Gender Color Picker

I thought it'd be fun to represent as many of the identities in the non-binary wiki as possible on a color picker. You might also find this informative as an explanation of the differences between some of the non-binary genders listed there.

If you want to skip the derivation and just jump down to the end result, click here.


Starting from the binary

We may as well start with the traditional gender-color representation, which is red for female, and blue for male. Go ahead and click on the circles to pick out a gender.

Non-binary: In between

But we're not here to talk about the binary. Moving from bool to float, we have a lot more values to pick from, giving a lot more to click around on.

Folks who identify as non-binary probably would find themselves somewhere in the purple. For example, if you describe yourself as having a mix of both male and female, you'd be somewhere in the purple section. Demigirls fall somewhere in the red half, demiboys somewhere in the blue.

Neutrois: Gender without gender

But there's still more to gender expression. Folks also identify as not having a gender that is not female, not male, but neutral. Folks who identify as neutrois feel most comfortable when they do not express any male, female, or other gendered characteristics, whether those are physical or social. Words for this can also include 'gender neutral' and 'agender', though to some folks they have other meanings which I'll discuss later. I'll stick to 'neutrois' to refer to this for this post, because it seems to be the word with the most narrow meaning.

With our existing color picker, we can't represent neutrois very well. Say you pick the spot in the center of the spectrum--unfortunately it's unclear this represents androgynous (having aspects of both male and female) or neutrois (having aspects of neither). So let's add some more dimensionality.

Here we use white to represent the 'neutral' gender. So neutrois folks who feel they have absolutely no gendered aspects will identify as white. Some of the demi-boys and demi-girls mentioned above may actually find themselves more along the sides of the triangle, between male/female and neutral, instead of between female and male.

I chose to use white to keep the readability of red/blue--mixing between three colors can be pretty hard to reason about. I also have our palette thinning to a point, as opposed to being rectangular. If we kept it retangular, we'd have "gender neutral but on the male side" and "gender neutral but on the female side" to contend with, which I'm not sure what that would mean. I think this representation has the desirable property of "the more gender neutral you are, the less you care about male or female".

Agender: Not having gender

But we've still more to go. I mentioned there were other meanings for "agender" and "gender neutral"--specifically that you identify as not having a gender. This differs from neutrois in that neutrois folks describe themselves as having a gender, but one that is specifically without male or female traits.

Not having a gender can mean a lot of different things. It may mean that that you feel at home with all types of gendered traits. It may mean that you simply don't think about it. It may mean that your self expression is simply what it is, and how it intersects with gendered concepts isn't important to you.

To represent agendered-ness, I think transparency is a good fit. If you use color to represent a place on the male-female-not spectrum, transparency represents how strongly you feel about being there. So let's add a transparency slider to our color picker...

For applications that don't support transparency or for better readability, you can also use the rgb of the color when on black.

Some folks also describe themselves as cis-by-default. Folks who identify as cis-by-default describe being cool with the gender they were assigned at birth, but also wouldn't be fussed if they became / were treated as another gender. I'm not at all an expert here, but in this system, cis-by-default folks might describe themselves as a low-opacity red or blue.

Bi-gender and Genderfluid

Some folks don't have the same gender all the time and describe themselves as genderfluid. It might depend on place or time. To adapt the colorpicker, we could add a time dimension, essentially making a gender gif!

Other folks may feel that they have two genders simultaneously, and thus identify as bigender (or tri-gender, or more!). It would be pretty straightforward to adapt the color picker to allow you to select more colors, but I am lazy, and the javascript canvas is a beast.

I'd hazard a guess that when it comes down to it, most folks are a little genderfluid or poly-gender. Whether or not you choose to identify as genderfluid is a function of how wide the distribution that feels right to you is. If it's tightly clustered, it's probably good enough to describe yourself as a single spot on the spectrum. But if your gender-distribution varies widely, multiple colors that change over time is the best way to represent you.

Genders other than male and female

Non-binary individuals have existed throughout history, and as you expect, many cultures have names for these people, such as bissu, mahu, hijra, and others. These come with their own cultural context, just as there is lots of cultural context for male and female. Probably the best way to represent these would be with other high-saturated colors as we use red and blue for red and female. The downside of this method is that many of these other genders are often described as 'between male and female', which picking a color that isn't purple doesn't do a good job representing.

But it could also be that 'purple' is a good way to represent these genders. At the moment, mainstream western culture largely lacks an expectation for non-binary individuals, but one day these identities may pick up their own cultural context. So it could be that 'purple' is a good way to represent existing non-binary genders, the difference is simply that the cultural context already exists for those spaces on the gender-spectrum. The description of butch seems like it might fit this spectrum--something between male and female, but with own specific expectations and cultural contexts that exist independently of masculinity and feminity.

Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is highly subjective--on one hand, it's really nice to be free of gendered expectations. But on the other hand, it does also mean that there aren't existing societal structures that you can participate in to affirm your gender. Regardless, I think we'd all be better off if we were free to choose which structures we interact with, regardless of biological gender.

The Gender Color Picker

In summary, if you have an rgba(r, g, b, a) color string that's derived from this representation, you can translate it into gender feels as following:

r - b => male vs female
    g => gender neutral-ness
    a => gender quantity

So there you go. 2^24 * 100 resolution on how to specify your gender, without having to muck about with the messiness and ambiguity of language.


If you've got this far, why not tell me what your gender color is? If I get a bunch of responses I can do some cool data visualizations to see how various labels match up to people's colors.


What about me?

So now that I've gone through all of the trouble to build out this system, where do I fall in these spectrums of spectrums?

My gender-color is:

I have a very strong opinion about my gender, which is why I've gone through the process of both social and medical transition. I'd say the main note of my gender identity is neutral, but there are also both male and female aspects that I consider important to me, which is why I'm not all the way in the bottom corner.

But if you want to really get deep into my psyche, you could also consider me bi-gender. The funny thing is that each of these pieces of myself are also nonbinary. It's enbies all the way down.

My parts:

What are these sub-aspects of me? I'm not really sure, but they show up in my writing all the time (I'm actually mildly concerned that one day someone will notice that I'm writing the same characters in every single story...). Their biological sex and also the genders that they identify as change a lot. I've written stories where both aspects are female, both are male (haven't uploaded this one yet), one is male and the other is female--though in this situation, always so that that pinky is male, and bluey is female--ie it's still very trans.

code demo gender dataviz