DC Reinventing Hub

Reinventing support for non-binary people: how to be an ally


Emma joined Delta Capita in November 2022 as an apprentice based in the Wrexham office.

Emma Isaac
Junior Analyst

The gender binary concept often causes confusion. Most people grow up with the idea that there are two genders - male and female - and when exposed to something that does not conform to this, some struggle to grasp the concept. However, some cultures have accepted genders beyond merely male and female for centuries, and people have been outspoken about the separation between biological sex and what gender you present since the 1940s.  

What is non-binary?  

According to Stonewall, non-binary describes people whose gender identity does not align comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary genders also exist in nature, for example, snakes, lizards, fish and birds all present gender fluidity. A study by Macquarie University in Sydney estimated that 1.7% of the human population is intersex - which means born with sex characteristics that do not fit the typical binary concepts of male or female.

Non-binary identities vary and can include people with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.

There is no ‘right’ way to be non-binary. It does not necessarily mean there is a 50/50 balance between male and female. There can be different mixes, and these can change depending on how you feel at any time.

How to be an ally

The best way to be an ally to any minority group is to educate yourself. Improve your understanding of diverse identities you may not have had much exposure to, what they mean to the people in these groups, and the problems they can face.

Living outside the gender binary can be a freeing experience for many who never felt they fitted into one box. It is a way to fully be their authentic selves and label how they identify, without limiting themselves and how they feel.  

Regardless of whether you fully understand gender fluidity, you can still be a supportive ally by respecting how others choose to identify and making sure they feel comfortable being themselves around you. You don’t need to be an expert to be an ally, just to make others feel accepted by treating them equally, regardless of gender expression.

Understanding different use of pronouns helps. Non-binary people often use the pronouns they/them rather than he/him or she/her. They may also use a mix of pronouns such as they/him or she/them. You can be an ally to non-binary people by practicing using they/them pronouns when you don’t know someone’s gender, and remembering to never assume someone’s pronouns – it is always better to just ask.

One way to understand more is to read about non-binary people in the public eye and absorb other media around the topic. Famous non-binary people include: Sara Ramirez, Jonathon Van Ness, Emma Corrin, Janelle Monáe, Emma D’Arcy, Bella Ramsey, and Sam Smith.

Media that celebrate non-binary identities include the films They (2017) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001); and TV shows Feel Good, Heartbreak High, and Our Flag Means Death.

Fictional books include Ana on the Edge, by AJ Sass; and Man O’ War, by Cory McCarthy.

Non-fiction books include:

• Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe

• Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, and In-Between by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker

• Beyond the Gender Binary, by Alok Vaid-Menon

• Non-Binary Lives: an Anthology of Intersecting Identities, edited by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, and Kat Gupta.

You can also find out more about how to be an ally at Stonewall.

Support from Delta Capita

We want all our colleagues to feel included, whatever their gender identity, sexual orientation, background or beliefs. We encourage staff to allocate time to causes they believe in or identify with; cultural and religious practices; and to their mental and physical wellbeing.

Employees that feel supported in these ways usually feel happier, healthier, and have more sense of belonging and engagement at work.