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I am a very new Chinese student, and as part of my class we are introducing and listing our family members (mother, father, and older and younger brothers and sisters).

However, one of my older siblings is non-binary, so it feels wrong to refer to them as 哥哥 or 姐姐.

In research, I have seen the word 同胞, would that be appropriate in this situation?

Are there any other terms I can use to refer to them that are not gendered?

6 Answers 6

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I think the easiest solution is to use the children ranking system instead.

For instance if you sibling is the first born child of the family they can just simply be referred to as:

老大

The second eldest child in the family can likewise be known by:

老二

As it is one of your older siblings I believe that one of those terms may work for you.

You can continue with 老三,老四,老五 as you see fit. And as a bonus: 老幺(老么) refers to the youngest -or- the baby of the family.

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  • I think the question is how to address his siblings while introducing his family members to his class, and facing the question "how many sisters and brothers do you have in your family?"
    – r13
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 15:32
  • As a chinese native speaker, I think @Mou某♦'s answer is clever. And, it does not affect the question raised by @r13, which always needs more and careful explainations regardless of any terms you used.
    – hpwww
    Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 9:07
  • @hpwww Don't forget to upvote if you like it! Thanks.
    – Mou某
    Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 14:07
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    @hpwww "各位同學好. 我家有兩個孩子, 我和我的老二...."
    – r13
    Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 16:19
  • @r13 Ok, I see your point, but what about “各位同學好,我家有兩個孩子,我是老大”? Unfortunately, there's no proper term to describe non-binary in Chinese, but you can always explain in detail when there's a follow-up question, like "那老二是弟弟或妹妹嗎?"
    – hpwww
    Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 21:12
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You should go with the gender he/she identified with. It is none of other person's business to know his/her birth sex. You can explain to your close, trusted friends if necessary.

ADD: If I were you, I would talk to my "同母/胞所出(的兄弟姐妹)" and see how he/she would like to be addressed.

In the verbal introduction, if he/she is your sole sibling and you would like to be open and stay honest, you may say "我沒兄弟姐妹但有一個(無性/中性/第三性別的)同母/胞所出." Another trouble-free way to say is "我家有兩個孩子, 麥可/瑪莉和我."

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如果您必须用汉语说清楚这个情况,您可以说:“我有一个比我年长(年幼)的同辈”。您还可以补充说,“我们是一奶同胞,但是我不便说这个人的性别”。

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I showed this question to a Chinese friend whose non-binary-ish. They said they didn't know, then asked their sister how to answer this question. Their sister said she just uses their name. So you could be forgiven for not knowing.

If it were me, I'd just use the English word "sibling" when speaking Chinese, along the lines of how the English word "gay" is used in Chinese (他是gay吗?). Such as:

我有一个非二元的sibling。
I have a non-binary sibling.

It's possible to explain that Chinese doesn't (yet) really have a word for this concept.

中文没有完全合适的词汇。我就管ta叫……。
Chinese doesn't have a completely suitable word. I just call them [...].

When it comes down to it, Chinese simply doesn't have the word "sibling"; 兄弟姐妹 ("older/younger brother, older/younger sister") is the gendered language that we probably want to avoid in this context.

That being said, non-binary people are acutely aware of these language complications, and some are okay with gendered language (maybe for practical reasons, or maybe they're closer to e.g. the masculine end of the spectrum). But this varies from person to person---they'd have to tell you.

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  • How is 兄弟姐妹 gendered? it doesn't specify a gender at all...
    – zagrycha
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 7:42
  • In the end, how OP should handle the introduction and listing of his siblings? Please provide a few examples, with and without the presence of this non-binary sibling.
    – r13
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 19:49
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Unfortunately I don't think there is any commonly recognized way to say it. If someone else knows a term hopefully they can chime in.

I think your best bet would be to use more generic terminology. you could use a phrase like 兄弟姐妹 to say you have x siblings in general. Or perhaps just use their names etc.

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    兄弟姐妹 identifies the person as either a brother or sister of yours - brother, a man or boy of the male gender, and sister, a woman or girl of the female gender, in relation to other sons and daughters of your parents. It still defines the person as belonging to one of the genders, which does not conform to the definition of a non-binary person - neither male nor female.
    – r13
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 20:08
  • @r13 some non-binary people define themselves as both male and female at the same time, or alternating. I suppose it would depend on the individual if this term is a good fit or not.
    – zagrycha
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 22:52
  • You got my point, respect the wish of the person, it is a matter of personal preference.
    – r13
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 23:32
  • In English the word SIBLING is a collection, while 兄弟姐妹 is a list of all (or some) members of SIBLING.
    – PdotWang
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 15:17
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You can use 堂亲 or 表亲 if applied.

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