Oklahoma governor slammed by nonbinary lawmaker for vowing to fight birth certificate ruling

More than one million American adults identify as nonbinary, according to a new study from the Williams Institute.

The institute, under the direction of the UCLA School of Law, analyzed data from two previous studies collected between 2016 and 2018, and determined that there are now 1.2 million nonbinary LGBTQ adults living in the country in a first-of-its-kind study.

Nonbinary people do not identify as either male or female, and many use ‘they’ or ‘them’ pronouns. 

Bianca Wilson, one of the authors of the study, said the new estimate is meaningful to show lawmakers exactly who they are affecting when they pass legislation to protect against gender-identity-based discrimination.

‘That number says: “This is part of who you’re talking about when executive orders are signed to protect people against discrimination,'” she told The Washington Post

A study by the Williams Institute revealed that a majority of nonbinary people were younger than 30, lived in a city and were experiencing mental health issues

A majority of those surveyed in the study reported to be younger than 30, living in a city and were living below the poverty line.

More than half of the respondents were white, the study shows, with 16 percent reported to be multiracial, 15 percent Hispanic and 9 percent black. 

Seventy-six percent of the respondents were reported to be between the ages of 18 and 29, with more than one in 10 LGBTQ adults between the ages of 18 and 60 identifying as nonbinary, according to the study.

More than three-quarters were 29 or younger, the survey showed, and nearly 90 percent were living in a city.

Although most identified as cisgender – meaning they identify with the gender correlating to the sex they were assigned at birth, 32.1 percent of transgender adults identify as nonbinary.

‘Younger folks are helping to push the language for how to talk about gender in ways that go beyond the man-woman continuum,’ Wilson said, noting that it will be interesting to see if the older LGBTQ generations start using nonbinary terms, rather than traditional ones like ‘butch,’ ‘femme,’ or ‘queen.’  

‘It’s fair to assume that on the older end of the spectrum, this might be an underestimate,’ she said. ‘And that might be about the right language to describe how older folks think about nonbinary identities, but maybe not with these labels.’  

Singer Janelle Monae came out as nonbinary last year. They are pictured here performing at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in June 2018

Singer Janelle Monae came out as nonbinary last year. They are pictured here performing at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in June 2018

Helena Darwin, a researcher at Stony Brook University, said not everyone who is nonbinary considers themselves transgender either because they ‘do not consider themselves to be “trans enough” to claim group membership alongside transmen and transwomen or otherwise consider their gender experience to be qualitatively different from the transgender experience.’ 

More than half of the respondents said they have been physically or sexually assaulted, and nearly 94 percent have considered suicide, with about 40 percent saying they have attempted it.

A majority had also reported being hit, beaten or sexually assaulted at some point before they were 18, the study concluded, and most felt they were more disrespected than others over the year prior to the survey.

Many also experienced ‘chronic stressors,’ like not having enough money to make ends meet, being alone too much and having strained or conflicted relations with their parents.

They also reported experiencing higher levels of stress when they were growing up. Eighty-two percent said they faced emotional abuse, 40 percent said they experienced physical abuse and 41 percent reported being sexually abused before the age of 18.

Additionally, the nonbinary adults reported having high rates of mental health concerns, with 51 percent reporting symptoms ‘consistent with serious mental illness.’

Wilson said it would make sense for nonbinary individuals to experience higher rates of psychological distress than the larger population, as that is is in line with research conducted on the larger LGBTQ community. 

Former Disney Channel star Demi Lovato posted a video to Twitter earlier this year indicating that they are nonbinary

Former Disney Channel star Demi Lovato posted a video to Twitter earlier this year indicating that they are nonbinary

She said more research would be needed to determine whether nonbinary people are more susceptible to these issues than binary LGBTQ individuals.

‘Research has shown that the stress from being a minority – stress from being a sexual and gender minority in particular- is related to psychological distress,’ Wilson said. ‘And being nonbinary is a unique kind of gender-minority experience because you are constantly surrounded by binary-identified people.’

But being nonbinary does not lead to mental illness, according to Joel Baum, who oversees professional development at the nonprofit Gender Spectrum. Instead, he told the Post, many nonbinary people may experience mental illness due to the way they are treated by society.

‘Much of the mental illness is in reaction to treatment, not in-and-of-itself because someone’s nonbinary,’ he clarified.

The study comes amid growing recognition of nonbinary individuals, with the Supreme Court ruling last year that employees cannot be fired based on their sexuality or gender identity, and Joe Biden signing an executive order stating that the term ‘sex’ in anti-discrimination laws includes gender and sexual identities.

Several cities and states are now beginning to offer gender-neutral identifications on drivers’ licenses, The Washington Post reports, and the world’s first-known nonbinary mayor took office last month in Wales.    

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