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Non-Human Non-Binary

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Pronouns: they/them. Biology: none.
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...
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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.

While 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), there are many other reasons one might use this trope. 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.

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For example, 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.

In contrast to this, it is also sometimes used as a way of avoiding including genuine non-binary representation (similar to Discount Lesbians, although applied to the gender binary as opposed to sexuality), or (worse) as a way to intentionally dehumanise non-binary people.

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.

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See also Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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).
  • 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 a Hermaphrodite.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Wicked + The Divine: Inanna is the current incarnation of a Sumerian goddess, who is non-binary and uses he/him pronouns.
  • 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.
  • In The Pride, the series chose to explore non-binary experiences through the Venusian, who, as the name implies, is an alien.

    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.
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: Alex Fierro is a shapeshifter whose body tends to change based on 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.
  • 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.

    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: 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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) non-binary.

    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).
  • 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.

    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.

    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 AIs in the Uprising universe.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Borderlands:
    • FL4K is a former archival robot who gained a lust for violence and became a vault hunter. They use they/them pronouns. This is in start contrast to every other robot in the franchise (which do use gendered pronouns).
    • Zer0 uses he/him pronouns mostly, but hasn't got any confirmed gender or species. It's ambiguous if they're masculine leaning and non-binary, or if their gender's just another mystery.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 identify as a 'he'.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • The analysis video Aliens, Monsters and Faceless Demons: The Dehumanisation of Non-Binary People in the Media explores and critiques this trope.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 non-binary women. They run the gamet from very feminine looking like Rose Quartz, androgynous like Smoky Quartz, and butch like the second Rainbow Quartz, but none identify as male or female. They simply use she/her pronouns as a default. The only confirmed binary Gem is the Half-Human Hybrid Steven, who is a boy.
    • All of Steven's Fusions with the Gems use they/them pronouns and lean more on the androgynous side of things due to Steven being a boy. His Fusion with his human best friend Connie, Stevonnie, is outright confirmed to be non-binary.
  • Adventure Time: BMO is a genderfluid robot with a non-gendered child's voice.
  • Code Lyoko: Xana is a malevolent computer program usually represented by its ever-present eye symbol.
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