Nonbinary Life

Non binary relationship names: What to call myself or my partner?

If you are dating someone and you are non binary, “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” may or may not fit well with your gender identity. In a non binary relationship, names and respectful language can matter a lot. Some nonbinary people prefer gender neutral words to refer to themselves, and some nonbinary people like gendered terms. How can you tell? Well, you can ask them what they prefer!

This post is all about non binary relationship names.

Non binary relationship names: What should I call myself or my partner?

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Gender-neutral partner names

Some people prefer gender-neutral words to refer to themselves. Here’s some ideas for gender-neutral words to refer to someone who’s dating or in a relationship. Of course, some of these may feel good to some people and not to others — it’s best to ask the person you are referring to what feels right.

  • partner
  • joyfriend
  • enbyfriend
  • love
  • lover
  • other half (although I don’t love the implication one other person needs to “complete” you)
  • date
  • my person
  • friend with benefits
  • friend / best friend (usually not a term for a sexual relationship, but sometimes is)
  • spouse (if married)
Two people relaxing looking at a laptop together
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

What kind of relationships are nonbinary people in?

It was a fear of mine, before coming out as nonbinary, that the “problem with my gender” would prevent me from having successful relationships or friendships. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Some of my closest and most supportive friendships and relationships developed as I was coming out as nonbinary. Just like anyone else, some nonbinary people are not in relationships, some nonbinary people are in abusive or unhealthy relationships, and some nonbinary people are in healthy and supportive relationships.

So what would you call a relationship with one or more nonbinary people in it? Here are some ideas:

  • queer
  • gay
  • bi
  • pan
  • in love
  • an item
  • straight? (I mean, if everyone involved agrees that’s the best description)

Some of these words break down when we break down the gender binary. And that’s okay! Feel free to use whatever words you feel best describe your particular situation. (Is it, perhaps, a situation-ship?)

Some nonbinary people are asexual, or aromantic, or both, and/or may have strong queer-platonic relationships. Many queer people are looking for or find a chosen family with connections that are not necessary sexual and/or exclusive.

Some nonbinary people get married and/or have children, and some don’t. Nonbinary people have a huge range of possibilities when it comes to relationships and families. This may seem obvious but I think it’s important to emphasize being out as nonbinary does not mean being alone for the rest of your life.

Portrait of couple cuddling with affection
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

What does “straight” even mean?

Alright, let’s get this out of the way. Straight people date nonbinary people. All the time. Does that make them not straight? I mean, I guess? Mostly it shows that language about sexual and romantic preferences is fairly inadequate.

Heterosexuality has a lot of cultural norms attached to it that go above and beyond merely the gender of the participants. I would speculate that a relationship between the same two people could feel very “straight” or very “queer” depending on what they bring to it.

If you’re dating a nonbinary person, are you (still) straight? I do believe that everyone should select the labels that feel right to them. If you are generally in straight relationships and actively seek out straight relationships, it’s fine (maybe even accurate) to call yourself straight. If you’re in a long term relationship with a nonbinary person or open to dating other nonbinary people, it seems more reasonable, accurate, and respectful to refer to yourself as queer, bisexual, pansexual, “attracted to nonbinary people,” “still figuring it out,” or just anything other than “straight.”

Photo of couple standing together. One person is wearing a rainbow flag around their shoulders.
Photo by RODNAE Productions

I hope this helps clarify some of the options for talking about yourself or another nonbinary person in a relationship. Perhaps the words don’t always matter in a loving and supportive relationship, but using respectful language and considering non binary relationship names is a great baseline.

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