What's the Difference Between Nonbinary & Genderqueer?

Apicha Community Health Center Jul 27, 2020  

Apicha CHC

Understanding different identities can be difficult, but it's also incredibly important. And for the LGBTQIA+ community, understanding and respecting identity is especially important.

While many folks are familiar with terms like gay, lesbian, and transgender, there are a few other LGBTQIA+ terms that some people don't understand or are aware of. Nonbinary and genderqueer are two of them. In this blog, we're going to discuss what they are and the differences between the two.

What is gender?

A person's gender has been traditionally used to describe the norms and roles of males and females. This is what we call the gender binary, and it operates under the assumption that there are only two genders: male or female. With this gender binary there is also an established definition of what is considered masculine and feminine. For example, many people associate blue with boys and pink with girls. 

If you are cisgender, this means you identify with the gender you were assigned to at birth. However, it's important to know gender is a construct, and many people do not identify as male or female. Gender is something people define and chose to identify on their own terms, and isn't dictated by how a person looks. For many folks, their gender identity exists outside the gender binary. 

It's also important to remember that gender is not interchangeable with sexual orientation. They are two different things. Gender is how an individual identifies themselves, and sexual orientation indicates what gender they are attracted to.

What does it mean to be nonbinary?

Some people who do not identify as solely male or female consider themselves nonbinary. This means their gender identity exists outside the binary of being only male or female. For some nonbinary people, that may mean being a bit of both genders in whatever way. Some people don't identify with either gender. It's important to understand that every nonbinary person has a different definition of what that means to them. 

What is genderqueer?

The term genderqueer is similar to nonbinary, but has a slightly different meaning. The dictionary defines genderqueer as the following: "denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders."

Nonbinary and genderqueer are often used interchangeably by some, but not everyone considers them the same thing. Others consider the term genderqueer as an umbrella term to cover an identity that isn't cisgender. It's important to understand that gender identity is relative to each individual and how they identify.

Additionally, some people consider the term genderqueer to be a politically charged identity. "To me, 'genderqueer' represents a queering of gender, so to speak. It's a deliberate playing with gender in a very political sense, and being provocative around gender norms to highlight the gender stereotypes of our culture," said Laura A. Jacobs, an LGBTQ+ psychotherapist in an interview with VICE.

Creating a more inclusive space

Learning about identity can be a challenge, but by educating ourselves we can become better allies and build a more inclusive community. This includes understanding different gender identities, and extends to knowing the difference between gender and sexual orientation -- and also to using pronouns correctly. Change doesn't happen overnight, but through small steps.


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