Figuring out how to navigate your gender identity can be confusing and overwhelming — especially if you identify outside the gender binary.
1. Wear the clothes that make you feel like you — no matter what section you find them in.
"Something that helped me become so much more comfy with my body and identity was wearing clothes I feel comfortable in. Shopping in the section of the store assigned 'women's' never felt right. The day I stepped foot in the section assigned 'men's' I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I am a lot more comfortable and confident and love who I am as a human."
2. Experiment with your presentation until you figure out what feels right.
"It took a really long time for me to be comfortable with where I am right now. I was born female and therefore I grew up with more traditional female clothes and ideals. For a while, I couldn't even wear more feminine clothes because it reminded me too much of my childhood and it felt wrong. I still sometimes have problems with my self-confidence and my image, but once you figure out how you want to present yourself, it's so damn comfortable. I just started college and have been going by my chosen name. I get to introduce myself as who I really am. It's the best feeling in the world."
3. Remember that you don't have to subscribe to any gender roles you're not comfortable with.
"I didn't know what nonbinary meant at first — I didn't know that there was anything other than male or female. When I finally stumbled upon it and saw people share their descriptions online it made sense. My experience finally had a word and the confusing dance of being both male and female, but also being absolutely neither at the same time, didn't feel so strange anymore."
4. "If you want to be referred to as they/them, make people do it. They will learn if they want to remain a part of your life."
"Advocate for yourself. There are times where you really won't want to correct someone's pronoun usage, but you'll feel better in the long run if you do. Don't compromise on your name or pronouns, either. If you want to be referred to as they/them, make people do it. They will learn if they want to remain a part of your life."
5. Find, befriend, and follow other gender-nonconforming individuals so you're reminded you're not in this alone.
"Literally just seeing other nonbinary people exist fills me with hope, joy, and a renewed confidence and love for my identity as nonbinary. I follow lots of nonbinary people across social media platforms, I read through contributions from nonbinary people in articles like this, and try to find TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos with complex queer characters or relatable queer people."
6. "You need a place to vent and talk things out."
"Sometimes it isn't safe to talk about LGBT things, and sometimes it isn't worth it to argue nonbinary stuff with jerks, but you can find a place to be loud about it — either online or with people. You need a place to vent and talk things out. It's your choice to talk about yourself, your identity, and your interests. If you feel you need to fight for yourself/other NBs/trans then be loud and proud."
7. Remember that you are enough. And, when in doubt, treat yourself to a new haircut.
"I live near San Francisco and go to a very diverse college, so I felt safe identifying as a transman — but the idea of wearing a dress to the men's room set off my anxiety. What if that was just one step too far?
So I took a self-defense course, got a new haircut, and bought some makeup and nail polish. I knew what to do if someone wanted to mess with me and my self-confidence grew because I actually felt like myself.
It's been about a year now, and I feel amazing. My anxiety and depression lessened, my grades improved, my relationships have improved — all because I don't feel like I'm trying to be 'trans enough.' Honey, I am trans enough. I am enough. I'm me."
8. Remember: "People are largely uncomfortable with things they do not understand."
"Forgive other people who misgender you — especially strangers and service workers who don't know any better. Have some understanding that they are raised in the same social environment, if not worse, that leads them to think in strict binaries. People are largely uncomfortable with things they do not understand. The correction isn't worth the two seconds of condescension.
But closer relationships, absolutely, say something! You'll even find out that when you are out with friends or family that they will correct the public around you, spread awareness, and help form your community with grace."
—Emma Fox, Facebook
9. "You don't need to tell everyone or change everything at once. Take things slow and make sure you feel comfortable and safe. Baby steps."
10. Surround yourself with friends and community that build you up and support you.
"What gave me confidence in being nonbinary is the friends I have. Some may struggle in juggling my pronouns, but I know that they don't mean it in malice. They identify me as neither male nor female, and I just feel like I'm glowing when they do that! Plus, there are nonbinary friends I met along the way and when it comes to this kind of deal, we stick together, complain together, maybe get a little dysphoric together and just be ourselves together. We haven't came out to our respective families, but I feel like the best person to come out to are the people who you feel comfortable with and those who understand."
11. "It's okay if other people don't understand, because it doesn't change the fact that this is who I am."
"Once I realized that I was nonbinary, I learned quickly that there are people who don't get it. It's okay if other people don't understand, because it doesn't change the fact that this is who I am. Shows like Billions and Steven Universe just solidified for me that I wasn't alone."
12. Don't be nervous about experimenting with pronouns.
"Don't be afraid to experiment with pronouns! I have some amazingly patient friends who always used my preferred pronouns when I was questioning. They all still use my daily pronouns."
13. Know that how you choose to present yourself doesn't make your identity any less valid.
"I had to become comfortable with clothing not defining gender I describe myself as a FTM (female to male) demiboy. This means I was assigned female at birth, but I lean heavily towards the male side of the spectrum. I still, however, love makeup, and sometimes I like to wear dresses. I had to realize that that doesn't make me less valid."
14. Even if other people may not "get it."
"I think it's important to remember that people cannot be judged by their appearance. I identify as gender fluid but I dress in what society would consider as feminine most of the time. Simply because I like it, not because I'm trying to represent a gender. I still find it very difficult to come out, I think mainly because it's very hard to make people understand. And (I know I probably shouldn't say it) but I get it. It's hard for someone to wrap their head around at first."
15. "Nobody can be reduced down to a single word or label."
"A major thing that helped me get comfortable with my identity was realizing that my gender isn't the only thing that defines me. It's a big part of it, sure, but I am so much more than just non-binary. I'm a writer and a musician, an artist and a pet parent. Hell, all of these things define me just as much as my gender does! So, if you're afraid to come out or are uncomfortable with the idea of 'changing your identity' just remember, gender isn't the entirety of your identity. Nobody can be reduced down to a single word or label."
16. "You are valid if you present as a binary gender and you are valid if you present as your gender assigned at birth."
"It's okay for your gender expression to be in the binary for any reason, whether it's comfort, safety, or anything else. You are valid if you present as a binary gender, and you are valid if you present as your gender assigned at birth."
17. There is no one "correct" way to identify outside the binary.
"There's a stereotype of nonbinary people being thin, androgynous, and pale. Know there is no wrong way to be nonbinary, dress the way that makes you feel comfortable and happy! I don't bind and appear more feminine, and that doesn't change how I identify or who I am. It just means I don't feel comfortable binding (for a myriad of reasons). It's your identity to express how you wish."
—Cirrus Cloud, Facebook
18. And if you can't present openly, or use your preferred pronouns for safety or other reasons, that doesn't make your identity any less real and valid.
"Even if nobody knows your pronouns or refuses to call by your preferred ones, that doesn't make you any less nonbinary. If you don't correct people who use the wrong pronouns, you're not less nonbinary. As long as you know who you are and even if you don't, that's fine, but don't worry about the others. Focus on yourself."
19. Don't be afraid to reinvent yourself — everyone changes and grows!
"One of the most empowering moments for me was dropping my old name and taking up a gender neutral one. I identify as genderfluid and I'll always be proud of that, so having a name that fits how I view myself is incredible. Feeling dysphoria is perfectly normal — unpleasant, but normal. It's acceptable to reinvent yourself, or just keep being who you are as long as it allows you to feel comfortable."
20. It's OK not to have it all figured out yet.
"What's still hard for me to figure out is this: I identify as nonbinary and also transmasculine, and it feels right, but how can I help destroy gender roles and gender stereotypes when my gender identity is rooted in it? I identify as transmasculine, but what IS masculinity besides just an outdated description of how a person with a penis should act? I don't have the answer to this yet, but I'm going to keep trying to figure it out, and until then, it's okay that I don't know...and it's okay if you don't know either."
21. Repeat after me: Clothes have no gender.
"The short film Ruby Rose made called 'Break Free' really helped me realize that it's OK for your gender expression to change from day-to-day. I have days where I definitely feel more masculine and days where I feel overwhelmingly feminine. In the end, you have to remind yourself it doesn't matter that much because it's all just random pieces of material you put on your body. REMIND YOURSELF THAT CLOTHES HAVE NO GENDER!!"
22. "When you know that there is a core group of loved ones who truly see you, you can focus your energy creative pursuits instead."
"Surround yourself by people who see you as you are. When you know that there is a core group of loved ones who truly see you, you can focus your energy creative pursuits instead!"
23. Find role models that inspire you to be your best, most fabulous, self.
"To be perfectly honest people like Violet Chachki, Jinkx Monsoon, and other drag queens who identify as nonbinary give me so much hope. As someone who has a hard time passing as agender — because of boobs and hips and stuff — doing drag and embracing the clowniness of dressing exaggeratedly female has helped me come to terms with not being able to pass as androgynous in my day to day life. I like to consider me dressing up in female clothing drag so that it helps when people unknowingly misgender me."
24. "It can be hard, but you are never alone."
"The best advice I can give is to surround yourself with supportive people as much as possible, and know even if people choose to not accept your pronouns or identity, you are valid and loved. It can be hard, but you are never alone. There is a huge community on Tumblr, and I'm sure other sites for nonbinary folks, and I hope to whoever is reading this you can find support and feel acceptance and love."
25. "You're not broken, you're not wrong, you're just you. Being your most authentic self is the greatest act of self-love you can do. I'm so proud of everyone who does it."
—Jessica Toze, Facebook
Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity