Hop on social media or Reddit and you will find a world of different types and labels around sexuality. It’s beautiful that language can evolve and help not only provide validation for how people experience their sexuality and romantic feelings but for them to shape communities and education around that.
That being said, if you’re questioning your sexuality or are trying to understand it as an ally and caring human, it can be difficult to decipher just what all these labels mean.
Before we dive in, it’s worth mentioning that while for the most part, these identities have agreed-upon definitions, they can change over time and even from person to person. So if you’re ever unsure in the context of a conversation, ask for clarification! People want to be seen, heard, and validated.
To understand a lot of these definitions, you do need to have a clear understanding of the nuances of gender. You can learn more about being non-binary, intersex, and reproductive healthcare outside of the gender binary.
Now let’s get down to it and learn all about the world of sexual orientation!
Allosexual is a term used to define people who DO experience sexual attraction and is used to differentiate from people who are a-sexual.
This doesn’t refer to what gender someone is attracted to, rather the fact that they experience sexual attraction in the first place. People who are allosexual can also be gay, bisexual, straight, lesbian, etc.
People who are androsexual, experience sexual feelings towards masculinity in general. Androsexual people may be attracted to cis men, as well as trans men, males, or masculinity as a whole.
People who are asexual experience little or no interest in sexual activity.
These people may still engage in sex because they may like it, want to appease a partner or have biological children. They also may still experience romantic attraction.
Bisexuality used to be considered people who are attracted to men and women, but it has expanded to include people who are romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of more than one gender.
This allows for more gender inclusivity.
Demisexuality is on the asexuality spectrum. People who are demisexual typically only experience sexual attraction after they’ve formed a strong emotional bond with someone.
Sexuality can change over time. The term fluid gives language to that experience and space for people to explore their changing sexuality.
People who are gay experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to people of the same gender.
Even if someone appears to be gay, they may choose to use a different term like lesbian for women, or queer.
People who are gynesexual, experience sexual feelings towards femininity in general. Gynesexual people may be attracted to cis women, as well as trans women, females, or feminity as a whole.
Also known as “straight”. People who are heterosexual are attracted to people of the “opposite” gender as them. Although typically thought of in the context of cis-gender, trans people may also identify as heterosexual.
This term typically means people who are attracted to the same gender as them, however, it is outdated, and often considered offensive.
Women or females, no matter if they’re cis-gendered or not, may use the term lesbian if they are attracted to people of the same or similar gender.
Pan means “all”, and people who are pansexual may be romantically or sexually attracted to people of any gender or sexuality.
Although formally considered a derogatory term, many people in the LGBTQIA+ community have reclaimed the word as a broad umbrella term for anyone who isn’t specifically cisgender or heterosexual.
Someone who is “questioning” is on a journey of exploring their sexuality and/or gender.
People who are sapiosexual generally experience attraction based on someone’s intelligence.
Humans Aren’t Cookie Cutters
This is not a definitive list of the many possibilities there are in the world of human sexuality. If you are curious to learn more, we invite you to do your own research.
If you don’t feel like you fit into one neat little box of sexual orientation – that’s great! Welcome to the club. Humans are dynamic creatures, and so are our sexual and romantic preferences. Your sexuality can constantly evolve and shift depending on your age, life circumstances, environment, and as you learn more about yourself and what you like.
Now more than ever, the need to define sexuality can be thrown out the window. Having said that, sexual orientations can help create communities and support systems where they can lean on each other and thrive.
No matter what your approach is to defining – or not defining – your sexuality, give yourself the grace to follow your heart and do what feels right for you.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.