The ways we think about sex and love are always evolving, constantly influenced by cultural, political and global happenings.
This year was no different. Much of that influence particularly spread online, especially in communities by and for those who identify across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Meanwhile, ripple effects from the self-reflection undertaken throughout the Covid-19 pandemic continued to rock the wider dating world, resulting in more intentional practices. People thought more about who they wanted to date, and how they wanted to do it.
In 2022, this meant more folks openly moved away from both gender and attraction binaries. We saw people rely even more on the internet to find potential partners, for better and for worse. And daters got increasingly vocal about exploring different types of relationships, from solo polyamory to platonic life partnerships.
People are moving away from long-held binaries
In Western culture, relationships, gender and sexuality have long been defined by binaries. Either a couple is dating or they’re not; a person is attracted to women or men; a person is either a woman or man. Throughout the past several years, however, these binaries have grown steadily less entrenched, as more people are looking at sexual orientations and gender identities in different ways. And this was especially pronounced in 2022.
As far as sexual orientation, a person’s gender has become less relevant for many people when looking for a partner; this is especially the case for many millennials and Gen Zers navigating intimate relationships. For some, it’s even ended up at the “bottom of the list” in terms of what they desire in a partner. That’s particularly true for people who identify as queer or pansexual, meaning their romantic and/or sexual attractions don’t hinge on gender.
As 23-year-old, London-based Ella Deregowska put it, identifying as pansexual has allowed her to “fluidly move and accept each attraction I feel without feeling like I need to reconsider my identity or label in order to explain it”. Experts say the increased openness towards non-binary attractions, in part, is linked to increased representation in popular media – from television shows such as Canada’s Schitt’s Creek, in which Dan Levy plays the pansexual David Rose, to celebrities like Janelle Monae, who’ve identified with pansexuality.
It’s not just sexual orientation that’s felt a shift from binaries this year. More young folk (and celebrities) have also moved away from binaries to describe their gender. Identifying as non-binary or gender fluid lets many people express themselves more genuinely, since that expression may not inhabit one black-or-white category. “One day I wake up and feel more feminine, and maybe I want to wear a crop top and put earrings on. And then there’s times in which I’m like, I need my [chest] binder [to minimise the appearance of my breasts],” says Barcelona-based Carla Hernando, 26.
Even with more people breaking down sexual and gender binaries, however, dating can still be a minefield for those who identify as non-binary. From dating apps enforcing gender binaries, to partners pushing non-binary daters into gendered roles, not all parts of society have caught up with the movement away from binary gender norms.