The Social Perception, Attitudes, Mental Simulation Lab

Gender Glossary: Genderqueer (Non-binary)


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Term and Definition:

Genderqueer (also non-binary): Refers to either (a) a set of identities or (b) behavioral expressions of gender cues that are not normative for the larger societal view of that gender category. These two referents can occur separately or together within the same individual. In any case, genderqueer individuals are those who do not match normative views of gender in a given society—either in terms of gender identity, in terms of gender cues, or both. For this reason (and others), genderqueer individuals may also refer to themselves as "non-binary"--not fitting neatly into either of the two gender categories in terms of identity or cultural expectations about how one looks or behaves. The non-binary label might best refer to the set of identities (as explained below), rather than the behavioral expression of gender cues.

In the United States, genderqueer can refer to several groups of individuals, who actually have distinct experiences with respect to gender and distinguishable identities. One identity within the genderqueer label is not identifying with the categories male or female. One might characterize this group as gender neutral or post-gender. In effect, this group rejects the established categories for a different understanding of gender altogether. Post-gender individuals may be interested in using pronouns that are not associated with either of the two gender categories, such as “ze” (pronounced zee) or “they” (to the extent that this pronoun is ambiguous in its gender referent). This is one sense of being non-binary: being at outside of the two categories.

Another genderqueer identity involves identifying as both genders simultaneously. Labels given to this self-categorization include two-spirit and genderblender to indicate both categories simultaneously. In effect, this group merges the two established gender categories into one psychological experience. Two-spirit individuals may be interested in using pronouns that blend the two gender categories, such as “ze” (auditory combination of “he/she”; pronounced zee) or “they” (to the extent that this pronoun can refer to males and females together). (“Ze” can conjugated as “hirs” [his+hers] and “hir” [her+him]. Alternatively, "ze" can be conjugated as "zirs" and "zir.") A more distinct pronoun is "co" (conjugated "co's" and "co"), which makes explicit the combination idea. This is another sense of being non-binary: being at the confluence of the two categories.

In terms of behavioral expressions of gender cues, people can also be genderqueer (as an adjective not a noun). The genderqueer adjective refers to visual presentation--usually clothing and other attire. Some individuals who are genderqueer describe their behavior as “genderf*ck” (e.g., wearing some clothing items associated with men and other associated with women simultaneously). Other individuals who describe themselves as genderqueer identify as one gender only (female or male) but cultivate the perception from other people of another gender category via visual cues. This can involve crossing butch or femme attire presentation with one’s current gender identity. For instance, a person could be a butch-presenting (masculine-presenting) woman. Similarly, a person could be a femme-presenting (feminine presenting) man.

Return to Glossary of Gender-Related Terms

Go to our Definition List of Gender-Related Terms (all terms; alphabetically listed)

Note: This glossary of terms was compiled by Charlotte Tate, Ph.D. (who publishes under "Charlotte Chuck Tate" to have female, trans, and butch lesbian visibility simultaneously), and Jay Ledbetter, M.A., in an attempt to provide quick, concise definitions of gender-related concepts to a general audience. Most of the definitions are paraphrased and expanded from manuscripts and published articles by these two authors. All of the definitions were inspired by and summarize existing work on gender identity in gender studies. Accordingly, the point of the glossary is not to provide definitive definitions of the terms listed; instead, the point of the glossary is to help people understand the various experiences of gender that people have and how these experiences are related to psychological science.

On a practical level, this means that some scholars and activists may disagree with some the definitions within the glossary (esp. concerning the meaning of “genderqueer”). Nonetheless, we offer the glossary as a starting point, and, an admittedly incomplete, compendium so that readers of Dr. Tate’s websites can have some understanding of the terms used. This is a living document and will change over time with additional research, findings, and feedback.

For those interested in further discussions (both academic and popular) of the gender categories and concepts presented in this glossary, we may find this bibliography helpful.