Man, Woman, “Other”: Factors Associated with Nonbinary Gender Identification

Abstract

Using a unique dataset of 7479 respondents to the online Australian Sex Survey (July–September 2016), we explored factors relevant for individuals who self-identify as one of the many possible nonbinary gender options (i.e., not man or woman). Our results identified significant sex differences in such factors; in particular, a positive association between female height, higher educational levels, and greater same-sex attraction (female–female) versus a negative effect of lower income levels and more offspring. With respect to sex similarities, older males and females, heterosexuals, those with lower educational levels, and those living outside capital cities were all more likely to identify as the historically dichotomous gender options. These factors associated with nonbinary gender identification were also more multifaceted for females than for males, although our interaction terms demonstrated that younger females (relative to younger males) and nonheterosexuals (relative to heterosexuals) were more likely to identify as nonbinary. These effects were reversed, however, in the older cohort. Because gender can have such significant lifetime impacts for both the individual and society as a whole, our findings strongly suggest the need for further research into factors that impact gender diversity.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    See Appendix Table 3 for a complete list of nonbinary gender terms used in this study.

  2. 2.

    It is important to acknowledge that this study does not seek to delineate individuals’ own perceptions of what constitutes being a woman or man (i.e., a transgender woman perceives herself as a woman, just as a cisgender woman perceives herself as a woman). Rather, it explores the characteristics of individuals who as part of this survey consciously decided not to select one of the binary gender options of either man or woman.

  3. 3.

    It must also be noted that the Australian Bureau of Statistics recognizes that it has previously been ineffective in its ability to accurately capture the increase in gender diversity in recent censuses, so much so that it has begun gathering pilot data to test the effectiveness of its ability to differentiate sex and gender for Australians that wish to provide such information.

  4. 4.

    Question: In relation to my sex, I most identify as: (Note: you will be asked about your gender in the following questions).

  5. 5.

    Question: Which of the following terms do you feel best describes your gender?

  6. 6.

    Height was ranked as follows: 9 = over 220 cm (taller than 7 ft 1 in) to 1 = under 150 cm (shorter than 4 ft 11 in).

  7. 7.

    Educational level was measured by the following question: My highest level of education achieved at this point in time (1 = below grade 10 to 8 = doctorate/Ph.D).

  8. 8.

    A similar item assesses personal income and household income: My annual wage is in the range of 1 = below $20,000 to 13 = above $240,000.

  9. 9.

    The occupational categories were unemployed, homemaker, student, professional, trade or vocational, service industry, self-employed, and other.

  10. 10.

    N = 579 encompasses all participants who self-identified as nonbinary. The 125 observation difference between Fig. 2 and Table 1 reflects respondents who selected “intersex,” “other,” or “I do not wish to answer” when asked which sex they most identified with.

  11. 11.

    Which of the following would best describe your sexual preference: 1. Exclusively to the sex opposite mine; 2. Predominantly opposite sex, only incidentally same sex; 3. Predominantly opposite, but more than incidentally same sex; 4. Equally opposite sex and same sex; 5. Predominantly same sex, but more than incidentally opposite sex; 6. Predominantly same sex, only incidentally opposite sex; 7. Exclusively same sex as me. Higher numerical values translate to a greater sexual preference for the same sex at the expense of the opposite sex.

  12. 12.

    It is worth noting that the reverse may also be true in that sexual orientation can be complicated for those who identify as gender diverse.

  13. 13.

    The majority of cis individuals identify as a binary gender, but some who state they are cis prefer to identify as a nonbinary alternative.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank James Templeman for all his assistance with this research project; without whom this study would not have been possible. We would also like to thank Ho Fai Chan, Sara Casey, and Yarrow Andrew for helpful comments and feedback. Stephen Whyte acknowledges funding support from an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. The authors would also like to recognize and thank Lifeline for its valued role in supporting Australian human behavioral research. The authors declare no conflict of interest (material or financial) that relates to the research described in this article. All researches were conducted in accordance with the institution’s (Queensland University of Technology) Human Research Ethics Clearance (No. 1600000221).

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Correspondence to Stephen Whyte.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3 Frequency of participant by gender identification term
Table 4 Factors related to nonbinary gender self-identification (probit model)

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Whyte, S., Brooks, R.C. & Torgler, B. Man, Woman, “Other”: Factors Associated with Nonbinary Gender Identification. Arch Sex Behav 47, 2397–2406 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1307-3

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Keywords

  • Nonbinary gender
  • Gender diversity
  • Sex
  • Gender identity