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LGBTQA Hyper and De-sexualization Series: Nonbinary Identities

Many of the harmful assumptions about transgender people in general are also applied to nonbinary people, like the persistent questions about how and if/when they will physically transition, but there are plenty of nonbinary-specific ones. 

Nonbinary individuals are expected to be androgynous in appearance. Not only is this exclusionary towards nonbinary people who want to present more feminine or masculine, androgyny itself is tied to gender-specific perceptions of various forms of expression. For example, an outfit that would be seen as androgynous on a nonbinary person who was assigned female at birth (afab) would simply be seen as masculine if they were assigned male (amab). Makeup and dresses are signifiers of androgyny for amab nonbinary people, but signal femininity when on an afab body. Nonbinary people are forced into a liminal space of gendered presentation in which the perception of gender is more important than their own comfort, and they are expected to navigate it and come out on the other side looking androgynous according to their assigned gender.

Not only do the assumptions about nonbinary presentation exclude those with differing ideas of presentation, it also tends to be fat-phobic/problematic for those with a perceived wrong-build for androgyny. Which is to say, any curves. In my earlier article about nonbinary gender presentation I go more in depth into both of these issues.

When a nonbinary person is in a relationship with a binary identified person, their gender is often assumed based on the gender of their partner and the assumption that they are straight. This ties back into the presumption that transgender people transition in order to be straight. Similarly, relationships including nonbinary people are often considered “practically straight” by people in the queer community because the nonbinary person is close enough to being either their assigned gender or the socially accepted “opposite” gender. Overall, there is a concerted effort by many people in the queer community to exclude nonbinary people from the LGBTQA+ community. 

Exclusion is only one of the many difficulties nonbinary people face. Hyper-sexualization takes on a specific form for nonbinary people, particularly the fetishization of androgyny in women. When cis women are fetishized for androgyny, nonbinary people who were assigned female at birth are consistently viewed as the objects of this fetishization. Hyper-sexualization can also emerge as efforts to sleep with “every gender” with nonbinary people being the elusive, sought-after gender identity.

Being sought after in a sexual manner may seem ideal to some, but when it is as an object of fetishization it is distinctly uncomfortable. Especially when looking for a partner. Another issue that crops up in looking for a partner is the desexualization and disinterest in nonbinary people. Many people, queer or cishet, define their attraction (sexual or romantic) according to binary ideas of gender. It is difficult for a nonbinary person to know who would be interested in them as nonbinary and not as a fill-in for one or the other binary gender. To be frank, dating as a nonbinary person is a peculiarly difficult experience.

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