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The terminology of identities between, outside and beyond the gender binary – A systematic review

Thorne, Nat; Yip, Andrew Kam-Tuck; Bouman, Walter Pierre; Marshall, Ellen; Arcelus, Jon


Nat Thorne

Professor of Sociology

Walter Pierre Bouman

Ellen Marshall

Clinical Professor in Mental Health & Transgender Health


Background: Recently, a multitude of terms have emerged, especially within North America and Western Europe, which describe identities that are not experienced within the culturally accepted binary structure of gender which prevails within those cultures. As yet, there is no clear single umbrella term to describe such identities and a mixture of words have been used in scholarly work to date.

Aims: To explore the origins and track the emergence of newer terms and definitions for identities between, outside and beyond the gender binary, to outline current trends in descriptors within scholarly work and to suggest a term which is wide enough to encompass all identities.

Methods: A comprehensive systematic review was made, following the PRISMA guidelines. Several relevant key terms were used to search Web of Science, ScienceDirect, PubMed, and the International Journal of Transgenderism. The descriptions each title gives for identities outside of the binary are extracted for analysis.

Results: Several terms have been used over the years to describe identities outside of the binary. “Non-binary” and “genderqueer” are currently mostly used as umbrella terms. However, “gender diverse” is emerging as a more suitable wide-ranging inclusive term for non-male and non-female identities.

Discussion: Identity outside of “male” and “female” is an emerging concept which currently has several identifiers and little academic agreement on which is the most pertinent. The two leading descriptors are “non-binary” and “genderqueer.” Gender diverse is emerging as a new term which has the aim of including all other terms outside of male and female within it and this article suggests the increase in its use to describe gender identities outside of the binary.


Thorne, N., Yip, A. K., Bouman, W. P., Marshall, E., & Arcelus, J. (2019). The terminology of identities between, outside and beyond the gender binary – A systematic review. International Journal of Transgenderism, 1-17. doi:10.1080/15532739.2019.1640654

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 28, 2019
Online Publication Date Jul 18, 2019
Publication Date Jul 18, 2019
Deposit Date Jul 26, 2019
Journal International Journal of Transgenderism
Print ISSN 1553-2739
Electronic ISSN 1434-4599
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-17
Keywords gender diverse, genderqueer, gender identity, non-binary, PRISMA, systematic review, transgender
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