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Non-Binary Awareness Week 2024

This week is Non-binary awareness week, an international celebration of all people who don’t fully identify as women or men.

To mark this week, we’ve put together 3 key things to know that you can share with family, friends, and colleagues.

1. What does "non-binary" mean?

At the Equality Network, the definition we use for non-binary is:

“Identifying as either having a gender which is in-between or beyond the two categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’, as fluctuating between ‘man’ and ‘woman’, or as having no gender, either permanently or some of the time.”

Non-binary then roughly refers to anyone who feels they don’t quite fit in with the expectation that everyone is either a man or a woman, or a girl or a boy. This isn’t to say that they only believe in reductive gender stereotypes about men and women, or that men and women have to behave certain ways, but is about how they personally relate to the idea of being a man or a woman.

While some people use the term as an identity itself — for example they may say “I am non-binary” — it is also used as an umbrella term for many other identities that don’t fit inside the gender binary. For example, someone who is genderfluid, and feels that their identity is not fixed or changes over time, may consider themselves part of the non-binary community.

Many non-binary people consider themselves to be trans, but not all do. This is why we often use “trans and non-binary”, to make it explicit that we include non-binary people in the work we do.

As with the wider trans community, non-binary people may choose to change their name and pronouns, and they may also seek gender affirming care, such as hormone replacement therapy or gender affirming surgery.

Non-binary people also often (but not always!) use “they/them” pronouns. While it can be hard to get your head around using “they” to refer to just one person, you probably do it all the time without noticing it – e.g. “Oh no, someone’s left their wallet on the bus, I hope the driver can get it back to them.”

The 2022 Scottish Census recorded just over 9,000 non-binary people living in Scotland.

2. How can I uses non-binary inclusive language?

The English language can be very gendered, and this can mean that we sometimes use language that can make non-binary people feel excluded or unwelcome, even when we don’t mean to.

Here are some examples of easy ways that you can use language that includes everyone:

Instead of "he/she" use "he/she/they". Instead of "open to both genders" use "open to all genders". Instead of "Ladies and Gentlemen" use "Honoured Guests". Instead of "Dear Sir/Madam" use "To whom it may concern". Instead of "mothers and fathers" use "parents/carers/guardians". Instead of "husband/wife" use "spouse". Instead of "brother/sister" use "sibling". Instead of "men and women" use "people/everyone".

3. What's happening for non-binary rights in Scotland?

In November 2023, the Scottish Government released their Non-Binary Action Plan (which you can find here) which contains just over 50 commitments and actions that the Scottish Government is hoping to complete over the next 5 years to improve the lives and wellbeing of non-binary people in Scotland.

The commitments cover many different areas of life, including healthcare, data, sport, participation in decision making, and fertility. The Action Plan was the culmination of many years work, and informed by a set of 38 recommendations from the Working Group for Non-Binary Equality, which was made up of non-binary people, LGBTI equality organisations and academics. Most of the recommendations were accepted by the Scottish Government, and the Action Plan divides its commitments into those that are short, medium, and long term goals.

You can read a response from us and the rest of the Scottish LGBTQIA+ sector to its publishing here.

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