In our last post on Gender Neutrality, we explained the societal constructs of sex and gender, and why it was important to keep language neutral and inclusive in safe spaces.
You may be a person who knows this already and so you might be thinking, “I use people’s preferred pronouns, I respect all genders, and I’m cognizant of the ways in which gender and sex are used to oppress people, but I very rarely get a chance to show people that I understand this because I don’t meet very many trans or nonbinary people.”
Well, actually, you can show off your knowledge on the daily! While this is not true for every single nonbinary person, it is very common for folks outside of the gender binary to listen for keywords to see if a person is open and accepting of their identity.
How to De-Gender Language
Using terms like “significant other,” “partner,” or “datemate,” instead of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” can go a long way. Even when not talking about potential paramours, gender neutral language can signify you are an ally. Using de-gendered language in all aspects of your life is harmless and signifies that you care about all identities. When addressing an audience, saying “Hello, everyone,” instead of “Hello, ladies and gentlemen,” or even saying “esteemed guests,” makes a difference. Saying, “Do you have any siblings?” instead of, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” is not only shorter, it’s gender neutral! Simple things like saying “firefighters,” instead of “firemen,” “mail carrier,” instead of “mailman,” and so on so forth show that you are aware there is no default gender for these professions. The more you de-gender your language, the more you might realise that nonbinary people will recognise you as an ally and befriend you!
For a larger list of gender neutral terminology in everyday, gendered words, check out the nonbinary wiki page.
So Your Partner is Nonbinary!
Imagine being in the moment with your partner … and then you say a thing which brings everything to a screeching halt, the moment is ruined, the mood shifts into a tense atmosphere, or it’s lost entirely. Yikes. Even worse, maybe you don’t realise the thing you said bothered them, the mood shifted, and you kept going--and you don’t find out about it until they tell you later! While communication is the most important aspect of any relationship (not just sexual or romantic relationships!), sometimes people may not be able to find the words to explain why they don’t like something, or might be scared to tell you for fear of being mocked, laughed at, or their feelings dismissed. It is important to communicate to your partner that you are open to having these conversations, and that their comfort is important to you. It’s best not to assume what terms or phrases your partner is comfortable with, and most people are open to having these conversations about their sex lives. If they aren’t open to that, maybe it’s just not the right time -- if they aren’t interested in making this connection with you, perhaps it is best to let it go and find someone interested in connecting with you.
Asking your partner what they prefer is easily the surest way to make sure everything runs smoothly! If you are worried this conversation will slow the momentum and ruin the mood, have it before sexytimes! Sit down with your partner before anyone is actually in the mood or attempting foreplay, and explain that their comfort is important to you! Ask about words and terminology they are okay with and what phrases they like to hear/what phrases turn them on. If they aren’t sure, ask them about “no” phrases -- sometimes people are more aware with what they know they don’t like, so start there!
For help structuring this conversation with your partner, check out Autostraddle’s Checklist!
If your partner is trans, or transitioning, they might prefer nonbinary language, but there are trans people who might be transitioning along the binary, and prefer binary language that matches their binary identity. For example, if someone identifies as a trans woman, she might like her bits to be referred to as “breasts,” “vagina” (and all variations thereof), “clit,” “superclit,” etc. She might want a partner to say, “I want to eat you out!” which can refer to going down on her, or even analingus. If someone identifies as a trans man, they might not want their partner to say things like, “You’re so wet!” or “Can I eat you out?” Instead he might prefer, “Thinking about sucking your dick makes me so horny!” or “I love watching you get hard!” He might not want you to reference his chest as “breasts,” and might ask you not to play with his torso at all. Remember that this won’t hold true for all trans people, or even just trans people transitioning on the binary spectrum -- everyone has different likes and dislikes, and each person will have unique desires regarding their body parts and preferred language. Also keep in mind that trans people may have had their top or bottom surgeries,and that it’s not okay to ask a trans person (or any person, really!) about their genitals unless you are going to be having sex.
If you or your partner are just beginning to figure out their nonbinary identity and have no beginning foundation, read through this blog post together and see if any of these words/terms/phrases are good or bad for you!
Gender Neutral Middle Ground
A good place to start is in-betweens! There are body parts mostly everyone has, and it can be fun to focus on different parts! Compliment someone’s eyes, their hair, their lips (the ones on their face!), their smile! Spend extra attention kissing their neck, their shoulders, their back, maybe even their fingers and toes (all of these can be sucked on as well).
Nearly everyone has nipples, so sometimes this is a safe bet, but if someone is conscious about their torso (a trans man might not want their chest played with), it’s not always going to be a green light, whereas someone might be self-conscious about their torso in a way that you can help (a trans woman might worry her breasts are not forming large enough, and spending extra attention to them, complimenting them and playing with them, might help her feel better and more confident about them).
Nearly everyone has an ass -- this is an equal opportunity orifice, and if you know your partner is comfortable with assplay, you can skip genitals altogether and enjoy the sensations which this back door has to offer you!
Remember that every sexual act requires consent, so a quick check in with your partner is always a good idea! Whispering into someone’s ear, “Can I…?” (fill in the blank with what you want to do -- “...play with your ass?” or “...put a finger in you?”) or “Do you like it when I…?” (fill in the blank with something you enjoy doing -- “...squeeze your breasts?” or “...bite your thighs?”). This helps the flow of the motions, keeps you in the moment, but also assures consent. Being specific is helpful, because then your partner knows exactly what you’re asking to touch or do.
Asking for consent is also a great way to begin a sexting session, which we’ll talk a little more on later!
Use New Words!
Though no word is inherently gendered, because of how society uses words and phrases some will have gendered connotations. For example, the word “beautiful” has a feminine connotation whereas “handsome” has a more masculine one. Luckily “sexy” is pretty gender-neutral. Also, because of the sex and gender binary imposed on our society, some words and phrases are associated with “femaleness” and “maleness.” For example, the word “penis” is considered “male” in our society (which we know is not the case!), and it might be highly triggering or upsetting for a trans woman to have her bits referred to as a “penis” even though that is what we’re taught the word for that body part is. Keeping this in mind, in this section, for body parts that (on a medical chart) would be called a certain word that could be upsetting to trans and nonbinary individuals), we will use the term OTC (on-the-chart) in front of those types of words.
Sometimes your partner might be comfortable with some gendered words, and not others. As discussed previously with some trans people who might be transitioning along a binary, someone who identifies as a trans man might prefer words that society deems “masculine,” like “handsome,” or “getting hard.”
Instead of sticking with the common words such as “pussy,” “dick,” “cunt,” or “cock,” expand your horizons and find new words to explain your partner’s down-there! Language like “superclit” (usually referring to an OTC “penis”), “hen” (usually referring to an OTC “penis” because it’s not a “cock”), “front hole” (usually referring to an OTC “vagina”), or “little guy” (usually referring to an OTC “clitoris”) can be used for genitals -- just make sure your partner is okay with the size implications of “super,” and “little.” Maybe switch it up, and say “little girl,” for an OTC “penis,” and “massive man” for an OTC “clitoris” if your partner has size worries. These can still seem pretty gendered, and maybe your partner wants you to use less specific words--“junk” and “bits” (yummy bits, nummy bits, jiggly bits) are good ones for this! The word “click” is a combination of “clit” and “dick” and works for any genitals as well!
If your partner has a word they like to refer to their genitals by (“hammer,” “kitty,” etc) even if it sounds “silly” to you, use it and help the affirm their choice by getting into it--“I love when you press your hammer against my back!” or “How does your kitty like to be stroked?” Similarly, if your partner has named their genitals (“Johnny,” “Willy,” “Superwoman,” “Superman,” “Betsy,” “Vanessa,” etc), use the name they like--“Is Johnny ready for me?” or “Does Vanessa like when I touch like this?” It might sound awkward at first, like you’re talking about a third person and -- in a way -- you are, but it will get easier and easier as you get more used to using the terminology your partner prefers!
Try out words like “hot spots,” for genitals or even nipples, “button/s,” “funstick,” or even more poetic language like, “flower,” “secret garden,” “jewels,” and more! Any word can become a term for you and your partner’s bits if you like it!
If all else fails, and none of these words are working for your partner, your go-to words are “this,” “that,” “here,” and “there.” Though we warned against non-specific terminology, just so your partner knows what they’re consenting to, you can get clear consent by pointing! “Can I touch you there?” while pointing to a body part can make things more clear. If you have permission to touch a body part, you can get have your hand on it and ask more specific questions. (For example if you have permission to touch an OTC “vulva,” you can ask “Do you like this?”, or “Do you want a finger in here?”)
You can also rely on verbs instead of nouns! Instead of saying something like “I want your dick in me harder!” you can literally just say “Harder!” or “Faster!” Without gendering your partner’s body parts.
Finally, you can also use “Tell me…” or Show me…” which are good catch-alls. “Tell me where you want my hands/tongue/face/etc” or “Show me how you want to be touched.”
Sext sessions with your partner are a good way to get you and your partner excited and in the mood for sexytimes later when you both see each other again! If you’re unsure of how to go about making your sexts gender-neutral, the answer is very easy! Simply identify the gendered terms in a sext, and replace them with the terms you talked about with your partner--either words we provided above, or words you came up with together! For example, if you’re used to saying, “You love it when I stroke your cock, don’t you?” but “cock” is a no-no word, simply replace it with “click,” “hen,” “Willy,” or any word your partner has talked about having you use.
As we mentioned previously, asking for consent is a great way to open up the discourse for sexting. Sending your partner a text that says, “I’ve been thinking a lot about tasting you, when you get home today, can we try that out?” is not only an opening to fun and sexy back-and-forth, but also establishing that you are asking for permission to engage in a particular action. Avoid orders or demands (“Send me a photo of yourself,” or “Touch yourself for me”) unless that’s a dynamic that’s been established and your partner enjoys direct commands. You can ask your partner something like, “Hey, is it okay if I lead tonight? I love when you do what I say, and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” and that lets your partner know that even if you are texting back and forth commands like, “Lick my ass,” or “Take me all the way in!” they can always let you know they’re not comfortable with that instruction. Consent is an ongoing conversation, and it’s important to make sure all parties are enjoying themselves.
If you’re used to sending your past lovers texts like, “Are you wet for me yet, baby?” and now you’re not sure if that’s appropriate now that you have a nonbinary or a trans partner, ask them what works for them! Also good replacements are, “How much do you want me?” or “Show me how turned on you are!” which lets them respond how they are comfortable and set the tone.
Use emojis! If you have a smartphone, these little pictures can go a long way, and are gender neutral. Some are common and self-explanatory, some require a little imagination, and you can always use your own emoji know-how to create your own private pictorial language with your partner!
Mirror their language! If they say, “I’m so aroused,” use the word “aroused.” If they say, “I’m so hot for you right now,” you can respond with, “Well, what I have in store for tonight will make you even hotter, let me tell you…”
Last but not least, a good catch-all technique is simply telling your partner what you love about them! Make little lists of things that you notice about your partner that you appreciate, like, love, or really turn you on. Then filter these items into short and sweet compliments you can easily add into any conversation. From there, the compliments can turn into sexy innuendos if you want to head in that direction...which get the balls rolling into some titillating exchanges (puns definitely intended).
Quite a bit of gender neutral language referenced in this blog post came from S. Bear Bergman’s Trans Sex for the Trans & Sexy workshop, check out his website here!