What It’s Like to Love Outside the Gender Binary – Maya Strong

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By the time I met my significant other, I had opened my mind and my worldview to affirming the queer community. I was comfortable in my sexuality as a cisgender female who tends to fall for other females. When I found myself attracted to this nonbinary human, their gender wasn’t a turn on or a turn off. It meant as much to me as their eye color or their sense of style. It was a part of them, sure — therefore something that I liked — but it wasn’t the whole reason why I fell in love.

After we admitted that we liked each other romantically, insecurities surfaced on their part. They feared that their gender problems were all in their head, and they were just a butch lesbian because when we were out in public, that was how people read them. They feared that if they were to ever medically transition to alleviate gender dysphoria, I would leave because I identify as gay. I quickly eased their fears.

I assured them that their struggle is valid regardless of how others see it. I promised that I would stay no matter what. I love them for them. Even if they identified as a butch cisgender female. Even if they identified as a transgender male and medically transitioned. Even if they identified as agender for their whole life and presented as androgynous, getting top surgery to alleviate chest dysphoria. I would love them, regardless, supporting them all the way.

In processing through trauma and learning more about the nuances of gender, they realized that they feel more masculine than feminine. They now identify as transmasculine nonbinary with he/they pronouns. This means that he is okay being called by he or they with no preference between the two.

When they disclosed this update, they were terrified that I would leave. He was worried how this label would impact our relationship. I shook my head. “No, babe,” I assured him. “I love you no matter what you do. I’m just here to go on this journey with you and be there for you as best I can in whatever ways you need me.”

Talking about our deepest fears, insecurities, hopes, and insights, related to gender or not, keeps our relationship strong.

Their exploration of gender has made me more conscious of my own gender.

In the beginning of our relationship, I identified with the gender I was assigned at birth as a cis-female. Getting to know them opened my eyes to how imperfectly I fit into one gender.

I realized that I don’t fall onto my assigned side of the binary, either. I accepted myself as gender non-conforming nonbinary. It was a difficult process that was much easier to navigate with someone who had already come to terms with their gender identity.

Loving outside the binary goes beyond gender and sexuality

Dating a nonbinary person has made me more intentional with how I live as a whole. I think about whether I wear certain clothes or take on certain tasks in our to-do list because I want to or because society tells me that it fits my role as the more feminine partner.

Love outside the binary teaches me the best way to talk about gender and sexuality: By simply talking about it. My love and I built trust by asking awkward questions, tackling sensitive topics.

Sometimes, we as a society believe that it is kinder to assume things about people who are different than us than to ask about their experience. As my significant other told me at the start, when someone expresses an interest in understanding their point of view as a nonbinary person, they are glad to share it.

When I don’t know someone’s gender, I don’t assume anymore. I ask what their pronouns are. This is not offensive — if anything, they are happy I asked!

Dating a nonbinary person leads to plenty of questions from friends, family, and total strangers alike.

Are they my boyfriend or girlfriend? Am I still a lesbian? Does this make me pansexual? If they transition, will I be straight? Who is “the man” in the relationship? Who is “the woman”? The last two questions are bigoted and unnecessary. I may never have an answer to the other questions, and I am at peace with that.

Loving someone with gender dysphoria means recognizing when my person is feeling himself and acknowledging it. It means tagging along for gender specialist appointments, advocating, asking questions, and taking notes.

It means talking them down when their chest dysphoria convinces them that the only way out of the dysphoric anguish is cutting their own breasts off without medical intervention.

It means assuring him that if/when he gets top surgery, I will be there to take care of him and the house until he mends, and meaning it.

Loving someone with gender dysphoria also means getting them a drink when I get up to get a snack because “I’m already up,” rubbing their back when they throw up, impromptu pillow fights, silly inside jokes, crying on each other’s shoulders, and leaning on them when the world gets overwhelming. So, in essence, it’s exactly like loving anyone else.

The most important lesson I’ve learned loving my person is that I don’t have to have everything figured out.

I am not all that attached to labels. I know who I am at the end of the day regardless of how I define myself. I love them unconditionally. I love myself unconditionally. Regardless of what our pronouns are, love is love.

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