Gender beyond he and she

There are a lot of ways to view masculinity and femininity. Just walk through any shopping mall in America today, and you’ll see dozens of ways that boys and girls, men and women identify and express themselves. But for some people, the categories of masculine and feminine, no matter how elastic, just don’t seem to fit. That’s where non-binary gender identities come in.

Non-binary gender identities—that is, identities other than masculine or feminine—have been around since the beginning of human history. How is that possible? Most people are born biologically male or female, with the key exception of people born intersex. But gender identity is not the same thing as biological sex, even though for most people, the two correspond. While biological sex refers to our body parts, gender identity is our core sense of self—as a boy/man, girl/woman, or some other gender identity.

Where does gender identity come from if it’s not the same as biological sex? Scientists believe it is hard-wired into our brains, most likely before we are born. For many of us, this can be a challenging concept to understand—so if you need a refresher, take a look at Dee before moving on!

Western societies have traditionally understood gender in binary terms, meaning just two distinct options—masculine or feminine, man or woman. But many cultures and communities have long recognized three, four, or even more genders. Recently, people who don’t see themselves as a man or a woman have become more assertive about their non-binary gender identities, here in the US and around the world. And researchers are beginning to do more to explore the broad spectrum of non-binary gender identities.

Featured Content

Watch this video for a quick way to learn about some of the non-binary gender identities that are out there, such as agender, bigender, and gender-fluid.

YouTube video


Adam, M. (2017, March 26). What is a non-binary gender identity? [Video]. YouTube.

Gender Identity Gender identity icon Our core sense of who we are as a man, a woman, a mixture of both, or neither.

Gender Expression Gender expression icon How we show up in the world through choices like clothing, hair style, mannerisms or tone of voice.

Attraction attraction icon How we feel toward others sexually, romantically and/or emotionally.

Biological Sex Biological sex icon Physical attributes such as reproductive organs and genitalia, chromosomes, genes and hormone levels.

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