HeatherN offers a “Queer Dictionary” to help understand the terminology surrounding sexuality and gender.
Have you seen people using the acronym “LGBTIQ” and wondered what all those letters mean? Are you wondering whether someone calling you “cis-gendered” is supposed to be an insult or just a description? Are you interested in brushing up on your gender-non-conformity and sexual-non-conformity terminology? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then this series of articles is for you.
Over the next few days, I will present to you a dictionary of queer terms, not in alphabetical order. Today we will be focusing on sexual orientation and relationship orientation. So hold onto your butts (or someone else’s if that’s your thing):
Sexual Orientation/Identity: Describes a person’s pattern of sexual attraction and the biological sexes and genders of the people they are attracted to.
Lesbian: In the words of Sean Penn in the movie Milk: “Gentlemen, Anne Kronenberg—a woman. A woman who likes women, isn’t that unusual?” That pretty much sums it up.
Gay: Aka homosexual; generally used to describe men who like men, but is also used as a synonym for lesbian. Though, to be honest, using this as an umbrella terms often makes lesbians feel excluded. So don’t call a lesbian ‘gay’ unless you know she won’t mind. Also, contrary to popular belief, a love of Judy Garland and show tunes is not required.
Bisexual: Someone who is sexually and/or romantically interested in both males and females. No, this doesn’t mean they are necessarily willing to have sex with you and your boyfriend/girlfriend (though there’s nothing wrong with that).
Asexual: From AVEN, “Someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” Before you ask, no, asexual people aren’t just frustrated that they can’t get laid. They legitimately do not experience sexual attraction. Also, some asexual people do have romantic relationships, just without the sex.
Pansexual: Aka omnisexual: If you’re a fan of Torchwood, then I can best explain this with three words – Captain Jack Harkness. For the rest of you, it’s still a pretty simple definition. It’s a sexual and romantic attraction to all biological sexes and gender identities, not just male and female.
Polysexual: A lot like pansexual, only not quite all-inclusive. It’s a sexual and romantic attraction to multiple biological sexes and gender identities, but not necessarily all sexes and genders.
Androphilia: A term not commonly used to describe anyone (of any gender) who is sexually attracted to men. Basically, gay men and straight women fit into this. Bisexual, polysexual and pansexual people could also fit into this along with being gynephilic.
Gynephilia: A term not commonly used to describe anyone (of any gender) who is sexually attracted to women. Basically, lesbians and straight men fit into this. Bisexual, polysexual and pansexual people could also fit into this along with being androphilic. The point of androphilia and gynephilia is to create a sexual identity that isn’t dependent on the gender of the person it describes. This is particularly useful when describing people from non-western cultures or who do not fit into the west’s gender system.
Questioning: A term generally used to describe someone who is questioning their sexual orientation. Personally, I think Katy Perry’s song is a totally stereotypical representation of this. Jill Sobule’s song from the ‘90s captures this much better and much less stereotypically.
Straight: Aka heterosexual. Now you might be wondering why I’m including this at all. Basically it’s to point out that straight people are no more (or less) special than the rest of us. Heterosexuality is a sexual orientation just like all the rest of these are.
Relationship Orientation: A very uncommon term used to describe different types of sexual and romantic relationships
Polyamory: It is something of an umbrella term used to describe romantic and sexual relationships in which there are more than two people involved, and everyone is knowledgeable and consents. It’s also referred to as “consensual non-monogamy.” No this doesn’t mean that they have orgies every night, though they might (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
Monogamy: A term that describes sexual and romantic relationships that involve only two people. I’m including this for basically the same reason I included ‘straight.’
Thus our examination of human sexual identity ends, and we’ve only barely dipped our toe into the diversity of sexuality. I could write an entire essay discussing all of the different sexual and relationship identities that exist, but lucky for you I won’t. I have, however, provided you with some basics. Good night and good luck.
Tune in tomorrow for a look at biological sex and gender identity in Part 2. I’ll explain, once and for all, what the ‘I’ in LGBTIQ means. You don’t want to miss it!
Vector of “together” courtesy of Shutterstock