Sexuality, or sexual orientation, has to do with whom a person is, or is not, attracted to either sexually or romantically. People may identify more with one sexuality than another at different points in their lives.
In this article, we will discuss what sexuality is and provide definitions of some sexual orientations.
We also provide information on where a person can find support groups and clinics.
A person’s sexuality, or sexual orientation, determines whom they do, or do not, feel attraction toward. This attraction is typically sexual or romantic.
Sexual attraction typically describes a person’s desire to have sex or form a sexual relationship with other people. It also often describes physical attraction, or lack thereof, toward others.
Romantic attraction can describe a person’s expression of love within a relationship. This relationship does not have to be sexual, and a person does not have to experience both romantic and sexual attraction in order to have a sexuality.
There are a lot of sexual orientations, and people who identify with one or more may find that their sexuality changes over time. This is perfectly normal — a person’s orientation can be fluid.
Below are definitions of some types of sexuality.
A person who identifies as alloromantic experiences romantic attraction to others.
This is an umbrella term.
A person who identifies as allosexual typically feels sexual attraction toward other people. They may also want to have sex with a partner.
People who identify with this orientation may also identify with another sexuality, such as being gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
People who consider themselves androsexual feel attraction toward men, males, or perceived masculinity irrespective of whether or not they were assigned male at birth.
A person who identifies as aromantic may not feel any romantic attraction toward anyone.
People who are aromantic may not want a relationship beyond friendship.
Those who identify with this orientation may also identify with another orientation.
A person’s romantic attraction can differ from their sexual attraction. For example, a person may not be romantically attracted to people but can be sexually attracted to some.
Asexual is an umbrella term that encompasses a broad spectrum of sexual orientations.
According to the LGBTQIA Resource Center, asexuality is a spectrum. Some people may experience no sexual or romantic attraction to anyone, while others may experience varying degrees of sexual or romantic attraction to people.
Those who identify with this orientation do not have to abstain from sex to be asexual.
Some orientations that exist within the asexuality spectrum include:
- Sex-averse: This is when a person is averse to or entirely disinterested in sex and sexual behavior.
- Sex-favorable: This is when a person has positive feelings toward sex in some situations.
- Sex-indifferent: This refers to those who feel neutral about sex and sexual behavior.
- Sex-repulsed: This refers to those who are repulsed by sex and sexual behavior.
- Cupiosexual: If someone identifies as cupiosexual, they do not experience sexual attraction but still desire to engage in sexual behavior or have a sexual relationship.
- Libidoist asexual: This term refers to those who are asexual and experience sexual feelings that they can satisfy with masturbation or self-stimulation.
- Graysexual: Those who are graysexual experience sexual attraction either infrequently or not very intensely.
- Grayromantic: People who identify as grayromantic may experience romantic attraction either rarely or not very strongly.
Those who are autoromantic experience a romantic attraction toward themselves.
This does not mean that they do not experience romantic attraction toward others as well.
Those who identify as autosexual experience a sexual attraction toward themselves.
Similarly to those who are autoromantic, people who are autosexual may also experience sexual attraction to other people.
People who identify as bicurious are interested in having a sexual or romantic experience with someone of the same gender.
The term indicates that the person experiences some uncertainty as to how they identify romantically or sexually.
People who identify as biromantic feel romantic, but not necessarily sexual, attraction to more than one gender.
A person who identifies as bisexual can be any gender.
Bisexuality means that a person feels attraction toward their own gender and other genders or toward anyone regardless of their gender.
Some people may also use the terms bisexual and pansexual at different times to describe their sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA Resource Center note.
People who identify as demiromantic usually do not feel romantic attraction to people with whom they do not have a strong emotional bond.
A person who identifies as demisexual typically only feels sexual attraction toward a person with whom they have already established a strong emotional bond.
Some people who are demisexual may have no interest or only a slight interest in sexual activity.
A person who identifies as gay typically only feels sexual attraction toward people of the same gender.
Socially, people use this term to refer to men who are romantically and sexually attracted to men. However, those in the community use it as an umbrella term.
Gynesexual or gynosexual
People who identify as gynesexual feel sexual attraction toward women, females, and perceived femininity irrespective of whether or not they were assigned female at birth.
Those who are heteromantic may experience romantic attraction, but not necessarily sexual attraction, to those of a different gender.
People who are heterosexual, or “straight,” typically feel sexual and romantic attraction toward people who are of a gender different from their own.
Homoromantic refers to people who are romantically attracted to those of a similar gender to their own. They may not be sexually attracted to people of the same gender.
Homosexuality is a term describing those who are emotionally and physically attracted to people of the same gender.
However, the LGBTQIA Resource Center state that this term is outdated and may have negative connotations due to the past.
Those who identify as lesbian are usually women who feel sexual and romantic attraction to other women.
Some nonbinary people, who do not identify with the traditional binary sexes (male and female), may also identify as lesbians. This may be because they feel a closer connection to womanhood and are mainly attracted to women.
Monosexual is an umbrella term encompassing all sexual orientations that feel a romantic or sexual attraction toward only one gender.
Some sexual orientations under this term include heterosexuality, gay, and lesbian.
Multisexual is a broad term that encompasses all sexual orientations in which people are attracted to more than one gender.
Some sexual orientations under this term include bisexual and omnisexual.
Pansexual and omnisexual
These sexual orientations refer to people who feel attraction toward people of all genders and sexes.
A typical identifier for those who are pansexual is that gender is not a huge factor in sexual or romantic attraction.
While there is overlap between these two terms and bisexuality and polysexuality, some people may prefer to use one term over another.
This is a term that refers to those who experience romantic attraction, but not sexual attraction, to someone of any gender or sex.
People who identify as polysexual feel sexual or romantic attraction toward more than one gender.
People of all sexualities under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella may also identify as queer.
They may use the term “queer” to reclaim it, as historically many have used the term as a slur.
Unless a person is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, it is generally not a good idea to use this term.
People who identify as skoliosexual typically only feel attraction toward people who are nonbinary.
Spectrasexual is a term that describes those who are romantically and sexually attracted to multiple sexes, genders, and gender identities but not all of them.
Some suggest that sexuality exists on a spectrum, or sliding scale.
The Kinsey Scale, which was first published in 1948, suggested that people did not fit into either heterosexual or homosexual categories.
The scale has six ratings, with an additional category:
- 0: Exclusively heterosexual
- 1: Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
- 2: Predominantly heterosexual but more than incidentally homosexual
- 3: Equally heterosexual and homosexual
- 4: Predominantly homosexual but more than incidentally heterosexual
- 5: Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
- 6: Exclusively homosexual
- x: No socio-sexual contacts or reactions
Although groundbreaking at the time, the scale now presents some issues as it does not address all possible sexual orientations and identities.
The Trevor Project suggest that there are a variety of spectrums focusing on a person’s:
- biological sex
- gender identity
- gender expression
- gender presentation
- sexual orientation
On one end of the sexual orientation spectrum, a person may only be attracted to women, and on the other end, a person may only be attracted to men.
In the middle of the spectrum are those who feel a range of sexual and romantic attraction toward different genders and sexes.
It is important to remember that a person can feel different types of attraction to different genders. For example, a person may feel sexual attraction to one or more genders and romantic attraction to different genders.
Also, a person may identify with one sexual orientation and experience different levels of sexual and romantic attraction within that orientation. For example, one person who identifies as bisexual may greatly prefer women over men, and another may experience greater romantic attraction to women but stronger sexual attraction to other genders.
A person’s sexuality determines whom they feel romantic or sexual attraction toward. People may feel that labeling their sexuality helps them deal with any oppression or difficulties they face. It may also help them find a community in which they can share their experiences.
People may also find it helpful to know the terms describing other sexual orientations. By knowing the terminology, people can better understand another person’s sexuality.
Do people need to identify their sexual orientation?
People do not necessarily need to identify as one type of sexual orientation.
People’s sexual orientation can change over time. They may also sit under an umbrella term but not find a label that accurately describes their experience.
However, some people may find that choosing a label for their sexual or romantic orientation helps them form communities with other people who may share similar experiences.
Some groups and clinics that people can turn to for support include:
- The Trevor Project, which is an organization that provides support to the LGBTQ community
- Audre Lorde Project, which is an organization based in New York City that promotes social justice for the LGBTQIA+ community
- Zuna Institute, which is an advocacy organization for Black lesbians
- National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, which is an organization that supports the LGBTQ community
- The American Institute of Bisexuality, which is an organization that supports people who are bisexual
- CenterLink, which is a website where people can find their local LGBTQ community centers
- Equality Federation, which has a directory of statewide LGBTQ organizations
A person’s sexual orientation describes whom they feel romantic and sexual attraction toward.
Sexuality can exist on a spectrum, and people do not have to feel sexual and romantic attraction at the same time or toward the same gender.