Non-binary, pansexual, intergender… maybe you’ve come across these expressions before. Society’s views on love, sex, and gender are undergoing a long-overdue seismic shift. Words like gender, sex, and sexual orientation are being thrown around and mixed up. And this is a problem – you can’t compare fish with birds. We think it’s important that “who we are, what’s in our pants, and who and whether we love” are not muddled. We explain the most important words and shine a light on sexual orientation.
What do we mean by sexual orientation?
When we talk about sexual orientation, we mean whether we feel attracted to other people, and if we do, who they are. Some of the different options include heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, and asexuality. Most people don’t know what these different sexualities mean, so here’s a brief overview:
- Heterosexual: people who are physically and emotionally attracted to people of the opposite sex.
- Homosexual – lesbian and gay: people who are attracted to those of the same sex. Within homosexuality, we differentiate between gay and lesbian. Gay refers to men who are only interested in men. Lesbians are women who are only sexually attracted to other women.
- Bisexual: this sexual orientation means you are attracted to more than one gender.
- Omnisexual: the sexual orientation of people who feel sexually and/or emotionally attracted to all genders.
- Pansexual: these people can also be attracted to intersexual and trans people, as well as men and women. Gender does not play a role in their sexual and emotional attraction.
- Asexual: people who have no or only very slight sexual attraction to other people.
Differences between omnisexual, pansexual, and bisexual
Omnisexual, pansexual, and bisexual are all words that are used to describe sexual orientation and the different preferences and attractions of people to specific genders. Omnisexual refers to people who are attracted to all gender identities. Pansexual is similar, but here the focus is on an attraction that goes beyond gender and biological characteristics. Bisexual refers to being attracted to two genders, generally men and women. Here, gender identity plays a more important role than attraction. It’s important we understand these differences, so we can be respectful of the diversity of sexual orientations, and accept and support people in a way that reflects their own identity and preferences.
Sexualities and genders can also be fluid
There are many different orientations and identities. You don’t have to identify with any of them 100 percent. For example, if you identify as bisexual, you don’t have to be attracted to each of the genders to the same extent. There is a wide spectrum of people to whom you can be attracted. In addition to words that are common, like homosexuality, there are also expressions that are less well-known. We’ve put together a short selection for you:
Allosexuality: Allosexual people feel sexual attraction to other people.
Androsexuality: Attraction to men and masculine people.
Demisexuality: A need to form an emotional connection to someone in order to experience sexual attraction.
Gynosexuality: Attraction to female and feminine people.
Sapiosexuality: Sexual attraction to intelligence.
Skoliosexuality: Sexual attraction to people who identify as neither female nor male.
Queer: This refers to all sexualities, orientations, and identities that are outside of the heteronormative norm. These words have only been added to the spectrum of sexuality in the last couple of years, and demonstrate that sexuality, sexual orientation, and identity are all fluid and not linked to fixed ideas or definitions. They are as colorful as life itself – and always changing.
Sexual orientation and gender – What’s the difference?
Gender is diverse, and so is sexual orientation. However, they are very different things: while sexual orientation refers to the gender of the person to whom someone is attracted, gender identity is about whether someone identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, and whether it describes them adequately and suitably. Gender identity has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
What types of relationship are there?
Like gender and sexual orientation, relationships can also change depending on the partner or altered living situation. For example, someone can live monogamously with one partner, but might prefer to live polyamorously in a subsequent relationship.
Here are a couple of different types of relationship:
- BDSM relationships: Dominance and submission play an important role in BDSM relationships. There might be an emotional component, but it’s not necessary. There are also purely “play relationships” that are exclusively for experiencing special sexual preferences together.
- Monogamy: In a monogamous partnership, two people have an exclusive relationship which excludes physical and emotional infidelity.
- Polyamory: this is whereone person loves several partners and has a sexual relationship with each of them, and all participants know about and consent to this.
- Mingle: a mingle relationship fluctuates somewhere between a committed relationship and a more relaxed affair without a deep connection. Essentially, you’re single, but live with another person as if you were a couple. Find out more about mingles in our post: Mingle
- Open relationship: Open relationships are where a couple decides together that they want an open sexual relationship. Rules and conditions define the scope of permitted sexual experiences outside the relationship.
- LAT relationship: Stands for “Living apart together” and means that a couple is in a relationship, but they don’t live together and are not interested in living together either.
As you can see, sexual orientation and gender identity are highly multi-faceted and diverse. And that is why we need to continue to fight for equality and acceptance, and build a world where we can all live free, authentic lives, whatever our sexual orientation or gender identity.
Because we should all remember one thing – love has no gender and everyone can love whoever they want.
Image sources: pexels-ketut-subiyanto-4759913, pexels-lisett-kruusimäe-12289209