It comes as no surprise that non-binary people are underrepresented in the modelling industry, and in the media. The fashion industry is not well-known for being inclusive, but recent attempts can be seen in their inclusion of plus-size models at runway shows and more minority models being selected for adverts and editorials.
But what about non-binary models? Non-binary is a relatively new term for many of us. While we may be familiar with the term androgynous and transgender, being non-binary is slightly different.
What Does Non-Binary Mean?
Non-binary, also known as genderqueer, refers to people who do not conform to a single-gender. This means they don’t consider themselves to be male or female; instead, they may see themselves as a mixture of the two, or as neither male or female. This is also known as gender-fluid, or gender-neutral.
Non-binary does not refer to a person’s physical body; it refers more to gender as we see it in society. Feeling like a man or a woman is known as “gender binary” – it’s the gender classification we have known since birth. So non-binary essentially means being outside of this gender box.
Being non-binary doesn’t refer to a person’s relationship or sexual preferences. Just because someone is non-binary does not mean you can assume or guess their preferences.
A non-binary person may choose to use the pronouns “they” and “them” instead of him or her because it makes them feel more comfortable. It’s important to respect a person’s decision if they ask you to refer to them by a name or pronoun that is different from their birth name or pronoun.
Non-binary people are not necessarily trans; a trans person tends to choose a gender, whereas non-binary do not.
Gender identities can be confusing, particularly with all the new terminology to consider. But it’s important to learn as much as we can so we can be educated and inclusive.
Non-Binary in Modelling
Gender-fluid/androgynous models have been popular since the early 70s. Then known as “gender bending”, there were several celebrities known for their fashionable mixture of masculine and feminine traits. David Bowie, Grace Jones, Jimmy Hendrix, Prince and Mick Jagger all paved the way for aspiring models with differing gender conformities.
Today, celebrities like Sam Smith and Demi Lovato are speaking up about their non-binary identities, increasing visibility and making it easier for other people to be honest about their own identities.
However, non-binary models are still very few and far between. While it’s now more common to see androgynous models in magazines and on the runway, it’s still not necessarily common.
The Future for Non-Binary Models
There is one South African modelling agency, ‘My Friend Ned’, who noticed that there was a gap in the market; they created a non-binary division in their agency to help cater to non-binary people who may otherwise struggle to enter the business of fashion.
Unfortunately, there are not many agencies around the world that have a non-binary section.
Contracts and forms can also be an issue, because many requests to know which gender a model is and don’t have an “other” section. Hopefully, more agencies will soon begin to make more effort in an attempt to be accepting and welcoming of people who are different.
How Can Agencies Make Non-Binary Models More Welcome?
As well as altering forms and having a non-binary division, there are other things agencies can do to be more welcoming to non-binary models.
– There needs to be more education within the agencies, so they understand what is and isn’t acceptable as well as what makes non-binary people feel more comfortable and welcome.
– Agencies need to communicate efficiently with their clients to ensure they know the model’s pronouns and requirements.
– Endeavour to understand the requirements of their non-binary models. Which are comfortable modelling as men, which are comfortable modelling as women etc.
Famous Non-Binary Models/Celebrities
– Ruby Rose
– Rain Dove
– Demi Lovato
– Sam Smith
– Brigette Lundy-Paine
– Indya Moore
– Jonathan Van Ness
– Asia Kate Dillon (Asia even featured as a non-binary character in the film John Wick)