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“Nobody Ever Correctly Recognizes Me”: Nonbinary Presentation, Visibility, and Safety Across Contexts

Max Osborn (3 Gary Court, USA)

Gender Visibility and Erasure

ISBN: 978-1-80382-594-6, eISBN: 978-1-80382-593-9

ISSN: 1529-2126

Publication date: 15 August 2022


The current study examines the strategies that nonbinary people use to communicate their gender identities across contexts, including an exploration of how they modify their gender presentations in response to situations perceived as risky or unsafe. Data were drawn from interviews with 19 nonbinary people, and a modified grounded theory approach was used to identify prevalent or recurring elements in the data. Nonbinary people struggled to communicate their genders to others and felt constrained by the knowledge that others would inevitably interpret their gender presentations within the context of a strict binary. Moreover, they often felt pressure to enact normative, binary presentations in order to feel safer or less visibly gender-nonconforming, particularly in contexts in which social norms were experienced as heightened, such as when engaging with institutions or navigating public spaces such as restrooms or transit systems. This study contributes to the limited literature on nonbinary identities and highlights how dominant transnormative narratives constrain presentation and communication.




This work was supported by funding from the CUNY Graduate Center, the Association of Doctoral Programs in Criminology and Criminal Justice, and the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Women and Crime.


Osborn, M. (2022), "“Nobody Ever Correctly Recognizes Me”: Nonbinary Presentation, Visibility, and Safety Across Contexts", Segal, M.T. and Demos, V. (Ed.) Gender Visibility and Erasure (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 33), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 51-69.



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