Referring to older nonbinary sibling when talking to others

I feel like I should be able to find this in a search but I am failing.

My son is writing a paragraph in Japanese about his family. How would he refer to his older nonbinary sibling? Normally he would say, “I have an older brother/sister.” Followed by their name, age, grade in school, etc. Would just using kyoodai work?


What the devil is nonbinary? You simply say you have a older/younger brother/sister.


There are many people that aren’t comfortable stating their gender as either male or female, so they associate/identify as non-binary. Basically they don’t see themselves as male or female. Calling them your older brother/sister would be to them as if someone called you the wrong gender.


Merriam-Webster defines non-binary as *relating to or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male nor entirely female".
You can read more here.


Thank you for the clarification. I’ll stop here, as there’s nothing more to add without getting into an argument.

Long story short in Japanese you refer to your siblings as either younger or older. For some reason you never say that you have a brother or sister, but rather you have an older/younger sibling.

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Don’t worry, the passive aggression you intended to transmit came across.


Googling suggests きょうだい written in hiragana.

Using the kanji 兄弟 can imply it’s a male sibling. 兄妹 less so, but I feel there’s still some implication there.


While I don’t know how Japanese people actually refer to nonbinary siblings, I’m sure directly saying 年上のきょうだい or something like that would convey the general lack of gender specification.


Glossary of Japanese gender and sex terminology - Nonbinary Wiki


Unless I’m missing something there doesn’t seem to be any term here that would work for a non-binary sibling? Are you trying to reference something specific here?

Was looking for Japanese nonbinary words. Maybe someone else has a better resource.

I guess the difficulty is with the word sibling itself, which seems to always infer masculine or feminine. @Belthazar and @BarelyFragile seem to have found the closest terms you can get there

Thank you all for the replies! I do think the hiragana older sibling would work in this case, I just am hoping that a Japanese native speaker would understand what that implies as far as gender is concerned.

You guys are awesome!


きょうだい should work just fine when introducing a topic about your siblings. However, the expectation then would be to elaborate: 姉、兄、弟、妹. If you don’t that’d raise followup questions. You might want to lookup proper vocab to explain their non-binary gender (which could be quite a novel idea for many Japanese).

I guess in part the followup questions about the sibling’s sex will be motivated by the listener/reader’s need to put that person into a certain category so that they can later refer to them by a proper title. They could use a gener-neutral あの人 but that might be a bit rude, so they would have to use their name all the time. But what if they forget it? They’d probably never speak about that sibling ever again…


So in English my son would say, “I have one older sibling. Their name is_____…” etc using they/them/their as the pronouns.

In Japanese he would say, きょうだいが一人います。

Then in Japanese he should use a word for an older sibling that is gender neutral when referring to them (instead of あに or あね) and that is the word I am having trouble finding.

Does this word not exist?

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(Just to apologise as I’m too ignorant to answer your question, but it’s a very interesting question that made me ponder - that in English you can say ‘parent’ or ‘sibling’ or ‘cousin’, which are all neutral terms. But I don’t think English has a neutral word for the equivalent of ‘aunt/uncle’- one would have to make some ungainly reference to a parent’s sibling. Languages are interesting aren’t they)


How about just omitting the pronoun?

Btw, just so that you don’t feel bad about not being able to translate an English expression directly into another language, in Russian there’s not even a word for a “sibling”. So if you want to avoid using a gendered sister/brother you’d say “my parents have another child besides me”. That would sound very peculiar but I guess it can’t be helped since the concept of non-binary is so new and uncommon in the Russian speaking society.


Here is an interesting opinion on that aunt/uncle discussion. I guess language often lags behind concepts, sometimes more than others.


In conversation he would, but would that acceptable in written form? I guess I thought a written assignment would require a bit more formality. But since he is very much a beginner in Japanese and writing very simple sentences in just hiragana, just leaving the pronoun out would be a simple way to get around it.

The average native speaker unfortunately probably not, unless you explain it explicitly :confused:. The views on gender are pretty conservative in Japan, and most probably would not consider the possibility.