What is sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation is a term used to describe how a person is sexually or emotionally attracted (or not) to other people in terms of their gender. There are many sexual orientations, some of the ones you may have heard are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual but there are lots more and some people don’t identify with any of these categories. Everybody has a sexual orientation and sexual identity and these are unique. Sexual orientation is fluid; it can be a bit of this and a bit of that, change over time or defy labeling altogether!
Here are some different terms people use to describe sexual orientation:
Heterosexual or straight: Someone who is only or mostly attracted to people of the opposite gender, e.g. Women who are attracted to men.
Queer: Queer is a general term used for people who don’t identify as heterosexual. Someone might identify just as queer, or as queer and also as another sexual orientation(such as those listed below).
Homosexual, gay, lesbian or same sex attracted: Someone who is only or mostly attracted to people who are the same gender as them, e.g. women who are attracted to women.
Bisexual: Someone who is attracted to people of more than one gender, to all gender identities or who don’t see gender as a major factor in who they are attracted to. e.g. a woman who is attracted to both women and men.
Questioning, bicurious or heteroflexible: Someone who is not sure about what their sexual orientation is, and is in the process of working it out.
Pansexual or Omnisexual: Someone who is attracted to people of all gender identities or who don’t see gender as a major factor in who they are attracted to.
Pomosexual: Someone who does not identify with any categorization of sexual orientation, or rejects categorization all together.
Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction to others.
Apasexual: Someone who feels apathetic towards sex, or has a lack of interest in sex in general.
The following terms do not use the gender of either person in their definition.
Androsexual: Someone who is attracted to masculinity, regardless of gender.
Gynesexual: Someone who is attracted to femininity, regardless of gender.
Ambisexual: Someone who is attracted to both masculinity and femininity.
Skoliosexual: Someone who is attracted to transgender or people who identify as non-binary in general.
Sexual orientation is about how you identify, it’s about exploring who you are. Whether you identify with one of the orientations above, with something else, or don’t identify with anything in particular, it’s up to you. The most important thing is to be comfortable with your own identity.
Remember that you don’t owe and explanation of your sexuality to anyone, if they are hassling you about it they are not being respectful. No one- not your friends, parents, teachers, family, colleagues- has the right to ask you to define or disclose your sexual identity.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your sexuality and your sex life may not always be aligned, you may have same-sex sexual experiences but not identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. That’s totally cool, how you identify is up to you!
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