What Does It Mean To Be Gender Nonconforming (And How Does It Differ From Being Nonbinary)?

Gender norms have got to be some of the most harmful concepts the patriarchy has to offer, and it's high time that they start being rallied against. Of course, people that have transcended the norms of the gender they were assigned at birth have always existed, with many cultures even celebrating them before the throes of colonialization took hold. Gender nonconformity is a wonderful and beautiful thing, so it's about time it made a comeback out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

All this being said, there are some big things we need to clarify about being gender nonconforming. We might be called Women.com, but we'll always stand by the transgender community in all their nuanced identities, including those that fall under the nonbinary umbrella. However, being gender nonconforming doesn't necessarily mean you identify as nonbinary or transgender, and not every nonbinary or transgender person is gender nonconforming. After all, if gender norms are so stiff and rigid, why should nonconformity be the same?

Difference between gender nonconformity and nonbinary identity

According to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, gender nonconformity can be defined as those who do not conform to gender norms or stereotypes according to their assigned sex. This is a purposefully broad definition because nonconformity can apply to a variety of different things. For example, if a woman regularly cuts her hair into a shorter or masculine haircut, that falls under gender nonconformity. The same can be said if a man paints his nails or wears skirts. Nonconformity also applies beyond gender presentation, as a female mechanic or a male hair stylist can also theoretically fall under this umbrella.

There are some aspects of gender nonconformity that intersect with being nonbinary, but they ultimately are two different things. The term nonbinary is described by GLAAD as an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of different non-cisgender identities and presentations. Nonbinary people can present androgynously, masculine, feminine, or really any other way they choose, whether it's gender-conforming or not.

Ultimately, the major difference between being gender nonconforming and being nonbinary comes from one's own relationship to their assigned sex. If you like to bend gender norms but best see yourself as your assigned sex, then you simply might be gender nonconforming. If you do the same but feel some sort of disconcertion with totally identifying as a man or woman, consider exploring if you are nonbinary.

Why gender nonconformity matters now more than ever

It may not seem like much, but it's important to explore gender nonconformity on your own terms and encourage others to do the same. In a current landscape where drag artists and transgender people are being targeted in vaguely worded laws making their expression illegal, it's time for cisgender people to stand up and embrace our non-traditional aspects. Sure, not shaving your arm or leg hair might not be the most revolutionary act in the world. Actually opposing the transphobic dangers and policies endangering others will also do a lot more good.

That being said, what's important to understand is that most people are gender nonconforming to a certain extent. Some men like wearing pink, and some women enjoy having muscles. The great thing about gender nonconformity is that it can boil down to these minute, seemingly unimportant aspects of our interests and personality. It is not something that can or should be regulated because it is just so prevalent and naturalistic to us as humans to not follow rigid binaries.