Can you be both non-binary and lesbian?
Ash, H and Tortor all identify and both non-binary and lesbian.
Traditionally, lesbian is understood to mean a woman who is attracted to women, and therefore a binary term – so they’re often asked: “How can you be both lesbian and non-binary?”
For H, who goes by they/she pronouns, both identities are intertwined and the idea that you can’t be both “comes from a flawed understanding of what lesbianism as an identity means.”
They explained: “I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive – lesbians have not always strictly identified as women, there’s always been lots of gender non-conforming lesbians.
“I think it’s sort of disingenuous to claim that you can’t be both non-binary and lesbian because you can definitely have an authentic lesbian experience as a non-binary person.
“My sexuality is lesbian but also my experience of gender is lesbian – I know some people joke that their gender is dyke or lesbian, but that is genuinely how I feel.
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“I identified as non-binary before I identified as lesbian and at first I didn’t quite understand how those two things could sit together.
“However, I know I haven’t had a binary experience of gender in the way my peers have. My experience of gender is both woman and agender, I feel both of those things, so I have an experience of gender which is aligned to womanhood and I’m attracted to women, so therefore that’s a lesbian experience.”
Ash, who uses they/them pronouns, realised they were non-binary before then figuring out that they are also lesbian.
“The best descriptor for me in the gender binary would be woman rather than man but knowing that there’s a lot of other language and concepts out there to explain gender, non-binary fits me a lot better.
“It’s not a choice to be non-binary or lesbian, but it is a choice to proudly label myself as non-binary and lesbian.
“As a lesbian you defy probably one of the biggest gender roles that exists, which is for your life to revolve around a man, so that links into how being non-binary also doesn’t conform to expectations of gender.
“At the end of the day, they are terms, they are linguistic tools to describe an experience that already exists.”
Ash has found that dating often throws up questions from being who haven’t heard of identifying as non-binary or lesbian, or want to “police” other’s experiences of gender.
They explained: “Recently I’ve got back into Tinder and even though it’s in my bio I’ve had a few instances of having to explain what being non-binary and lesbian is.
“That’s actually quite tiring, that I have to explain this all the time.”
For Tortor Smith, who uses they/them pronouns, dating has also been an issue.
They explained: “My personal experience with the lesbian community since coming out as non-binary has been rather dismal.
“Some women have wanted me to use my birth name, which I feel very uncomfortable to use.
“To be honest, what other label can I use? There is no label to describe a non-binary person being attracted to one binary gender so the only word I feel is applicable to describe how I identify sexually is lesbian.
“Whether that’s right or wrong I don’t know but, to be honest, I think whatever label you feel comfortable with, you should be allowed to use.”
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