Polysexuality is a sexual identity in which people feel attraction toward more than one gender.
Medical News Today uses definitions of sexual, romantic, and gender identities that come from LGBTQIA+ and ally sources. However, it is important to note that these identities are personal, and people may define them differently. Always refer to a person’s sexual, romantic, or gender identity the same way the person describes it.
A person who is polysexual may choose to have a relationship with a person of any sexual orientation or gender. However, they will not necessarily feel attraction toward all genders.
This article covers what polysexuality is and how it differs from other sexual identities. It also discusses some myths and misconceptions about polysexuality and provides tips and resources for people who are polysexual and their loved ones.
The prefix “poly” means “many,” and a person who is polysexual may be attracted to multiple genders but not necessarily all genders.
How it compares with other multisexual identities
Multisexuality is an umbrella term that describes romantic or sexual attraction toward more than one gender.
Polysexual means attraction toward multiple genders. Some people may use it interchangeably with the term “bisexual,” which describes the attraction toward more than one gender. However, it is different than other sexual identities that fall under the bisexual umbrella, or bi+, such as:
- Pansexual: Pansexual means an attraction toward all genders, regardless of the person’s gender.
- Omnisexual: People who are omnisexual feel attraction toward all sexes or genders.
- Polyamory: This term means having multiple non-monogamous relationships, with the awareness and consent of all the people involved.
People may also describe themselves as fluid if their attraction fluctuates between different sexual identities.
People may be polysexual if they experience attraction toward multiple genders but not necessarily all genders.
Anyone who feels that the term fits who they are and is a good label for their sexuality may choose to describe themselves as polysexual.
Ultimately, it is up to each individual to define their sexuality and use whichever terms they feel best represent them.
A person who is polysexual may choose to have a relationship with a person of any sexual orientation or gender.
They may have relationships with people who are not polysexual. In such cases, the partner can take steps to support the person’s sexual identity, such as:
- avoiding assuming that the person is straight or gay based on the current relationship
- avoiding fetishizing the person’s sexuality
- validating the person’s sexual identity
For people who are not polysexual, it is important to remember that the gender of a partner does not define a person’s sexuality. A person who defines themselves as polysexual is still polysexual regardless of the gender of their partner.
Many myths surround polysexuality. We look at some of these below.
Polysexual people are unfaithful
People who experience attraction toward more than one gender are no more likely to be unfaithful to a partner than anyone else in a relationship.
Being polysexual does not mean that a person is less committed to their partner or that they are attracted to everyone.
Polysexual people are hypersexual
Polysexual people may also face the misconception that they are more likely to have multiple sexual partners.
A person who is polysexual can experience a variety of sexual behaviors, which is also the case for a person of any sexual orientation.
Polysexual people are just unsure or experimenting
Polysexual is a valid sexual identity, just like any other.
The agency Healing Abuse Working for Change (HWAC) states that the belief that people who are polysexual are unsure or experimenting could be damaging to these individuals.
These beliefs may invalidate a person’s identity and could lead them to experience low self-esteem and self-worth. In some cases, people who feel as though their identity is not valid may experience depression, anxiety, and traumatic stress.
It is up to each individual to decide whether to let others know that they are polysexual and who to tell. People can decide what feels right for them so that they feel safe and seen.
The Bisexual Resource Center reminds people that the following actions are all fine:
- waiting until they feel as though they have enough support around them
- telling certain people and not others
- sharing one part of their identity and not another if they do not feel ready
- telling people one identity and then later changing it to another label that they feel is a better term for their identity
- connecting with people in the bi+ community without sharing their identity
An individual may find that telling people they trust helps them feel more supported and understood.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation suggests that a person take certain steps when telling loved ones about their sexual orientation to help them understand. These include:
- preparing and practicing what they want to get across to the other person
- choosing a time when the person is able to receive the information and discuss it
- telling people about any boundaries, such as not telling others personal information
- staying open to answering questions about polysexuality and what it means for them, if they feel comfortable doing so
- pointing people toward resources, media, or books that explain polysexuality
People may not always react in the way the individual expects or wants. Some people may have uninformed opinions that feel challenging or upsetting.
Being prepared for a variety of responses and processing any feelings that come up may help. Although some loved ones may be accepting, relieved, or celebratory, others may need time to work through their emotions.
People may find the following resources helpful for learning more about polysexuality and other identities under the bisexual umbrella:
Polysexuality means attraction toward multiple genders.
People may class polysexuality under the bisexual umbrella, or bi+, which includes other sexual orientations in which people feel attraction toward more than one gender.