that non-binary people just popped up, that we’re a bunch of teenagers and 20-year-olds who are just ‘extra’, or that we’re just ‘rebelling against society.’ That’s not the case at all,” they say. “I’m in my 40s and I realized decades ago that I didn’t really fit the male/female dichotomy. The problem was that I didn’t have a name for it.”
Precise language – like the various micro labels mentioned above – that accurately describes one’s lived experience can help nonbinary people understand who they are and where they fit into the mold.
“Part of the reason we’re seeing younger people come out as nonbinary isn’t because it’s a trendy new thing,” explains Hoffman. But “because we created a space where they have this language while they are young. They don’t have to spend decades trying to figure out what they are in a system that denies their existence, like I did.”
Affirming one’s existence is key, adds Olezeski, and it starts small: for example, using “they/they” pronouns when someone asks for it.
“While people don’t understand someone else’s lived experience, we can be respectful of their chosen name and pronouns,” she says. “There is research examining the use of names and pronouns that are associated with less depression and suicidal thoughts. Using a person’s name and pronouns is a cost-free intervention that can have a positive impact on their mental health.”
Basic respect, Hoffman notes, is an act that goes a long way when speaking to a nonbinary person.
“Don’t assume we’re going to be one or the other,” they say. “First talk to us as individuals and find out who and what we are. We are human first.
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