Words matter, and when those words connect to nuanced forms of identity, they matter even more. Such is the case for why it's so important for all people to understand the different types of sexuality. To contextualize it differently, consider Dr. Flanders' following example about ice cream: “I had a teacher once who described it in terms of ice cream flavors," she says. "What if your favorite ice cream flavor was kale, but you never knew that about yourself because it was never an option? And then one day, maybe you come across kale ice cream and love it, and now understand yourself as a person whose favorite ice cream is kale-flavored.”
“Sexuality is full of diversity, and awareness of different types helps build acceptance and understanding of these differences.” —Shannon Chavez, PsyD, sexologist
The implications of understanding the different types of sexuality are, of course, further reaching and more important than ice cream flavors. “Sexuality is full of diversity, and awareness of different types helps build acceptance and understanding of these differences,” says Shannon Chavez, PsyD, resident sex therapist with K-Y. “It breaks down stereotypes, judgments, and myths about different sexual populations. Sexuality is a central part of your identity and who you are, and learning more about your own sexuality as well as others’ can be an empowering and positive experience.”
To be sure, understanding your own sexuality can be beneficial for myriad reasons. It "can help you connect to other folks who share a similar experience, which we know is important for supporting the health and well-being of queer people,” Dr. Flanders says. “For me personally, I grew up in a time and a place where bisexuality and queerness weren't options that were known to me. Once I met people who used those terms to describe themselves, it provided a framework for me to understand myself and my sexuality in a way that enabled me to communicate it to myself and others.”
And in fact, learning about the types of sexuality—even if you feel you already have a strong understanding of your own identity—can help destigmatize and remove shame surrounding the space for others. “I do believe we are going through a new sexual revolution where people are more open with their unique identities, bringing awareness to pronouns and gender identities, and freedom to express who you are sexually without fear and shame,” Dr. Chavez says.
While, again, the types of sexuality are constantly evolving and growing, below, you can find a breakdown of many up-to-date terms and their meaning, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the University of Connecticut’s Rainbow Center:
20 types of sexuality to know about for a deeper understanding of yourself and others
This is a person who experiences sexual attraction.
An aromantic is one of many romantic orientations that describes someone who experiences little or no romantic attraction to another person.
An androsexual is sexually attracted to men or masculinity.
People who are asexual have a lack of attraction to other people.
A person who is bicurious is interested in or curious about having sex with someone whose sex or gender is different from their usual sexual partners.
A bisexual is someone who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender, or gender identity. This is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with “pansexual,” which more specifically describes someone who is attracted to people without regard to their gender identity.
This is a person who has little or no ability to feel romantically attracted to someone until they form a strong sexual or emotional connection with a person.
A demisexual does not experience sexual attraction until they have a strong romantic connection with someone.
Fraysexuality, also known as ignotasexuality, refers to people who experience a strong sexual attraction toward strangers and less attraction toward people they know well.
A person who is gay is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to people of the same gender identity. This term is often used by men, women, and non-binary people.
People who are heteroflexible often identify as heterosexual but may experience situational attraction that falls outside of that.
This term describes people who identify as men who are attracted to people who identify as women, and vice versa.
A lesbian is someone who identifies a woman or as non-binary who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women. The term is used by women and non-binary people.
This acronym is used for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer.”
A pansexual is a person who has the potential for emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to people of any gender identity or sexual orientation.
This term describes a spectrum of sexual identities other than exclusively heterosexual.
People who consider themselves questioning are currently exploring their sexual orientation.
18. Same-gender loving
This is a term that’s used by some people instead of “lesbian,” “gay,” or “bisexual” to explain their attraction to someone of the same gender identity.
A person who is skoliosexual is attracted to people who are non-binary.
The meaning of sapiosexual is a person who is attracted to someone else based on their intellect. The meaning of how someone who is sapiosexual defines intellect can vary, because there are different types of intelligence and ways to measure it.
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