First Advisor

Maura Kelly

Date of Publication

Spring 6-19-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Sociology






Gender-nonconforming people -- Social conditions, Gender nonconformity -- Social aspects, Gender identity



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 99 pages)


This research examines the ways in which individuals who identify with nonbinary gender identities 1) understand and perform their gender identities and 2) navigate the workplace, intimate partner relationships, friendships, and the LGBTQ+ community. Prevailing understandings of gender rely on a gender binary; identification with a binary gender is compulsory. Individuals are assigned a gender at birth and are expected to identify fully with that gender for their entire lives. However, despite significant social pressures to identify as man or woman, there exist individuals whose identities bring into question the stability of the gender binary. Non-binary is sometimes used to describe individuals who do not identify solely or fully as man or woman. Fifteen interviews were conducted with individuals living in the Portland Metro Area who included non-binary as part or all of their gender identity. Questions included general descriptive information, questions about participants’ conceptions of masculinity and femininity, and questions regarding their experiences as a non-binary person in the context of the workplace, intimate partner relationships, friendships, and the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, plus) community. It was found that non-binary individuals are largely held accountable to a normative performance of gender by friends, intimate partners, employers, and coworkers. While non-binary individuals are constrained by the gender structure at the individual, interactional, and institutional levels, they also appear to push back against these constraints in small but meaningful ways. Results from this study provide insight into a group of people which has been largely left out of the literature.


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