Brains Falling Out,  Trans politics,  Wingnuttery

The Uninterested Observer’s Guide to the Non-Binary Gender Identity

By Jurek Molnar


I wanna know

Oh yes I wanna know

The name of the game

ABBA, The Name of the Game

Have you ever immersed yourself in the vast landscape of gender identities?

Me neither.

As an uninterested observer, I am nevertheless highly motivated to know what these things are and how to analyse them. As uninterested observers, we want to understand what others who use the term or discuss the topic are actually talking about, and are hence free to decide if we want to engage or continue to stay away from these poisonous trees.

So, in today’s episode we will take a look into the non-binary gender identity. Even as an uninterested observer, you are well aware that this is actually a thing. Obviously many people define their gender identity as “non-binary”. In addition, many more people are using that term to refer to something that is related to gender identities. So, if you are in a little chat at a dinner party and the term “non-binary” comes up, as an uninterested observer you should immediately recognize when the term is used in relation to identity politics and gender ideology and not – let’s say – in the context of computer science. As uninterested observers, we do not judge people’s decisions how to identify or call themselves. We are only focused on what they actually think their identity is and how this makes sense to us in the reality we perceive.

We have to ask and answer four questions:

What does the original term “non-binary” actually mean?

What does “non-binary” stand for in the context of gender identity?

What does the original term “identity” mean?

What does the term “non-binary gender identity” imply?

To answer these four questions, we will rely on one single source, the “Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse People, Version 8” (from now on: the “Standards”), published recently on the 6th of September 2022 in the International Journal of Transgender Health and here specifically chapter 8, “Nonbinary”. For a better understanding, I want to quote the first paragraph from this chapter as a short introduction. This is what the leading experts in the field think, the non-binary gender identity entails:

“Nonbinary is used as an umbrella term referring to individuals who experience their gender as outside of the gender binary. The term nonbinary is predominantly but not exclusively associated with global north contexts and may sometimes be used to describe indigenous and non-Western genders. The term nonbinary includes people whose genders are comprised of more than one gender identity simultaneously or at different times (e.g., bigender), who do not have a gender identity or have a neutral gender identity (e.g., agender or neutrois), have gender identities that encompass or blend elements of other genders (e.g., polygender, demiboy, demigirl), and/or who have a gender that changes over time (e.g., genderfluid) (…). Nonbinary people may identify to varying degrees with binary-associated genders, e.g., nonbinary man/woman, or with multiple gender terms, e.g., non-binary and genderfluid (…). Nonbinary also functions as a gender identity in its own right (…). It is important to acknowledge this is not an exhaustive list, the same identities can have different meanings for different people, and the use of terms can vary over time and by location.”

If you have read carefully, you will have noticed that my notation and theirs differ. I am writing “non-binary”, they are writing “nonbinary”. The difference between these two is not just a hyphen. While “non-binary” puts emphasis on the distinction of binary vs. non-binary, the writing of “nonbinary” makes it one word that loses this distinction. I hope it will get clearer at a later point, why this matters.

What does the original term “non-binary” actually mean?


The term “binary” is used in Math, Science and Engineering to describe a pair of two. The basis of all our computer systems is a binary logic, which was first formalized by the English mathematician George Boole in the mid-19th century. The binary logic of computers require a pair of two states like true/false, 0/1 or on/off, which the smallest piece of information memory, called a bit, is able to store. A bit can have the states 0/1 (or true /false or on/off) and at any given point it has to be in one of these two states. The importance of this fact goes far beyond computers and is actually the foundational logic of Western civilisation since Aristotle. The most basic premises of logic and any form of science are built on the binary structure. Moreover, this binary paradigm has produced the most advanced technological civilisation in known history.

When mathematicians, logicians, technicians or engineers are using the term “non-binary”, they refer to the fact that a single bit has at one point stored a single state, which will never change. In a mathematical sense non-binary means, that there are fewer than two options. To be more precise: non-binary means one.

What does “non-binary” stand for in the context of gender identity?


Now, from the above it is clear that the gender related idea of “non-binary” (or “nonbinary”) is not the same. While in Math and Engineering “non-binary” means one, the term “nonbinary” in relation to gender identity amounts definitely to more states than two. In this particular context, “nonbinary” means many.

So, if the term “non-binary” was used in its original meaning, all males and females, who are called “cis”, are non-binaries, because they remain for all of their lives in their single sex state. The gender related use of “nonbinary” makes it the direct opposite instead.

It may simply annoy the uninterested observer to state such a simple fact, but it really matters when a term differs in its use that enormously. The difference between one and many is substantial. There are very remote tribes and cultures, who have no words for numbers and do not count in any way, but even they will spot a difference between one and many, regardless of the importance this distinction may have in any given cultural context. (See: McWorther, The language hoax (2014))

There is no cultural bias or subjective viewpoint, which will change the substantial difference between one and many. The gender related idea of “nonbinary” hence means that “individuals (…) experience their gender as outside of the gender binary (…)”, according to the document we quoted from above. What does this mean? If “nonbinary” is located outside the “gender binary”, then the states a single individual can inhabit are infinite, which is exactly what the authors in the “Standards” describe:

“The term nonbinary includes people whose genders are comprised of more than one gender identity simultaneously or at different times (e.g., bigender), who do not have a gender identity or have a neutral gender identity (e.g., agender or neutrois), have gender identities that encompass or blend elements of other genders (e.g., polygender, demiboy, demigirl), and/or who have a gender that changes over time (e.g., genderfluid)…”

The authors carefully avoid the word “definition”, and employ the notion “umbrella term” instead, but to cover that range of possibilities the umbrella must be the sky itself. To think of “nonbinary” as a term that actually defines a particular state is simply unattainable. Since no limitation is given by this “umbrella term”, the infinite amount of states that are possible within its use, make all efforts to define a limited set of meanings inevitably pointless. A definition would require that the term can be somehow reduced to a pattern that repeats itself in single individuals, but since no such pattern exists, we can translate the “nonbinary” umbrella as way to say “No possibility can be excluded.” or “Nonbinary just means everything, people who use that term are willing to put into it.”

The authors of the “Standards” go on to state: “Recent studies suggest nonbinary people comprise roughly 25% to over 50% of the larger transgender population, with samples of youth reporting the highest percentage of nonbinary people (…). In recent studies of transgender adults, nonbinary people tend to be younger than transgender men and transgender women and in studies of both youth and adults, nonbinary people are more likely to have been assigned female at birth (AFAB).”

So, “nonbinary” is the whole set of infinite possibilities and also the subset of people who “comprise roughly to 25% to 50% of the larger transgender population (…)”. In this particular understanding “nonbinary” is a word for “everything”. Why “nonbinary” is a subset of “transgender”, when the set of “nonbinary” is more or less the set of infinite possibilities is another strange argument, but let us go on with what we have.

So, our first conclusion is: “non-binary” is a term that originally describes a single state, which amounts to exactly one and doesn’t change over time. “Nonbinary” as a term used in the context of gender identity describes states which amount to many, even infinite possibilities and also change indefinitely over time. This is neither good nor bad, it just makes clear that both terms represent completely opposite concepts.

We could have stopped here. Who cares how they use these terms? And as uninterested observers we have no skin in the game anyway. But it doesn’t stop here and there is the next sentence, that makes it all even more confusing. They say: “Nonbinary also functions as a gender identity in its own right…”

Before we get into this, we have to make sure we understand what “identity” means.

What does the original term “identity” mean?


“Identity” is primarily a philosophical concept. Identity in its most basic linguistic understanding means a single thing is the same thing to itself and not another. Identity means one and its relation to the many is very explicitly defined. The relation of one to many, which captures many different examples and put them into one single category, is called abstraction. Abstraction is in short the routine to produce a one out of many. We do not have to go into the complex philosophical details of those concepts. It is easy to understand on the level of everyday life.

The foundational logical axioms of Western civilisation say about Identity:

A equals A

A does not equal non-A

And for every given X, that satisfies the constraints above:

X is either A or non-A (tertium non datur).

The term identity in its original philosophical use is something that excludes the many possibilities a certain state may entail. It emphasizes that an identity is the sameness of an object to itself. It cannot be in different states at the same time, because that is the state the term identity excludes per definition. The authors of the “Standards” nevertheless declare without any second thoughts, that “nonbinary” includes people who “who do not have a gender identity” or have “more than one gender identity simultaneously or at different times”. The term itself is in their understanding actually the expression of A is A and A is non-A at the same time in the same space. It seems superfluous to say, but this line of argument is a constant feature of gender ideology. It is everything and anything at any given point of space and time. Somebody wants the cake preserved in full and eating from it simultaneously.

The basic meaning of identity is that it is one and not many things. Identity has to refer to a single state that can be defined by proper characteristics. These characteristics have to repeat themselves as a basic pattern in a given single example, despite the many differences all possible examples may have in relation to each other. If we assume that the authors of the “Standards” were trying to establish a single “nonbinary” abstraction category out of the many, they clearly failed.

What they did instead was to declare that “nonbinary” is a set of infinite possibilities, but also a single state of its own. That is logically not possible. It is either a multiplicity of states or an abstraction of a single state, but not one and many at the same time. To be “nonbinary” in the way the “Standards” are establishing the term, means NOT to have a single identity. It is the rejection of a single state. If my state of self-reference changes at any given point in space and time, then I do not have an identity. But according to the “Standards” not having an identity is also one. The logical fallacies that follow from this proposition are tremendous.

So, our next conclusion is more of the same. While the original meaning of identity requires a reference to a one, the gender identity concept says that identity is a chaotic diversity, which does always refer to many states. The pressure to establish a notion that always refers to the many states is called “inclusion”.

What does the term “non-binary gender identity” imply?


Since every foundational logic goes by the premise that A is A and A is not non-A, the turning point of the “nonbinary” procedure is to be an identity which rejects to have a stable condition or a state of singular nature. If that is a serious argument on their side, it is more or less the bankruptcy of their own idea. For all possible outcomes, the “nonbinary” state rejects to have a clear identity. It is always changing. People may choose on this day to be a woman, a man or a something else, but the basic procedure is not having a single state where A is A and A is not non-A. They try to say X is A, non-A and all possible states which go beyond at the same time. The problem hence is, that “nonbinary” is either an identity in itself or it is not. It cannot be both. If the term “identity” is understood the way it is defined by our most basic logic, to have an identity, which declares it has no identity, is a logical contradiction. The German mathematician Georg Cantor first formalized this particular problem. His work led consequently to the introduction of set theory and influenced heavily Kurt Gödel’s proof of mathematical incompleteness. The “Standards” claim to give its subject a scientific foundation, but run into very banal logical traps the authors never recognize at all. Such contradictions usually happen, when the basic premises on which a contradictory statement is built upon are flawed. If being nonbinary is the rejection of the hetero-normative cis order, which creates identity pressure on the individuals, the idea your identity does not accept the basic underpinnings of the term identity has failed to prove its validity.

The “Standards” are without a doubt an effort to give the authors’ opinions a scientific foundation. The document clearly satisfies all constraints a scientific paper matched by peer review has to answer for. There are massive quotation parts referring to other papers and phrases like “Recent studies suggest…” are all over the place. We have not to discuss whether this document is in its entirety scientifically sound, as uninterested observers we only look into its basic premises and what we found does not sound very scientific at all. We can conclude nevertheless that this failure is not a result of a lack of education or scientific incompetence, but mostly the result of political impulses, which have a clear agenda. If the identity concept means one, many and everything at once, it is completely dependent on subjective criteria and hence cannot be criticised by any objective measure. The only possible criticism is to be “transphobic”. The objective of the “Standards” is to be “gender affirming”. The only way to “affirm” completely subjective self-identification is to find completely arbitrary criteria to describe them. The affirmation then will never get into trouble to spot the logical contradictions of its own narrative.

The argument of the “Standards” propose that “nonbinary” means to identify outside the gender binary. What is interesting here is that this statement seems necessary to support their concept of “nonbinary”. Why? If “nonbinary” is the state of rejecting the constraints of binaries in principle and to engage in the diversity of states without any abstract pattern to organise it, then it seems logical to omit any reference to the gender or any other binary.

There is an important point here to make. The logical fallacies we described above have the paradoxical consequence that the gender binary as a binary principle does not disappear. If we assume that the basic premise of gender theory is that biological sex is a social construct and gender identity the main actor on the playing field, then it follows that biological sex has no or only little reality. If transgender as an identity has substance, it is because biological sex is not actually real. It is assigned at birth, as they say. The “Standards” commit to this idea by using the terms Assigned Female At Birth (AFAB) or Assigned Male At Birth (AMAB). If this idea is true, males can give birth or menstruate and females can have beards and a penis. People are then able to transition, because the inner boundaries of the sex category are artificial and have no intrinsic reality.

The problem of this idea is most obvious, when we look at a statement like “Transwomen are women”. If the notion of gender identity is a rejection of the gender binary as a concept, then the fact that transwomen want to be women is very weird, because their existence as trans women is based on the assumption that there are no real women, but only social constructs that behave like ones. Transwomen are considered women, because they self-identify as women. But if the statement to identify as a woman should make any sense, it is necessary to acknowledge that there are real women in the biological sense and that this biological reality is necessary to sustain that statement. Transwomen are women in the sense of self-identification, while at the same time the assumption that enabled their transition holds that there are no women in the biological sense and transitioning is just the arbitrary switch between social constructs.

If one rejects the notion of women as a stable category, which is necessary for transwomen to become women, the whole agenda goes into a feedback loop of self contradictory nature. It goes without saying that these contradictions are nowhere addressed, neither in the “Standards” nor in any other paper or statement that makes an argument for “gender equality”. The solution is obviously the establishment of a religious doctrine that demands absolute obedience and pursues every critical observation as “transphobic”. But the agenda is, as we have shown, inconsistent and contradictory and has no interest in any intellectual rigor.

The “nonbinary” catalogue then adds no solution to the contradiction, but enforces it even more. If there is a place outside the gender binary, then the gender binary as a point of reference becomes an absolute anchor to which all “nonbinary” identities must refer and so destroys the argument in itself. To be “nonbinary” means simply that it is a state of being one and many different states at the same time and as we have shown this is just a logical fallacy.

When people refer to the notion of “Occam’s razor”, they usually want to say that a basic premise does not lead to the following conclusion. At least in this particular sense, the “Standards” do not support Occam’s razor and for all it is worth, we have to leave it like that.