A new report from The Trevor Project shows LGBTQ youth are increasingly identifying outside the gender binary.
Conducted between October and December of 2020, the report surveyed almost 35,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 and found that 26% identify as non-binary, with an additional 20% reporting they are still questioning if they are non-binary. Rates were similar across all ages and ethnicities.
The study also found that LGBTQ youth view “transgender” and “non-binary” as two separate identities, with only 50% of non-binary respondents stating they also identify as transgender. Twenty percent of non-binary respondents stated they are still questioning if they are transgender.
“Young people are using a variety of language to describe the nuances of their gender identity outside of the binary construction of gender,” said Jonah DeChants, a Research Scientist for The Trevor Project, in a statement. “These data emphasize that, while there is certainly an overlap, youth understand ‘transgender’ and ‘nonbinary’ as distinct identity terms – and you cannot assume one’s identity simply based on the pronouns they use.”
There was also significant diversity in how nonbinary youth label themselves. While 72% did use the term non-binary, 29% described themselves as queer, 27% as gender-nonconforming, 24% as genderfluid, 23% as genderqueer, 23% as androgynous, 15% as agender, 10% as demigirl, 8% as demiboy, 4% as genderflux, and 4% as bigender.
“It’s clear that non-binary young people are not a monolith – they use a wide variety of labels and pronouns to express the nuances of their gender identities,” Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, told USA TODAY. “Understanding this will help promote the acceptance and inclusion of non-binary youth at every level of society.”
Most non-binary youth also reported being attracted to multiple genders, with 28% saying they are bisexual, 27% pansexual, 22% queer, 14% lesbian, 6% gay, and 2% questioning. Less than 1% of non-binary youth described themselves as straight. A plurality of non-binary youth (33%) also reported using exclusively they/them pronouns, while 20% said they use she/they and 16% say they use he/they. Only 2 and 3%, respectively reported using she/her or he/him only.
The increasing prevalence of they/them pronouns is especially important to note because most of the non-binary youth who participated in the survey reported that using their correct name and pronouns is the number one way their loved ones can make them happy.
“It makes me extremely happy when people respect and use my correct pronouns,” said one respondent, “and I could literally happy cry.”
Failing to call youth by the right pronouns is not only disrespectful; it is also dangerous. Youth who said no one in their lives respected their pronouns were more than two and a half times as likely to attempt suicide as those whose pronouns were respected by all or most people in their lives.
As state legislatures continue to introduce a record number of bills targeting transgender and non-binary youth, the study emphasized that the growing number of nonbinary identities “supports policies that encourage respect for non-binary youth’s pronouns in settings where youth most often interact, such as schools, medical facilities, and social service organizations.” The study also pushed for inclusivity training for those who work with youth, such as teachers and coaches.
“Understanding and respecting the pronouns of non-binary youth can be life-saving,” the study concluded.