questions from the search terms

Questions from the search terms: “femme women using they them”

I’m back with another question from the search terms! Today:

“femme women using they them”

I’m going to approach this one from two different interpretations:

  1. the generous interpretation: the asker is wondering about people they know who actively identify as both women and femmes who also use they/them pronouns.
  2. the (sadly) more likely interpretation: the asker is wondering about people they perceive as women, who have femme presentations, and who also use they/them pronouns.

1.

So, what’s the deal with femme women who use they pronouns? I don’t know, really, it would be ask to ask them about it. But if you’re wondering whether it’s ok for them to use they pronouns, then yes, absolutely that’s fine!

Women of all kinds have different feelings about the various forms of woman-gendered language. Some women hate being called ladies, and they get to feel that way about it. Other women love it, and that’s great, too. Most women are good with being called ‘she’, but maybe some aren’t, and prefer to use ‘they’ or a neutral neo-pronoun. Or maybe some prefer to keep their gender under wraps in certain contexts, and use ‘they’ in those contexts.

I’ve written before about how ‘they’ as a pronoun is simply a way of referring to someone without gendering them at all, and there’s nothing wrong with someone preferring not to have their gender brought up every time they’re being referred to. Using ‘they’ pronouns is one way to reduce that frequency, and if it works for some women (femme or not! Femme-ness or lack thereof is completely irrelevant here, to be clear!) then that’s just fine.

2.

It’s also possible that the ‘femme woman’ you know who uses they pronouns isn’t a femme woman at all!

Maybe they’re a femme non-binary person that you perceive as a woman. Non-binary people aren’t obligated to be ‘androgynous’ or vaguely masculine, and many of us like to femme it up some or all of the time.

Maybe they identify as a woman sometimes, but not strongly enough or often enough to go by ‘she’.

Maybe they told you they’re a woman because that’s what they were most comfortable explaining to you, but honestly it doesn’t matter. They’ve apparently also told you they use they pronouns, so go ahead and do that. You won’t hurt anyone if you do.

Questions from the search terms: “What to put in a dating bio as someone non-binary?”

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

What to put in a dating bio as someone non-binary?

Online dating as a non-binary person is definitely a tricky one, and there’s a few different choices you have to make around it. There’s also no wrong answers, so it really depends on your particular preferences and comfort levels, but here are the things you’re going to want to consider:

Most (actually all, as far as I know?) online dating sites and apps require you to sort yourself into one binary gender

Unfortunate, but true. Even options like OKCupid, which has a wide variety of gender identity options beyond man and woman, only lets its users filter for either men or women (or both!), and so they ultimately make non-binary people decide whether we want to be shown to people looking for men or for women (and both is not an option on this end of things…).

So, what’s a non-binary person to do?

I think there’s two main things to consider here:

  1. What are you most comfortable with? If you must be lumped into one binary gender, is there one you feel more ok with being lumped into? For instance, if you are distinctly transmasculine or a demiboy, you might be more comfortable being grouped in with men (or not! Again, there’s no wrong answers here. It’s about what makes you feel least weird or icky, really.)But maybe both options feel equally uncomfortable/comfortable (or maybe it depends on the day? In that case, definitely choose a site that will allow you to change your gender as needed! But I digress…) If both options feel essentially the same to you, you’ll want to ask yourself:
  2. Which option will cause you to be seen by the best potential matches? Online dating is a numbers game, and people get matched up algorithmically. In general, being up-front and honest is the best way to find people who are actually interested in people like you, but stuck between two inaccurate choices, it’s reasonable to pick the one that’ll yield the best results for you. So consider whether someone who is looking for men or for women will be more likely to click through to your profile based on the summary/profile picture when browsing. Or, consider whether the people most likely to click through in each case are more likely to be the kinds of people you *want* clicking on your profile – maybe you know that you tend to get more interest from people who are into women, but you’re more interested in connections from people who will dig you for more manly qualities? Then put yourself in with men and let the chips fall where they may!

OK, but how do I let people know that I’m non-binary?

Some sites do actually let you set your gender as non-binary (or as more specific identities under the non-binary umbrella), and that can be helpful, but you should also be aware that most people browsing the site will gloss over that part of your profile, and may (somewhat reasonably) assume that you ar the gender they clicked on as “searching for”, given that that’s what they asked for.

Unfortunately there’s no way to make sure the people messaging you notice that you’re non-binary, or prevent yourself from getting misgendered. A lot of people take a scattershot approach to online dating and will just fire off the same opening message to anyone the algorithm sends their way without even looking at their profile. More and more dating apps are setting up barriers to this method, requiring mutual ‘likes’ before messages can be sent, but still the scattershot-rangers just go around liking everyone and sending out their form messages as soon as they get a notification of a mutual like.

But, if you’re like me, you can choose to see this as a bit of an advantage. As a non-binary person it will be even easier for you to immediately identify the people who didn’t even give your profile a cursory glance, and avoid wasting your time on them!

The last time I had a dating profile (before I broke up with OKC for good this time, after the insultingly condescending way they tried to phase out usernames (yes, I realize they walked back the policy almost immediately, and you literally can just use any username as your ‘name’, but it was a nail in the coffin for on top of my other ongoing complaints), but I digress again…) I was very upfront about both being non-binary, and that I had no patience with being misgendered.

I’m not on dating sites to do gender 101 with random strangers who just want to get into my pants. I do that work here (and I actually used to link to this blog from my profile, so if anyone was actually genuinley interested in my thoughts on gender, they were right at their fingertips!). I don’t have the exact wording anymore, but if I was writing my “I’m non-binary” disclaimer today, it would be:

In case you missed it at the top of my profile (who reads those anyway?), I am a non-binary person. My pronuons are they/them/their. I don’t date straight people (#sorrynotsorry). I also have a zero tolerance policy on being misgendered by potential dates (that kind of intimacy requires a higher standard than just a rando on the street!), so consider yourself warned!

I try to find a balance between being setting a very clear boundary, while maintaining a conversational/pleasant tone. It’s… hard, and there are people who will automatically read anything you have to say about being non-binary as confrontational or as you being difficult, but if you’re like me, you will also see this as an advantage – these folks will either show themselves the door, or show you their asses immediately, avoiding wasting too much of your time!

Just be direct and honest. You don’t need to write an essay on your genderfeels (though you can if you want! Some people are into that!), and you can gauge your own level of aggressiveness in setting any boundaries you have around being misgendered (or whether you want to date straight people! I know some non-binary people do!), but if it’s important to you that people know youre non-binary before you go on a date with them, just put it out there.

And good luck!

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.

Non-thesaurus: Non-impactful

Way back in the early years of Valprehension, I wrote a couple of “non-thesaurus” posts. These posts take common non-words – that is, words that people instinctively use, but that aren’t technically ‘words’ according to the word authorities or whatever – and provide a list of ‘real’ words that can be used instead.

I still get occasional hits from people looking for ways to call things impactful without losing marks for using the (non)-word impactful. But I recently visited by someone looking for synonyms to “nonimpactful”, so hey, why not write that one up as well? Here’s some words you may be able to use as an alternative to calling something ‘non-impactful’ (or unimpactful?). I’ve tried to cover my bases for different potential contexts and uses:

  • banal
  • boring
  • empty
  • frivolous
  • hollow
  • impotent
  • inane
  • inconsequential
  • ineffective
  • insipid
  • irrelevant
  • lacklustre
  • mundane
  • pointless
  • prosaic
  • trivial
  • unconvincing
  • uninspired
  • uninspiring

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?

Question from the search terms: “if i love a nonbinary am i straight?”

Another question from my recent searhc terms:

if i love a nonbinary am i straight?

Mostly my answer to this question is: I don’t know, *are* you straight? Because you’re the only real authority on that!

But that’s not helpful at all, I know. So let me throw some more thoughts at you about this.

I am personally of the belief that people who are attracted to non-binary people in more than a passing way should consider finding a label for hteir sexuality that doesn’t imply they are attracted to only one gender. That is, I am dubious about people who identify as straight, or lesbian, or  otherwise exclusively hetero- or homo-sexual/romantic while also dating, fucking and/or being in love with non-binary people. I think that in doing so, these people are implicitly invalidating their date-mate/fuckbuddy/loved one’s gender identity by rounding it into whichever binary gender they are usually attracted to. I’ve written about this idea more fully before, in fact.

I also understand that this is a complicated thing, and that the real problem with these labels is that the ways in which we currently classify sexual orientations simply can’t reasonably account for non-binary people. Because, realistically, all non-binary people are constantly being perceived as one binary gender or the other, and literally all people who consider themselves exclusively straight or exclusively gay may very well have been attracted to any number of non-binary people without even realizing it, and of course it’s ridiculous (or at least entirely unproductive) to conclude that therefore no one is really straight.

So, person who asked this question, I don’t have a clear answer for you here, other than that you should go with your gut on this – it is possible that regardless of your feelings for this non-binary person, that ‘straight’ really is the best description for the way you experience your sexuality. But if identifying as straight while being in love with a non-binary person seems wrong to you, you can go with your gut on that, too – and there’s plenty of other identities that might feel more comfortable to you, maybe you’re heteroflexible, maybe you’re bi, or maybe you’re most comfortable with queer.

I hope this helps!

Question from the search terms: “do nb people have straight privilege”?

This question popped up in my search terms last month:

do nb people have straight privilege?

The quickest answer to this question is that for the most part, no, non-binary people don’t have straight privilege. The reason for this is that most non-binary people aren’t straight to begin with (I don’t know any non-binary people who identify as straight, but I’m sure some exist!), and you can’t have straight privilege if you aren’t straight!

Non-binary people may, however have access to what’s called straight-passing privilege, which is a much more complicated thing, and I am somewhat dubious about calling it privilege at all.

Straight-passing privilege is concept that’s relevant to any couple that, when out in public, appears to be a straight couple, even though one or both of the people in that couple may not be straight. So straight-passing privilege is highly relevant to bisexual and pansexual people (who are very often in hetero relationships), as well as to some non-binary people (and some of the people who date us!)

The reason straight-passing is sometimes referred to as a privilege is because it does allow some LGBT people to benefit from some aspects of straight privilege. Bi people in hetero relationships can get married to their partners pretty much anywhere, while bi people in relationships with people of the same gender can’t (the situation is more complicated for ‘straight-passing’ couples with at least one non-binary/trans person in them though). Straight-passing couples of all kinds can be pretty sure they’re not going to have to deal with anti-LGBT harassment, while couples or individuals that are visibly LGBT are inherently at risk whenever they are out in public. These sorts of things are the trappings of so-called straight-passing privilege.

But the thing about being straight-passing is it’s a double-edged sword – the flip side of a straight-passing person’s (potential) greater safety and access to legal recognition of their relationship is the fact that, by virtue of being straight-passing at all, that person’s actual identity (and their history of marginalization due to that identity) is erased.

To be straight-passing is to be, in some respects, invisibilized. To be straight-passing is to be invalidated in your actual identity. The fact that bisexual people’s orientation is so often over-written by our current relationship status is, in fact, blatant bisexual erasure. It’s a symptom bisexual people’s oppression, and so to call it ‘privilege’ is extremely questionable.

The same argument applies to non-binary people here – if people think I am straight because they perceive me to be a woman, and because my partner is a cis man, that’s not a privilege; that’s just me being misgendered. ‘Privilege’ that only exists as long as someone is making incorrect assumptions about who I am is not really privilege at all, as far as I’m concerned.

So, again, the TL;DR here is a resounding “No, nb people do not, (in general) have straight privilege“. We are sometimes extended some of the benefits of straight privilege by people who have misread who we are, but this ‘privilege’ is only available to us at the cost of hiding our identities.