Looking for ways to support your nonbinary partner? We’ve got you covered. It’s so sweet that you care about your partner and their identity and I want to celebrate that with you.
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This post is all about the best ways to support your nonbinary partner.
- Listen without judgment and try not to apply gender stereotypes.
If your partner tells you about their gender identity, expression, or how they feel about gender, listen to what they are sharing. This is a gift of themself they are sharing with you and we want to honor that. It’s probably not helpful to compare these thoughts and feelings with gender stereotypes for men or women.
Examples of being supportive and non-judgemental:
“I’ve been thinking that I’d like to try wearing a dress and painting my nails sometime.”
“That’s cool, would you like any help from me with that? It could be fun for me to paint your nails.”
“I don’t feel like I’m a woman. It seems like there’s something wrong with me.”
“Thanks for sharing that with me. Is there a word that works better for you than ‘woman’?”
Coming out doesn’t have to be one Big Important Conversation. It might be – but it also can be a million little hints over time. That counts.
- Ask your partner what words they prefer you to use for them, not just once, but check in once in a while.
Some nonbinary people may prefer gender-neutral words, and some may prefer feminine or masculine words. Asking is the best way to find out what feels good to your partner! Some words to consider checking in about:
- Your partner’s pronouns (they, she, he, etc)
- Relationship words like girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, spouse, husband, wife, mother, father, parent, sister, brother, sibling, son, daughter, child
- Words for body parts, especially words with a gendered connotation
- Gendered words like woman, man, chica, dude, bro, girl, gal, guy
It’s important to note, asking about these words means asking how your partner feels about these words for themself. It’s a separate (and probably irrelevant) discussion to ask if all language for everyone should be gender-neutral. Just because your partner may prefer they/them pronouns, that doesn’t mean they want you to use they/them pronouns for everyone.
Using correct language to refer to your partner will make them feel more comfortable, valued, and seen.
- Don’t make a big deal out of your partner’s identity (but you can tell them you’re proud of them sometimes).
Most people like to feel like they fit in, without fighting to express their identity all day, every day. If you’re bringing up being nonbinary a lot more than your partner is, consider toning it down a little. Remember that your partner wants to feel secure and comfortable with you and part of that for most people is acting like “business as usual.”
It can be hard to come out to a partner, to share something that can lead to discrimination, so let your partner know that you’re proud of them for expressing who they are.
- Educate yourself on nonbinary identity (without expecting your partner to be your trans-identity coach as well as your beloved).
Read, watch, or listen to resources created by nonbinary and trans people.
- Let your partner know you support LGBTQ+ people, even before they come out to you.
How does your partner know that it would be safe to come out to you about their nonbinary identity? They either need to guess, pray, and hope for the best, or they can hear you share your support of LGBTQ+ people in general, and have a good idea that you might be supportive.
- Find and share media with positive representation of trans and nonbinary people.
You can demonstrate your support of trans people by speaking about celebrities and public figures who are trans, expressing support for trans people with regards to legislation, watching/listening/reading to media created by trans people, and sharing this media with others.
To understand some of the historical context behind the representation of trans people in media, I recommend watching Disclosure, a documentary on Netflix. It features trans experts discussing clips from famous movies. I didn’t realize before watching Disclosure how many hurtful or degrading tropes we take for granted in the media we grew up with.
- Help educate people in your family or community about nonbinary and trans identity.
If your partner is out to your family and community, use the correct language to refer to them. For example, if you’re on the phone with your mom, use they/them pronouns to refer to your partner (if your partner uses they/them pronouns). It’s disrespectful to use she/her pronouns in this instance, even if that might make your mom more comfortable. And yes, even if you think you’re in another room, and we can’t hear, we can, trust me.
If you are talking to someone who makes a gendered assumption about your partner, you could take it as an opportunity to educate.
“You should buy her a necklace. Women like jewelry.”
“Actually, they are nonbinary, so, not a woman.”
This is optional! I certainly don’t take it on myself to provide education every time someone makes gendered comments, because I would simply not have the energy to do that. It’s also okay to let gendered remarks go, if they are well-meaning and not that offensive.
Stick to using the right language yourself, as a baseline.
“You should buy her a necklace. Women like jewelry.”
“They might appreciate a necklace, thanks for the suggestion.”
- Give gender-affirming gifts.
A gender-affirming gift could be a piece of clothing, a book to read and discuss, a pair of shoes, a hat, a pride-colored notebook or pillow or stickers. Depending on how much your partner likes receiving surprise gifts, ask first if you’re getting something unusual.
Follow your partner’s lead on getting gifts that affirm their identity. If they already have started trying feminine or masculine clothes as a change in wardrobe, gifting a nice garment in line with their interests could be very meaningful. However, it might be more pressure than support to buy something they are not used to wearing or comfortable with, for example, a dress for someone who has never worn a dress before.
For some people, physical gifts are a love language and can be an important way to show support. If you give your partner a masculine shirt after they change their wardrobe to be more masculine, that’s a physical symbol that you appreciate their new look.
- Ask your partner about what kind of touch, compliments, clothing, etc, feel good for them, and be willing to change your behavior accordingly.
Living within gender stereotypes, with gender dysphoria, for years and years can make a person numb to what they actually like and don’t like. Starting to come out as a trans or nonbinary person can set off a chain reaction of self-discovery. I realized I disliked having my chest touched and wearing certain clothes started to bother me a lot more. It felt like I had suddenly developed an intolerance I didn’t have before, that I struggled to communicate in a positive way to my partner. Over time, I developed a more positive, pleasure-driven, queer model of what I liked and didn’t like. This would not be possible without my ability to interrogate my likes and dislikes, which I was repressing before.
It can be helpful to check in with your partner regularly about what they appreciate and don’t like. For example, areas of the body that feel good or not good to touch. Or how you speak about them. Clothing preferences and activity preferences might change over time. And that’s okay! No one should expect their partner to stay exactly the same for a whole relationship, regardless of the time passing. Relationships stay strong when people are willing to keep learning about and changing for each other.
- If your partner is planning to come out to family, friends, coworkers, etc, be mindful that this is a big mental effort, and do a little extra around the house to provide them with support.
If your partner is going through a challenging time, there’s nothing like making sure the dishes are already done and dinner is on the table. Oh yeah, and lending a friendly ear of course. 🙂
If you’re reading this article, you’re already so far into the realm of being a supportive partner, thank you! This isn’t a trivial list of suggestions. Being supportive is a serious amount of work. Take care of yourself also, but consider that coming out to you as nonbinary can be a great deal of pressure, and do the work to show your support for your partner. You’re doing great, and even little steps towards being supportive of your partner’s identity can be hugely meaningful.
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