Celebrating Non-Binary Creators: International Non-Binary People's Day 2021
July 14 is International Non-Binary People's Day. It's a day to recognize non-binary people and raise awareness of this gender identity. In this post, I'm recommending music, books and movies with non-binary creators. Some of them you may have heard of, even if you didn't know they're non-binary!
What does the term "non-binary" mean? Well, in brief, a non-binary person is someone who doesn't identify as "male" or "female". They may identify as both, neither or something in-between. In Western culture, gender is often viewed as a binary, with male at one end and female at the other. In a lot of ways, male and female are also considered opposites... and without overlap.
Historically, other cultures have recognized there's more than two genders. Examples include the hijra in India and Two-Spirit Indigenous people in North America. Slowly, Western society is coming to realize that there are more than two genders, and that gender isn't a binary with separate, distinct identities. Gender is more of a spectrum.
Because non-binary is an umbrella term, there are many diverse genders that are often considered to be part of the non-binary group. This can include:
- Enby (to stand for "non-binary", sometimes considered distinct from non-binary)
- Genderfluid (sense of gender may shift and change)
- Genderqueer (does not identify with the typical male-female gender binary)
- Gender non-conforming or GNC (may present themselves in a way that defies gender norms)
- Agender (does not identify with gender)
- Bi-gender (identifies with two or more genders)
- Pan-gender (identifies with all genders)
- Neutrois (identifies as genderless or gender-neutral)
- ... and more!
Because I think it's important to use the identity each individual is most comfortable with, I've tried to stick with people who use "non-binary" when describing themselves, rather than another term, when creating this list.
Many of these creators don't fall neatly into categories. They're musicians, but also actors. They're authors, but also producers. They're television personalities, but also stylists. I've grouped them loosely together based on what they're best known for, and tried to highlight some of their other achievements as well.
Demi Lovato came out as non-binary quite recently, in May 2021. A popular musician, Demi shared with fans that "non-binary" is the term that best reflects their sense of self and identity.
Through hearing conversations about non-binary people, Sam Smith came to identify as non-binary as well. The musician has stated that they "are neither male nor female" and that the term "non-binary" has helped them come to terms with their feminine side.
In January 2020, Janelle Monáe used the hashtag #IAmNonBinary on Twitter. In follow up interviews, Janelle explained that she's exploring her gender identity and isn't necessarily non-binary, but doesn't "live her life in a binary way".
In the past several years, Janelle Monáe has starred in several movies.
Actors and On-Screen Celebrities
Lachlan is the non-binary actor who plays Theo in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Netflix series. The show is pretty different from the Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV series, which ran from 1996-2000. The Netflix show is loosely based on a graphic novel by the same title.
Although Theo isn't in this graphic novel, the new novels based on the Netflix series include the character of Theo.
Season of the Witch by Sarah Rees Brennan
Nico Tortorella is an actor, model and author.
Their memoir Space Between illustrates "the mining of their feminine and masculine identities into one multidimensional, sexually fluid, nonbinary individual".
Space Between by Nico Tortorella
Jonathan Van Ness
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
Recently, Jonathan added picture book author to his resume. Peanut Goes for the Gold is the story of a sporty, gender non-confirming guinea pig.
The beloved comic creator came out as non-binary in November 2020. They said they've known since age 10, but didn't have the words to describe their identity. Grant Morrison has written so many comic books that I barely know which to suggest! One current, ongoing series is Wonder Woman. Earth One. Volume three just came out in 2021.
"Author" is a bit too simple a category for advocate and educator Meg-John Barker, but they have written several fantastic books about gender. A few of them have been with co-author Alex Iantaffi, who is genderfluid or genderqueer.
How to Understand Your Gender by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker
Ivan E. Coyote
Canadian writer, spoken word performer and advocate, Ivan E. Coyote first created Gender Failure as a multimedia performance piece in 2012. They adapted it into a book in 2014. Rae Spoon, co-creator, musician and writer is also non-binary.
Gender Failure by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Melanie Gillman is another non-binary writer and illustrator. In addition to original graphic novels, they work on the Steven Universe graphic novel adaptations.
Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman
Alex Gino's novel George, also known as Melissa's Story, won a LAMBDA Literary Award and Stonewall Award, among others. The book is the story of Melissa and her journey in coming out as transgender and finding acceptance. Alex's companion novel, Rick, is the story one of her classmates and his own journey to self-acceptance.
Rick by Alex Gino
In their new memoir, Akwaeke Emezi discusses their journey to self-acceptance. They share raw details about their relationship to gender and identity, and their decision to have surgery. Akwaeke is the award-winning, bestselling author of Pet and The Death of Vivek Oji.
Death Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Ezemi
Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro
Alok Vaid-Menon is a non-binary writer and performance artist. Their book Beyond the Gender Binary is part rant, part essay, and part celebration of non-binary identities.
Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
Romance author Casey McQuiston is openly bisexual, queer and non-binary. Casey uses any pronouns.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Casey will be joining us for a live, online event on Thursday, August 5 at 7pm. You can register for the event now, tune in live, or watch the replay. Following an interview with TPL staff, Casey will be doing a live audience Q and A.
They/Them/Their: A brief note on pronouns
Quite a few of the non-binary creators in this list use the pronouns they/them/their. Some use other pronouns, and some use more than one pronoun. While "they" has been used as a singular pronoun for hundreds of years, most dictionaries only added this use recently. If you're not sure how to use "they" as a singular pronoun, here are some great books to help you out.
A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson
How to They/Them by Stuart Getty
What Are Your Words? by Katherine Locke. Ages 3 and up
Related reading lists and blog posts
Want more reading - and watching! - recommendations? Here are some reading lists and blog posts from our staff.
- Trans and Non-Binary Voices
- Gender Explorers: Beyond the Binary
- LGBTQ2S+ Characters on the Small Screen
- New and Noteworthy LGBTQ2S+ Science Fiction and Fantasy
- International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia: May 17, 2021
- A Children's Book by an LGBTQ2S+ Author: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2021
- Rainbow Romances: Love Stories in the LGBTQ2S+ Community
This isn't an exhaustive list of non-binary creators. There are many, many others out there worth sharing and celebrating. Please add to this list using the comments section below!