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Sexuality is a spectrum. One’s sexual orientation defines who they are sexually, emotionally, and romantically attracted to. Every individual’s preferences are unique to his or herself, and can often be confusing. While sexuality is a spectrum and not a single filled bubble answer, there are two categories that divide human sexuality: monosexual and plurisexual. Within those two categories are 9 sexual orientations that have been given the abbreviation LGBQDPAK (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Demisexual, Pansexual, Asexual, and Kink).
Homosexual and heterosexual individuals are monosexual and are sexually attracted to one gender. Plurisexual individuals are sexually attracted to more than one gender; plurisexual individuals identify as bisexual, pansexual, or queer.
We tend to think of sexuality as sexual attraction to at least one type of gender. Asexual individuals, however, are not sexually attracted to any population, nor do they have any inclination to engage in sexual behaviors with themselves or another individual. Asexuality is not synonymous with celibacy, nor is it any more of a choice than identifying as a different sexual orientation. Asexual individuals can still feel romantic attraction and desire romantic relationships. They may even engage in sexual activity for the benefit of their partner, but they derive no pleasure from it.
Demisexuality is otherwise known as the “gray area” between asexuality and sexuality. Individuals who identify as demisexual are only sexually attracted to men or women whom they have a deep emotional connection with. Not every emotional bond results in sexual attraction, but sexual attraction cannot exist without an emotional connection. You might be having second thoughts about your sexual orientation right now if you crave intimacy and a connection prior to engaging in sexual behaviors with an individual. That is not demisexuality. If you’ve ever felt sexually attracted to that pretty girl in math class, or a shirtless Zac Efron, or even that good looking stranger you passed on the way to work this morning, you are not demisexual. While you may not have the intention of acting on that attraction, its existence puts you in the sexual category.
Only 3.4% of the United States identifies as LGBTQ. An even smaller percentage identifies as asexual or pansexual, which means that roughly 96% of the United States population identifies as heterosexual. Talk about a majority. Heterosexuals are attracted to individuals of the opposite sex than the one that he or she identifies as. They develop emotional bonds and engage in sexual behavior with individuals of the opposite sex.
Androsexuality is the attraction to males and/or masculinity. It is applied to both hetero- and homosexual individuals. Genderqueer individuals especially use the term, as their genders may not have definite opposites.
Gynesexual individuals are attracted to females and/or femininity. Like androsexuality, it can be applied to both hetero- and homosexual individuals.
When an individual is sexually attracted to other individuals of the same sex, they identify as homosexual. Female homosexuals are typically referred to as “lesbians” and male homosexuals generally are referred to as “gay.”
Bisexual men and women are attracted to both genders. A bisexual individual can be attracted to one gender more so than the other, but do not identify as homosexual or heterosexual. Bisexuality is not a step between heterosexuality and homosexuality. While individuals may experiment with both genders during their lifetime, they are not bisexual unless they are genuinely sexually attracted to both genders and choose to identify as so.
Pansexuals are sexually attracted to all other individuals, regardless of gender or biological sex, including males, females, or those who identify as anywhere in between. While bisexual individuals are attracted to both males and females, pansexuals are also attracted to identify as intersex, third-gender, androgynous, transsexual, and other sexual and gender identities.
“Queer” is the umbrella term for gay, sexual, and bisexual individuals. The term “queer” was originally used derogatorily towards the homosexual and bisexual community. In the late ‘80s, the LGBT community and LGBT rights activists reclaimed the word as an identity. Homosexuality, bisexuality, and pansexuality can feel confining to an individual who is not sure where exactly he or she falls on the spectrum. It is perceived as more fluid and can be used both while exploring your sexuality and after gaining a better understanding as to what gender(s) you are attracted to. Many queer-identified individuals believe that gender is fluid in and of itself, and are attracted to others regardless of what gender they identify as, if any.
The “K” in LGBTQIPKA stands for “kink.” While not related to gender, “kink” refers to individuals with kinky fantasies. Think Christian Grey. These fantasies typically include BDSM ((bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism) behavior and include activities ranging from blindfolding one’s partner to significantly more painful activities. Both members of the heterosexual and LGBTQ communities can identify as kinky.
The Kinsey Scale
So, now that you know the basics of different sexual orientations, you might feel inclined to reassess your own, or at least gain a better understanding of the “spectrum” concept. Drs. Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy, and Clyde Martin developed the Kinsey Scale in 1948 as a means of emphasizing that people generally fall on a spectrum, rather than identifying as exclusively as one sexual orientation. The scale ranges from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). Kinsey and his colleagues believed that it was rare to identify as a 0 or a 6, and more often than not people fell somewhere in between. This number is susceptible to change with time and new experiences. For example, you may have been a 1 in high school, but 30 years down the line you might find yourself pushing a 3. If you want to try it out yourself, check out this link: https://psymed.info/kinsey-scale-test.
The purpose of these labels is to provide a spectrum on which one can self-identify his or her sexuality. That being said, it is just as acceptable to choose not to label yourself as any of these. Your sexuality is nobody’s decision but your own. For confidential, free consultation regarding coming out, bullying, STDs, relationships, and other concerns please visit:
http://www.glbthotline.org/hotline.html or call 1-888-843-4564.