the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Mar Aiu

9 young people explain what being non-binary means to them

July 14, 2019

To be a non-binary person is – essentially – exactly what it sounds like: To identify yourself, and your gender, as existing outside of the binary definitions of man or woman, masculine or feminine. I often hear from the non-binary people I know that a definitive gender identity is something that doesn’t make sense to/for them. Identifying as genderqueer myself, I relate to the inability force to myself to exist comfortably within the social rules surrounding gender. That is why the word non-binary is so beautiful, because many identities and expressions can exist within its definition.

To be non-binary can be as simple as deciding to live one’s life as free and true to oneself as possible. But for each individual, it can mean something much more personal. For some, it involves changing pronouns, changing names, changing wardrobes, or, sometimes, changing nothing at all in order to feel like the truest version of oneself. Some non-binary people experience dysphoria and some do not. The non-binary community is diverse and each experience is different and nuanced.

When asked about my own gender, I often repeat something I’ve heard said by gender nonconforming and non-binary people: I am me-gender. I am simply myself, despite any parts I may have been born with. Who we are is often affected by how society views us, but how we identify is entirely about how we view ourselves. To exist outside strict definitions is powerful and but also vulnerable, which is why I admire non-binary people who are able to live their lives honestly. Living openly as non-binary is a statement made to society that says we can be more than what we were told to be.

Check out the perspectives of 8 GLAAD Campus Ambassadors who are non-binary about what being non-binary means to them.

Mar Aiu, Hawaii

They/them pronouns

Being non-binary is a way for me to explore gender non-conformity and expose myself to all the ways in which gender can exist in my body. Some days, being non-binary is a big, loud, and empowering form of rebellion and resistance against the gender binary and societal/internalized gender roles. Other days, it can simply be summed up to the fabulousness of my favorite floral pants. Because gender is fluid, the expression of gender can be something as mundane as a personal item adorning a body; and it can also be something serious and far more complex. I choose to see my gender as a creature that exists not because of me or for me, rather, it exists through me. I am merely a conduit of expression for the multitude of ways gender takes form. Each day is different. And in this non-binary body, all days are queer. Being non-binary is to embrace ambiguity. To strut the confidence of a red collar and a flat chest. To own the beauty of a gown worn with a necktie. To bathe in the freedom of all the ways a body can be. Being non-binary is liberation of the self.

Sonemani Bitna, California

They/them pronouns

Being non-binary means being visible for those who are still unsure about their identity and being a positive reflection in the space. I have a privilege to be visible and my goal is to ensure others find me approachable in times of need. We are a strong and resilient community and our greatest asset is that we are never alone and my goal is for those to know that they never have to be alone. Isolation is constricting but together we can cultivate a warm environment for tender love to flourish.  

Bri Hill, Colorado

They/them pronouns

Being non-binary means for me is finally being in a space where I feel conscious and confident about the decisions I make in life and not having my body be regulated by one tight narrative. It has created pathways for me to be more creative, more vulnerable, and more resilient in the face of adversity. Being non-binary means everything to me, it has helped shape me into the person and advocate I am today.

Danni Inman, New York

They/them pronouns

Being non-binary means that I can always be my most authentic self. That it doesn’t matter whether I’m a man or a woman, because I’m neither. I was never meant to fit into the mold, because the mold doesn’t fit me. Being non-binary means to me that I can be my masculine self and my feminine self all the time because both of those parts of me make the whole. I never felt more like myself, my true, whole self, then when I came out as non-binary. Being non-binary means I get to be free. 

Jonathan Leggette, Washington

All pronouns

As an intersex non-binary trans femme I believe that I live in between the two boxes of male and female that society has said we all have to fit into. I believe that we go beyond what people believe. We are innovative, resilient, and full of life. Our existence pushes the boundaries on what society believes and that is something I think we should be proud of. We occupy all of the boxes and none of the boxes at the same time. We are the universe and the stars and no one can dare to dim the brightness we carry with us. Remember that we don't have to live to fit into the box we can live for ourselves whether that means we present as femme, masc., or any mix in between we can't be told that we aren’t valid because we are right in front of them and all around them. To all of you non-binary ‘theydies’ and ‘gentlethems’ know that my love is endless for you. You are loved and valid. Let’s enjoy this hot girl summer and show of the beauty and diversity of the non-binary community.

Marlon Rajan, Michigan

They/them pronouns

Being non-binary means being more authentically myself, all outside perceptions and assumptions aside.

Athena Schwartz, Utah

They/them pronouns

What being non-binary means to me is staying true to myself. Non-binary has no look and no one can tell you if you are non-binary or trans “enough”. Being non-binary also doesn’t always mean you use gender neutral pronouns. You don’t have to be out to everyone and you don’t have to be out at all. You are non-binary because that is how you identify. No one knows you better than you. You’re in charge of your identity. It also means community to me. I am so grateful for all of the chosen family members that I have met just from coming out and reaching out. I have learned so much from the other non-binary people I have met through this journey. I have learned that I will never be alone. There will always be someone who has had a similar experience or a similar feeling. It just might take a little time finding, but GLAAD is a great place to start. Being non-binary is incredible. It is your own journey that you get to create, but you’ll never be alone along the way. 

Sawyer Stephenson, Oklahoma

They/them pronouns

Discovering that I was non-binary was very freeing in that I know longer felt like I had to conform to the two binary genders that were hammered into my head. From an early age, I knew that I didn’t really feel like a girl, but I also wasn’t so sure that I was a boy. Even early on in my process of coming to terms with being transgender, I felt a lot of pressure to just “pick a gender” and fully transition. But honestly, that still didn’t really feel right. When I finally realized that I was non-binary/gender fluid, I just felt so free. To me, being non-binary is a chance to explore gender in a way that many don’t even conceive as possible!

To anyone else reading this who is non-binary or trying to figure out if they are non-binary: don’t let anyone police your gender or how you express it. Your gender is real and it is valid.

Kylin Camburn is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and recent graduate of Kutztown University with a degree in Communication Studies. They aim to use their background in communication studies to further acceptance for marginalized groups, including the LGBTQ+ community.

the voice and vision of a new generation