queer

Questions from the search terms: “what is your sexuality if you like non-binary people?”

Today’s question:

What is your sexuality if you like non-binary people?

This has become a bit of a theme in my search terms, so much so that “If you’re into me, then you’re not straight: orientations and attractions to non-binary people” is the most-viewed post on this site on most days, and some of my most recent questions from the search terms have been in this vein as well. However, I like this framing of it, so here we go again!

This is an interesting question searcher, and the answer is the incredibly unsatisfying “it depends”.

The way that we currently define sexuality depends both on our own gender and on the gender(s) to which we are attracted – if you know that someone is only attracted to women, that’s not enough information to determine their sexual orientation without knowing their gender also – they could be a straight man, or a lesbian woman, or a non-binary person (in which case, the label would be harder to determine).

It’s also unclear to me from your question whether you’re talking about being exclusively attracted to non-binary people or not, so I’ll try to cover both cases.

If someone is exclusively attracted to non-binary people, what *is* their sexual orientation?

If you’re talking about a man or a woman here, technically they would be heterosexual (only attracted to people of genders different than their own), but not really straight per se. It would be a better bet to identify as queer, really, from my perspective.

A non-binary person who is only attracted to non-binary people might consider themself homosexual or gay, although being non-binary and being attracted to non-binary peopel doesn’t inherently mean being attracted to people with the same gender as you (as there are many different genders that fall under the non-binary umbrella), or heterosexual (sometimes we enbies like to joke that we’re all het, because no one else has the same gender as us), but again, queer might be the best bet.

I don’t actually think that an exclusive attraction to non-binary people is what we’re talking about here, though. Usually people who are into non-binary people are into at least one of the binary genders as well.

People who are attracted to non-binary people plus men and/or women fall pretty clearly under the bisexual umbrella (as they are attracted to more than one gender). There are different ways of identifying within this umbrella, too. If you’re attracted to people of all genders, then pansexual is a good choice, but bisexual still applies if you prefer it. And queer is still on the table here too.

So, yeah, as I’ve pretty much said before, if you’re attracted to non-binary people, there’s a pretty good chance you’re queer, though the precise label you want to use may vary.

Questions from the search terms: “I’m attracted to my biological sex only but I identify as genderqueer. Does that still make me lesbian?”

It’s time for another question from the search terms! Today I bring you:

I’m attracted to my biological sex only, but I identify as genderqueer. Does that still make me lesbian?

Dear searcher,

I’m hoping that you were just being a little sloppy with your words in the relative privacy of your internet search (it’s not like you actually said this to another person, and I know that sometimes using less-than-correct language is the best route to the results you want on the internet, because those are the smae words other people are using!) but before I address your actual question, a quick clarification for other people reading this:

Being a lesbian doesn’t mean being only attracted to ‘biological females’. For the most part, it means being only attracted to women (who may or may not be the same biological sex as you, searcher!) I also realize that lesbian community and culture is in reality messier than that, and I know that there are complicated and delicate questions around trans men and lesbianism – some trans men identify as lesbians, I think? And I know that there are women who date both (cis?) women and trans men, who still identify as lesbians.

I also know that TERFiness and transmisogyny are pretty rampant in many lesbian communities, though, so those community norms may not be things you want to play into or live up to. It is some complicated stuff, and I am not a great authority on the nuances of lesbian communities, but suffice to say that if you actually think that being solely attracted to ‘biological’ females is an unproblematic definition of lesbianism, you have got another thing coming! The group of people who share your biological sex includes a wide variety of genders, from men and women to all kinds of non-binary and genderqueer people, and that’s not what lesbianism is about, as far as I can tell.

But ok, I’m going to pivot to the more generous reading of the question now, so you can get an actual answer!

I’m going to take it that you’re a genderqueer person who was assigned female at birth, and you find yourself exclusively attracted to women. So, are you a lesbian then?

…maybe?

I know there are non-binary people out there who identify as lesbians, and I know there are lesbian communities who are open and welcoming to enbies (afab ones, anyway…) who identify this way.

Ultimately, though, what you’ve actually run into here is a major limitation of the way in which we try to categorize sexual attraction. At its core, the hetero-/homo- binary is very dependent on a binary gender system, both for the people feeling attraction and the objects of that attraction. I’ve written more than once about how these categories aren’t really sufficient to properly contain attraction *to* non-binary people (see here and here), but I’ve somehow missed the aspect where they fail even harder to provide labels for non-binary people’s own experiences of attraction.

This is partially because my bisexuality/queerness does map onto my non-binary identity in the same way that it did onto my birth-assigned gender. I can be attracted to people of any gender, and that remains true regardless of *my* particular gender.

Shit gets complicated when you’re only attracted to one gender, though. If you want to be strict about it, a non-binary person who is only attracted to one gender (other than a non-binary gender) is heterosexual (though possibly not straight).

But that’s not at all helpful. So where do I go from there?

In general, I think it is a terrible idea for non-binary people to define their sexual orientation in terms of their birth-assigned gender. For one thing, doing so would require non-binary people to out themselves about their birth-assigned gender, and how about we just don’t do that?

So, in general, non-binary people who are only attracted to women aren’t lesbians. You still might be, if it’s really what feels right for you? But, since I suspect that you aren’t actually exclusively attracted to women, and that your attractions probably include other non-binary people and possibly trans men as well, I encourage you to consider other identities. Queer is a really good label for people who don’t fit well into the existing models of sexual identity. Is there a reason why you don’t want to use it?

I think the main reason people in your sort of situation sometimes shy away from this, is they don’t like the implication that they’re into men, but if that’s the case, try this: “I’m a queer non-binary person who isn’t attracted to men”. Problem solved, ok?

Brief thought/PSA of the day: you’re not helping

A little pet peeve of mine is when parents respond to their child coming out as LGBTQ+ (i.e. gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, asexual, etc.), or simply exhibiting non-normative behaviours associated with these identities, by being worried about how their child’s difference will “make the child’s life harder”.

I get that to some extent this is a natural reaction. Of course (or at least, hopefully!) you want what’s best for your child. You want their life to be full of good things and free of badness. And I can’t tell people what to feel. I get that.

But here’s the thing: when you say that you would rather your child not be [X: fill in your own blank here] because people who are [X] have harder lives, your priorities are way off base.

For one thing, when you tell your child you feel that way, whether you want to or not, whether you mean to or not, you are telling them that you wish they were someone else. So no matter how much you may think or feel this way, the kindest thing you could do is not tell them.

Instead, redirect that worry into something productive!

It’s important that you understand that the hardship in your LGBTQ+ child’s life will not be directly because they are LGBTQ+. Or rather, it is not a natural consequence of being LGBTQ+.

It is a consequence of being LGBTQ+ only in the context of a society that harbours anti LGBTQ+ biases. And it’s toward those biases that you should be directing your energy and your worries.

If you don’t want your child’s life to be harder than it needs to be, put action where your worries are and try to make the world a place that is safe for them (instead of wishing that they were the kind of person who is relatively safe in this world). Get involved, speak up.

Actually, do those things regardless of whether you have a child who is LGBTQ+.

Stop wishing for fewer LGBTQ+ people. Start working toward reducing the number of bigots in the world instead.

Gender Perspectives Vol. 20

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

It’s been far too long since our last installation of Gender Perspectives, and I’ve been accidentally sitting on this draft for a while, so let’s get right to what I have for you today:

My Transgender Day of (in)Visibility | Wandering Aloud

Being trans is difficult; being middle-aged and non-binary doesn’t make it any easier. I know that there is ‘no right way to be trans’ and as a rule I’m proud to be out and visible. Still, sometimes I am left with the feeling that perhaps there is a ‘wrong way’

 

What I Want | THEMAGICSPACESHIP

I want to experience the relief and joy and affirmation my binary trans friends experience when they begin to transition and the world starts to read them correctly at last. Confusion is not good enough. Avoiding referring to me is not good enough. Being read half the time one way and half the time the other, and wrong all the time, is not good enough.

 

Self-Expression After Coming Out | Queerly Texan 

My self-expression changed when I became comfortable with myself [as a lesbian], and I think that’s true for a lot of people. When you spend months, years, or even decades being uncomfortable the second you stop feeling even a tiny percentage of that awkwardness, you never want to go back.

 

Gender? I Don’t Know A Gender! | Sofhoney

What are you?

I’m me! I’m Sof. I change frequently – that goes for mood, attraction, appearance, & a whole lot of other things, too. It’s something I beat myself up over – a LOT. It’s something I’ve come to realize doesn’t matter. Not to me, anyway – some people identify very strongly with a gender or sexuality & that is great & amazing & I support & uplift those who identify that way…it’s just that I personally don’t!

 

Other things I’ve been writing: February-April 2017

A compilation of my non-Valprehension-based writing from the past few months! It’s books all the way down again:

Blog Posts

Falling in love with books again! This time, it’s paranormal

Interview with a Queer Reader [that’s me!] | Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian

Book lists

Canadian LGBTQ+ Authors

Chilling Campfire Reads” (list made to specifications for our adult summer reading program)

YA Historical Fiction

Environmentalist Picture Books

My Fave Nonfiction Read-Aloud Picture Books

Interview with a Queer Reader on Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian

Hey y’all, in today’s post on Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, I was interviewed about books and queerness. Check it out!

Interview with a Queer Reader: Kasey Keeley talks FALL ON YOUR KNEES Being Beautiful while Talking about Ugly Things, Genderqueer Books, and Looking for Stories about Trans People Who Aren’t Perpetual Works-in-Progress — Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian

Am I a private person? I can’t even tell anymore

[This post is for the December 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by the A³ blog, on the topic of “Asexuality and Privacy“]

I have a… very strange and contradictory relationship to my personal privacy. On the one hand, I have been blogging pretty regularly, for almost four years now(!), about all kinds of extremely ‘private’ thoughts and feelings, around my gender, sexuality, and all kinds of other things.

I have also been systematically pulling my blogging persona and my general IRL persona closer together as the years have passed. When I started Valprehension, ‘Kasey’ was a pseudonym, but now it’s my legal name. I post links to my professional writing here sometimes, so y’all pretty much know where I work now. I haven’t explicitly linked anything in my professional persona back to here, but anyone who cared enough to do some digging would find this blog pretty easily.

On the other hand, I have always been weird about discussing my personal life with anyone but my closest friends. I’m queer, and non-monogamous; I am non-binary and have a non-binary partner; I am on the asexual spectrum. I don’t hide any of these things, but I also often just avoid topics directly or indirectly related to them because I just don’t feel like getting into these things. Back at my old retail job, even after I’d been there for over a year – and at the time I wore a wedding ring every day, for the record – people were still regularly surprised when they realized I was married. I just never really mentioned my spouse, because… um, it didn’t come up?

I think that in general, I want people  to know these things about me, but I don’t want to deal with their immediate reactions to them. This is why I find it easier to be open in online contexts than in-person ones, regardless of whether the people I am interacting with know me in real life.

…Or, maybe not ‘regardless’. I am always a little bit reluctant to connect with work colleagues on facebook, for instance, though I’d be hard-pressed to really articulate why. I think I just fear the moment-of-truth transition where people go from not knowing to knowing this sort of potentially relationship-complicating stuff about me, even though I’m happier once it’s over with, generally.

My ace-spectrum status in particular is one that most people are unlikely to ever know about me. Basically unless you read this blog, it’s not likely something that’s going to come up. In part this is because my relationship status pretty heavily obscures and misdirects people from even the possibility that I am ace (largely because of misconceptions about asexuality), and makes it even more unlikely that it will come up.

I can see it coming up if someone were curious about my dating habits as a non-monogamous human (since, as I’ve written about here, here, and here, my demisexuality is highly relevant in that context), but at the same time I prefer to do my coming-out about things implicitly, rather than by explicitly stating my identities: my queerness can be outed by the pronouns (and other gender-marked words) I use for partners (at least, when I’m dating people whose pronouns aren’t the ones that make people assume I’m straight); people may realize I’m non-monogamous if, for instance, they notice that I sometimes refer to a spouse, and sometimes to a boyfriend, or if they realize over time that the things I say about “my partner” at various times can’t possibly always be referring to the same person, etc.

I don’t think there’s any instances where me just talking about my day-to-day life would tip my hand about being demisexual, though, so ultimately this aspect of my identity is more private than many others, even though that’s not by design.

I’m not really sure what my conclusion here is, to be honest. But I do wonder whether some of this will resonate with other people, and I look forward to seeing the other submissions to this month’s carnival!