5 things I’ve learned from dating someone who is non-binary

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Hanna Neumann

Contributor, intersectional queer feminist, nature enthusiast

We can admit that our society breaks things up into polar opposite binaries, including gender. It is still to this day commonly unknown that gender is an ever-evolving fluid entity and not just merely male or female. Being cisgender, you don’t really have to consider much of that in the first place. My partner is non-binary, and I have learned a lifetime of knowledge since being with them. I am fully aware that I can not attest or fully empathize with the struggles of non-binary individuals. However, I would love to share what I have acquired throughout my relationship with my partner.

1.Your “relationship label” will be questioned. A lot.

The questioning of a “relationship label” not only comes from almost everyone we interact with, but it also comes from us. In a society that structures most relationships in a heteronormative binary, dating someone whose identity is different from yours and not accepted in general really raises questions. What do we call our relationship? One non-binary person and one cis-woman– what label is there for that? Most people look at a person, in this case a couple, and automatically assume their sexuality, gender identity, and relationship label all based off of this shallow assumption that is influenced by the socially constructed bias our brains have adapted to.

People tend to get confused when we go out into public. We have been assumed to be lesbians, a straight couple, and also as being “beards” for each other (when people assume I am a lesbian and they are a gay man). We have been told by many people what our “relationship label” is and a lot of the time it makes us uncomfortable. Many people try to dictate our label by trying to warp it into fitting into one of their boxes. At this moment in time, there are no labels that describe our relationship. Maybe soon there will be more inclusive language, but until then, we are partners who really stray away from being seen as straight. That is that.

2. Misgendering hurts more than you realize.

My partner gets misgendered constantly. Unfortunately, while assuming our identities, people usually wrongly assume my partner’s gender. People tend not to assume that someone is non-binary because it does not fit into their precomposed boxes. What most cis people don’t realize is that their constant misgendering of people is causing so much pain and agony in the non-binary community. By doing so, cis-people are trying to force these non-binary folk into boxes that most don’t have the option of choosing between. Many non-binary people suffer from dysphoria, which for my partner is constant when being misgendered. The most important thing I have learned from this is to never assume someone’s pronouns–ALWAYS ask.

3. You really need to have conversations about sex before having it.

You know there is a problem when people don’t know that there is a difference between sex and gender. Unfortunately, this ideology causes havoc in the non-binary community. It is crucial to have a conversation prior to having sex because you don’t know what is going to trigger them. Some non-binary folk may be okay with their bodies, and more directly, certain body parts, while others may not be. Sex opens people up to a vulnerable and intimate place where knowing your partner’s triggers is imperative.  Never assume– just talk about it!

4. No matter what, SUPPORT is crucial.

Being in a society where you’re being constantly misgendered and placed into categories that you don’t fit into can be extremely uncomfortable. Being in a society where the suicide rate for your community is skyrocketing is unbearable. Being in a society where being attacked or killed is at an all time high is unfathomable. Non-binary people need to be respected, their identities and lives need to be validated, and they deserve each and every person’s support. When mostly everything in society is working against the non-binary community, the support from loved ones is so, so undeniably crucial.

5. No matter how much education I think I have on the non-binary community, there is always more to learn.

I spent years dedicated to a Women’s and Gender Studies degree, but I know that this education and learning process is nowhere near the end of its days. Information and experience is much more authentic when it comes from an individual inside of the community. No amount of classroom education can prepare you for personal experience. My relationship with my partner has taught me a whole bunch and continues to each and every day. I am thankful for this continuous experience and shared time with them.

My advice for everyone out there is to support and respect those around you. Don’t ever stop learning about gender. It is a vastly evolving entity that is fascinating and enriching. But most importantly, know how imperative it is that non-binary folks are treated as human beings with real life feelings– because even if you may not like it, they exist.

 

3 comments

  1. Re: number two, why would you reduce that to asking about someone’s pronouns? Not all of us non-binary people have the privilege of moving in spaces where we can even ask for other pronouns if we wanted to. Non-binary people might use he/him or she/her pronouns. It doesn’t make them less non-binary. Asking about pronouns does NOT cover the issue of misgendering.

    1. Genuine question. If asking for a pronoun does not cover the issue…what are we do to? How do we support, and educate ourselves? As a cisgendered person, I feel pretty backed into a corner here, in that I can’t ask too many questions because that’s rude. I also can’t ask zero questions because that means I’m uneducated. So what are the right questions to ask?

  2. My roommate’s partner called him (he hasn’t fond pronouns he likes as a gq person. He is the least painful) covivemo. I think it’s nice. He likes it.

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