LGBTQ+ Pride Month

What Is It Like To Date When You're Non-Binary? We Spoke To People Who Would Know.

"Non-binary is so different to everybody who uses that term."

More than ever before, people of the LGBTQ+ community are finding safe spaces to live openly and to speak about their experiences. But even with increased awareness and acceptance, there is still one group in the LGBTQ+ community that continues to be under-represented: people who identify as non-binary. 

While one-third of transgender people identify as non-binary, only in the last year or two have Americans begun to legally recognize those who don't conform to a single gender. The National Center for Transgender Equality defines non-binary as "people whose gender is not exclusively male or female, including those who identify with a gender other than male or female, as more than one gender, or as no gender, identifying as a combination of genders or not identifying with either gender at all."

Because most people are socialized to conform to one gender (most often the one assigned at birth), the general public are often in the dark about what it means to live as a non-binary person, let alone date as one.  After all, most tend to think of love and romance as being conventionally gender-focused. But the more we learn about the experiences of all people in the LGBTQ+ community, the more we can move toward being truly accepting of all types of people and relationships. 

In an effort to hear what dating as a non-binary person is like, A Plus reached out to several Americans who identify as non-binary and asked them about their love life. Some have had their names changed to protect their identities and privacy. 

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Courtesy of Jafar Flowers

One of the biggest differences noted by non-binary people we spoke to was how they find more acceptance when dating in the non-binary or LGBTQ+ spaces.

"Non-binary is so different to everybody who uses that term," Jafar Flowers, an artist in Virginia who identifies as trans non-binary, told A Plus. "I think it's important when we're talking about non-binary people in relationships to understand that nobody's definition is going to be the same thing ... I would say it's a catch-all category for gender identities that aren't exclusively masculine or feminine, or that are outside the gender binary."

Flowers was assigned male at birth, but uses "she" and "they" pronouns after transitioning later in life. She has found dating to be challenging because potential partners are often interested first in what her physical sexual characteristics are, which she described as really off-putting. It's a constant reminder people's minds are always going back to "cis-normative ideals or standards," Flowers said. Even though she dates people who are transgender or non-binary, those issues come up a lot and can make her feel quite vulnerable.

Erica, who asked to use a pseudonym for this story, identifies as AFAB ("assigned female at birth") and explained that she identified more as feminine than masculine and was attracted to "individuals of all (not 'both') genders," which makes her a cis femme pansexual. Erica has spent a lot of time dating and said one of the biggest differences in dating in the non-binary space is the general understanding and respect people have of her non-conformity.

"I find that individuals whom I encounter in non-binary dating spaces are more familiar with the difference between sex and gender (i.e. the first being biological, the second being sociologically conditional)," Erica said in an email. "As a result, I'm able to discuss more freely non-gender-conforming attributes that I find attractive about my partners (for example, a strongly masculine male wearing eyeliner and/or heels, or a strongly feminine woman with short hair wearing a three-piece tailored suit)."

Before, Erica said she had partners who didn't understand the difference between sex and gender, which made it a lot harder to describe herself and what she wanted. Now, she has male-bodied partners who are comfortable engaging their feminine tendencies like wearing makeup while also understanding that masculine and feminine binaries are social constructs that, in reality, exist much more on a spectrum.

Courtesy of Evyn Lotito

Evyn Lotito is a transgender man living in Oakland, Calif. and identified most of his life as a girl and a woman. When he was 21, he came out as a lesbian and shortly after began exploring his gender identity. For several months he identified as "agender," and when he was 23 he began transitioning physically and mentally into a man. Since then, he's dated men, women, and gender non-conforming folks. 

"In my experience, it [non-binary dating] is less judgmental about what 'parts' you have and more about what kind of person you are," Lotito said in an email. "There are the classics, like do people find you attractive and are you nice, etc. But people also want to know what your social views are, if you're a good person, if you will listen to your date/partner rather than talk over them. In my experience, I felt more comfortable dating non-binary or queer people after I transitioned and found myself gravitating more and more towards them."

Lotito is currently in a relationship with a queer, cisgender man, but said he never thought he'd be in a monogamous relationship with a man. Some of his family and friends have been supportive of his transition, and he said he's learned to leave the ones who haven't behind. Asked about how Americans could be more supportive of the non-binary community, Lotito focused on the fear and stigmatization surrounding conversations about non-binary people. 

"People question the non-binary community because they're afraid," Lotito said. "Like I said earlier, we are taught that there are only two options ... Instead of questioning people who are discovering themselves, we should accept them, support them and listen to them. Never tell people, 'it's just a phase,' or to 'choose one.' We should all be given the chance to explore ourselves safely and without judgment."

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