Dating without the binary: How non-binary people approach and navigate romantic and sexual relationships

T. Fleischauer

When dating and engaging in romantic and sexual relationships, there are certain scripts available in Western culture that provide people with an idea of what to expect, and what is expected of them in this context.  These scripts, emphasized in the media and reinforced by formal and informal education, are mostly heterosexual and extremely gendered.  Scripts that exist for men and women who are gay are becoming increasingly available; however, they are not culturally dominant.  But what about people who do not identify as men or women? How do they know how to date if they do not feel as though they fit into the scripts that are available?

There is very little research on the relationships of trans people, and even less on the relationships of non-binary trans people.  To better understand the romantic and sexual experiences of non-binary people, this study uses sexual script theory (Gagnon & Simon, 1973), and asks the following question: what scripts do young, non-binary people draw from and/or create when they approach and navigate romantic and sexual relationships?  Participants were asked six questions, providing qualitative data.  The questions asked about the relationship and dating information the participants have received: where or from whom it came from, what it was, and how it was or is planned on being used.  Also included were questions regarding relationship history, possible challenges in dating as a non-binary person, and additional information the participants felt were important for consideration.  The data were analyzed using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), and the themes found within the data will be presented.

This study provided an opportunity for the voices of non-binary people to be heard in a research area where they are underrepresented, but that is central to most people’s lives: romantic and sexual relationships. As an exploratory study, this research will create a basis for understanding this population as a group of romantic and sexual beings, and lay some groundwork for future sexuality and relationship research.  In the long-term, I would like to see that this population is represented in the research, and have this research inform more inclusive educational curricula and practices.