An estimated 11% of LGBTQ adults in the U.S.—approximately 1.2 million people—identify as nonbinary, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. The majority of them are under age 29, urban, and white.
Using data from two nationally representative surveys, Generations and TransPop, researchers examined the demographics and characteristics of LGBTQ adults in the U.S. ages 18-60 who identified as nonbinary in terms of their gender. Results show that nearly one-third of transgender adults identify as nonbinary. However, many cisgender LGBTQ adults also identify as nonbinary—approximately 58% of all nonbinary LGBTQ adults are cisgender and 42% are transgender.
The majority of nonbinary adults reported using queer (31%), bisexual (17%), pansexual (17%), or asexual (14%) to describe their sexual orientation.
“Nonbinary people make up a substantial part of the LGBTQ community, and they appear to experience similar kinds of vulnerabilities seen in the larger LGBTQ population,” said lead author Bianca D.M. Wilson, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “More research is needed to understand whether there are unique needs among cisgender and transgender nonbinary people compared to each other and to their binary-identified LGBTQ counterparts.”
Demographics and socioeconomic characteristics
- Most nonbinary adults were born in the U.S. (96%). Most are between the ages of 18-29 (76%) and urban (89%).
- Nonbinary adults represent a range of racial/ethnic identities (approximately 58% white, 16% multiracial, 15% Latinx, 9% Black, and 2% AAPI, American Indian, and other groups).
- Among nonbinary LGBTQ adults, 42% identify as transgender, 39% identify as cis LBQ, and 19% identify as cisgender GBQ.
- Nonbinary adults report relatively high indicators of economic instability: 68% report not having enough money to make ends meet and 57% live in low-income households below 200% of the federal poverty level.
Victimization and stress
- 55% of nonbinary people were hit, beaten, physically attacked, or sexually assaulted at some point since they were 18 years old.
- 82% of them faced emotional abuse as a child, and 53% report that they were bullied often as a child.
- 11% of nonbinary people were exposed to conversion therapy as a child.
- 41% of nonbinary adults report that their health is poor or fair.
- 51% of them had symptoms consistent with serious mental illness, and 39% had attempted suicide.
“Identities and terms related to gender and sexuality shift across time,” said study author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “Our study found nonbinary adults tend to be younger, but as the use and acceptance of gender nonbinary terms continues to grow, we may see changes in numbers and characteristics of LGBTQ nonbinary people.”
The Generations Study examines the health and well-being of cisgender and nonbinary LGBQ people. The TransPop Study is the first nationally representative survey of transgender individuals in the U.S., defined as individuals who stated that their current gender identity (e.g., man, woman, transgender) was different than their sex assigned at birth (male, female) across all sexual orientations.