After a taking a dating sabbatical, I recently re-entered the scene. My phone now has a whole folder of dating apps, and I’ve been sliding into DMs “Yo Gotti”-style. I’ve had some interesting experiences that’ll surely make for hilarious stories, and I’ve met some serious babes. But as a queer woman playing the field, it seems that from the outside looking in, the most interesting aspect of my romantic pursuits is their gender identification. And since that couldn’t be farther from the truth in reality, it would be great if people would stop engaging this line of inquiry.
Just the other night, a friend of mine said, “The best part of GK dating again is that every time she starts talking to someone new, we get to have a gender reveal party! Is it a boy or a girl?” And I’m not the only queer person who’s had this experience. “The questions are always about whether they’re a man or woman. It’s the biggest eye roll,” says Gigi Engle, a certified sex coach and educator for inclusive dating platform O.school. And honestly, as long as I’m happy, what difference should gender identity make? Furthermore, binary language limits gender to male or female excludes trans, gender nonconforming, gender-fluid, gender-variant, agender, and bigender people.
With that in mind, I asked queer peers to share questions they actually like fielding about their new flings. So even if, for whatever reason, the top question you want to ask a queer person about their love life is their date’s gender, there’s no need—the following seven questions are much better anyway.
1. Are they kind to you?
“Everyone seems so wrapped up in the gender of someone I’m dating that it’s rare to hear someone ask me how my partner actually treats me,” says Engle. “When someone asks me if my they treat me like a goddamn queen, rather than their gender, it means a lot to me.”
Other questions in this camp (all of which paint a fuller picture of the relationship than gender identification): “Do they treat you with love?” “Are you happy?” “Do they make you happy?” and “Do they respect you?”
2. What did you do this weekend?
Wild, I know, but not every question you ask an LGBTQ+ person has to be about their sex and dating life. “Leave the partner out of it and just ask questions you’d ask a straight person,” says Brianna Rader, founder and CEO of Juicebox, a sex and relationship coaching app.
3. Is it serious?
“Why not ask me whether or not I see a future with this person instead of asking about specific sex acts?” says Engle. But one caveat: If you’re not super close to the person, maybe don’t ask this—quite frankly, it’s none of your business. Otherwise, it shows you care.
4. How long have you been together?
There are plenty of ways to ask a person about their love life without knowing their sexual preferences or identification. (*Wipes bead of sweat from forehead*). Maybe you see a ring, notice a last-name change on an email, catch a wedding-related emoij in the IG bio—whatever the clue is, you can use it to start a conversation. And ideally, that chat will use inclusive language.
Personally, I appreciate when a person uses the word “partner.” This lets me know that the person isn’t making assumptions about my sexual orientation. And it saves me from having to correct them if they say “boyfriend” when my partner doesn’t identify as male.
Furthermore, everyone—not just queer people—can adopt the word partner. “Anyone can call their significant other their partner,” says Jess Melendez, an O.school sex educator (who is gay). “As someone who constantly deals with being misidentified, I appreciate when people flag allyship by using the gender-neutral term. Language is everything.” (Pro tip: Adding your preferred pronouns to your email signature is another great way to show allyship).
5. How did you meet your partner?
A common first question LGBTQ+ people get when someone learns they are part of the community is “How did you come out?” And it can feel totally jarring. “I feel caught off guard when someone I don’t know starts asking,” says Rader. “It’s like, I just met you five minutes ago, and now you want me to tell you a story? Thank u, next question.
A better way to connect that may still may yield a powerful story is “how did you and your partner meet?” “I love being asked to share to how I met my partner because it’s the opportunity to share our story,” says Rader.
6. What does your partner do for work?
“Questions about my partner’s work, passions, and hobbies give me the opportunity to brag about my partner, which I love,” says Rader.
7. What are you looking for in a partner?
If you’re speaking with a single person, try an open-ended question. “I can talk about how I look for someone who is down to earth or someone who can binge-watch trashy reality TV shows with me,” says Melendez. “I can describe all the characteristics I am attracted to in a person without even disclosing gender, unless I want to.”
Bonus points for using this intel for a potential setup—with permission, of course.
And keep in mind, location matters
Even if you’re using gender-neutral terms like “partner” and “they/them” pronouns, think about where you are when you ask a queer person about their sex and dating life, says Rader.
Are you are you at a work or networking event where the person may not want their sexual orientation disclosed? Could drawing attention to their sexuality and dating lead to them being discriminated against? If someone overhead your discussion, would this person be outed to family, friends, or coworkers?
“There’s a right and wrong time to talk about anyones dating life,” says Rader. “But depending on location and environment, the stakes are particularly high for queer folks.” So, even if your intentions are great across the board, keep all of this in mind and stick to questions that your friend actually wants to answer.
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