What does non-binary mean? Everything you need to know following Demi Lovato's reveal

Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, and more have come out as non-binary. But what does non-binary mean? Here's what to know

 In this screengrab released on April 8, Demi Lovato attends The 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards broadcast on April 08, 2021
(Image credit: The 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards/Getty)

Gender-fluid, multi-gender, non-binary. 

You have no doubt heard these terms, most recently in Demi Lovato's Instagram announcement that they are non-binary and have adopted the gender-neutral pronouns of they/them. But you may still be wondering: "What does non-binary mean?"

There are several layers to the term, and we'll fill you in on pronoun preferences, what it means to different individuals, and—most importantly—how to support those who identify as non-binary.

In a lengthy social media caption, the 'I Love Me' singer decided to share the big news with fans and reveal that they will identify as they/them moving forward. 

"Sharing this with you now opens another level of vulnerability for me," Lovato wrote. "I’m doing this for those out there that haven’t been able to share who they truly are with their loved ones. Please keep living in your truths and know I am sending so much love your way." 

The announcement was met with praise, congratulations, and many a heart emoji in the comments section. Although there is so much joy for Lovato at this important time in their life, people did wonder what exactly non-binary identification entails. 

So, what does non-binary mean?

According to Healthline, non-binary doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. It's essentially a person not falling into the two-gender identification of male or female. To some, being non-binary means experiencing their gender as both male and female, or neither male nor female. 

What are non-binary pronouns?

Those who are non-binary are able to identify with binary pronouns, including: 

  • she/her/hers
  • he/him/his

Additionally, those who are non-binary might also use gender-neutral pronouns such as: 

  • they/them/theirs
  • ze/hir/hirs
  • ze/zir/zirs

non-binary, gender, what does non-binary mean?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is non-binary an umbrella term?

The National Center for Transgender Equality notes that being non-binary means not falling directly into the male or female gender category. The term is similar to genderqueer, agender, or bigender, however, they are not all exactly the same.

The commonality they do share is that they do not neatly check off either the male or female box on the gender spectrum—they can fall somewhere in between. 

Can you be transgender and non-binary?

Yup! Some non-binary people identify as transgender, whereas others do not. 

If someone is transgender and non-binary, that means they do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth and have a gender identity that does not fit in either the male or female category. If someone is not transgender but non-binary, they may partially identify with the sex they were assigned at birth and they have a gender that isn't strictly male or female.

How do you support people who identify as non-binary?

The answer to this question is fairly simple: Even if you're not 100-percent sure about what does non-binary mean, all you have to do is treat everyone with respect, regardless of how they are choosing to identify.

If someone who is non-binary shares this fact with you, it's important to ask what gender pronouns they prefer and what name they would like to go by. The National Center for Transgender Equality makes a pretty significant claim that we should all be mindful of: never assume. 

Regardless of terms, pronouns, and so on, it's important to—as Demi Lovato noted—live your truth and do what brings you happiness!

inger Sam Smith attends the 21st NRJ Music Awards At Palais des Festivals on November 09, 2019 in Cannes, France

(Image credit: Marc Piasecki/Getty)

Non-binary celebrities

Here are just a few actors, musicians, and TV personalities that loudly and proudly identify as non-binary, gender-fluid, and/or gender non-conforming. 

  • Demi Lovato
  • Sam Smith
  • Jonathan Van Ness
  • Amandla Stenberg
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Indya Moore
  • Elliot Page
  • Asia Kate Dillon
  • Janelle Monáe
  • Cara Delevingne
  • Nico Tortorella
  • Brigette Lundy-Paine
  • Ruby Rose
  • Lachlan Watson
  • Rose McGowan
Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.