So you’re a perisex binary allo cis gay who’s attracted to a nonbinary person. Congratulations, you’re a platypus.
As awareness and acceptance of nonbinary people grows, the binary babes are starting to catch on to the fact that gender and attraction can get a bit complicated. Hell, some people, including queer people, are still struggling with the idea that binary trans and intersex people are realities they have to deal with. Cis gay people will cosplay Donna Summers with limp hands while rollerblading, but the moment they discover they’re attracted to someone from the “wrong gender”, they suddenly think they can’t call themselves gay anymore.
Queer identity is self-ID. That, binary babes, means that you can still call yourself gay if gay is a word that works for you. Language is descriptive, not prescriptive. Hell, some queer people call themselves other queer terms because it’s easier to call themselves more popularized terms instead of explaining their preferred terminology every damn time. Especially to an audience that doesn’t care about all these nuances.
So what do you do if you’re a gay man and you discover you’re attracted to even just a binary woman? You’ve studied mspec terminology, and you don’t vibe with any of it. But you also don’t feel like you can call yourself gay anymore because you’re attracted to a woman! That means you’re not gay!! If you called yourself gay, you’d be gaying wrong!!!
No, it doesn’t.
First of all, lots of mspec people call themselves gay. Non-queers don’t care if you’re a bi man in love with a man or a gay man in love with a man. It’s all gay to them. And frankly, after dealing with non-queers’ homophobia only to also have to deal with their fellow queers calling them “too straight to be queer”—rhetoric that also harms queer straight people such as straight aces, straight aros, and trans straights—mspec people ought to be given $5 every time they’re perceived. Evelyn Silver, my dealer for sexy vampires; Hachiko, the patron god of this site; and Gilly, the protogen who organized the fundraiser for my streaming equipment—are all gayer than me. And while I would never call three people a representative sample, you’re going to start catching on to fact that this is just a flimsy excuse to create linkbacks to my friends, so let’s move right along.
Second of all, there are plenty of ways to be gay wrong. Appropriating AAVE, blocking wheelchair access to pride events, calling mspec people “undecided”, equating gayness to genitalia and sex, telling religious queers that real queers are atheists, only picturing upper/middle class thin white USians when you think of queer people. Continuing to call yourself gay after discovering you’re attracted to someone from the “wrong gender” isn’t one of them.
Straight queers, I’m mostly addressing these exercises to the gays because from what I’ve seen, most of you seem to have a handle on how complicated queerness can be. And people have the audacity to call you non-queer!
Perisex binary allo cis gays, on the other hand, embraced being gay and stopped learning anything new ever since.
And I’m not even bothering to address non-queers because I assume they dropped off this article to go google “does liking a trans person make me gay”. For the record, no. People—trans, nonbinary, both, and neither—are the gender(s) that they say they are, period.
Alright, so you’re calling yourself gay again. Does that mean that this binary woman is included in gay male attraction? This is a perisex binary cis woman: no nonbinary anything going on with her.
You’re probably saying “no”.
So you’re a gay man who’s attracted to a binary woman, and you’ve figured out that exclusively binary women aren’t included in gay male attraction. But you are gay! So why are you attracted to an exclusively binary woman?
Well, binary babes, it’s because you’re human, basically. “Gay” is a word. Words are a part of language. Language is a human construction. Attraction, on the other hand, is a natural phenomenon. Nature is not a human construction. That means that any language we come up with cannot perfectly describe nature. Scientists run into a lot of trouble trying to classify different species because whoops—nature doesn’t care if it doesn’t fit all the quaint little boxes that we keep trying to cram it into. That doesn’t mean we throw out the entire classification system. Instead, we adjust our knowledge to allow for things that blur the lines we made. “Gay”, “bi”, “pan”, “lesbian”, “ace”, “aro”, “omni” “queer”, et all are labels to describe one’s personal attraction patterns, not jails.
Alright, lesbians, let’s give the gays a short break.
You’re a lesbian who’s attracted to a nonbinary person. You’ve done some reading, so you know that nonbinary people can fall under whatever attractions they want! Does this mean you can declare that this nonbinary person is part of lesbian attraction?
No. You need to ask first.
Nonbinary people aren’t a monolith. Some nonbinary people feel affirmed by being included in lesbian attraction. Some nonbinary people, such as myself, would feel dysphoric being included in lesbian attraction. Some nonbinary people feel affirmed by being included in lesbian attraction some of the time, but may feel dysphoric by it at other times.
Let’s try this on for size. Would you be allowed to declare if someone else is nonbinary or not? A complete stranger. You don’t know them at all, you’ve just decided to declare they’re nonbinary. No, you would not. Queer identity is self-ID, not others-ID. If a nonbinary person considers themselves included in lesbian and / or gay attraction (there are people who fall under both! and neither!), that is something they get to decide, not you.
Alright, gays, get back here. Everyone’s participating now.
Oh, no you’re attracted to an N-B who doesn’t feel included in your attraction pattern label! You need to stop being attracted to them immediately!!!
No, you don’t.
Sure, if there’s transphobia or any other sort of bigotry inspiring your feelings, you need to address that—away from the people you’re bigoted against. But if you’re attracted to someone who doesn’t fit your attraction pattern label, that doesn’t mean you need to toss your feelings in the garbage. Your feelings are valid. Nonbinary people are very sexy, it’s only inevitable that you’ll find yourselves attracted to at least twenty of us per week.
Mammals are animals that generally give birth to live young. That means they have babies instead of laying eggs. They also generally don’t produce venom.
Platypuses are mammals that lay eggs and produce venom. That doesn’t mean they’re not mammals, we’ve just expanded our understanding of mammals to include them.
Lesbians are commonly understood to be exclusively women who are exclusively attracted to people who are exclusively women. Gays are commonly understood to be exclusively men who are exclusively attracted to people who are exclusively men. Some lesbians are not women, or exclusively attracted to people who are exclusively women. Some gays are not men, or exclusively attracted to people who are exclusively men. That doesn’t mean they’re not gays and lesbians, that just means they’re platypuses.
Gender and attraction aren’t hard and fast things. You are allowed to be a platypus and feel platypus things.
You are no less lesbian or gay for “failing the purity test”. Purity tests are a detriment to queerness. You not behaving “perfectly purely” for your attraction pattern label does zero harm to that attraction pattern label. Thinking there are perfectly pure standards of behavior that you and other people need to meet is what does harm. You do not have to be “perfect” in order to use the attraction pattern labels that help you.
You are allowed to be attracted to people outside your attraction labels. Just don’t call them part of your attraction labels if they don’t want you to.
All of these people and feelings work alongside each other, not against.
Non-queers, if you made it this far, have a sexy Jewish reimagining of Pygmalion and Galatea. And if you’d prefer literature without sex, here’s a vampire kicking whalers’ asses.
To all you binary babes, queer or otherwise, thank you for taking the time to learn how to be better allies to nonbinary people today. How you talk about us affects us. While we can and will use any and all language that suits us, some language has binary connotations that we don’t want placed upon ourselves. That’s why it’s important to ask first before foisting that language onto us. Sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will break our minds and souls.
The words you use can do a lot of harm, even when you don’t intend them to. Please remember to be considerate of others with your language going forward. You don’t have to stop calling yourself gay or lesbian, but you can’t call a nonbinary person part of gay / lesbian attraction if that’s not okay with them.
For many nonbinary people, myself included, language is a huge part of our gender expression. Some nonbinary people appreciate the gendered connotations of “gay” and “lesbian” being applied to them. Some nonbinary people don’t. It’s super easy to ask “Is it okay to say I’m gay for you?” or “Would your gender be affirmed if I say I’m in lesbian with you?” It’s a lot harder to recover from the agony of being misgendered.
One last thing I’ll add is: the existence of platypuses doesn’t erase other mammals. There are still plenty of squirrels, cats, dogs, cows, and all the other freakin’ mammals in the world. By the same token, you can still be a lesbian if you’re exclusively a woman who is exclusively attracted to people who are exclusively women. Likewise, you can still be gay if you’re exclusively a man who is exclusively attracted to people who are exclusively men.
“But the non-queers won’t know what gay and lesbian is if we expand the definition to be more inclusive!!!”
You truly believe that the normies aren’t going to understand what “gay” and “lesbian” mean? My family is as queerphobic as it gets, and even they know what gays and lesbians are. You’re the first two letters of the acronym, you thoughtless rollerbladers! People know what gays and lesbians are!
So you’re a mammal that gives birth to live young and doesn’t produce venom. Congratulations, you’re the first thing people think about when they think of mammals.