The invisible obstacles of non-binary dating

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The invisible obstacles of non-binary dating

Dating can be a minefield for anyone looking for partnership – but people who identify as non-binary face many specific challenges.

After all, being “outside of a binary system”, says psychologist Liz Powell, who’s based in Philadelphia and identifies as non-binary, can be particularly hard to grasp for those still operating within that binary system. “It creates this huge gap of understanding,” they say, in which those who identify within the binary “don't even think the [gender identity] you're talking about could possibly be real”.


Though people who identify as non-binary don’t ascribe to a gender binary, the people they date still very well may. And dating a non-binary person while identifying with a gender binary might “challenge that person’s understanding of their own sexual orientation”, says Powell.


Traditional beauty standards can strongly influence how potential partners treat their non-binary dates. It can be even more complicated if a non-binary person sits at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. 


For New York-based Cheyenne Davis, 27, who self-describes as “fat, Black, and non-binary”, these types of biases play a lot into how potential dates may assign them to a female category. “I personally feel that because I'm not a white person, I don't present androgynously because I’m not thin,” they say. “We don't have enough representation of people that look like me as non-binary… that are outside of white androgyny.” This lack of representation can often lead to misgendering, even when Davis specifies that they’re non-binary on dating apps.

Struggles on and off the apps

Still, Davis regularly runs into problems with being misgendered on dating apps, which tend to cater to people who operate within the gender binary.

One dating app that they’ve used, BLK, which targets black users, offered a particularly disappointing experience for Davis as a black person looking to date other black people. The options for how you can appear on the app, they say, are “man”, “woman” or “other”, which Davis finds to be “very unsavoury” –“other” comes off as dehumanising terminology.

Feeld, says Davis, which services people who are ethically non-monogamouspolyamorous, and/or kinky, offers more and better options for how people can describe their gender. However, representation for people of colour is a problem on Feeld, which Davis calls “very white”. They also say they’ve been better able to describe their non-binary identity on apps like Hinge and OkCupid ­­­– but even people Davis met through those apps, they say, “would misgender me from time to time”. 

Continue reading this article by Jessica Klein here