‘Prioritizing my comfort’: Dating outside the binary

An student who is agender writes about how cisgender societal norms affects their dating life.


The dating pool may seem large and full of fish swimming for love, but that pool can quickly shrink into a puddle when you’re nonbinary.

The concept of dating comes with an ingrained cisnormative script, the idea of being in a monogamous relationship between cis-heterosexual individuals. It’s hard to follow a script when your character wasn’t included in the first place, so you end up improvising. 

That’s what it feels like to be nonbinary in the very cis dating scene. This expectation to adhere to the social standard of what a legitimate relationship looks like and operates. There are gender expectations and roles that people follow whether they are conscious of it or not. Existing outside the binary can be both liberating and frustratingly complicated. To reject the binary and be open about that resistance is very anarchic.

Being nonbinary, specifically agender, is a piece of my identity I hold very dear to me. To be agender means to not align or identify as a specific gender. For me personally, I feel as though I don’t really have gender. I just see myself as Ray and I’m just happy that way. I would never want to hide or tone down my queerness. I worked too hard to learn how to embrace it. When it comes to dating outside the binary, it can be challenging to avoid the pressure of conformity and adopt a cisnormative dating lifestyle. 

It can be tiring having to explain yourself and defend your mere existence to every other person you meet. Strangers feel the need to ask invasive questions five minutes into the conversation. A “hello” can quickly turn into, “so do you have a vagina or no?” 

That type of conversation gets really old, really fast. These types of questions and ignorance can really make dating seem unattainable and just not worth the trouble. 

There’s so much weeding out that needs to be done before you can even consider dating anyone. Once you remove all the blatant transphobes, fetishizers and overall creeps, the list of potential dates shrinks rather quickly.

Adding race to this can make the puddle feel even smaller. A Black, nonbinary person tends to make some folks’ brains start smoking in confusion. I don’t fit the go-to image of what nonbinary is “supposed to look like,” which adds an additional barrier. Most images and representations of nonbinary people show white, skinny and androgynous-presenting folk, even though that’s not what all nonbinary people look like. I know I certainly don’t.  

The urge to conform is tempting because following the prewritten script is easier than rewriting your own. Nonbinary identities are often invalided and dismissed, so when we do choose to follow cisnormative script it can feel good and validating because otherwise we wouldn’t even be noticed.

Dating apps can really be a hit or miss for me and other nonbinary people. Unless I’m using a queer-specific dating app or at the very least, a queer-friendly one, chances are I’m not going to find the app useful. 

On apps that had an overwhelming amount of cishet people,I had conversations where people misgendered me and insisted on perceiving me as a woman. How can you still use the wrong pronouns when literally the first things I list in my bio are my pronouns and gender identity? You’ve already proved to me you’re not worth my time if you can’t do that.

At the same time, I’m glad I’ve had these encounters because it has helped shape what I want in a relationship and how I want to be treated. Anyone who doesn’t respect or acknowledge my identity and boundaries wasn’t worth my effort in the first place.

Prioritizing my comfort and communication has made navigating the dating scene less anxiety-inducing. Having a clear image of what I want in a relationship has allowed me to make positive decisions in my dating life. All nonbinary and trans-identified people are deserving of a love that is supportive and safe. If someone isn’t comfortable with your identity or isn’t willing to educate themselves, then that person doesn’t deserve your energy.

Never let someone take away the assurance you have over your identity. Don’t ever feel like you have to change to fit their ideas. Your gender is yours and you’re not required to conform to a binary social structure. You’re capable of finding love as a nonbinary person.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.