Some people find they do not feel comfortable thinking of themselves as simply either male or female. Instead they feel that their gender identity is more complicated to describe. Some may identify their gender as right in the middle between male and female, while others may feel mainly male but not 100% male (or vice-versa not feel 100% female). Alternatively, they may entirely reject defining their gender in terms of male and female in any way.
As their gender does not conform to traditional Western ideas of gender as binary, they can be considered to be non-binary people. Some other terms they have created to describe themselves include genderqueer, third-gender, bigender, androgyne, agender, gender-fluid and non-gender, although other terms are also used. However, some people will prefer not to define themselves using anything more specific than just transgender or trans. As lots of these words are quite new and created by the trans community, they often mean different things to different people, and new words to describe non-binary identities are being created all the time.
Due to Western society’s expectation that all people, including transgender people, will identify as just either male or female, it can be very difficult to work out how to express a gender identity which is neither simply one nor the other. Some people living in these societies may therefore experience a long period of uncertainty about how they relate to the highly gender-stereotyped world around them. There are countries and cultures in which gender is not understood in such a rigid male and female binary, and non-binary trans people in these societies are likely to have different experiences of navigating their gender identities and expressions.
Non-binary people can use a range of pronouns, including the most common ones ‘he’ and ‘she’. However, they may be more likely to use gender neutral pronouns such as the singular ‘they’ and ‘their’ to reflect that they don’t identify as either male or female. Other gender neutral pronouns include ‘zie’ and ‘hir’, which are used less often and mostly online, but it is still important to respect a person’s identity by using the correct pronouns for them, even if they are new or unusual to you. If a person tells you they are non-binary, it is perfectly polite to ask them what pronouns they would like you to use either by asking directly: “excuse me, but which pronouns do you use?” or asking: “how would you like to be addressed?” Once someone has let you know their pronouns, it is really important to try and get them right as much as possible.
Non-binary people also span a very wide range of desire to access medical gender reassignment services. Some have no interest at all in physically changing their body. Others may wish to partially physically transition (for example taking hormones but not having any surgery or, alternatively, having some surgery without taking hormones). Some others will follow the same transition route as trans men and trans women who decide to medically transition as closely as possible to the “other” gender, but still reject identifying simply as male or female.