COtB: Finding Words and Love

One of the greatest disappointments in my life is how FEW people have asked me about my sexual orientation. I have so many good, unhelpful answers prepared for the question “so do you like boys or girls?” Unfortunately, they never ask. Before I come out about my gender, I think most people (unless they’ve never met a queer in their life) assume that as a female-looking person with short hair, I must like women. After I explain my gender, most people seem to give up in confusion. I think that non-binary people are too confusing for the hapless public to imagine us having relationships. Like other groups of people outside of strict social norms (fat/disabled/non-white), we are either desexualised or hypersexualised.

The short answer is that my sexuality alternates between “no” and *vague hand gesture*.

I think my instinct is to be evasive because there aren’t really many good ways of succinctly summarising how I experience attraction. I find myself on the margins of many  identity labels, almost-but-not-quite fitting into them. Lots of things about me are nebulous and sometimes fluid, and I would much rather be not understood than misunderstood. These are important parts of my identity that I would like people to know, really, but I haven’t quite figured out how to fit them into existing frameworks of human communication without stripping away nuance that is important to me.


Most but not all of the people I am attracted to are men. There aren’t many good words for non-binary people who are not bi/pan/polysexual, since words like gay/straight/lesbian suggest yourself having a binary gender. Since I am attracted to more than one gender I am technically bisexual, but that doesn’t really feel right. If I were myself a man I would say homoflexible, but I am not. There are some non-binary specific words but I extremely do not like them. I quite like polysexual, and I am definitely queer, but they do not convey the “mainly I like men” part, which is important to me.

Oddly enough, gay feels quite comfortable to me. I feel like my gender is such that a relationship with either a man or a woman would, in the abstract, be “gay”. A relationship with a non-binary person would obviously be gay. I am gay in the sense of “not straight”, since my relationships are definitely that. But when discussing specific relationships, saying “gay” while dating a binary person would lead people to assume I am also that gender, so it is still a label that I hold lightly.

But Wait There’s More. When I say “attracted to”, it’s kind of complicated really, because I am some kind of asexual (mainly the grey-ace kind). I am also flexibly monoamorous and flexibly vanilla.


Before I started exploring my gender identity, I was quite strictly attracted to men only. The more I pushed the boundaries of what I understand gender to be, the less sense gendered attraction made. What does it mean to be attracted to men if men can be anything? As a gender non-conforming AFAB person, I also felt some weird pressure to be attracted to women (TERF voice: trans AFAB people are really just lesbians with internalised homophobia!!11!). Nevertheless, I am still mainly attracted to men, though there are occasional exceptions.

I didn’t date for the two years after I came out as non-binary because I did not feel like it was possible to be seen or loved as my gender. This is why when trans and non-binary people get together, we talk about dying alone with our cats. I felt like my options were dating:

A) straight/bisexual men and be read as a straight woman, or
B) queer women and be read as a lesbian, or
C) gay men or straight women who, even if they wanted to date me, would make me feel constantly inadequate.

All these options are unpleasant, B being somehow the least unpleasant, so I actually tried to do that despite rarely being attracted to women. It didn’t work out though, and for two years I thought of my sexuality as vaguely interesting but ultimately irrelevant, because I am unlovable. I thought this until I moved countries and met people who did see me as my gender, and liked me the way I am.


So here’s a funny story: in between starting this post and right now, I have acquired… a boyfriend! What! We’ve been talking about ways for him to refer to me. I looked at a bunch of “gender neutral things to call your partner” lists but didn’t like most of them for one reason or another. Partner works for me but seems more serious than boyfriend. I would like a direct equivalent to complete the form boyfriend/girlfriend/otherfriend. (Otherfriend is too funny to actually use imo.) This is an extension of the boy/girl/? problem, one solution of which is “enby” and “enbyfriend”, which I don’t like. For shorthand BF/GF/NF works quite well. I made a list of alternative words I like and want to practice using:

  • Koramiko: from Esperanto. Heart+friend. Gender-neutral but also used for boyfriend.  (koramiko/koramikino/koramiko)
  • Amorato: from Ido. (amoratulo/amoratino/amorato)
  • zefriend/theyfriend: Pronoun-based friends
  • norefriend: from the proposed boy/girl/nore
  • Imzadi: from star trek
  • Herzmensch: German. Heart+person
  • Freund*in: German. Pronounced with a glottal stop. (Freund/Freundin/Freund*in)
  • Goyfriend: Girl+boy. Doesn’t work for us, would be perfect for the Gentile part of a part-Jewish relationship. Especially good if people mishearing it as boyfriend so you can say that without having to Get Into It every time is a plus for you.
  • Birlfriend: not for me but leaving this in in case it works for you
  • (name): as in, “Have you met? This is my William”. Cute.

Koramiko is probably my current favourite because it has existing meaning, sounds quite good, and also has the possibility for the plural koramikoj when referring to our relationship. However, it sounds distinctly non-English, and other people will not know what we are talking about. For general purposes I see us mostly sticking with “partner”, and sometimes “boyfriend” if we want to leave no possibility of being thought to be straight.


If I think too hard about these things I get sad that there isn’t a ready-made word, and think about having to “round off to the nearest gender” for legibility, which sucks. I hate having no words for myself. It is very difficult to exist without language for your existence, and that we have no common words for non-binary people’s love and relationships speaks to my feelings of being unlovable because of my gender.

The problem with using a non-standard word is that it feels alien because it comes without existing emotional meaning and cultural connotations, and we have to develop them ourselves through our own use. I also felt this way when I first started using they/them pronouns, and still feel this way about lots of terms of endearment. (I wrote about that here.) I think like everything else, the solution is to just pick one and keep using it until it’s no longer weird.


PS: I spent way too much time researching gendered nouns in Esperanto. Here’s my understanding of the situation: Most nouns are gender neutral. Traditionally -in- is added for women, rendering the root word itself effectively masculine, but few people do that nowadays, and it can be quite rude, like saying “female doctor” instead of just “doctor”.  Eg: instruisto is now used for all genders instead of differentiating between instruisto/instruistino. Koramikino is somewhat of an exception, and people still rarely say koramiko for girlfriend, though they would not be wrong. So in practice koramiko is usually understood as boyfriend although it is gender-neutral. This works very well for me. For symmetry some people have suggested virkoramiko or koramikviro for boyfriend. Read more here (Esperanto) and here (English). On koramiko specifically here and here (both Esperanto).


This post was part of October’s Carnival Outside the Binary. A blogging carnival is when somebody proposes a topic and a bunch of people blog about it. This one is just starting out, I’m excited for future topics!

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COtB: Finding Words and Love

Some Kind of Demigod (On Asexuality)

A year ago I wrote this post about Leonardo DiCaprio. I’ve known for a while that I don’t really experience attraction the same way that allosexual people seem to talk about it, and that I identify as “some kind of asexual”. I am very confused by the concept of celebrity crushes, and get really stressed when people talk about other people being “hot”, and try really hard to say the right thing (“um.. yes! His face! is nice!”). I only recently realised that they’re just making casual conversation and not springing a test on me. Asexual awareness has helped me realise that there’s a name for the difference I feel, and that different is an okay thing to be.

Asexual: a person who does not experience sexual attraction. There are many common misconceptions. A lack of sexual attraction is not necessarily correlated with a lack of sex drive or capacity for arousal, and does not necessarily mean that asexual people cannot or never want to have sex. You can have, and want to have, sex without sexual attraction, and lots of people do for lots of reasons. Asexuals can also be kinky.

Demisexual: a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone. A common misconception about demisexuals is that they don’t want to have sex with strangers. This leads to the objection “everyone feels like that!” In fact demisexuals don’t feel sexual attraction to strangers. These are two different things. Lots of allosexuals don’t want to have sex with random strangers but do feel attraction.

Grey-A: this is actually difficult to find one definition of. Mainly it’s everyone who is asexual adjacent, and finds it a useful concept but also doesn’t quite fit. I’ve often seen it defined as “rarely” experiencing sexual attraction, which is just one of the many ways to be grey-A. It also isn’t “Asexual Lite”.

Attraction, like gender, is a subjective experience that is impossible to compare with other people since you only have access to your own feelings. But I do experience romantic attraction, from which I can extrapolate what sexual attraction might feel like, and I don’t think I experience it.

Allosexual people are not very good at explaining what they mean by attraction. They say things like “I just know”, and “I don’t really think about it”. They also sometimes get defensive if pushed. My understanding is sexual attraction is a feeling, or a feeling of potential feelings, they have about particular people which makes them want to have sex with them. I just.. don’t experience anything like that, and am quite baffled by the concept of “sex appeal”. I don’t find Leonardo DiCaprio any sexier than anyone else, for example. While this leads many asexuals to never desire sex at all, for me it means I could potentially have sex with anybody. My sex drive, of which I have an average amount, is largely disconnected from feelings of sexual attraction.

I get a variety of things out of having sex despite not necessarily experiencing attraction, and historically I’ve found that having sex with people I’m romantically involved with generally works out better for my health and safety, so functionally I behave quite similarly to allo/demisexuals, I suppose. I just relate to sex and attraction differently. While I am definitely somewhere on the asexual spectrum, I find the ace community difficult to relate to because of how much of a role sex plays in my life. One of the few sources I have found about asexuals who have sex (they do exist!) is Prismatic Entanglement’s How to Have Sex With an Asexual Person. That post put into words so many of the things I thought I was broken for wanting, and went a long way in validating my asexuality.

I might be demisexual. While I develop feelings of attachment, comfort and familiarity over time, and these are sexual feelings, I am not sure if they constitute “attraction”. I am also not sure that “emotional connection” is what it pivots on for me. I really relate to the term grey-ace, because the definitions of asexual and demisexual just don’t feel right in a multitude of ways that are tedious to enumerate any more than I already have. To go back to Siggy’s post linked above, I think that I “experience attraction that may or may not be called sexual, since it shares some characteristics with sexual attraction, but not others”.

I am many kinds of queer, but being ace-spec is the closest I get to feeling “broken”. “I’m not weird, I’m ace-spec” is a realisation that I hold on to a lot. Asexual is also the identity I am most hesitant to claim. While trying to write this I benefited a lot from other people who have written about being grey-ace/ace, and I hope to have added to our collective knowledge.

Some Kind of Demigod (On Asexuality)

How Leonardo DiCaprio’s Obnoxious Face Made Me (realise I’m) Asexual

I was watching Titanic with some friends, because one of them, bless his heart, hadn’t seen it before. There was much collective swooning about Leonardo DiCaprio in his “younger, hotter days”. I thought he was kinda meh; in fact somewhat obnoxious-looking?

This got me thinking about how I always feel quite stressed when the subject of hot people comes up. I cannot figure out what makes a person hot or not hot. People always talk about these things like they are very universal (“who can resist Leonardo DiCaprio in his younger, hotter days?”) and I don’t get it at all. Is it hyperbole or am I really outlying? Like, really? Lots of people put up posters of this guy in their bedrooms? I cannot even think of any celebrities that I find “hot”, never mind this particular guy.

It occurred to me that when people say things like “isn’t he hot??!¡” and “hey look at that cute guy!” they might be making normal conversation and not giving me the pop quiz it feels like to me. I frequently feel very pressured to either agree or admit to being weird (“what?? you don’t think he’s hot???!?”). I’m always like, “oh, yes! Um! His.. face! Is nice! Yes!! I agree!1! I too am a human person with feelings!!” And then I spend WAY too long afterwards thinking about whether or not I think that person is hot and talking myself into it like, yeah I guess I get it? His face is symmetrical and his hair is nice? I guess? And so I try to figure out the pattern and then next time I will point out similar looking people, and to my eternal frustration other people will be like, huh he’s okay. I am just a robot trying to blend in, man.

I always thought that everyone felt like this, and were all just pretending to agree with each other on these things as part of the social script. Whenever I bring this up people assure me that maybe I just have different tastes, and need to stop stressing out about having my own opinions. Maybe I DO need to chill about having unpopular opinions, because I also feel this way about things like (gasp) thinking Lang Leav is unobjectionable. In the case of movie stars, I also think it might have to do with my general poor facial recognition abilities. I do very badly on face recognition tests, not badly enough to have actual face-blindness, but quite far below average. There aren’t that many celebrities I can even recognise, because they all kind of look similar to me? It might also be cultural displacement, from having these cultural icons not actually be from my local culture. Leonardo DiCaprio is famous but not THAT famous here, and I also didn’t watch that many movies growing up.

BUT it does seem like my hotness radar doesn’t quite work the same way. It’s not that I have different tastes, it’s that I almost never find random strangers attractive. I have no opinion on most people’s attractiveness, and still haven’t quite managed to figure out what people mean when they say that someone is hot. If you are asking my opinion about Some Guy, most likely I hadn’t noticed, and will now take a look, and my honest judgement will be… neutral. That might put me somewhere on the asexual spectrum. I do feel attraction to friends though, and am aware of the word demisexual, but I’m not very committed to putting a super specific label on it. This is further complicated by my fluid sexual orientation gender-wise. Maybe I’m just not that into men at all right now, idk. My experience of attraction fluctuates along both the axes of amount and genders. I like grey-ace, and *vague hand wave*.

I don’t know why people are so pushy about these things. They always talk about “tastes”, another thing that I don’t get (“what do you mean you don’t have a preference, you must have some sort of preference”), but freak out if I fail a bot check and say X person is “okay”. It is no wonder this is a stressful social script. But fine, I will stop trying to blend in for a moment and “have my own opinion”. I THINK THAT LEONARDO DICAPRIO LOOKS OBNOXIOUS, IS WAY OVERRATED, AND HAS DRACO MALFOY HAIR, OKAY????!!!

Footnote: I mainly talked about men here, because a) wew my attraction to women is a whole other strange and wonderful creature, b) it is a lot more predatory and gross and less socially acceptable for men to discuss women as being “hot” or not, so that cuts out a large population, c) beauty standards for women are in some ways more diverse than those for men, d) there are basically no standards and no large pushy population declaring their attraction to the other genders. All these mean that I don’t feel the same pressure to *collective swoon*.

How Leonardo DiCaprio’s Obnoxious Face Made Me (realise I’m) Asexual

Help I’m Gay

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So my sexuality is “fluid grey ace *hand wave*”. I don’t really think about it super much, it varies from time to time and is probably somewhere on the ace spectrum but IDK TBH.

Recently I found myself with a crush on a girl in uni, which has never happened before. I have passing attraction to female friends, but not a crush, which got me thinking about stuff. I think that whichever gender I date it will be gay, but I have never really considered the logistics of falling in love with anyone other than a man. Some assorted thoughts:

Legally, if this hypothetical non-dude does not have a different gender marker than me, I will not qualify for a government flat. Getting married and applying for a flat has always been how I envisioned my life going, and what my parents expect to happen. Not having that firstly is a reminder of how much economic discrimination queer couples face, and secondly shakes up my plan.

I will also not be able to get legally married. That doesn’t mean I can’t still get married, and I would like that, I think. But would my relatives come to my wedding?? At the moment I don’t really see the need to come out to my extended family gender-wise, which has been fine. But if I have a non-male partner, I would have to come out about that, possibly only when I send out wedding announcements.

It’s all p annoying. Being genderqueer doesn’t mean that I get to (or want to*) date either binary gender with symmetrical ease, because dating the gender I was assigned at birth would read as “gay”, and that is much harder than the alternative which is normative. If I did change my gender marker, which I have 0 desire of doing, or even start to be read more as male, I would have the reverse problem. And then of course dating a non-binary person would also be uncharted waters, but our wedding will probably be fab af.

*: I find myself extremely repelled from the idea of dating a straight guy and being read/moving through the world as a straight couple, and feel like that’s not something I want, regardless of government benefits

In conclusion. This was an annoying thing to think about, but it is also nice to be able to have these concrete things that I think I will likely do: have a partner, settle down, buy an apartment. I might be overthinking all this, but well. I might not do any of these of course, but it is A path and it is nice to have at least one before me. I did not always have this, and the future was a frightening and impenetrable fog, which was much worse.

Help I’m Gay

How Queer/Trans People Have Sex

Okay not to be weird but I, as a nonbinary transperson without a penis, don’t know how to have sex, and I feel pretty embarrassed admitting that.

I feel like I missed a memo somewhere, and all queer people seem to know, and are super defensive about it. It’s difficult to get a straight (ha) answer out of even Google. The vast majority of things that discuss queer people and sex at the same time have very unhelpful advice along the lines of: STOP ASKING ABOUT IT YOU CREEP, or are just vague and/or condescending. Which is fair because cishets are creepy, and it is very rarely appropriate or relevant to ask people how they have sex, a question that frequently comes from reducing queer identities to sex acts.

But… queer people who would perhaps like to engage in The Sex need to know, and it wasn’t exactly covered in school, and this overcompensation frequently veers into sex-negative territory? There really doesn’t seem to be a lot of sex-positive material centering non-cis people. So here are some things I have been thinking about.

Firstly, inserting a penis into a vagina is not the only way to have “real” sex. Neither is inserting any A into any B, really. So no, a strap-on isn’t necessarily involved in the absence of insertable phallic parts, unless it is. Yes, oral sex is real sex, fingering, grinding, touching, is real sex, anything you think of as sex definitely “counts” as “real sex”, really really.

It is difficult for me to imagine sex outside of the heteronormative binary script, where there must be one each of masculine/feminine, dominant/submissive, penetrator/penetrated, driving/receptive. Trying to fit myself into these binaries is confusing and impossible and makes me want to give up on sex altogether. Outside of that, I suppose that sex is: people sexually touching each other in pleasurable ways.

Here are the few actually helpful resources that I have found so far and you should def check out

The Body Is Not An Apology- 3 Steps Toward Good Sex Beyond the Binary: Having Sex with a Nonbinary Person, Even When that Person is You, on detaching sex from binary roles and expectations.

Everyday Feminism – Your First Time: A Sexual Guide for Non-Binary People Working Through Trauma, what it says on the tin.

How To Have Lesbian Sex a video series by Stevie Boebi who is amazing and inspiringly positive about her vulva and butt stuff. It says lesbian sex but *shrug*, might be instructive to some non-lesbians.

Trans Sex part of the awesome sex-positive sex ed channel sexplanations by clinical sexologist Dr Lindsey Doe.

Nerve Endings: The New Trans Erotic A collection of 30 stories for, by and about trans people

Having Sex As A Trans Lesbian Riley Dennis! Not all of it is strictly applicable to me, but SO helpful. Just exposure to non-cishet sex ed material chips at the cisheteronormative ideas about sex that I have in my head. Both this and the next video very helpfully emphasise that sex is not limited to penetration, a statement that is becoming more and more obvious to me now.

How Do Transgender People Have Sex video with Chase Ross and Stef Sanjati in which they are helpful and also talk a large amount of entertaining rubbish.

See Also: Ash and Jake talk about queer intimacy, Chase and Stef, and Patch and Ryan discuss sexuality changes during transition, Ryan, Landon and Dani talk about sex before and after coming out to a partner.

How Queer/Trans People Have Sex

Non-Binary Bisexuality

Today I had to explain that no, being bisexual doesn’t mean I think there are only two genders. Which is a perfectly fair question that even lots of queer people have, but… I don’t think any cishet has ever had to explain being cishet, and that right there is cishet privilege and I feel a little bit tired.

Now I will explain, for the record, why I, a non-binary person, sometimes describe myself as bisexual. I will do so with a bunch of exclamation marks because why participate in discourse if you aren’t doing it angrily! I kid. You should probably read this slightly friendlier explanation of pretty much the same thing instead. Continue reading “Non-Binary Bisexuality”

Non-Binary Bisexuality

Stop Asking About My Girlfriend

(Edit Oct 2017: man, I had some hang ups about being read as a lesbian. Yes you may ask about my girlfriend! It’s a perfectly reasonable question! I just don’t have one right now :P)

The other day somebody asked if I have a girlfriend. To be fair we had been talking about my coming out experience without being specific about what I was coming out of (my human husk, obviously), and they had made a guess. That IS one step less presumptuous than that one time a total stranger I had just met five minutes ago up and asked “so where’s your girlfriend?”. So… good job?

It’s such a weird question to answer because the short answer is no, but that does not address the several misconceptions inherent in the question, but I also cannot clear those up for the average cishet, or even many queer people, without lengthy explanation. (This may come as a surprise to nobody, but it turns out both my gender and sexuality are slightly endangered species.)

So, here’s the lengthy explanation for anyone who wants to get all up in my business. You could also not care, which would be fair since it’s really not that interesting, in which case just reread the title of this post and you’re done.

“Are you a boy or a girl?” “No.”

Gender labels I identify with: transgender non-binary genderqueer demiflux genderfluid, occasionally demigender. All you really need to know about this is that I mainly use they/them pronouns and do not identify as male or female, and would not like to have binarily gendered terms applied to me without express permission.

“Do you like boys or girls?” “Yes.” Those are not the only options, and neither are they mutually exclusive options.

Sexuality labels I identify with: queer, polysexual as a subset of bisexual, fluid, gay. Some explanation. Polysexual, not to be confused with polyamorous, is defined as attraction to multiple genders. The definition of bisexual that I personally use is attraction to more than one gender, and pansexual is attraction to all genders. Hence pan, poly, and others, are all subsets/more specific forms of bisexual.

Things you may want to know:

  1. I don’t identify as pansexual because attraction to ALL genders just sounds like too much of a commitment; how am I to know that there does not exist some gender I really don’t care for? Seriously though, it is because of fluidity in my sexuality, so I am really only attracted to a few genders at a time, rather than all at once. I used to be exclusively attracted to men, but now am attracted, afaik, to most genders.
  2. There is no word for “fluidity of sexuality”, and the phrase sounds kind of gross
  3. I identify as gay just to mess with people. Not really. Since both my gender and sexuality are fluid, I am occasionally on the more masc. side while being attracted to men, hence gay. The same is true to a smaller extent of “lesbian”. I also use “gay” to mean homosexual attraction to NBs, and thirdly as an umbrella term for myself.
  4. It greatly amuses me that I might be BOTH gay AND lesbian. I’ve got ALL the letters of LGBTQ covered.
  5. I have stopped identifying as biconfused and bifurious, both variations of bicurious, since learning the word polysexual. That was a relief. I also used to describe my sexuality as “no.”
  6. People expect a single word each to cover sexuality and gender, for eg “straight male”, or even one word for both, eg “lesbian”. Clearly “trans nb/gq demiflux genderfluid polysexual” is too long, and as mentioned, abstruse. Family friendly label pairs that amuse me are “queer genderqueer” which sounds redundant and “non-binary bisexual” which sounds like an oxymoron.

Tl;dr: I’m not a lesbian. Don’t ask about my girlfriend.

Some closing thoughts:

Saying “I’m gay/lesbian/bi” is pretty simple. Just about everyone knows what you mean, and you quickly establish yourself as a member of a community. Saying “I’m a trans nonbinary bi woman who’s celibate due to dysphoria and possibly on the ace spectrum”… not so much. You’re lucky to find anyone who understands even half of that, and explaining it requires revealing a ton of personal information. The appeal of “queer” is being able to identify yourself without profiling yourself. It’s welcoming and functional terminology to those who do not have the luxury of simplified language and occupy complicated identities. *That’s* why people use it – there are currently not alternatives to express the same sentiment.

” 

Glumshoe on the word “queer”

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Stop Asking About My Girlfriend