Some more non binary gender terms

Following on a blog post I wrote about agender issues someone asked me the difference between being agender and asexual.   As my interest in the subject comes from knowing a young person who identifies as being agender I decided to look on the internet and read what young people identifying as nonbinary gender have to say about it all.

Non-binary is an umbrella term for genders that aren’t in the binary. Binary genders are male and female.

Agender: the idea that one is not of any gender.

Bigender: the idea that one is of both (binary) genders.

Genderfluid: the idea that one’s gender is dynamic, fluid and shifting—some days, a genderfluid person may feel more male-identifying, some days more female, and some days they may feel like they are both, neither, a mixture, a third gender or somehow beyond the gender binary.    –  from:   non binary agender  and binary gender

As adjectives the difference between agender and asexual is that agender is without an associated gender while asexual is not experiencing sexual attraction; lacking interest in or desire for sex.    – from

I found a really informative article on things you should know about being agender.  The entire article is well worth reading but I’ll just post the first couple of paragraphs here.

‘Gender, while often used as a synonym for biological sex, is an entirely separate component of every human’s makeup.  Even the scientific and medical communities recognize the differences between “sex” and “gender.”  To quote the World Health Organization:

“‘Sex’ refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. ‘Gender’ refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.”


“Agender” by definition means “someone without gender,” and falls under the big, colorful trans* umbrella.  Just like someone might identify themselves as a man, a woman, genderfluid, and so on, a person who identifies as agender doesn’t feel as if they belong anywhere on the gender spectrum at all.  While the identity is easily summed up in a sentence or two (see above), the concept is where most people seem to get lost.  So, here’s a handy guide to the most common assumptions, faux pas, and outright weird notions about people who are agender that pop up in everyday conversation.

1. Agender Does Not Mean Asexual

One of top mistakes I see on a daily basis is the presumption that an agender person must also be asexual.  I mean, they sound a lot alike, right?  That must mean they’re connected!  Wrong.  We’re people with the same complex set of desires and attractions as anyone else, not a Sesame Street letter-association game.  Other than beginning with the letter “a,” those two descriptors have no more likelihood of being directly linked than any sexuality with any gender.  Likewise, you can’t simply interchange the words with one another.  Unless we are talking about who I may or may not want to take to bed, “asexual” can sit this conversation out.


Body Dysmorphia and Gender Dysphoria

Yesterday I had a chat with a young agender person I know about dysmorphia and dysphoria.    I wasn’t all that sure what the two words meant so I’m writing this blog post to get clear in my own mind.

Body Dysmorphia –   “Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is an anxiety disorder that causes sufferers to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance and to have a distorted view of how they look.”

Gender Dysphoria – “Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity…This mismatch between sex and gender identity can lead to distressing and uncomfortable feelings that are called gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a recognised medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate.

When I went back and read my opening paragraph to this post I wondered if I had used the right term to describe the gender identity of the young person I know.   Should I have used transgender?

Agender is a term which can be literally translated as ‘without gender’. It can be seen either as a non-binary gender identity or as a statement of not having a gender identity. People who identify as agender may describe themselves as one or more of the following:

  • Genderless or lacking gender.
  • Gender neutral. This may be meant in the sense of being neither man or woman yet still having a gender.
  • Neutrois or neutrally gendered.
  • Having an unknown or undefinable gender; not aligning with any gender.
  • Having no other words that fit their gender identity.
  • Not knowing or not caring about gender, as an internal identity and/or as an external label.
  • Deciding not to label their gender.
  • Identifying more as a person than any gender at all.

Transgender people are people who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex…  Being transgender is independent of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc., or may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable. The term transgender can also be distinguished from intersex, a term that describes people born with physical sex characteristics “that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies”

I am still having a lot of trouble remembering to use genderless pronouns.   e.g they instead or he or she.   I was relieved to read that many older people are having trouble with this – particularly those of us who were taught rigid rules of grammar when we were young.

Many young people are currently questioning many assumptions about gender.   I am finding this spirit of inquiry is making me question  my conditioned ideas on the subject.

‘Research in neurology, endocrinology, and cellular biology points to a broader biological basis for an individual’s experience of gender. In fact, research increasingly points to our brains as playing a key role in how we each experience our gender.  Bodies themselves are also gendered in the context of cultural expectations. Masculinity and femininity are equated with certain physical attributes, labeling us as more or less a man/woman based on the degree to which those attributes are present. This gendering of our bodies affects how we feel about ourselves and how others perceive and interact with us.’

Further on in the article quoted above I read that many young people are currently seeing gender as a spectrum rather than a binary.

I love that idea though it may take me quite some time to fully comprehend the deeper implications of it.

There is so much learn about gender issues.   For me it’s about keeping an open mind and reading up on the subject.   One article I read said it’s not really up to the person experiencing gender issues to explain their position to others.   It’s up to all of us to do our own research and reading.    I agree with that but I also think clear and open communication is vital.

softer trees (2)