Polyamorous, Aromantic, Demisexual — And 19 Other Sexuality Terms You Really Need To Know
Sexuality isn’t black and white, and labels gay and straight don’t do the full spectrum of sexual orientation justice. That’s why new terms are popping up all the time.
“The identification and acceptance of words that fit a person’s experience can help them feel understood and know that they are not alone”, says clinical psychologist and sex therapist Dr Elizabeth Watt. “It’s beautiful that so many new labels and descriptors are emerging around sexuality and gender because it highlights how unique, complex and innovative sexual and gender expression can be.”
To help you master these terms, we’ve created a master list, with the help of Watt and other resources. Think of it as your sexuality guidebook.
The “L” in LGBTQ stands for lesbian. The term describes a woman who is emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to women. Not all women who are attracted to women will use this term, though; they might describe themselves as gay.
The “G” in LGBTQ describes a person who is emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of the same gender. It can also be used specifically to describe a man who is attracted to men.
This term is the “B” in the LGBTQ acronym. It describes a person who is emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity. People who are bisexual may not be simultaneously attracted to the same sex, gender or gender identify, and not necessarily in the same way or the same amount. For example, you could be bisexual even if you’ve only dated men. And you may feel slightly more drawn to one sex over the other.
The “T” in LGBTQ is not a sexual orientation, but an important term to understand nonetheless. It describes a person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the expectations of the sex they were assigned when they were born. Transgender people can have any sexual orientation.
This is one of the meanings of the “Q” in LGBTQ. It’s an umbrella term that describes people who don’t identify as straight and/or don’t fall into a gender binary. It can also express people who have fluid identities and orientations.
Questioning is another meaning for the “Q” in LGBTQ. It describes someone or a time when someone is unsure about or is exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sometimes, you might see an “I” added to the end of LGBTQ. The “I” represents intersex, a term that refers to a combination of hormones, sex organs, genitals and chromosomes that are different from the two patterns of male and female. The former term for this was hermaphrodite, but that word is now considered outdated and offensive.
After the “I,” an “A” is also sometimes added to create LGBTQIA. The “A” stands for asexual, a sexual orientation that typically describes a person who doesn’t feel sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. This isn’t the same as celibacy, which is deliberately abstaining from sex. Asexual people sometimes have sex, but may just have little interest in it or only be interested in non-partnered sexual activity.
This term describes someone who doesn’t feel romantic attraction or a desire for romance. They can be fulfilled by friendships and other non-romantic relationships.
Straight is simply a less-formal way of saying heterosexual, which refers to a person who is attracted emotionally, romantically and/or sexually to the opposite sex/gender.
Being bicurious is similar to questioning, but more specifically means you’re curious about being attracted to people who are the same gender/sex.
Being polyamorous means you want to have consensual non-monogamous relationships, or relationships with multiple people. This can have different set-ups, but might include open relationships, or polyfidelity (closed polyamory), which is when people are in multiple relationships that aren’t open to adding new partners.
This term refers to an attraction (emotional, romantic and/or sexual) to masculinity. Being androsexual could mean you’re attracted to men, but you may be attracted to masculine women, as well.
Gynesexual is the opposite of androsexual. It refers to an emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to femininity. Again, this could mean you’re attracted to women, but you may also be attracted to more feminine men.
Both of these terms refer to people who are attracted emotionally, romantically and/or sexually to people of all genders and sexes. It isn’t the same as being bisexual (as that doesn’t typically include attraction to people who don’t identify with a gender binary) – though pansexual/omnisexual people are also bisexual.
This term describes someone who only has a sexual attraction to people with whom they have already created an emotional bond. This type of sexuality is closely related to asexuality, meaning many people who are demisexual don’t experience sexual desire very often.
Being skoliosexual means you’re primarily attracted (emotionally, romantically and/or sexually) to gender queer, transgender, transsexual and/or non-binary people.
This term refers to someone who experiences sexual attraction. This is most commonly used in the asexual community to refer to someone who is not asexual.
Being monosexual means you have emotional, romantic and/or sexual desire for one gender only. Being straight or gay are forms of monosexuality.
This term is the opposite of monosexuality, and refers to people who are attracted to more than one gender. Bisexuality and pansexuality are forms of nonmonosexuality.
This term is closely related to asexual, but is broader because it includes people who don’t often (but sometimes) experience sexual attraction to others.
This term refers to the idea that sexual orientations can change over time – and may change based on the situation at hand. People can also identify as sexually fluid.