I went missing again. I’m sorry. The past two months, I’ve been dealing with a lot of medical issues, and I’m still dealing with them. (I’m really just fraught with illness 90% of the time.) But since I’m feeling better, I decided to write a post today about the elusive sexual orientation and why it matters.
1. What is sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation, sometimes used interchangeably with “sexuality,” is a personal identification that defines an individual’s sexual or romantic attraction. It has nothing to do with gender identity. If you don’t believe me, refer to my previous post.
2. What are some sexual orientations?
Sexual orientations are hard to define because they exist on a spectrum, but I’ll list some orientations you may or my not be familiar with and define them:
- Heterosexuality – the sexual attraction to the opposite gender
- Homosexuality – the sexual attraction to the same gender
- Bisexuality – the sexual attraction to two or more genders
- Pansexuality – the sexual attraction to all genders
- Asexuality – the absence of sexual attraction
- Polysexuality – the sexual attraction to multiple genders
- Demisexuality – the sexual attraction to another with whom one has a strong emotional bond.
There are many more orientations, and variations within each one, of course. Everyone has a different way they want to identify themselves, and you don’t have to label yourself, if you don’t want to. Most people label their orientations simply because they find a sense of community with others who identify similarly.
You may have noticed on my About page that there’s a bunch of jargon about my gender, sexuality, romanticism, and aesthetic. I’ll explain what all these are in this post, and then break down my definition of myself at the end.
3. What’s the difference between sexual orientation and romantic orientation?
Sexual orientation and romantic orientation are often confused, but they’re actually very different things. Sexual orientation deals with sexual attraction. Romantic orientation deals with romantic attraction. You might be sexually attracted to someone, but not romantically attracted to them. Romantic orientations are denoted by a prefix defining the type of attraction. For example:
- Heteroromantic – the romantic attraction to the opposite gender
- Homoromantic – the romantic attraction to the same gender
- Biromantic – the romantic attraction to two or more genders
- Panromantic – the romantic attraction to all genders
- Aromantic – the absence of romantic attraction
- Polyromantic – the romantic attraction to multiple genders
- Demiromantic – the romantic attraction to another with who one has a strong emotional bond
People all have different ways in which they define romantic and sexual attraction. There is no right way.
4. What is aesthetic attraction?
Aesthetic attraction is an attraction to appearance without any sexual or sensual desires. Aesthetic is a term most often found in asexual circles, but even non-asexual people can feel aesthetic attraction. Another way to think about aesthetic attraction is “having a type.” For instance, a homosexual man may think another woman is pretty, but he doesn’t have any sexual desires toward her. The following are some aesthetic attractions:
- Heteroaesthetic – the aesthetic attraction to the opposite gender
- Homoaesthetic – the aesthetic attraction to the same gender
- Biaesthetic – the aesthetic attraction to two or more genders
- Panaesthetic – the aesthetic attraction to all genders
- (I don’t know the term for having no aesthetic. A-aesthetic? Aceaesthetic?)
- Polyaesthetic – the aesthetic attraction to multiple genders
- Demiaesthetic – the aesthetic attraction to another with whom one has a strong emotional bond
I think you can see the pattern here. The asexual community may also use the term “sensual attraction” to describe the desire to do sensual activities with another, such as cuddling, but this isn’t a widely accepted attraction.
5. What about people who identify as Grey-Asexual (Gray-Ace, Gray-A, Grace)?
Like all sexual orientations, asexuality exists on a spectrum. In fact, The Huffington Post provided a very nice chart you can use here. Being grey-asexual just means that you only experience sexual attraction rarely or under specific circumstances. Demisexuality falls on this spectrum. On the opposite side of asexual is allosexual (sometimes referred to just as “sexual”) where one experiences sexual attraction regularly.
6. So, T.K., what do you identify as?
I’m very open about my queerness. I’ve found the best way to be a voice in my community is to simply be honest about my identity and thoroughly answer any questions that come my way, so I’ll give my full compilation of labels as an example:
“T.K. is a gender fluid, panaesthetic, aromantic demi-pansexual.”
Let’s break this down with what we now know. Gender fluidity is a gender identity, which I explained in my previous post. Panaesthetic is the aesthetic attraction to all genders. Aromantic is the lack of romantic attraction. Demi-pansexuality is actually the combination of two sexualites: panseuxality and demisexuality. Pansexuality is the sexual attraction to all genders. Demisexuality is the sexual attraction to another after an emotional bond has been formed. This means that I can feel sexual attraction to all genders, but only after I have formed an emotional bond with the person.
If you have any questions about sexual orientation, feel free to ask them in the comments.
Also, I cut my hair.
Embrace the androgyny.