Hopeless Clueless Theyby asks:
A bit over a month ago, I started going on dates with Bee, who, like me, is nonbinary. The connection between us became rapidly intense, and we started talking about what it would mean if we started dating more seriously.
Bee initiated whenever we would hold hands and kiss in public places, which made me uncomfortable, since our respective gender expressions could make us “straight-passing.” Bee also recently told me that they’d like to take a few steps back and stop engaging in these public displays of affection.
This was off-putting, since they initiated a lot of our intimate moments. I’m left wondering whether I was subjugating them to uncomfortable gender norms and how I could’ve initiated a conversation about intimacy earlier in the process of getting to know them. I want to learn how to better define my boundaries in the context of intimacy and how to open up conversations about intimacy with others. Basically, dating is hard; please help.
Hopeless Clueless Theyby, your concluding question about intimacy was tacked onto some fairly unsettling implications. To be honest, I feel bad for Bee! You projected your fears about “passing as straight” onto another nonbinary person, rejecting their affection to keep up appearances. If you’re attracted to each other, why does it matter that strangers might see you as a straight couple? You both know that you’re nonbinary, and cissexist passerby have little to do with your lived reality. I wonder: would you feel comfortable saying this about a binary trans person, or would you recognize these insecurities as internalized transphobia?
Given how anxious you are about people perceiving Bee as a binary heterosexual, I assume some part of you does the same. There’s a high chance you were subjecting Bee to uncomfortable expectations, though it’s impossible to know without further discussion.
I strongly suggest unpacking your bioessentialism before pursuing further relationships with other trans people. “Passing as straight” won’t incite violence from strangers, but treating partners like diet versions of their assigned genders could cause lasting distress for your romantic prospects. As you, my fellow nonbinary person, should know, the trans community has a difficult time getting others to recognize our identities – we don’t need additional microaggressions coming from within.
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Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet born, raised, and based in Philadelphia. They are a chapbook editor at LUPERCALIApress, one of three co-lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine, and one of two co-editors at Delicate Friend. Find them on Instagram @circumgender.