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Sexual orientation, also known as sexuality,[1] refers to a person's sexual attractions (or lack thereof) toward other people.[1][2] It is not defined by sexual activity, which can be independent of a person's orientation.[2] It also is not equivalent to a person's gender, but the most common terms use the language of the gender binary (male or female).[1]

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Examples of sexual orientations[]

The labels below asexual are specifically allosexual orientations and most are defined in terms of genders. For additional sexual orientation labels under the asexual umbrella, see asexual spectrum.

Asexual[]

Asexual Flag

The asexual pride flag

Asexual refers to people who do not experience sexual attraction toward others,[3] as well as people who experience limited or conditional sexual attraction[4] and relate to the label asexual more than other sexual identity terms.[3] They may experience other forms of attraction, such as romantic, sensual, or aesthetic attraction. Asexuality is a sexual orientation,[5] not a behavior, choice, or medical condition. Some asexual people choose to engage in sexual activities for various reasons despite not experiencing sexual feelings and desire toward any particular person.[3][4] Asexuality is part of the asexual spectrum (abbreviated "ace spectrum"), an umbrella term and a broad community of identities that are closely related to asexuality when placed on a spectrum ranging from asexual to allosexual.[3]

Abrosexual[]

Abrosexual Flag

An abrosexual pride flag

Abrosexual individuals experience their sexual orientation as fluid and/or changing over time. Although other kinds of fluidity may involve changes in the genders one is attracted to, abrosexuality involves one's entire orientation changing over time. The intensity of their attractions may change as well.[6] There is no set schedule experienced by all abrosexual individuals; it may fluctuate between hours, days, weeks, months, or even years for their orientations to change. Some abrosexual individuals do have their own fixed patterns or schedules, but not all. Some may be fluid between a few orientations, while others are fluid between several.[7]

Because abrosexual individuals can sometimes be asexual, abrosexuality can fall under the asexual spectrum. It can also fall under the multisexual spectrum, which includes individuals who are romantically or sexually attracted to multiple genders.[7]

Achillean[]

Achillean Flag

An achillean pride flag

Achillean refers to a man or man-aligned individual who is attracted to other men and man-aligned people.[note 1] This describes all sexual orientations in which one man or man-aligned person is attracted to others, serving as an umbrella term for men and non-binary people who are gay, pansexual, bisexual, queer, or other sexualities in which men or man-aligned individuals identifying as those orientations may be attracted to men and man-aligned people. It is similar to and sometimes known as men loving men (MLM).[8]

The complementary, or female-to-female equivalent of Achillean, is Sapphic.

Androsexual[]

AndrosexualFlag

The androsexual pride flag

Androsexual is a sexual orientation where a person is attracted to men, males, and/or masculinity in general.[6][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] Other prefixes may be used in place of andro- to denote the same range of attraction, such as ma-.[6]

While androsexual can be used to denote both sexual and romantic attraction,[9][10][11][12] androromantic is a label used to specifically denote romantic attraction to men, males, and/or masculinity.[6][16][17] Since ma- is an alternative prefix to andro- in general, maromantic is an alternative term to androromantic.[6]

Bisexual[]

Bisexual Flag

The bisexual pride flag

Bisexual, also abbreviated as bi, is a sexual orientation encompassing attraction to multiple genders and/or sexes,[18][19][20][6][21][22] with the attraction being sexual, romantic, and/or emotional.[22] Bisexuality is not limited to the gender binary, but it is often misunderstood as that.[20] The term does not have a single, universal definition or strict rules as to who may identify as bisexual. The many definitions include the following:

  • Attraction to women and men,[18][19] sometimes phrased as "both sexes"[18]
  • Attraction to people of the same gender as one's self and to people of other genders[19][20]
  • Attraction to more than one gender[19][6][21][22] or more than one sex[22]
  • Attraction to two genders[20][6]
  • Attraction to all genders[21]
  • Or definitions may be based on engagement in romantic or sexual relationships instead of attractions[22]

Bisexuals may experience attraction regardless of gender[21] or regardless of sex,[18] feel equally attracted to the genders they are attracted to,[6] or may have a preference for and be primarily or more strongly attracted to one (or more) gender compared to the other(s).[18][6] Some bisexuals are attracted to different genders in different ways.[18][6] Others feel attracted to one gender or sex at some times and not others.[18]

Ceterosexual[]

Ceterosexual2

A ceterosexual pride flag

Ceterosexual,[6] also known as skoliosexual[6][23][24] or allotroposexual,[25] refers to sexual attraction to non-binary[6][23][24] and/or potentially binary transgender people,[24][25] sometimes exclusively.[6] People who are ceterosexual may or may not be attracted to cisgender individuals, especially those who break gender roles, though this definition is disputed.[25][26]

Gay[]

Rainbow Flag1

The modern version of the rainbow flag is commonly used as a gay pride flag

Gay is an adjective referring to those with an enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to people of the same gender.[27] This is most commonly associated with gay men,[28] as a gay woman may prefer to use the term "lesbian" instead.[9][29] Queer and bisexual are also among the terms used for those who are attracted to members of the same gender.[30] In a broader sense of the word, gay can also be used as an umbrella term to identify any LGBTQIA+ individual,[31] though some note that doing so excludes other sexual orientations and gender identities and should thus be avoided.[32]

"Gay" as an identity is defined by the attraction and self-identification as such rather than having had any sexual experience with people of the same gender.[2] Thus, having had sexual intercourse with someone of the same gender does not make anyone gay by definition. There is not just one way to experience same-sex attraction, nor is there a set period in life for a person to discover that they experience it. While some may know that they experience same-sex attraction from a young age, it can take others decades to figure it out or be comfortable enough with their identity to acknowledge it to themselves and others.[33]

Being gay is also referred to as "homosexuality" and thus forms the counterpart of "heterosexuality", the sexual attraction to individuals of the opposite gender.[34] However, controversy has arisen surrounding the use of the word "homosexuals" to refer to gay people, as it has been considered an outdated term that is derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people due to its usage by anti-LGBTQIA+ individuals to imply that gay people are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered.[9]

Gynesexual[]

GynesexualFlag

The gynesexual pride flag

Gynesexual is a sexual orientation where a person is attracted to women, females, and/or femininity.[6][9][10][11][12][13][35] There are other prefixes that are sometimes used instead of gyne- to express the same range of attraction, such as gyno-,[36] and woma-. It describes a person's attractions without specifying their own gender.[6]

Gynesexual can be used to mean both sexual and romantic attraction.[9][10][11][12] However, gyneromantic is a label that is used only for romantic attraction, with the same range of attraction as gynesexual (i.e. to women, females, and/or femininity).[6][37][38] The same alternative prefixes for gyne- can be used for gyneromantic, as in gynoromantic and womaromantic.[6]

Heterosexual[]

Heterosexual, or straight, refers to the sexual orientation of an individual is attracted to people of a gender different than their own.[2] It is commonly used to mean a woman attracted to men or a man attracted to women, which is often called the "opposite" gender.[39] A person who is both cisgender and heterosexual is sometimes referred to as "cishet".[2] Within the Split Attraction Model that separates sexual attraction from romantic attraction, its romantic equivalent is heteroromantic.[40]

Lesbian[]

Community Lesbian Flag

The community lesbian pride flag

Lesbian is a sexual orientation[41][42] or romantic orientation[42] most often defined as a woman who is attracted to other women, with many variations in definitions.[41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50] Although lesbians are frequently defined as women who are attracted to women exclusively/solely,[43][44][47] they are also defined as women attracted to women primarily/mainly.[41][44][47] Some prefer to use or additionally use "gay" or "gay woman" as an identifier.[51]

Lesbians have debated who shares their identity and is part of the lesbian community for over a century.[52] They have variously been defined based on sexual attractions, romantic attractions,[41][43][44][45][51] sexual behaviors,[41] or self-identifying with the label.[53] For instance, women who self-identify as both bisexual and lesbian[note 2] would not be included in a definition that specifies lesbians are only oriented toward women, but would be in a broader definition that encompasses other labels.[43][47][53] Definitions also vary in whether or not they use expanded language regarding gender with phrasing that explicitly includes people who do not identify only as women, such as non-binary people[51][55] who are woman-aligned[51] or feel a connection to womanhood, or genderqueer people who feel a connection to womanhood.[55]

Lesbians may be cisgender or transgender;[43][56][57] since gender is a separate concept from sexual orientation, someone may be both trans and lesbian.[note 3][43][56] Based upon their assigned gender at birth and attraction to women, and prior to realizing their gender identity and transitioning, some trans women (assigned male at birth) formerly identify as straight and some trans men (assigned female at birth) as lesbian. Trans women attracted to women may subsequently understand themselves as lesbian women. As lesbian communities tend to be more accepting of masculine and gender non-conforming people who were assigned female at birth than straight communities, trans men often initially identify as lesbians before transitioning; however, this does not mean that all butch or otherwise masculine lesbians are transgender. Depending on individual circumstances, some trans men maintain their lesbian identities and community involvement as men.[58]

Certain lesbians have used the label to describe their gender in addition to their attractions.[59] In the Gender Census, an annual online international survey of people who do not strictly identify with the gender binary, participants indicated their personal identifiers; the item "lesbian (partially or completely in relation to gender)" was selected by 12.9% of the participants in 2021[60] and 13.8% in 2022.[61]

Omnisexual[]

Omnisexual Flag

The omnisexual pride flag

Omnisexuality is the sexual attraction to people of all sexes and gender identities, wherein gender plays a role in one's attraction. This could be a preference or a recognition, and the attraction may feel different depending on the gender or sex.[62] Some omnisexual individuals may be more attracted to certain genders, but that is not always the case.[63]

Pansexual[]

Pansexual Flag

The pansexual pride flag

Pansexuality, also abbreviated as pan, is a sexual orientation encompassing attraction to multiple genders,[6][64][65][66] with the attraction being physical, romantic, and/or emotional.[64][65] The term has been variously defined as attracted to all genders,[65][66] capable of attraction to any or all gender(s),[6] or capable of attraction to anyone, regardless of gender identity.[64]

Definitions also vary regarding how gender and attraction interact for pansexuals. A common perception is that pansexuality means a person's attractions are not influenced by gender. However, pansexuals may feel that gender does not matter[6][64][67] or instead feel it is a factor in the way they are attracted. Some pansexuals are attracted to different genders in different ways, or they are more attracted to particular genders.[6]

Pansexuality is part of the bisexual umbrella—anyone who is attracted to more than one gender.[68] The Bisexual Resource Center uses "bisexual+" or "bi+" to distinguish the umbrella usage from the singular term.[21] Pan is also in the multiple-attraction spectrum (aka m-spec).[69] In both umbrellas, pansexual is alongside the labels omnisexual, polysexual, and others.[68][21][69] While m-spec[69] and bisexual[68][21] both encompass pansexual,[68][21][69] bi is considered part of m-spec.[69]

Polysexual[]

Polysexual Flag

The polysexual pride flag

Polysexuality, sometimes known as plysexuality or polisexuality, is the sexual attraction to various, but not necessarily all, genders.[70][71] A polysexual person may experience sexual attraction to any number of genders, varying between (at least) two and many. Polysexual individuals may have a preference when it comes to which gender they are attracted to, but this is not necessarily the case.[72]

Queer[]

Queer Flag

A common queer flag

Queer is an identifier for individuals who are not exclusively heterosexual in their sexual orientation,[9] who use it in reference to their gender identity and/or gender expression (as a standalone term or part of another like genderqueer),[73][74] or who are fluid in their identities, as well as an umbrella term for the entire community.[2] It is also used instead of lesbian, bisexual, or gay by some people who find those terms too limiting or loaded with connotations that do not apply to them.[73]The "Q" in LGBTQIA+ and similar acronyms commonly means Queer.[9] As a reclaimed word, it has been used in fights for LGBTQIA+ rights and liberation[75] as an inclusive and sometimes defiant term.[2] PFLAG and GLAAD are two of the organizations that recommend only using it for people who self-identify as queer because it has varying meanings and is not universally accepted.[9][2] In addition, the term may be used in preference to other identifiers by members, for a variety of reasons.[76]

Sapphic[]

Original sapphic flag

A sapphic pride flag

Sapphic, sometimes known as women loving women (WLW),[77] or sapphist,[78] refers to a woman or woman-aligned person of any sexual orientation who is attracted to women or woman-aligned genders/gender identities.[77][2] Another definition is specifically inclusive of non-binary people.[77] It is an umbrella term for many identities, including those who are lesbian, pansexual, bisexual, or queer.[2] It is used to promote solidarity among women and non-binary people of all identities who are attracted to those who are women and woman-aligned. It may also be used as an identity, and may be found particularly useful for individuals who know they are attracted to women but may be uncertain if they are attracted to other genders.[79] It can also be used to describe a relationship between two women.[80][81]

The complementary, or male-to-male equivalent of sapphic, is Achillean.

See also[]

Notes[]

  1. Gender identity is a personal experience, so defining "man-aligned" may lead to different answers depending on whom you ask, but it generally refers to a non-binary person who is partially aligned or identifies with being male, with masculinity, and/or with manhood. They may or may not individually identify with this term, and their identity may be fluid between others. Its use here attempts to encapsulate multiple identities without listing each possibility.
  2. Examples of labels used to self-identify as both lesbian and bisexual include bisexual lesbian, bi-lesbian, and lesbian-identified bisexual.[54]
  3. While transgender people are generally implied in definitions, trans lesbians are explicitly noted here to make clear that lesbian identity is not limited to cisgender women.

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Sexuality / Sexual Orientation" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-11-02)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "National Glossary of Terms" by PFLAG on <pflag.org>(Archived on 2024-02-20)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "General FAQ" by The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) on The Asexual Visibility and Education Network(Archived on 2024-05-03)
  4. 4.0 4.1 language primer.com/asexual "Asexual" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(language primer.com/asexual Archived on 2021-10-28)
  5. "Overview" by The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) on The Asexual Visibility and Education Network(Archived on 2024-05-03)
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 6.20 6.21 6.22 The ABC's of LGBT+ by Ash Hardell. Published 2016 by Mango Media. ISBN 9781633534087.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "LGBTQ+ 101- What does abrosexual mean?" on <gaytimes.co.uk>. Published 2021-06-21 by Gay Times. (no backup information provided)
  8. "Glossary of Terms" by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Plus (LGBTQ+) Resource Center on <uwm.edu>(Archived on 2021-11-18)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 "Glossary of Terms: LGBTQ" by GLAAD on GLAAD Media Reference Guide – 11th Edition. Published 2022. (Archived on 2024-04-11)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "LGBTQ-Terminology" on <wou.edu> (PDF). Published by Western Oregon University Safe Zone. (Archived on 2022-08-16)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "47 Terms That Describe Sexual Attraction, Behavior, and Orientation" on Healthline(Archived on 2022-06-28)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 "Comprehensive* List of LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Definitions" by Killermann, Sam on <itspronouncedmetrosexual.com>(Archived on 2022-06-06)
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Are You Androsexual Or Gynesexual? Here's How To Tell" by Mckenzie, Macaela on Women's Health. Published 2018-02-22. (Archived on 2022-02-27)
  14. "What Does It Mean To Be Androsexual?" by Gillespie, Claire on Health.com. Published 2022-06-03. (Archived on 2022-06-20)
  15. "What Does Androsexual Mean? + Other Androsexual Information To Help You Be A Better Ally!" on Queer in the World(Archived on 2022-06-19)
  16. "Learn the Basics: Romantic Orientation" by Serrano, Daniel on <sites.psu.edu>. Published 2015-09-18 by Pennsylvania State University. (Archived on 2021-11-26)
  17. "What Does Androromantic Mean? + Other Androromantic Information to Help You Be A Better Ally!" on <queerintheworld.com>. Published by Queer in the World. (Archived on 2022-09-01)
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 "What is Bisexuality?" on Bi.org. Published by The American Institute of Bisexuality. (Archived on 2024-02-02)
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 "What is Bisexual?" by WebMD Editorial Contributors on WebMD. Medically reviewed 2023-07-07 by C. Nicole Swiner, MD (Archived on 2024-02-16)
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 The Queens' English: The LGBTQIA+ Dictionary of Lingo and Colloquial Phrases by Chloe O. Davis. Published 2021 by Clarkson Potter/Publishers. ISBN 9780593135006, ISBN 9780593135013 (Ebook)
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 21.6 21.7 "What is Bisexuality?" on Bisexual Resource Center(Archived on 2024-02-02)
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  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 The Little Book of LGBTQ+: An A-Z of Gender and Sexual Identities by Dyer, Harriet. Published 2021 by Summersdale Publishers. ISBN 9781787839748.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 "6 Things to Know About the Term Skoliosexual" on <healthline.com>(no backup information provided)
  26. "What is Ceterosexuality?" on <webmd.com>(no backup information provided)
  27. "What is LGBTQ?" on The Center - The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center(no backup information provided)
  28. "LGBTQ+ Glossary of Terms" on Out Alliance(no backup information provided)
  29. "National Glossary of Terms" by PFLAG on <pflag.org>(Archived on 2022-01-25)
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  32. "National Glossary of Terms" by PFLAG on <pflag.org>(Archived on 2022-01-25)
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  34. "Why Is the Word "Homosexual" Considered to Be Offensive?" by Stollznow, Karen (Ph.D.) on Psychology Today. Published 2021-05-17. (no backup information provided)
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  36. "What Is Gynosexuality?" on WebMD(Archived on 2022-07-14)
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  40. "Split Attraction Model (SAM)" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-12-08)
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 41.4 "Glossary" by Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Issues and Research Gaps and Opportunities in The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding. Published 2011 by The National Academies Press. ISBN 9780309210621Lesbian: "As an adjective, used to refer to female same-sex attraction and sexual behavior; as a noun, used as a sexual orientation identity label by women whose sexual attractions and behaviors are exclusively or mainly directed to other women." (web archive)
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 "List of LGBTQ+ terms" by Stonewall on <stonewall.org.uk>Lesbian: "Refers to a woman who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term." (Archived on 2024-04-19)
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 43.4 43.5 The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze by Morgan Lev Edward Holleb. Published 2019 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 9781784506636Lesbian: "A woman who is sexually or romantically attracted to women. Lesbian can mean women who are attracted exclusively to other women, but it is also a broader term for women and femmes who are attracted to other women and femmes. This includes bisexual and pansexual women, asexual women who are romantically attracted to women, and non-binary people who identify with womanhood."
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  49. "Violence based on perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa" by Coalition of African Lesbians on <pulp.up.ac.za> (PDF). Published 2013. "Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally, romantically, sexually and relationally attracted to other women." (Archived on 2022-02-15)
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  52. Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: A History, 1880–1945 by Clayton J. Whisnant. Published 2016 by Harrington Park Press. ISBN 9781939594105.
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  56. 56.0 56.1 "Lesbian" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer. "Lesbian: Someone, who can be transgender or cisgender, who generally considers themself to be a woman who is attracted to other women. This attraction does not have to be exclusively to women, though many are exclusively attracted to women. Being a lesbian is separate from the concept of gender, and so it is possible for a trans person to be both trans and lesbian. Also, it is generally understood that people who are trans and lesbian are attracted to people of the same broad category of gender, not necessarily of the same trans status." (Archived on 2021-10-22)
  57. "Not in our name" on DIVA. "DIVA, Curve, Autostraddle, LOTL, Tagg, Lez Spread The Word, DapperQ, GO Magazine and LezWatch.TV believe that trans women are women and that trans people belong in our community. We do not think supporting trans women erases our lesbian identities; rather we are enriched by trans friends and lovers, parents, children, colleagues and siblings." (Archived on 2024-03-19)
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  65. 65.0 65.1 65.2 "National Glossary of Terms" by PFLAG on <pflag.org>Pansexual: "Refers to a person whose emotional, romantic and/or physical attraction is to people inclusive of all genders. People who are pansexual need not have had any sexual experience: It is the attraction and self-identification that determine the orientation." (Archived on 2024-02-20)
  66. 66.0 66.1 The Queens' English: The LGBTQIA+ Dictionary of Lingo and Colloquial Phrases by Chloe O. Davis. Published 2021 by Clarkson Potter/Publishers. Pansexual: "A sexual orientation where a person is attracted to people of all—'pan' is a prefix meaning 'all'—genders and sexualities." [...] "Some people view ‘pansexual’ as a more expansive and inclusive label than 'bisexual.'" [...] "Want more info? Think: Love knows no gender." ISBN 9780593135006, ISBN 9780593135013 (Ebook)
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