The Queer Questionnaire #12: What Does Non-Binary Mean?

Hello folx! Non Binary People’s Day has just gone by but we’re still faced with many many questions. Here’s part two of the non-binary FAQ-in an attempt to smash ignorance in its face!

Q. What are personal pronouns? What pronouns do non-binary people use?

Most of us have never really had to think about personal pronouns. Generally speaking, they are the terms people use to describe you in the third-person. If you identify as a girl, you might not give it a second thought when people refer to you as “she” or “her”. Personal pronouns can sometimes change when people explore their gender identity further. A lot of non binary people use they/them/their pronouns, although it differs from person to person. If in doubt, ask!

Q. How do you use they/them/their for individual people?

They is grammatically plural (even when referring to one person), so it always gets “are” instead of “is.” Think of it like “you”. “you” can be one person or several, but is always written “you are”. You can use the chart to learn more!

Q. If gender is just a social construct, why do we need different identities? Why can’t you just be a woman who acts male and does male-associated activities?

Identifying as a different gender than what you were biologically assigned is more than just a matter of taste. If it was as easy as wearing men’s clothes and going to the football game with the rest of them, there wouldn’t be a need for a separate gender identity for dfab individuals who identify as male. Not only might they prefer male-associated aesthetics and activities, but they also may be deeply uncomfortable being perceived or treated as female. Being a “woman who acts male” or a “butch woman” does not address this important factor.

Q. How do non binary people dress?

It depends on the person! Not every non-binary person chooses to dress differently from their socially prescribed gender. For example, despite identifying as non binary, I am most comfortable presenting as female. For me, clothing does not play an important role in how I express my gender identity. However, for others, it is crucial. If you’re starting to see a trend when it comes to people’s identity where it becomes necessary to not make sweeping assumptions and instead treat each person as a completely unique being, then you’re starting to get the idea.

Illustration by Phoebe Helander

Q. How can I best support non binary people?

It might sound absurd, but honestly, treating us like we’re human beings is a really good place to start. Just because we deviate from what society deems to be “normal” in some way, doesn’t mean our feelings don’t exist. It also doesn’t mean our desire for privacy doesn’t exist. So, before asking a question about someone’s gender identity, be sure you aren’t putting them in an uncomfortable position, and ask yourself if the information you’re looking for is really necessary to you successfully interacting with them.


Bottom line: we know our gender identities can be confusing. And more often than not, we’ve suffered because of them. We have had to find our own way in the messy, complicated world of gender, and many of us are still trying to figure it out. So, be respectful of our journey, and we’ll get along just fine.


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