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Sexual Orientations: What You Should Know

 

As more and more people become accepting of different gender identities and sexual orientations, many people within the LGBTQIA+ community are more comfortable “coming out” to the world. In 2019, an estimated 1.4 million people aged 16 and over in the UK identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB), up from 1.2 million in 2018.

This Pride month, we would like to educate people about the LGBTQIA+ community and spread awareness of different gender identities and sexual orientations.

What Does LGBTQIA+ Mean?

LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual. Some people also use the Q to stand for “questioning”, which represents people who are still undecided on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Some people who identify as “questioning” might also be heteroflexible, which means that they’re mostly “straight” and are attracted to people of a different gender than theirs. However, they occasionally find themselves attracted to people who are of the same gender.

Here’s a general overview of what each term within the LGBTQIA+ acronym means:

  • Lesbian: Refers to women who are romantically or sexually attracted to other women.
  • Gay: Refers to people who have a romantic or sexual orientation towards members of the same sex. Often used for homosexual men, but can also refer to homosexual women.
  • Bisexual: Refers to people who have sexual and romantic feelings for both sexes.
  • Transgender: Encompasses a variety of gender expressions, including crossdressers, drag queens and kings, transgenderists, transexuals, and bi-genders.
  • Queer: An umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender. This means that their sexual orientation or gender identity falls outside of “gender norms”. A person who identifies as queer may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and/or asexual.
  • Intersex: People who were born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male.
  • Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction to others

The “plus” (+) sign was added to the LGBTQIA acronym to represent the queer community, highlighting pangender or pansexual individuals and those in unconventional relationship communities, such as polyamory, kink, and non-monogamy.

What’s the Difference Between Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity?

Many people assume that sexual orientation and gender identity are the same thing. Gender identity is the gender (or genders) a person associates with. Often the gender someone identifies with matches their sex assigned at birth. This is termed “cisgender”. Whilst cisgender people vastly outnumber non-cisgender people, it is impossible to assume someone’s gender identity based on appearance or sex assigned at birth. Other genders include transgender, genderfluid, genderqueer, agender and non-binary. Gender identity is an internal personal feeling, and cannot be assumed by others.

Sexual orientation concerns who someone is attracted to, often compared with their own gender, for example, a woman attracted to other women may identify as lesbian, gay or homosexual. Other sexual orientations include heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, sapiosexual and and demisexual. Sexual orientation can (and often does!) fluctuate and evolve over time.

Therefore, sexual orientation and gender identity are two distinct, but related, concepts. Sexual orientation refers to who you’re attracted to or feel drawn to romantically, emotionally, and/or sexually. On the other hand, gender identity is about who you are (i.e. male, female, transgender, genderqueer, etc.)

What Does Asexual or “Ace” Mean?

Some define an asexual individual as someone who doesn’t experience any sexual attraction for anyone. However, it’s not really that simple. Like other gender identities and sexual orientations, asexuality is a spectrum.

So, while some asexual people have little interest in having sex, they might experience romantic attraction. However, others may not. People who identify as asexual might be attracted to people of the same sex or gender as themselves or to other sexes or genders.

There are other identities that fall into the asexual or aromantic spectrum, which include:

  • Aromantic: Describes people who don’t experience romantic attraction.
  • Demisexual: Describes people who only feel sexually attracted to someone only after developing a close emotional bond with that person.
  • Greysexual or greyromantic: Typically describes people who are somewhere between sexual and asexual. They might feel sexual or romantic attraction towards someone sometimes. They might also have a low sex drive, or may only have sexual/romantic attraction under certain circumstances.
What Does Pansexual/Bisexual Mean?

To understand pansexuality, it’s important to understand the definition of bisexuality. Many people use the two terms interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference. A bisexual person is typically attracted to two (or more) genders, but not all. A pansexual person, on the other hand, is typically attracted to all genders. This includes cisgender, transgender, agender (i.e. not having a gender), and gender-nonconforming individuals.

It’s important to note that these definitions aren’t set in stone. Bisexuality and pansexuality, like any other sexual orientation, mean different things to different people.

What Does Sapiosexual Mean?

A sapiosexual person is someone who finds intelligence sexually attractive or arousing. Sapiosexuals value the intelligence trait so much that they consider it to be the most important trait in a partner. Anyone, including LGBTQIA+ people and heterosexual people, can identify as sapiosexual.

What Does Demisexual Mean?

A demisexual person is an individual who is only sexually attracted to someone after they’ve formed a strong emotional bond with them. As a result, demisexual people may feel sexual attraction less often than the general population. But when they do, it usually follows a close emotional connection.

Moving Away From “Labels”

When it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, there is often no “black and white” definition. These concepts exist on a spectrum, which is sort of symbolic because a rainbow represents a spectrum of light.

Different colours of the rainbow blend together to make new colours, which is similar to the LGBTQIA+ community. The colours of the rainbow flag reflect the spectrum of human sexuality and gender as well as the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community

People within the LGBTQIA+ identify with many different genders, and they may be attracted to people of many genders. The LGBTQIA+ community includes all races, ages, sexual orientations and genders.

June: The Month of Pride

We live in a world with diverse people, of many ages, races, sexes, and genders. And we want to take the time to embrace the beauty in that. We also want to spread awareness about the importance of sexual health for all people, no matter who you identify as or who you’re sexually attracted to. Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) regularly. Don’t want to go to the clinic? You can purchase one of our home STI test kits. We also offer trans and nonbinary support, If you have concerns about how to answer questions about your sex and gender when ordering a test kit, please don’t hesitate to contact us You can also read our Beginner’s Guide to At-Home STI Test Kits.

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Yoxly's Awesome Contributors (YACs) are a diverse group of individuals who are passionate about public health, and committed to furthering our mission. Yoxly provides a platform where a variety of sexual health topics (some more awkward than others!) can be explored, in an informative and non-judgmental way. If you'd like to become one of Yoxly's Awesome Contributors, contact us!

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