To put it simply, dating someone who identifies as genderqueer is hard. When you’re on a date, someone is piecing together a mental image of you. Inevitably, one of those factors will be your gender identity. So, how are you to go about communicating that? Short answer: I don’t know. Long answer:
For context, I’m an AFAB person who identifies as non-binary. I’m aware I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but I hope this prose poem will provide some comfort to anyone going through similar emotions!
You watch me through the glass screen between us. My eyes gloss over, and two drinks in. Head and shoulders are welded to the ta. They form a statue you can recognize. You’ve seen it in museums: bust of Venus, 125BC. But I am not made of marble. The plinth which rests at my breastbone faded long ago; my identity was defined by Times New Roman (size 11). Printed letters failed to withstand the pressure of inky forefingers, tracing my outline like scribes to an ancient text. Don’t forget to read the footnote.* A child on a school trip, clipboard in hand, you curate a tick-box vision. Following the crocodile line, your palm grasps the permanent marker – please use a pencil. I might change my answer. I exist in the margins of your mind, in the cracks and crevices, and when the ink bleeds outside its assigned lines. Today I dressed the part. I’m playing gender, hoping I’ll be double-cast. I do not have the script; it’s yours to write. Are you on a date with your future husband and wife? I am neither; I am both; I am something else entirely. You reach through the glass screen. It shatters. Our blood glosses the texts you read.
*My feet are fidgeting under the table. I am nervous. How do you perceive me?
The ‘gloss’ to gloss, n.1
The OED defines ‘gloss’ as ‘a word inserted between the lines or in the margin as an explanatory equivalent of a foreign or otherwise tricky word in the text; hence applied to a similar illustrative rendering of a talk given in a glossary or dictionary. Yet, it can also refer to a deceptive, falsified appearance in both the linguistic and the material sense.
In my opinion, this is exceptionally apt to describe the interplay between dating and gender. Thankfully, dating apps now allow users to display their pronouns. For this reason, I can always go on a date with an awareness that the person I’m about to meet is likely accepting of the mutable and multifaceted nature of my gender identity.
However, this does not mean that our conversation, at least partially, is not dedicated to gender. Don’t get me wrong, I often thoroughly enjoy this and find it highly enriching. However, rewriting preconceived perceptions of myself (as I am usually femme presenting) is challenging and can be exhausting.
Glossing Over Gender Identity
Having engaged in discussions with friends who also identify as genderqueer, be that non-binary, gender fluid, or a-gender (the list continues); I know I’m not alone in my thoughts. For example, one friend commented on the dissonance between surface-level understanding and a more profound shift in binary opinion:
‘I’ve told people my pronouns are she/they, and they’ve explained it doesn’t bother them, but that’s only because they still see me as a girl.’
Once again, we return to our favorite word: ‘gloss.’ My friend explained: a ‘word inserted’ into the margins of thought. However, this has been ‘glossed over,’ and the ‘false’ or surface-level appearance has been taken as the whole truth.
Moreover, although gender queerness is interior and individual, this doesn’t mean it won’t impact the person you’re dating. For example, suppose someone genderqueer dates someone who identifies as straight. In that case, these individuals may find themselves reconsidering their sexuality, as dating a genderqueer person means they are engaging in a queer relationship.
Navigating the dating world as a genderqueer individual will come with inevitable hurdles. Whether you side-step, jump over, or crash into them is entirely up to you. Figuring out your gender identity is confusing enough without other people in the mix! So, take it slow and check in with yourself every so often.