2022: The Year of Non-Binary Representation

non-binary characters 2022

As we look back on all the ups and downs of 2022, one thing stands out to me: there was a lot of non-binary representation!  Despite how horrible so many other things have been this year, that was surprisingly solid.  It’s so rare to have nice things like this, so let’s celebrate!

Non-binary individuals are people who don’t fit in the typical gender binary.  This isn’t a new gender identity – similar gender identities have existed throughout history – but it’s been gaining visibility in mainstream pop culture in recent years.  The recent visibility of non-binary people has sparked the expected backlash from people who are afraid of things outside their narrow point of view.  However, it’s also opened the door for people to feel more comfortable claiming this identity as their own.  People like me, who may have been too scared to do so if it weren’t for all the visibility out there right now.

The year 2022 was a major milestone for representation, with numerous non-binary actors, athletes, and characters making headlines.  I’ve compiled a list of notable non-binary moments from 2022, but by all means, please do add your favorites in the comments!  I’m not privy to every single fandom, conversation, or moment, and don’t mean any malice by leaving someone off.  I truly just can’t be everywhere and know everything.

Let’s celebrate an amazing year of non-binary representation!

Emma D’Arcy – Rhaenyra Targaryen, House of the Dragon

Lord of the Tides - Rhaenyra and Daemon
 Rhaenyra Targaryen, played by non-binary actor Emma D’arcy, and Daemon Targaryen, played by Matt Smith

House of the Dragon was one of the biggest shows of 2022.  An argument can be made that it has taken the place of Game of Thrones as HBO’s flagship show.  The series follows House Targaryen approximately 200 years before the events in Game of Thrones, showing an infamous bit of their history known as the Dance of Dragons.  Two sides of House Targaryen have claims to the crown, and they ignite a war in an attempt to take their place on the Iron Throne.

The main character of this show, Rhaenyra Targaryen, is played by non-binary actor Emma D’Arcy.  That’s right!  The actor playing the main character on HBO’s flagship show is non-binary! 

The character D’Arcy plays is a cisgender woman, so this comes with a bit of a lesson in proper pronoun usage for the masses.  When referring to Rhaneyra, you use she/her pronouns.  When referring to D’Arcy, you use they/them pronouns.  

If I’m being honest, Emma D’Arcy is my top celebrity crush right now.  They brought Rhaenyra to life in a remarkable way and have been an absolute delight during all the press junkets.  It’s been a fantastic year! 

I can’t wait for the second season, which should start filming in 2023.

Masha – The Owl House

Masha from The Owl House

The Owl House has been a huge boon for sexuality and gender representation.  A same-gender pairing is featured prominently.  As a result, the show has gained a strong following among LGBTQ+ adults and youth alike.  It’s hard to discuss the impact of the show without touching on its representation.  The Owl House has earned its place in LGBTQ+ pop culture history.

One particular character, Masha, is confirmed to be non-binary.  In a 2022 episode, they paint their nails in the non-binary flag colors and display their preference for they/them pronouns on a placard. 

This type of representation in programming aimed at a younger demographic is important.  Maybe kids won’t have to wait as long as some of us did to figure this stuff out now.  Masha and others will make it easier for people to find their own identity. The controversy surrounding the inclusion of these themes in children’s media has been vicious this year, but I fully support it.

Unfortunately, Disney cancelled the show.  For a company that has been struggling with LGBTQ+ representation for years, it’s a shame they chose to kill a show with so much fantastic representation.  It’s great that it happened at all, but Disney has a long way to go in regards to supporting the community.  Keeping their popular LGBTQ+ programming going would be a nice direction for them to go.

Vico Ortiz – Jim, Our Flag Means Death

Vico Ortiz as Jim
Non-binary actor Vico Ortiz as Jim in Our Flag Means Death

Our Flag Means Death was a surprise smash hit earlier this year.  A large part of the enthusiasm came from the strong LGBTQ+ representation.  It was done in a way seldom seen in mainstream shows.  The cast was incredibly diverse, with people of various in ages, races, sexualities, and gender identities. 

The characters themselves were also diverse in that regard, and in various stages of self-acceptance.  It’s been easy for people to find a character to relate to that parallels their own personal journey.

All in all, it’s been a delightfully queer show.  The impact on the community has been huge.  Like several shows on this list, it will be remembered for this impact for many years to come.

The character Jim is introduced as a man.  That gender identity is quickly revealed to be a disguise, but the person underneath that disguise, despite being assigned female at birth, isn’t a woman either.  Jim tells the crew that they are just ‘Jim,’ and the crew accepts it easily.  From that point on, they use they/them pronouns for Jim and that’s that.

Jim is played by non-binary actor Vico Ortiz, who also uses they/them pronouns.  It’s not always the case where non-binary characters are played by non-binary people, or even the other way around.  So it’s worth noting and celebrating!  Ortiz has since been invited to numerous conventions where they’ve engaged with fans.

Season two of Our Flag Means Death is expected in 2023.

Timothy LeDuc – Olympic Figure Skater

Timothy LeDuc was the first out non-binary winter Olympian in history.  There was another out non-binary Olympian in the 2020 summer Olympics, and there may be non-binary figure skaters who haven’t come out about their gender identity.  But Timothy is the first openly non-binary Winter Olympian, though.  They’re a true history maker.

 

This may have sparked a change in the sport, as Canada has recently dropped the gender requirement for athletes in the pairs and dance disciplines.  The international governing bodies of the sport have not yet changed their policies.  Timothy was largely allowed to compete as they were registered as male in those systems, but things are starting to change. 

We may see even more gender non-conforming skaters, and possibly even same-sex pairs and dance couples at an international elite level in the future.  Timothy helped pave the way for this.  Shout out to Canada for helping move this change along, too.

Iris Menas – Frankie Stein, Monster High

Monster High is a long-running cartoon that features various characters based on classic movie monsters. In 2022, one of the shows characters, Frankie Stein, is confirmed to be non-binary. 

Frankie is voiced by non-binary actor Iris Menas.  Menas uses zie/hir pronouns.

“Stepping into my identity allowed and continues to allow me to bring my full self in the room. Into every room. It allows me to speak truths to myself and therefore translates to my relationships, my craft, my whole life. I think people in this career can sense the truth you bring to the room. Being unapologetically and authentically me always and all ways. Not bending to fit the mold that the cis-white-het patriarchy has created for this society and therefore this industry.” – Menas in an interview in The Ensemblist

Janelle Monae – Actress, Singer

Non-Binary actor/singer Janelle Monae
Non-binary singer and actor Janelle Monae in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Janelle Monae has a long history in the entertainment industry. They were already a queer icon due to their delightfully gay music.  But in 2022 they came out as non-binary, which just adds to their epic queer icon status.  

“I’m nonbinary, so I just don’t see myself as a woman, solely […] I feel like god is so much bigger than the ‘he’ or the ‘she.’ And if I am from God, I am everything.”

Monae continues to use she/her pronouns along with they/them pronouns.  For people that aren’t familiar with the non-binary identity, this is actually quite common.  Many of us use gender neutral pronouns, but not all of us.  Some of us use just one set of pronouns.  Some of us use multiple pronouns.  Her use of feminine pronouns alongside gender neutral ones doesn’t make her identity any less valid.

Monae was recently in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and absolutely killed it.  The film is one of the most talked about in recent weeks and Monae’s role has been particularly notable.  If they don’t get nominated for some awards for it, it’ll be a travesty. 

If you haven’t seen the film, go watch it! It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Terry Hu – A-Spen, ZOMBIES 3

A-Spen is Disney’s first live-action non-binary character, which is a huge step for a company that has often struggled with the LGBTQ+ community. ZOMBIES is a trilogy of science fiction films primarily marketed at the tween demographic.  The character is the leader of an alien race that appears in the third film.  Just in case there was any question to their gender identity, the doll of the character confirms the use of they/them pronouns on the box.  They even translate this pronoun usage into multiple languages

A-Spen is played by Terry Hu, who is also non-binary.  Hu hasn’t been in many other things yet, but they have a bright future ahead of them.

Emma Corrin – Actor

Emma Corrin is a British actor best known for playing Princess Diana in the fourth season of The Crown.  They won several awards for this role, including a Golden Globe.  The show itself is a cultural phenomenon on both sides of the pond.  Even I am hooked on the show, and I really don’t care much about the Royal family at all.  It’s compelling television, though.  Especially now that they’ve caught up with the parts of the story that happened while I was actually alive.

In 2022, they became the first non-binary person to be featured on the cover of Vogue.  They also updated their pronouns to they/them on their social media profiles in July of 2022.  Congratulations, Emma Corrin!

Mason Alexander Park – Desire, The Sandman

non-binary desire
Non-binary actor Mason Alexander Park as Desire in The Sandman

Neil Gaiman has been a non-binary representation hero for several yeas now.  Back in 2019, he confirmed that Aziraphale and Crowley from Good Omens were non-binary.  In fact, all angels and demons are non-binary which means there are literally dozens of on-screen enby characters (though many aren’t named).

In 2022, the adaption of The Sandman depicted Desire as non-binary. The non-binary actor, Mason Alexander Park, played the character in the series.  Yet again a non-binary actor gets to play a non-binary character.  It’s fantastic!

Fun fact: Both Mason Alexander Park and Emma D’Arcy were in panels for their respective shows on the same day on the same stage (Hall H) at San Diego Comic-Con.  That’s right! There were two non-binary actors at the biggest event at the biggest pop culture convention in 2022.  It really is an excellent year for us.

Lucifer, The Sandman

Lucifer, played by Gwendoline Christie, has been described as ‘gender ambiguous.’  Though that’s not exactly the same thing as non-binary, many people categorize it under the non-binary umbrella.  At the very least, it’s gender nonconforming and deserves a spot on the list.

The Sandman was just stellar in regards to representation.  Truly a gift!  And, like many other entries on this list, it’s going to get a second season, so more representation is on the way.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m sure I missed some, so please do let me know what other non-binary people have made a splash in 2022! Sports, entertainment, politics, whatever.  Even you.  If you came out as non-binary this year or had a major accomplishment as a non-binary person, you deserve to celebrate yourself as well.

I did, however, intentionally leave out non-binary people who are having a bad year.  That’s not the kind of splash I want to celebrate.  They certainly made headlines, but it’s not positive.  It does, however, drive the point home that we are just people.  Some of us are flawed and are having a rough time, just like everyone else.  I truly hope 2023 is better for them.

Happy New Year to all the enbies and our binary brethren everywhere.  May our streak of stellar representation continue into 2023 and beyond!

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.


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