Understanding Non-Binary Identity
Our concept of ourselves is intensely linked with our gender. For this reason, it can be quite difficult for many to imagine the mental trauma of a gender identity that is uncertain or does not tick the “male” or “female” box.
Some people do not feel like they fit the mold of male or female, although they are born into physical bodies that express traditionally male or female sexual characteristics. These people feel that they have a little bit of both the genders in them.
The term for individuals with the same gender as the sex they are born is cisgender. Non-binary is sometimes used as a catch-all term to describe all gender identities other than male or female.
Technically, however, when we speak of non-binary individuals, we are referring to individuals who feel that they do not fall into either of the two traditionally recognized binary genders. The gender binary refers to the notion that only two genders exist and people fall within one of these two genders. “Non-binary” means not falling within either of two types.
Things to Know About Non-Binary Individuals
1) Non-binary is not the same as intersex – Intersex people possess anatomy that is not strictly male or female, but they usually consider their identity one of the binary genders, i.e. either male or female.
2) Non-binary is not the same as transgender – Transgender people are those persons who are born with certain physical features but may identify with the other binary gender. Non-binary people do not identify with either binary gender.
3) Some non-binary individuals may undertake medical procedures – Some non-binary individuals may undergo medical procedures to change their body to a form that is more commensurate with their identity.
4) Non-binary individuals have been encountered throughout history – Non-binary and transgender identities are nothing new. Many studies of old civilizations and previous generations have documented the existence of non-binary and transgender individuals.
5) Non-binary individuals are not confused – The non-identification with any binary gender does not mean non-binary individuals are confused. Most of them are habituated to this state of being and identify strongly as being in a state that is not male or female.
Showing Respect to Non-Binary Individuals
A large number of people do not know how to approach or interact with non-binary individuals. The following points should help people who are confused about how to interact with non-binary individuals:
1) Use the name and pronoun the person wants you to use – The name you know a person by may not be the name that reflects their non-binary identity. Use the name and pronoun the person would like you to address them by. If you are unsure, ask the person respectfully.
2) Don’t assume – Make no assumptions about the person’s gender. Non-binary people do not have any one look that they all conform to.
3) Give them the respect they deserve – Keep in mind that just because you may not understand non-binary individuals, they are still people and deserve to be respected.
If you would like to learn more about non-binary identity, transgender identity, or gender-confirmation surgery, contact the office of Dr. Drew Schnitt and set up a consultation. Dr. Schnitt is a board-certified plastic surgeon with years of experience and will be available to answer your questions.