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Love and dating forms a crucial and indispensable part of our lives. There exists several issues, conflicts, opinions and ideas that revolve around dating culture among youth. One of them is the understanding the outlook of (LGBTQIA+) non-binary individuals towards dating in a world that identifies gender in binary terms. Non-binary is an umbrella term to identify gender identities that are not exclusively male or female. In recent times, non-binary people are becoming more visible in the media, popular culture and different societal institutions, which makes it all the more important to study about this.

So far…

Throughout history, across many cultures and several countries, some people have identified themselves as not belonging to one of the society-constricted binary genders namely “female” or “male”. There are several terms like gender fluid, gender queer, agender, or third sex referred by these people to identify themselves. As time progresses and societal thinking evolves, the representation of contemporary non-binary people changes. However, since the binary gender is ingrained deeply in the existing institutions, cultures and thought-processes of the society (Barbee and Schrock, 2019), nonbinary and transgender persons are considered gender minorities in social sphere. To uphold the traditional binary system, people across the world employ gambits to shun down cognitive dissonance (Daniels, 2010) of non-binary individuals. Methods include the birth-defect model, which says that the reason for the shift is congenital. Other means used are labelling gender solely on the absence/presence of penis, neglecting all other emotional and mental characteristics & needs, stamping transgender as mentally-ill, and/or completely ignoring their existence and marginalizing them from even family and other spheres of life.

Studies have talked about ungendering as a process to challenge gender binarism and used interactionist approach (Barbee and Schrock, 2019) to know how non-binary people distinguish themselves, perceive the social settings, acknowledge the extrinsically-imposed identities and respond to the same. While this study of un/gendering social selves aimed to differentiate between personal definitions and social presentations of self, to delve into a more realistic approach, researchers has shown that across a sample of heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and trans individuals, more than half (87.5%) indicated being unwilling to consider a trans person in their potential dating pool (Blair and Hoskin, 2018). Several reasons including cisnormativity, cisgenderism, transphobia, and sheer ignorance of trans people from the society could possibly explain the high rates of exclusion of non-binary from potential dating pool as well. Many non-binary people have reported to being not fully validated of their gender identity by their partners. The fear of not being accepted, feeling like you have to look a certain way to pass (Walker, 2019), and repetitively explaining to others about the non-binary part of oneself can be extremely challenging. Researchers have examined relationship development among LGBTQIA+ couples to address (Macapagal, et al., 2015) the stages and processes of such a development, and how do these differentiate with those of heterosexual couples. While the former turned to be similar to binary couples, their experiences and steering through societal norms posed a considerable stress on the relationship. Findings (Macapagal, et al., 2015) suggested that effective communication skills training for couples, negotiating in their relationship agreements, developing social and family environment, and culture and raising awareness among the masses can help in better apprehension of the mindsets of LGBTQIA+ couples. While earlier studies captured the intolerance and prejudice faced by the gender-queer in a binary world in broader general scenarios, understood how dating preferences are biased and assessed the differences in how the relationship growth varies for non-binary and heterosexual couples. Future research should go further by including open-ended questions to examine the actual reasoning behind participants’ preferences. Longitudinal research may help better typify how a non-binary individual navigates through dating culture in a traditional-structured world that sees gender in binary terms.

Question to ponder

For people who identify themselves as non-binary, the brawl to get recognized of their gender identity people, stretches to romantic relationships as well. Even though romantic

relationships form a significant part of emerging adulthood, not much research has been done to be cognizant of the struggles, issues and distress faced by them. While awareness methods majorly aim to increase the tolerance and inclusion of LGBTQA+ community, merely accentuating the integration in public places is not sufficient. It is crucial to be cognizant of how and to what extent are non-binary individuals included in broader social systems, like dating and relationships since these do contribute to overall mental and physical well-being. We extend the literature on anomalies faced by non-binary (LGBTQA+) community to how they perceive the dating scenario in India. This leads us to question is: How do people who identify themselves as non-binary navigate dating space in a society that sees gender in binary terms?

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  • Blair, K. L., Hoski, R. A. (2018). Transgender exclusion from the world of dating: Patterns of acceptance and rejection of hypothetical trans dating partners as a function of sexual and gender identity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
  • Barbee, H., Schrock, D. (2019). Un/gendering Social Selves: How Nonbinary People Navigate and Experience a Binarily Gendered World. Sociological Forum
  • Daniels, L.C. (2010). Perspectives of Teaching: Thinking About the Unthinkable: Transgender in an Immutable Binary World. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development (Volume 24)
  • Macapagal, K., Greene, G. J., Rivera, Z., & Mustanski, B. (2015). "The best is always yet to come": Relationship stages and processes among young LGBT couples. Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 29(3), 309–320.
  • Liszewski, W., Peebles, J. K., Yeung, H., & Arron, S. (2018). Persons of Nonbinary Gender - Awareness, Visibility, and Health Disparities. The New England journal of medicine, 379(25), 2391–2393.
  • Hiat, L. (2017, January). Sex & Dating: LGBTQ students talk relationship struggles, stereotypes. The Red & Black. Retrieved February, 12, 2021 from
  • Walker, T.B. (2019, August) For nonbinary people, struggle for recognition extends to romantic relationships. NBC News. Retrieved February, 13, 2021 from