It is a common misconception that various LGBTQ+ identities are new or ‘made up’. This is especially said about younger peoples' gender, sexual, or romantic identities, and they are often accused of making up new identities for attention. Language is constantly evolving and so, as new words emerge to describe different experiences, it is only natural that more and more people are identifying with them.
Across history, there have been numerous examples of people who could be considered - by modern standards - nonbinary. For example, the Public Universal Friend who lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s and didint use pronouns. The Public Universal Friend did not use the word 'nonbinary', but when reading about the Public Universal Friend, it is very possible to draw parallels with the nonbinary experience.
The gender binary is a very Western concept. Both across history and presently, there are many concepts of gender around the world that are separate from the gender binary experienced by our culture. To consider the gender binary as the only way to experience gender is inherently ethnocentric.
Aromantic and asexual idenities are also not new. Although most of the language we use only came into practice in the 2000s, there is evidence of people who were aro or ace in the past. For example, Boston marriages were the cohabitation of two women who were financially independent of any men. Whilst it is likely that some of these were lesbian or bisexual relationships, or indeed neither romantic or sexual in nature, it is also likely that some of these were aromantic or asexual. Additionally, the Golden Orchid society in the Qing dynasty were several organisations of women who stood with other women against abusive heterosexual marriages. Some of the women were straight, but these organisations attracted a lot of bisexual, lesbian, asexual and aromantic women.
Although it is tempting to believe that because the words are new, so are the experiences they describe, we have always existed.
Nonbinary: A gender identity which exists outside of the gender binary (male or female). Nonbinary identities can be both of these, neither of them, or part of them.
Ethnocentric: Viewing the world through a lens which places your own culture as the basis from which to judge any others.
Aromantic: Somebody who does not experience romantic attraction (this is a spectrum, people on it may experience varying amounts of romantic attraction, in various different ways).
Asexual: Somebody who does not experience sexual attraction (this is a spectrum, people on it may experience varying amounts of sexual attraction, in various different ways).
Public Universal Friend – Jessica Kellgren-Fozard wrote a balanced and informative video about The Friend’s life, and their evangelicism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vTQE7G648Q
Boston Marriages – Written by the National Park Service, this is an interesting article about the origins of the term.
Golden Orchid Societies – An episode of Queer as Fact (a queer history podcast) which discusses these societies.