Note: I will be using the terms amab and afab throughout this post. Amab is an acronym for assigned male at birth, and afab is an acronym for assigned female at birth. These are being used because I do not want to call people someone a man when she is in fact a trans woman or someone a woman when they are in fact agender.
Most people grow up learning, and still believe, that gender is binary. There are girls and there are boys and nothing else. We are taught that we can't change these. Our gender is on our birth certificate and practically every form we fill out for our entire lives. Stores are divided into men's and women's sections. Most places have just men's and women's bathrooms. I could go on and on. There are countless things that are divided between these two binary genders and nothing in between. With the recent increased visibility for transgender people (amab people who transition to binary women and afab people who transition to binary men), more people are beginning to realize that people can switch between these two binaries if they feel that they need to. I admit, there is still a long way to go for transgender rights and visibility. Yet I am writing this today to speak about a group that has even less visibility.
Some people feel as though their gender does not fit into one of the checkboxes that society has built for them. Male and female just don't really seem to fit for some reason. These people all fall under the nonbinary umbrella. Just as every man and woman experiences being male or female in slightly different ways, every nonbinary person experiences their gender in a different way, although in the case of non-binary people there is definitely more variation. Some nonbinary people feel as though they are somewhere in between male and female. Others feel that they are another third gender. Still others feel that they don't fit in any box and don't have a gender at all. There are many more identities and various fluidities or fluxuations between them all. It all depends on the person. There are many labels out there for various nonbinary genders, dozens or even more. Some people find a label that fits them and strongly identify with that, others choose to stick with an umbrella term such as nonbinary or genderqueer, and others choose to forgo labels completely.
Some nonbinary people experience dysphoria. This is a feeling of distress and unease about your assigned gender. There are three types of dysphoria, and they can experienced in different degrees by different people or not at all. Social dysphoria, which is the most common, is distress felt when society perceives your gender as something other than you know it to be. This can be aided through changing one's name, style of clothing, or pronouns. Most people grow up using either he/him or she/her pronouns. Some nonbinary use one of these, but others use the singular they/them or more untraditional pronouns such as ze/hir or ne/nem. If you know someone who is nonbinary, it may be a good idea to ask about their pronouns so that you can be respectful of their identity when speaking about or to them. If someone asks you to start using pronouns different than the ones you are used to for them, please try to use them out of respect for the person and their identity. Body dysphoria, which is very common, is the feeling that your body doesn't match the body you were meant to have. This can be in regards to chest, hair length, genitalia, or build. Body dysphoria can be combatted with surgery or hormones, as well as with less permanent options, such as binding of the chest or cutting or styling one's hair. Finally, mental dysphoria, which is less common, is feeling that your mind or thoughts don't match your gender identity. This includes continuing to refer to yourself using a name and/or pronoun you changed to match your identity, or simply calling yourself, for example, a girl in your head when you know that you're nonbinary. This can be combated by finding friends or a support group who can help you overcome this, especially if they are also nonbinary.
Other nonbinary people experience little or no dysphoria. For this reason, it can often be hard for a nonbinary person to accurately explain their identity. In my experience, I experience some dysphoria, but for the most part am fine with my body and how people perceive me. Being nonbinary is something I realized through a lot of introspection and thought. It is something I know in the deepest part of my mind to be true, and I don't need to change anything about how I look or act to validate that fact. Regardless of whether any other nonbinary person experiences dysphoria, regardless of whether they physically or socially transition or not, they are still nonbinary (or whatever more specific label that they choose to use). No one can validate or invalidate their identity but them, for it is in their mind, and they alone know how they truly feel about their gender. They alone can truly know this about themselves. It's their body, their mind, their soul. And that soul may just happen to be nonbinary.
Here are some examples of and definitions for a few identities under the nonbinary umbrella which some nonbinary people use:
Agender: Someone who has no gender. They are genderless.
Androgynous: A style of clothing or appearance, androgyny is also a type of genderqueer, the state of being inbetween man and woman, or both man and woman.
Bigender: Someone who has two genders, typically man and woman (but not necessarily). They either identify as both, or they move between the two.
Demiboy: Someone partly a boy, and partly something else, without defining that other part.
Demigirl: Someone partly a girl, and partly something else, without defining that other part.
Enby (or NB): Short for Non-Binary, someone whose gender is simply non-binary.
Genderfluid (or fluid): Someone who is genderfluid moves between genders; their gender is not something that they or anyone can pin down and define.
Neutrois: Similar to agender, but often including transition, someone whose gender is null or neutral.
Polygender: Someone who has more than one gender, either identifying as more than one gender at once, or moving between genders.
Disclaimer: I have done extensive research on the preceding topic in an attempt to figure out my own identity and to better understand other identities. There are not many credible sources on this topic out there, therefore much of this is based on my reading about the experiences of other nonbinary people or drawing upon my own experiences. This information is all true as far as I know, but please let me know if I get anything wrong. I have tried to be as inclusive and as accurate as possible.