Earlier this week, Merriam-Webster added a whopping 530 new words and definitions to its dictionary including "they" and "themselves" as gender-neutral. The fourth and final definition of "they" is now "used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary." This begs the question, what actually is nonbinary and how does it differ from other non-traditional gender labels like agender, genderqueer, and genderfluid?
Before we can define those gender labels, it's necessary to distinguish the difference between sex and gender, since the two are often conflated. Unlike biological sex, which is unchangeable and has to do with our chromosomes (XY means man or male sex, whereas XX means woman or female sex) our gender is, in fact, alterable. Gender simply has to do with the many characteristics society has associated with each sex. A simple way to think about this involves clothing. There's no reason why man can't wear pink dresses and heels. It was actually customary in the 15th to 19th centuries for men to wear dresses and other garments that Western society currently associates with women. Any museum depicting images of men across the globe during this time period will illustrate this.
But in 21st century United States, wearing a dress and and putting on lipstick is considered feminine. That's why a biological man who wears dresses, high heels, and makeup regularly might not feel like a man. If so, he might say his gender isn't male, but rather something else. (Mind you, clothing is just one small part of how we view gender. There are so many other factors at play, but it is a great example to illustrate the difference between sex and gender.)
Alright, so now that we have a better sense of gender, we can delve into these different gender labels.
Nonbinary (sometimes spelled non-binary) is used to describe anyone whose gender isn't exclusively masculine or feminine. This means that they don't fit (or rather, conform) to what society has deemed as being either masculine or feminine. In this regard, nonbinary is an umbrella term, since there are many ways a person doesn't necessarily view themselves as being strictly a man or woman.
Genderqueer actually means the same thing as gender nonbinary. Genderqueer, however, was a word that came to rise in the 1980s and 90s among LGBTQ zines and academics.
Genderfluid acknowledges that some days we may feel more masculine, wanting to wear pants, be more assertive, and independent, whereas other days we feel more feminine, wanting to wear makeup, heels, and feeling the desire to be pampered. In my experience, genderfluid folks may not have consistent pronouns. When presenting more traditionally masculine, they're fine with you calling them "he/him" or when presenting more traditionally feminine, it's fine to use "she/her." That said, there are still some genderfluid folks who prefer the now grammatically correct (thank you, Merriam-Webster!) pronouns "they/them."
Agender literally means "without gender." In practice, it can actually mean a lot of things. It can be a more political statement, trying to make clear that you don't believe that the gender construct should even exist, and as such, you don't necessarily want to identity as nonbinary, because that still acknowledges that gender should exist (it simply means you don't conform to either male or female.) It can mean you want to identify more as a person, rather than as a gender (even if you find yourself presenting more traditionally masculine or feminine). Or it can mean that none of the other labels out there resonate with your gender identity, so instead, you're opting to have a label the denotes a lack of gender, as opposed to one with a (or multiple) gender(s).
Gender Non-Conforming Meaning
Yet another umbrella word, gender non-conforming means as it sounds. You don't feel as it you fit conform (or match perfectly) to a specific gender. Really, the only way this differs from gender nonbinary is that gender non-conforming folks still often view themselves as cisgender (meaning that their gender aligns with their biological sex). In other words, a gay man who wears makeup and heels might says he's gender non-conforming, but still identifies as a man. The same could be said of a tomboy.
A Final Note on Gender Labels
All of these terms are relatively new, and as they become more mainstream, it's becoming clear that folks define these labels slightly differently. And despite the fact that many of these labels denote seemingly identical identifies, for one reason or another, a genderqueer person might prefer to call themselves one label to another. The important thing to recognize is that these folks don't view their gender as exclusively male of female. If you can embrace that—and call them by their preferred pronouns—you're good to go!
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Here's What Nonbinary Actually Means—And What People Often Get Wrong About It, Source:https://www.prevention.com/life/a29214467/non-binary-meaning/