Recognition of the complexity of gender identities has increased over the years, especially as the LGBTQ community has advocated for more rights and freedoms and emerged into society as a force to be reckoned with.
Within this community, there are several smaller communities, one of which is composed of those under the nonbinary gender identity.
One University of Louisiana at Lafayette student shared their experiences being nonbinary.
“It means, I mean in most general sense, being not strictly one or the other — could be closer to one side or the other or not,” University of Louisiana at Lafayette junior Spencer, who asked that their last name be withheld, said. “But for me, I would say it just means being myself.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality provides its own definition on the meaning of nonbinary:
“Some societies — like ours — tend to recognize just two genders, male and female. The idea that there are only two genders is sometimes called a ‘gender binary,’ because binary means ‘having two parts’ (male and female). Therefore, ‘nonbinary’ is one term people use to describe genders that don’t fall into one of these two categories, male or female,” said the website.
Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D., a social worker and adjunct lecturer in the Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies program at Boston University, describes nonbinary in a different way.
“Nonbinary is both a gender identity and a catch-all term to describe gender identities other than strictly male or female. While there are many types of nonbinary gender, some are more commonly discussed than others,” said Boskey in an article on verywellmind.
Of these, Boskey includes agender, bigender, genderfluid, genderqueer, nonbinary and third gender, among others.
Although there are varying definitions on nonbinary, this does not take away from the legitimacy of the gender identity.
The National Center for Transgender Equality says, “There’s no one way to be nonbinary. The best way to understand what it’s like to be nonbinary is to talk with nonbinary people and listen to their stories.”
Spencer echoed this sentiment.
“The main thing I would say is that it is a very, like, broad community with a lot of different people who have, like, all these very different experiences, and so how I feel isn't necessarily going to be how any other person feels,” Spencer said.
Spencer shared their own thoughts on coming to terms with their gender identity in the past.
“When I was — I think I was 15 — I had a long conversation with one of my friends about gender and sexuality, and later I was reflecting on the conversation,” they said. “I realized, you know, some of the things that we had said were probably misinformed and incorrect, and I wanted to educate myself to be, like, more supportive.”
“Well, I started reading about like transgender nonbinary people's experiences, and like right away something just clicked.”
They also commented on the effect their nonbinary label has had on their life.
“I've gotten a better understanding of who I am as a person — introspection and all of that.”