Though June tends to get much of the attention because of Pride Month, holidays and days of recognition for LGBTQ+ people don’t begin and end in just one month. For example, on Wednesday, July 14, we celebrate International Nonbinary People’s Day, which honors and centers folks who are nonbinary. Nonbinary, as a basic definition, refers to people whose gender does not fit into the binary of male and female. Nonbinary refers to gender identity, not sexual orientation. So as a few examples out of many variations, a person could identify as a nonbinary lesbian, a nonbinary queer person, or a nonbinary bisexual man. Some nonbinary people identify as transgender, but not all do.
The Trevor Project, a mental health nonprofit aimed at LGBTQ+ people, released the results of a research survey about nonbinary youth on Monday, as covered by Time. According to the new research, more than one in four LGBTQ+ youth identified as nonbinary, coming in at 26%.
Here’s a closer look at numbers from the online survey, conducted between October and December of 2020. 26% of respondents between 18 and 24 said they identified as nonbinary. 27% of Indigenous youth, 25% of AAPI youth, 25% of white youth, 25% of Black youth, and 23% of Latinx youth said the same. 30% of multiracial youth also identified as nonbinary in the survey.
In terms of sexual orientation, 28% of nonbinary youth identified as bisexual, with 27% identifying as pansexual. 22% identified as queer, 14% identified as lesbian, 6% identified as gay, and 2% identified as questioning. Less than 1% identified as straight.
More than 70% of respondents who identified as nonbinary said they use the term to define their gender identity. 29% of respondents said they use the word “queer” (which, can also be used to describe one’s sexual orientation, separately or in combination with gender identity), 24% said they use the term genderfluid, 23% said they use genderqueer, and 27% said they used the term gender non-conforming. Some terms that got fewer respondents, but are still certainly notable, include demigirl, demiboy, bigender, and genderflux, all coming in at 10% or less. About half of nonbinary respondents identified as transgender.
In a statement, Jonah DeChants, a research scientist for the organization, clarified the importance of not assuming someone is (or isn’t) transgender based on the nonbinary identifier. “Youth understand ‘transgender’ and ‘nonbinary’ as distinct identity terms,” DeChants said in a statement. “And you cannot assume one’s identity simply based on the pronouns they use.”
Here at Daily Kos, we’ve done some coverage on the importance of getting gender-neutral pronouns right. For nonbinary and trans folks, using the correct pronouns can be incredibly affirming, validating, and help to signal you are a safe, respectful person in one’s life. But, we have to be mindful not to assume people’s pronouns, even if they are nonbinary. At a glance, it might be easy to believe all nonbinary folks use gender-neutral pronouns, like they/them, but as this study suggests, that’s actually not the case.
For example, while one-third of respondents do use they/them pronouns, 21% said they use a combination of pronouns (like he/they/she) and 20% said they use they/she. Lastly, 16% said they use they/he. Just like we can’t know someone’s gender based on how they dress or their name, we can’t assume their pronouns. The simplest way to find out? Pay attention to how someone identifies themselves, like during a meeting, on social media, or in an email signature. And the quickest, most effective way? If you’re in a safe situation (remember, you don’t want to inadvertently “out” anyone), ask if someone is comfortable sharing which pronouns to use in reference to them.
And for some nonbinary wins to celebrate, there’s been some great progress in the last few years alone. In 2019, Merriam Webster added the singular “they” pronoun to its dictionary, helping normalize and give credibility to grammar skeptics about “correct” usage. Twenty states, plus Washington, D.C., now allow people to get a driver’s license or state ID with a gender-neutral maker (“X”) instead of male or female. In June, the State Department announced it’s working to add a third gender option for U.S. passports.
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