Rachel Anne Williams
Aug 20 · 3 min read

The tricky parameters of nonbinary dating life

Nonbinary people are by definition neither men or women. Straight people are typically attracted to either men or women. A straight man is attracted to women but could also be attracted to a nonbinary person. Would that thereby make him not straight? How does existing outside of the binary affect people who define their sexual orientation within the binary?

Personally, I feel like if you are dating a nonbinary person that automatically makes the relationship queer in some way. But there are still straight people who would be reluctant to give up their self-identification as straight, especially men, despite the possibility of them being attracted to a nonbinary person. This is especially true since so many people define their orientation with respect to physical sex — that is, they define their orientation with respect to liking people with certain body parts or defining their orientation with respect to liking certain types of appearance as opposed to types of identity.

Could you be in a queer relationship while still being straight? If you’re dating a nonbinary person and calling yourself straight you’re in sense constantly misgendering your partner — denying their identity. And that’s not good. But can we necessarily police someone’s orientation? If they feel they are straight can we force them to deny that identity? Perhaps it depends on how comfortable a nonbinary person would feel about dating a person who continues to identify as straight.

Regardless, these questions point to the fact that nonbinary people kind of throw a wrench in the normal dynamics of sexual attraction. Personally, as a nonbinary person I feel like anyone who dates me cannot be straight no matter what they insist upon. My very existence queers the normal parameters of being straight. There is nothing “straight” about me so therefore if you’re dating me you cannot be “straight.” To be a straight person in a straight relationship means that you are attracted to straight people of the “opposite sex.” But I am not a straight person. I define myself outside the binary. So nobody who dates me is straight.

I’m not one to police somebody’s identity. But if someone continued to insist they are straight and they want to date me I think I would have to have a series of conversations that explained what it means to date a nonbinary person.

But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps you can be a straight person but nevertheless be in a queer relationship? Or perhaps relationships with nonbinary people aren’t necessarily queer? Can the status of the person be different from the status of the relationship? Maybe there are people for whom this dilemma is not really a dilemma and they’re not bothered by a straight-identifying person dating a nonbinary person. Regardless it feels like we might need to come up with a whole new set of terms to describe nonbinary dating.

I don’t necessarily think there is a clear-cut, universal answer to this question for all relationships. It will likely vary from person to person, relationship to relationship. Some people might feel more strongly about this than others. But it’s nevertheless something worth discussing with potential partners.

Rachel Anne Williams

Written by

Author & writer, ex-academic philosopher. Author of Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics with @JKPBooks — Out now!

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