Follow TV Tropes

Following

Non-Human Non-Binary

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/startrip.png
Historically, many cultures have described people using a gender binary, in which everyone is strictly categorised as either "male" or "female", even though this over-simplification doesn't fit many people. This is not something that all cultures do, but it has been particularly rigidly enforced in European cultures, as well as those with a history of being impacted by European colonialism. While this is slowly changing, both in our perceptions of our daily reality as well as in the media we consume, there still remains a great deal of prejudice against the very idea of being non-binary or transgender...
Advertisement:

If you're a human, at any rate.

Enter the Non-Human Non-Binary. "Non-Human Non-Binary" refers to any non-human character or group of characters that do not identify as exclusively male or female — they may identify as both or neither or these, or as different genders at different times. They may be aliens who have a completely different (if any) concept of gender as we understand it, or they may be totally absent of biological sex or natural gender tendency, such as robots. Yet despite not being exactly human, they have enough human traits that we can relate to them in some way.

Similar to Discount Lesbians, although applied to the gender binary as opposed to sexuality, this trope falls into two general uses:

This trope is sometimes used as a way of avoiding including genuine non-binary representation, or (worse) as a way to intentionally dehumanise non-binary people. There is a tendency to attribute the existence of this trope purely to transphobia, or at least an inability to see non-binary people as entirely "human" (both of which may be true in some cases - the analysis video Aliens, Monsters and Faceless Demons: The Dehumanisation of Non-Binary People in the Media explores this).

Advertisement:

Other times, some uses of the Non-Human Non-Binary are examples of well-intended representation. For example, non-binary creators might want to use this to symbolize the alienation, isolation, and "otherness" that comes with the knowledge that you're in some way different from almost everyone you know. It can also allow creators to explore issues around gender in cases where audiences (or publishers) might be extremely resistant if fully human characters were used.

Alternatively, from the perspective of somebody writing a non-human character, it may just make sense for them to be written as having different concepts of sex and gender from humans (in contrast with Non-Mammal Mammaries and Tertiary Sexual Characteristics). In this vein, when employed to an entire species (or equivalent) rather than an individual non-human, the Non-Human Non-Binary could be used as a way of averting maleness by default.

Advertisement:

As such, this should be thought of more as a common and recurring theme, rather than as an assignment of intent to the creator(s) of a particular work.

Sub-Trope of Speculative Fiction LGBT. See also Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Angel Sanctuary: The demon Belial is a non-binary trickster and the Satan of Pride.
  • The main antagonist of Devilman doesn't identify as exclusively male or female. He's Satan and intersex.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Envy is a shapeshifting homunculus who appears as an androgynous teenager. However, after their true form is revealed, Ling lampshades that 'human' is really pushing it, considering they are actually a gargantuan, eight-legged, lizard-monster with pulsing human bodies fused to them and a case of No Biological Sex.
    • Envy in the 2003 anime is as androgynous looking as his manga counterpart. However his "true" form is revealed to be a cisgender male (and the half-brother of the Elric brothers).
  • Foo Fighters of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean is referred to as She/Her due to the prisoner's corpse she inhabits, but is generally non-gendered because she's a sentient colony of plankton.
  • The Gems of Land of the Lustrous don't consider themselves male or female due to being born with No Biological Sex, and choose individually how masculine or feminine they want to present. This is in contrast with the other nonhuman races they encounter, like the Admirabilis and Lunarians, who clearly gender themselves and others.
  • Itsuki of Nurse Hitomi's Monster Infirmary is a Plant Person who is the product of a bio-engineering experiment. They have bright green hair, can photosynthesize, and their gender is ambiguous. They experiment with gender presentation by varying the length of their hair.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: While he's typically referred to with he/his pronouns and uses "boku", Kyubey is confirmed to be genderless and has No Biological Sex. As he is a Starfish Alien with tenuous understanding of human emotions, he likely does not identify with the concept at all, and just presents as masculine to an extent to communicate with humans.
    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: A telepath mentions that he isn't sure which pronouns he should be using when referring to the Doctor, which confuses Charley a great deal. She had some idea about the shapeshifting, but apparently the possibility of gender-bending hadn't occurred to her, and it's a bit more than she wants to consider.
    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City, the only non-binary character who's appeared in the entire run is Glamorax, who is the living embodiment of glam rock.
  • DC Comics:
    • Doom Patrol: Rebis, the Fusion Dance of Negative Man (Larry Trainor), Dr. Eleanor Poole, and the genderless Negative Spirit, who refers to themselves in the plural.
    • In Red Hood and the Outlaws, the character DNA is a sentient DNA strand who prefers gender-neutral pronouns. They are a member of Generation Outlaw; a group of aspiring super-villains that Lex Luthor assigned to Red Hood as his pupils.
    • The Sandman: Desire of the Endless changes pronouns and appearances to suit whatever whim they have at the moment.
    • Teen Titans Academy has Stitch, a nonbinary living ragdoll who jokes about being a "genderqueer quilted-American" (before pointing out that they're not actually American).
  • Marvel Comics:
    • Marvel's Loki is based on the Norse god of trickery, who is said to have change gender several times in the original myths. The comic book version is canonically genderfluid, being referred to by Odin as "My Child who is nether my Son nor my Daughter" during the Agent of Asgard run.
    • In Runaways, Xavin is one of the few explicitly non-binary characters in the entire Marvel Comics universe, and they also happen to be a Skrull.
    • The inhabitants of the Ninth Cosmos in Immortal Hulk are referred to by the narration with gender-neutral pronouns, used to emphasise how different they are from humans, and show how incomprehensible the Breaker of Worlds would be to them.
  • In The Pride, the series chose to explore non-binary experiences through the Venusian, who, as the name implies, is an alien.
  • The Wicked + The Divine: Inanna is the current incarnation of a Sumerian goddess, who is non-binary and uses he/him pronouns.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dæmorphing, some Yeerks, Taxxons (who have entirely different conceptions of gender) and at least one Chee are non-binary. For extra complexity value Yeerks don’t have a native concept of gender because of their bizarre reproductive cycle and all Yeerks with a gender identity picked it up from another species and not all of them picked up human or human-analogous identities. Also, some Andalites are "split-hearted" and referred to as "they" and "daughter-son"s.

    Literature 
  • Good Omens: Angels and demons, including main characters Aziraphale and Crowley, are described as "sexless unless they really want to make an effort". Co-writer Neil Gaiman considers them all to be nonbinary.
  • The Han Solo Trilogy: The Hutts (huge, slug-like sentients) are gender-fluid, and their gender identities fluctuate depending on whether they're reproducing or not. Most of the time, Hutts are called by male pronouns. When either pregnant or afterward though, they're called by female ones. It seems this shifts back at some point, as Hutts like Aruk who have reproduced in the past use male pronouns currently. This isn't explored much, with Han just being baffled when a Hutt client's gender changes (he shifts pronouns/honorifics in tandem), though clearly presented as part of their alien nature since he thinks about how weird the entire thing is to him.
  • When the Krakau came to post-civilization Earth in Janitors of the Postapocalypse and started uplifting the Technically Living Zombies they found there, they had to reconstruct a human language for them to speak and it included gendered pronouns. With so many species being Starfish Aliens, that meant asking representatives and making some choices. Male and female pronouns are appropriate for several species but Krakau and Rokkau elected to be referred to as an all-female One-Gender Race, Glacidae opted for the singular 'they', there are male and female Nusurans but also other genders needing other pronouns, and the Tjikko found the whole idea hilarious and insisted on alternating pronouns, as in "I saw her today and he looked great".
    • In the second book, the main character meets a human who's nonbinary partially because of spiritual reasons and partially because "gender is dumb". Mops initially misgenders them but when she's corrected is able to draw on her experience with nonhumans to easily accept this.
  • Leia, Princess of Alderaan: Chalhuddans have five genders and change them according to an elaborate set of customs and individual preference, with 3PO saying their native pronouns involve two or three past genders and possibly their future gender as well as the gender they currently are. For the sake of convenience with "drylanders", they all go by the gender-neutral "they".
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: Alex Fierro is a genderfluid shapeshifter whose body tends to change based on his or her gender identity at the moment.
  • Monsters of Verity: Soro Flynn is a Sunai, a human-looking species of monster that feed on the souls of sinners. Soro uses they/them pronouns.
  • All bots, bot constructs, and AI in The Murderbot Diaries are "it", Murderbot included. Even when it's trying to pass for human it doesn't want to be gendered. Unusually for the trope, there are also plenty of nonbinary humans in the setting but they're they/them, and there are some third-gender humans with neopronouns.
  • In The Resurrected Man by Sean Williams, one of the supporting characters is an AI, who doesn't identify as having a gender and is referred to using a distinct set of pronouns.
  • Rod Allbright Alien Adventures: Unlike most other aliens in the series, Tar Gibbons has a gender with no earthly translation and uses it/its pronouns in English (and in Translation Convention). It also dismisses the "It" Is Dehumanizing trope and explains that "him" or "her" pronouns would be insulting to it.
    Gibbons: I am neither male nor female. I'm a farfel.
    Rod: Is that more like a boy or more like a girl?
    Gibbons: Actually, it's more like a pippik than anything.
  • Touch (2015): Technically all of the ghosts tend to identify as the gender of their current host, but some have a stronger identification with one gender or another. Kepler seems to be entirely unconcerned with their gender and doesn't even remember what gender their original human body was.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Time Monster", Kronos has different appearances, including a giant woman. Speaking about their gender, Kronos says, "shapes mean nothing".
    • In "The Hand of Fear", Eldrad has woman- and man-like forms.
    • Time Lords can change their gender during a regeneration, and accordingly seem take little notice when it happens, at least to their fellows.note 
  • Doom Patrol (2019): Danny the Street is a sentient, teleporting section of urban geography who uses the pronouns they/them who is on a team of cisgender humans.
  • Good Omens (2019): In addition to the non-binary angels described in the books, the TV series also portrays Pollution as non-binary and using they/them pronouns.
  • The Good Place: Janet is a genderless artificial intelligence who begins to gain sentience. While she is often read as feminine-presenting, she is polite but firm in insisting that she's "not a girl".
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One: Naki, one of the artificially intelligent HumaGears, is genderless (as is their actor, Satsuki Nakayama).
  • Star Trek:
    • The J'naii from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Outcast" are rigidly androgynous, reconditioning anyone who dares to be male or female.
    • The Vissians from the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Cogenitor" are trinary, with the third gender (called a "cogenitor") making up a small percentage of the population and being treated as little more than breeding slaves.
    • Trills have evolved to coexist with an ageless alien slug (known as a symbiont) in their abdomen. A "joined" Trill has the knowledge and experience of the symbiont's previous hosts. Trills' mixed identity makes them (at least, some of them) much less preoccupied about gender roles than some other humanoid species.note 
      Jadzia (sparring with Worf): I hope you're not holding back because I'm a woman. If it makes things easier, think of me as a man. I've been one several times!
    • Averted with the Founders from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Despite having no apparent reproductive biology and a social structure completely different from humanoids, when the Founders take humanoid form, they choose to appear as one gender or the other, consistently for each individual—an odd choice for a species so disdainful of the "solids'" idiosyncrasies. It's to the point where the series' Big Bad is exclusively known as the Female Changeling.

    Podcasts 
  • The Adventure Zone:
    • Roswell is a fusion of an earth elemental and a small bird, given sentience by a magic spell. They are agender, and use they/them pronouns (although they were initially referred to using he/him pronouns, but this was corrected by the cast the following episode).
    • Festo (they/them) is a fairy and a magic professor at Hieronymous Wiggenstaff's School for Heroism and Villainy.
  • Brimstone Valley Mall:
    • Misroch is a demon who uses they/them pronouns and doesn't consider themselves male or female. This line suggests that they're agender:
      Gender is a silly human construct and it is beneath me.
    • Mammon, another demon (one of the seven princes of Hell, in fact), is referred to by she/her and he/him pronouns interchangeably by the other characters, suggesting he might be genderfluid.
  • Campaign: Sky Jacks: Gable is a 7-foot-tall otherworldly, genderfluid being who uses they/them pronouns. This is because they're an angel who predates the concept of gender entirely.
  • Riley and Shaz from Less Is Morgue are both Ghouls. Shaz is trans-masc, and Riley is Agender. Both go by They/Them pronouns.
  • The Strange Case of Starship Iris Dwarnian Crewperson Krejjh finds the concept of binary gender endlessly hilarious.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has this in two (and a half) separate instances.
    • Ashiok is a nightmare-weaving planeswalker about whom basically everything is unknown; home plane, species, intent, and gender. The issue was initially dodged when the originally small amount of lore about Ashiok didn't use any pronouns whatsoever, but later material adopted they/them pronouns for Ashiok.
    • The plane of Kaladesh features an entire race of genderless beings known as Aetherborn. Born as a byproduct of aether refining, they live extremely short lives, from 5 months to 3 years long. While side material notes that some of them choose to identify by gendered terms, the vast majority choose to identify as non-binary, as they have No Biological Sex.
    • Karn is an odd case. A sentient silver golem, in the original stories Karn was always referred to with male pronouns. But after The Mending, he showed up again, and Word of God has stated that while he accepts male pronouns from the various gendered beings around him, in his mind he thinks of himself as non-binary, because gender is something for biological beings to worry about.
  • In the Mutants & Masterminds sourcebook Worlds of Freedom, Zhanni Windracer from the Freedom's Reach setting is an ifrit "conjured in a form neither man nor woman" (although the only use of a pronoun is a "his" in Warriors & Warlocks). Zhanni's Freedom City counterpart is a cis gay human male.
  • In Starfinder, many Androids, despite their typically human looks, choose not to identify as either gender. Then you have races like the Shirren and Marquoi, who have more than two genders.

    Toys 
  • In the Transformers web prose series Beast Wars: Uprising, Screwball — the artificial intelligence of the human Confederated Terran Colonial Fleet ship Spooky Action at a Distance — uses ze/zir pronouns. According to the Transformers Collectors Club's Ask Vector Prime feature, this is fairly common among human-created A.I.s in the Uprising universe.

    Video Games 
  • Bloodhound from Apex Legends zig-zags this. While they are human as revealed by one of the lore cinematics (showing them as a younger person and revealing some of their face and body and true voice at least) and use they/them pronouns, they're otherwise covered head to toe in full gear that makes it impossible to discern their true gender. And while voiced by a woman (Allegra Clark), it's altered to sound more androgynous.
  • Borderlands:
  • Catherine: Quaterine/Rin's gender is all over the place, being described without pronouns by the manual and as 'she' for most of the story, looks like a woman, and identifies as a man if you play his route (said identification only happens after an Unsettling Gender Reveal). Said route's Good Ending also reveals that Rin belongs to a One-Gender Race of Angelic Aliens, and that Rin's brother is a robot suit piloted by multitudes of tiny pink aliens that resemble Minions from Despicable Me and implies this is the case for Rin's entire species, meaning Rin is possibly a Hive Mind or a literal 'they' who instead uses 'he'.
  • Fate/Grand Order: Enkidu is a clay creation of the gods, intended to be "gods' weapon" and thus has no gender or sex. They used to be an inhuman monster until the divine harlot Shamhat tended to them, causing them to take on her appearance to honor her. In game, they aren't listed with any gender and gender-related skills don't work on them.
  • Kirby is normally referred to with masculine terms, but is intended to have an Ambiguous Gender in Japanese; according to his creator and voice actress, the official stance is that his gender is simply unknown, with the former once teasing that he might actually be female. Because of this, promotional Japanese artwork and even certain games show that Kirby has no particular preference to masculine or feminine presentation (for example, the official Twitter account has shown him participating in both Valentine's Day and White Day, and one costume set introduced in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe is a Magical Girl getup).
  • Mass Effect: The asari are a single-sex alien species so they don't really have a concept of binary genders. They're usually referred to as female (and happen to resemble attractive human women), but later games and source material has suggested that some do prefer he/him pronouns and have masculine gender identities.
  • Subverted in the interactive romance novel Moonrise. In a game full of vampires and werewolves, the nonbinary Rosario is the Token Human.
  • In Outer Wilds, the player character is of a seemingly genderless species called the Hearthians, who all use singular they pronouns.
  • Overwatch: Downplayed in that the majority of Omnics (a race of sentient robots who previously turned against humanity when attempts were made to shut down the factories that produced them) do seem to prefer a binary gender (or at least she/her or he/his pronouns), but:
    • Lynx Seventeen is an omnic hacker who teams up with Zarya to track down Sombra in a comic and was referred to with they/them pronouns. It was confirmed by lead writer Michael Chu that they use they/them pronouns by choice.
    • Bastion (also a robot) is referred to by Blizzard with it/its pronouns. Since it was previously built to mercilessly slaughter humans during the Omnic Crisis, it's also an example of It Is Dehumanising.
  • Pokémon: Later games in the series have downplayed the gender of the protagonist somewhat (for example the option in GO just says "choose your look"), but the only entities in the franchise which aren't gendered are certain kinds of genderless Pokemon (eg. Voltorb, Ditto, and most legendaries).
  • Ecolo from Puyo Puyo, possibly. He's a humanoid blob thing who is referred to with male pronouns most of the time, but in Puyo Puyo Quest he's not assigned to either of the gender-specific combination sets.
  • Read Only Memories: Though the robot Turing is usually referred to with "he/him" pronouns thanks to their namesake and body shape, Turing themself doesn't have a gender preference.
  • Secret of Mana features as its playable characters a human boy, a human girl, and a rather androgynous-seeming sprite whose gender is talked around for most of the original English translation of the SNES game. The single "he" dropped in the ending is not treated as a gender reveal.
  • Roc from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a phoenix-designed Blade originally belonging to Vandham, until Rex adopts the Core Crystal following Vandham's death. Roc usually goes by he/him pronouns, but certain gender-derived Blade mechanics are inaccessible to Roc on both ends of the spectrum. Also, by looking at datamines, while Blades typically have their gender listed out in their coding, Roc's gender is simply listed as, "4".

    Visual Novels 
  • Hiveswap Friendsim: Cirava Hermod and Charun Krojib are non-binary trolls.
  • Witches X Warlocks: Damion is a Frankensteinian creature that often has to purchase new body parts at Mr West’s store and sow themself back together. They are also Nonbinary and use they/them pronouns.

    Web Comics 
  • In El Goonish Shive as members of a One-Gender Race, Uryuoms start life without an assigned gender (though are initially referred to using he/him pronouns anyway) and depending on the preferences of their parents are either assigned a permanent gender arbitrarily or pick one themselves to start and perhaps decide to change genders as they grow up. Presumably many Uryuoms on their homeworld never settle on a gender given it seems Uryuoms on Earth stick to a gender expression only to fit in better.
  • Flashbacks in Ennui GO! include Angel, a member of Florida Man's gang, who's a gaunt, ghoulish, voiceless Ambiguously Human person with no nose and red eyes. Despite their appearance, they're sweet and timid, getting startled and intimidated by a pre-teen girl saying "hi" to them.
  • Nebula: According to Word of God, planets don't have a concept of gender in the same sense we do, thus making every character nonbinary. However, some characters do gravitate towards presenting a certain way - for example, Earth presents as feminine and uses she/her pronouns - but ultimately, most characters don't have a specific gender.
  • Questionable Content: The A.I. Yay Newfriend, aka Spookybot, describes themselves as "gender-ambivalent" and uses they/them pronouns, in part because they're a Hive Mind. The comic also has a nonbinary human character, though (Tilly), and at least one binary trans human character (Claire).
  • Pictured above is Khut, a shapeshifter and major character in Star Trip who has no gender and is referred to by they/them pronouns.
  • Stellarscape: All of the main cast are nonbinary, and while they definitely resemble humans, they very likely aren't human considering multiple factors (Rigel and Vega having otherwise unnatural skintones, being the embodiments of stars, so on). This is most exemplified with Procyon, who has a much more alien appearance than the rest and is confirmed in her profile to be agender.

    Web Original 
  • Aliens, Monsters and Faceless Demons: The Dehumanisation of Non-Binary People in the Media explores and critiques this trope.
  • Four and X, the hosts of Battle for BFDI, are extraterrestrials that go by he/him pronouns, but are canonically confirmed to have no gender.
    Leafy: You see, Fourty-Four, Pencil likes to exclude people who aren't part of her... clique.
    Four: Her, "clique"?
    Leafy: Yeah! That could be her... alliance... or in this case, her gender!
    Four: We don't have that where I'm from.
    • Post-split, this also applies to Profile Picture, nicknamed Profily. The difference here is that unlike Four and X, Profily is an actual object, and they also specifically go by they/them pronouns.
    • This also applies to newcomers Winner and Price Tag from Battle for Dream Island: The Power of Two, who are actual objects that go exclusively by they/them.
  • Critical Role: Like many worlds built for Dungeons & Dragons and similar medieval fantasy role-playing games, the realm of Exandria is quite human-centric, although features sizeable populations of elves, half-elves, and dwarves. Outside of these, however:
    • J'mon Sa Ord is the ruler of the city of Ank'Harel, who uses they/them pronouns. Their 'true' form is that of an ancient brass dragon, Devo'ssa, who takes a humanoid form.
    • Mollymauk Tealeaf is a purple-skinned tiefling (part-human, part-demon), who has been described as openly genderfluid by Matt Mercer.
    • Freshly Cut Grass (automaton) and Ashton Greymoore (earth genasi) use he/they pronouns.
  • For the longest time, Paintbrush from Inanimate Insanity had an Ambiguous Gender Identity, with contestants assuming them to be either male or female, with Paintbrush never providing a clear answer. Come Season 2 Episode 12, and Paintbrush was revealed to be nonbinary, which they kept secret with their Vitriolic Best Bud, Lightbulb. As of Season 3 Episode 4, however, Paintbrush is now much more comfortable with admitting that they're nonbinary to their teammates.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: BMO is a genderfluid robot with an androgynous, young-sounding voice.
  • Code Lyoko: Xana is a malevolent computer program usually represented by its ever-present eye symbol.
  • The Bortronians in Ready Jet Go! are neither male nor female, so they're all technically non-binary, even though a lot of them present as either masculine or feminine. Jet himself is bi, and him not giving a crap about gender is one major reason why.
  • Ridley Jones: Fred, played by non-binary actor Ezra Menas, is a non-binary bison.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Double Trouble is a non-binary shapeshifter whose "normal" form is distinctly less humanoid than any of the main cast.
  • Steven Universe:
    • The Gems are feminine-looking by human standards and refer to themselves with she/her pronouns, but have No Biological Sex and no gender identities. Rebecca Sugar has described them as "non-binary women" - in this context, non-binary people with the appearance of women (which is also how she describes herself). Their exact gender expressions run the gamut from very feminine like Rose Quartz, to androgynous like Peridot, to butch like Jasper. The only confirmed binary Gem is the Half-Human Hybrid Steven, who is a boy.
    • Steven's Fusions with the Gems tend to use they/them pronouns (notably differing from fusions of two gems, who are generally referred to with she/her pronouns) and they lean more on the androgynous side of things due to Steven being a boy, though it varies (especially with Sunstone, since they're a fusion of Steven and Garnet aka Ruby and Sapphire, who is a top heavy Fusion with a flame-shaped head- although Sunstone was actually confirmed to use both she/her and they/them pronouns in The Steven Universe Podcast.
    • His Fusion with his human best friend Connie, Stevonnie, is outright confirmed in-series to be non-binary and intersex.
    • Subverted with Steven's Fusion with his dad Greg. In The Movie, they fuse to become Steg, a very masculine Fusion with four arms and uses "he/him" pronouns.
    • Rainbow Quartz 2.0, Steven and Pearl's fusion, is confirmed to use both they/them and he/him pronouns.
Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report