Disclaimer: This MOM article is extremely controversial and could trigger intense opinions and/or feelings. If you do not feel that you can express those opinions/feelings in a polite and respectful fashion, then I highly advise that you do not continue reading. For everyone else that can and will read, please remember that this is an opinion article, although heavily informative.
Sex. Gender. Sexuality.
Do those words tend to make you nervous? Perhaps those words make you uncomfortable? If it makes you feel better, those words all used to make me want vomit. Growing up, I hated identifying with a gender, talking about sex, and identifying my sexuality. All of it – I just wanted to crawl in a door and hibernate until the next generation, or until the apocalypse. Of course, if you asked my family, they’d tell you that my actions strongly contradict that statement, but that’s not really the focus of today’s article. Today I really just want inform and discuss sexuality and romance in great detail because someone out there needs this information.
To start, I want to first make sure that we – as educated humans – understand the difference between gender and sex. I’ve discussed it before in previous articles, but let’s pretend we don’t know for a second. A refresher never hurt anyone, right?
A person’s biology and/or genitals identify that individual’s sex (APA). Now, I know that we will probably need some context here. People will hear ‘sex’ and they think of the verb tense. Before we start getting into that frame of mind let’s just throw that a park, okay?
Sex is determined by genetics. A male has the genetic code “XY” while a female has the code “XX.” There are disorders, such as Turner’s Syndrome, in which the genetic code has been altered. Unfortunately, I am not covering such matters today. A person’s genetic code determines how that individual will react physiologically to medications, surgeries, and hormones. Biology is different for each gender and can help determine how to handle the symptoms of various disorders, illnesses, and treatments. Identifying a person’s sex is incredibly important for medical reasons and should never be “brushed aside” in any circumstance.
A person’s gender is determined by behaviors, attitudes, and feelings (APA). This is a shortened version that isn’t inclusive of the relation to culture, stereotypes, and biology. Gender is something often misconceived. Gender and sex are nonexclusive identifiers. Too often this forgotten and causes hysteria among individuals whom are not accepting or understanding of what separates sex and gender identities.
For example, there’s also the option to identify as transgender/intersex and gender fluid. Transgender, or intersex, occurs under one of two circumstances: 1) the person’s biological sex does not match that person’s gender identity, or 2) the person’s biological sex comprises of both male and female genitals (Dictionary). For example, a person with a penis choosing to identify as a female is transgender. Another example, a person that has breasts and a penis is transgender. Some transgender individuals experience gender dysphoria. Other transgender individuals can be at peace with their bodies and identities, but those who do not overcome the dysphoria can choose to transition.
Transition is just an easier way of saying sexual reassignment surgery, which is a procedure that allows a person to change his or her genitals to the gender desired (Surgery Encyclopedia). There are male-to-female and female-to-male surgeries available. The details of those procedures are best reserved for someone wishing to acquire that information and can be best described by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or physician that is knowledgeable on the topic.
Male, female, and transgender are not the only gender identifiers. There is also the option to be gender fluid. A person who gender fluid chooses to not identify as either male or female but prefers to remain neutral, or changes back and forth between both genders as desired (Dictionary). People who are gender fluid are typically referred to as “gender neutral,” “androgynous,” or “non-binary” depending on which term more accurately describes him, her, or xem.
This leads me perfectly into my next topic – pronouns. So, we have pronouns that we use in association with our gender identity. Males use: he, him, and his. Females use: she, her, and hers. People who are gender fluid prefer to use a different set of pronouns. While there are no linguistically accepted terms currently for fluid identification, there are dozens of options online. Although, the most commonly used conjugations can be found on this Tumblr blog.
For the purposes of this article, I will be using xe and it’s derivatives. I always try to be gender neutral when using pronouns in general, unless I feel that it will hinder the flow of text. Even then, I will often alter my text to avoid gender specific pronouns so that I am being considerate to all audiences.
So, now that we understand gender and sex as well as the various identifications in each category – time to move deeper into the cavern of knowledge! Now we can look at the next tier of sex, romance, and sexuality. Of course, where there is sex and romance there is also attraction. You may or may not realize this, but there are four (or five, depending on who you ask) types of attraction. Since I didn’t even know this until a few months ago – it is extremely vital that I make a short list of each type and what it entails. Let’s go!
Now, since these are relatively new concepts and are just now being explored, many of these sources will be blogs (on Tumblr specifically) that discuss sexuality in great depth for their followers. It’s hard to find professional and scholarly websites that are reliably unbiased on the topic. Even those striving to be informative use negative language. So, based on my research here’s what I’ve found on the different types of attraction:
- Sexual: The desire to engage someone sexually based on as many or as few factors as the individual enjoys.
- Sensual: The desire to engage someone physically in such a way is not sexual but is still physically satisfying according to the individual’s need. Note that sensual attraction is not sexually suggestive in any way and could possibly be felt towards non-human things, such as a cat, clothing items, blankets, and pillows – to name a few.
- Romantic: The desire to engage someone emotionally in such a way that suggests a profound and/or exclusive romantic relationship.
- Aesthetic: The attraction to a person devoid of any physical or emotional desire and is based primarily on an individual’s personal preferences. Aesthetic attraction is not unlike playing a game that you are fond of, or watching a television show that you find enjoyable. There is no desire for reciprocation of involvement in any way.
- Platonic: The attraction to a person on an emotional level that harbors no desire for any physical reciprocation of those feelings. This attraction is not romantic on any level either. As such, the individual only wishes to maintain a long lasting relationship with the person emotionally. (This form of attraction arguably could be a subsection of Romantic and/or Aesthetic, but some argue it is a separate category because it doesn’t fall exclusively in either category).
Many people experience each of these stages as they develop long-term relationships. Understand that not everyone experiences every single form of attraction. The following paragraph (in italics) serves only as an example to better explain the forms of attraction.
Please find no offense if the example does not apply to you ❤
A girl sees a boy at school and thinks he is cute. She finds that she is aesthetically attracted to him, but she doesn’t pursue him because she knows nothing about him. It doesn’t make him less cute, but it doesn’t justify her obsessing over him and wanting a relationship either. A few weeks later she goes to a party and runs into the cute boy from school. They start talking and realize that they have quite a lot in common. Now that she is familiar with him she is platonically attracted to him, being friends works out great because they can learn about each other more. After several months, though, the girl starts to feel differently about her cute guy friend. She wants to hold his hand in the hallways, give him hugs when he wins his sports games, and even kiss him when he’s laughing. The girl is now sensually attracted to him. At the same time, she’s still growing increasingly closer to him. Somewhere around the same time she realizes she desires emotional reciprocation from their friendship she starts to see him romantically. Before long the girl and boy are dating. They are together for several months when they start wanting more than just hugs and kisses. They start craving physical gratification now and soon engage sexually. By this time, the two have worked through each form of attraction, each of which coexists in a bit of a blend throughout the entirety of their relationship.
Hopefully that helps as an example of how each of these forms of attraction work. People can experience all of these, some people experience one of them, and others can experience a blend of some them. It is important to remember that attraction is not a mutually exclusive process. There are no restrictions or inclusions which dictate that you have to experience one and two, or two but not three. Too few people know this – and too few people bother to share the information.
Okay, so you’ve worked through 1600 words now, and I’m sure you’re ready for me to get the “meat and potatoes” (goodness, doesn’t that sound delicious right now?) of the article. Finally, we are going to get in the grit and grime of sex, romance, and sexuality. So let me ask you this – are you aware that there are more than three sexualities, and did you know that sexual and romantic orientations are separate from one another? Luckily, if you don’t, I’m getting ready to break into the simplest terms I can come up with for you.
I am not going to beat around the bush or pretend to transition to the next topic. I’m going to hit hard and go in fast. Be ready because I’m about to info-dump a lot of information that could help you be a better person to the people that you know.
So, first, sexual and romantic identification are separate from one another. Again, there’s so few academic works on this because anything other than heterosexual is just now starting to getting recognized as legitimate. Right now, the culture is growing – booming even – as these individuals’ feelings are becoming valid. I apologize that there aren’t more scholarly references, but the most renown leaders in psychology and sociology were once pioneers in their fields. If you search in Google “sexual and romantic orientation” you find a slew of links to asexual support forums and blogs – all dedicated to validating a person’s sexual or romantic identity.
Knowing that sexual and romantic identification are separate from one another, I believe that now is the perfect time to use a chart to best relay the “spectrum” of potential orientations. I will address this again later in this article, but in spite of how specific I am being in this article know that I am still being very quite general.
Please take no offense if your specific identification is not in this chart ❤
|Asexual||Does not experience sexual attraction|
|Demisexual||Experiences sexual attraction under certain circumstances|
|Graysexual||Experiences sexual attraction only after a profound emotional bond has been established with the other individual|
|Heterosexual||Experiences sexual attraction only to the opposite sex|
|Homosexual||Experiences sexual attraction only to the same sex|
|Bisexual||Experiences sexual attraction to only two genders (male & female, possibly male & transgender or female & transgender – although not as common)|
|Pansexual||Experiences sexual attraction to all genders|
|Aromantic||Does not experience romantic attraction|
|Demiromantic||Experiences romantic attraction under certain circumstances|
|Grayromantic||Experiences romantic attraction only after a profound emotional bond has been established with another individual|
|Heteromantic||Experiences romantic attraction only to the opposite sex|
|Homoromantic||Experiences romantic attraction only to the same sex|
|Biromantic||Experiences romantic attraction to only two genders (male & female, possible male & transgender or female & transgender – although not as common)|
|Panromantic||Experiences romantic attraction to all genders|
Technically speaking, this should be a horizontal chart. People refer to the above information as being on a “spectrum” – not too unlike when describing the degree of affliction of Autism. While sexuality and romanticism are not disorders by any stretch of the imagine, it is something which is so broad spanning and under-researched – it makes the most sense to include it on a spectrum for the time being. One of my previous hyperlinks does take you to a website which has the information horizontally, although I disagree with the order because it doesn’t fit the flow of a spectrum.
As with all spectrums, though, there are smaller degrees within that spectrum. (Gosh, I’ve said ‘spectrum’ so many times I’m already sick of typing it. Alas, I have an obligation to be thorough so I’ll keep on throwing it in wherever it is necessary.)… To start, I’m going to move from asexuality/ aromantic to pansexuality/ panromantic. Without further adieu, let’s delve deeper, shall we?
Asexuality is easily the most diverse portion of the spectrums, ironically enough. This is because technically speaking, asexuality is the umbrella term to refer varying levels of interests in sex and involvement in sex, including: asexual, graysexual, or demisexual. The same idea is applied to aromanticism, including: aromantic, grayromantic, or demiromantic). Each of those three are distinctly different from the other but still qualify in some way as asexuality.
In addition to ace/aro, gray, and demi orientations, there are two more classifications that are worth addressing as well. I want to start with Lithsexual and Lithromantic. After I will address autochorissexual (and why people don’t think autochorisromantic is possible).
Lithsexual? Lithromantic? What could those possibly mean? Well, lithsexuality and lithromanticism means that the individual experiences sexual desire or romantic desire – but – the individual has no desire for those feelings to actually be reciprocated (Wikia). Consider this: a guy and a girl are best friends for years. The girl maintains a steady relationship with one of the guy’s best friends. The guy, however, constantly flirts and makes passes at her – suggesting that they should be in a relationship. It never goes anywhere, though, because the guy is open about the fact that he has no desire to actually engage his friend in that fashion.
Lithsexuality/ lithromanticism is the notch between graysexuality/ grayromanticism and demisexuality/ demiromanticism. It makes the individual somewhere between the two, but not wholly one or the other. There’s still a lack of desire for participation in sex or romance, but there is some attraction either way. Similarly, there is a step between heterosexual/ heteromantic and demisexual/ demiromantic – and this autochorissexual – maybe-maybe-not autochorisromantic. Ready to talk about that? Too bad – I’m doing it anyway.
You will be hard pressed to find anything on autochorisromanticism because there’s debate as to whether it’s a real thing. I suppose that is up to the individual until sociology and psychology pioneers decide to officially put in a book. Here’s the meaning of autochorissexual, you can compare and determine for yourself… When someone is an autochorissexual they fantasize about sex and sexual acts and even masturbate; however, they don’t harbor a desire to actually engage in sex or sexual activity with others (Wikia). There is a distinct disconnect between feeling the attraction and engaging, which means that the individual identifying as autochorissexual is still a degree of asexual (Wikia).
Arguably, in my personal opinion, autochorissexuality could also be applied to romanticism. When we swap sexuality for romantic, the altered definition becomes: they fantasize about romance and romantic acts and make romantic gestures; however, they don’t harbor a desire to actually have romantic gestures returned or made to them. There are blogs on Tumblr that argue autochorisromance is not a possibility. Some say it’s because autochorisromantic is more akin to sex-repulsion, but rather as romantic-repulsion. Others believe that autochoris- as a prefix is exclusive to sexuality and cannot accurately translate to romanticism. Were autochorisromantic is very similar lithromantic.
If I followed the spectrum left to right we would be discussing heterosexuality and heteromance, but I’ve decided that’s essentially a waste of time. Society has weighed so much on heteronormativity that we are assumed heterosexual until we dictate otherwise, and even then we are not necessarily believed. As I’ve mentioned before in other articles, there’s therapy that exists to “correct” sexualities that are not heterosexuality. So, I don’t really believe that I need to really identify what heterosexuality is, or what heteromance is, because we’ve been fed heteronormativity before we ever took an independent breath. Harsh as that seems, this article isn’t about shedding light on something we already understand but rather to focus on things we do not understand – or worse – that we don’t respect. So, all of that hot-tempered rambling aside, we’re moving right on forward into bisexuality/ biromantic and pansexuality/ panromantic.
As with all things sexuality and romantics these days, there is some question about the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality and their romantic counterparts. I can’t make the decisions for you on what the words mean, but I can talk to you about linguistics. When something doesn’t make sense, we should try to make sense of the individual parts to understand the bigger picture.
So in my mind, there’s no legitimate question as to what the differences are between bi and pan. Prefixes all have a fairly exactly meaning. Now, meanings can and do occasionally change and get altered through time, but not all words will change. Some definitions are pretty concise.
‘Bi,’ as a prefix, means “two” or “twice” when combined to a root word. There is no room for interpretation of a number. Two will always mean two. Twice will always mean twice. And as such, using ‘bi’ as a prefix will always mean that something is halved, or doubled, or split in two ways. That means that bisexuality and biromanticism will always mean attraction sexually or romantically to two genders. In my chart above, I listed the possible combinations for bisexuality and biromanticism.
It may seem strange to look at those options: male and transgender, or female and transgender? But I’ve seen it. People saying that they prefer transgender individuals instead of men or women. Bisexuality including a preference to transgender and one other gender is within the scope. Transgender is a separate gender classification, whether ignorant people want it to be or not, and should be treated as such. There could even be an attraction to females and non-binaries, as an example including a gender fluid individual.
As I said, bisexual and biromantic encompasses only two genders. ‘Pan,’ as a prefix, means “all” when combined to a root word. This is what truly differentiates the two orientations. Pansexuality/ panromantic is an attraction to all gender identifications. A slogan of pan relations is “Love Hearts, Not Parts.” Someone who is pansexual or panromantic will have sex or love anyone regardless of his/her/xe’s genitals.
The argument at its core on bi versus pan is that if a bi prefers trans individuals that a trans is both genders, which could mean bi and pan are comparable terms. But – sorry Charlie – that is not the case, though. A trans person does not see him/her/xem selves as a blend of genders, or two genders existing together. No – transgender people see themselves as a group – entirely separate from male and female and non-binary. Trans is a category all it’s own and those people deserve the respect that males and females get; and non-binaries deserve that respect too, by the way.
And therein lies my opinion, with linguistics backing me up pretty heavily, that bi and pan are different. It’s a step between hetero or homo and pan orientations. There are people in the world that are bisexual/ biromantic choosing that orientation because pan doesn’t fit their interests but neither does hetero or homo. It is something worth something to those people and if they say that they’re bi, respect them. Do not invalidate them by lumping them into pan, or changing their orientation in your mind to fit the partners they have at any given time.
Perception is so weird, isn’t it? Perception is just the inner workings of our brain, our way of connecting dots to things we understand. Our perception gets all messed up because too many people in the world haven’t had the opportunity to see gender fluid role models, they haven’t had access to transgender support, and too often sexuality and romance is only portrayed one way. The easy way.
But that’s just it. Sex and romance is never easy. Love is messy and ridiculous. It’s up, down, backwards, sideways, and diagonal. The only cure for the simple is knowledge. Knowing more let’s us see more; let’s us understand things that we misplaced in our mind palaces. We re-categorize once we have what we need to identify what we see. So here’s knowledge so that you can appropriately identify relationships that you don’t understand. It’s okay to not know, but I don’t want you living in a world where you’ve never been told. So I’m telling you just a little bit more.
The best way to convey information is through stories, or at least that’s my personal belief. So I’m going to detail something in italicized font and then explain in bolded font how to best describe the relationship. And – we start – now!
Keller is sex identified as a male. His chosen gender identity matches his sex. Keller chooses to identify as demiromantic and homosexual. He will have sex with men as he feels the desire to do so, but his romantic inclinations only arise when a very deep emotional and spiritual connection been established. This is called “Mixed Orientation Identity.” Keller’s romantic orientation and sexual orientation do not match. Another term that can be used to identify Keller is varioriented – which is another way of saying that his sexual and romantic orientations do not match.
Bennett is sex identified as a male. His chosen gender identity matches his sex. Chase is a sex identified female. Chase’s chosen identity does not match the assigned sex. Chase prefers neutral pronouns, such as xe, xem, xyr. Bennett is bisexual and biromantic. Chase is pansexual and panromantic. Bennett and Chase engage in a long sexual and romantic relationship that results in a healthy marriage. This is called “Mixed Orientation Relationship.” Bennett and Chase have different orientations but are in a relationship together. Another term that can describe Bennett and/or Chase is perioriented. Each person’s sexual and romantic orientations match (Bennett is bisexual and biromantic, Chase is pansexual and panromantic).
Blake is sex identified as a female. Her chosen gender identity is female. Mel is sex identified as a male. His chosen gender identity is male. Blake and Mel are great friends and have strong feelings for one another but those feelings are neither sexual nor romantic. Blake and Mel have been living together as friends for several years and have committed to a life together with no romantic or sexual implications. Each of them identify as asexual and aromantic. Their relationship is platonic. Blake and Mel identify as platonic life partners. Not unlike people in traditional relationships or marriages, they have decided to help one another emotionally and financially, but they only see themselves as friends.
Jo is a sex identified female. Her chosen gender identity is female. Alex is a sex identified female. Her chosen gender identity is female. Jo and Alex are perioriented asexual individuals. They have no sexual or romantic inclinations towards one another but are close friends. A part of their well-adjusted lives comes from living together and supporting each other emotionally and financially. This is similar to the platonic life partnership but is maintained between two individuals that are of the same sex. This is called queerplatonic. An alternative term is quasiplatonic, or even QP for short.
Erin is sex identified as a female. Erin’s chosen identity is transgender. Erin uses male pronouns but is not pursuing sex reassignment. Quinn is sex identified as a male. Quinn’s chosen identity is transgender. Quinn uses female pronouns and is not pursuing sex reassignment. Erin and Quinn maintain a traditional relationship both romantically and sexually. Upon marriage, Erin and Quinn agree to a monogamous relationship with one another exclusively. This is a closed relationship, or a ‘traditional’ relationship as some may view it. A monogamous relationship is a closed relationship because sexually and romantically two people are exclusively with one another.
Cecil is sex identified as a male. His chosen gender identity is male. Cecil is asexual but heteromantic. Sam is sex identified as female. Her chosen identity is female. Sam is homosexual but heteromantic. Since Cecil does not engage Sam sexually she has sexual relations with Lee. Lee is sex identified female whom is bisexual and biromantic. Cecil and Sam love each other romantically and maintain a stable relationship, but Sam and Lee also have a very healthy sexual relationship. This is an open relationship in which there are open sexual opportunities and romantic opportunities. Polyamory is the identification of one’s orientation if he/she/xe desires to only engage in open relationships.
Does that help? I think it helps. By creating realistic people and giving them clear identities and bonds with other realistic people the concepts become, well, real. Chances are that we know couples and partners and friends that fall into these categories in one way or another. Understanding the correct terminology and relationship classifications helps us to better respect our peers and loved ones. It also helps us keep an open mind when meeting strangers. By having an open mind we can extend a level of respect most people who have minority orientations don’t usually expect.
Why don’t people expect that respect, though? Unfortunately, most people do not take the time you are taking today to understand the various sexual and romantic orientations and the different kinds of relationships that exist. There are actual people in the world that do believe sex and romance are packaged neatly into one category: perioriented heterosexuality.
And as a reminder, even as I write this article trying to inform readers about the details – I know that I’m still generalizing. There’s always more.
Yes, you read that correctly. There’s even more to asexuality and aromanticism specifically. I listed Asexual/ aromantic, Demisexual/ demiromantic, and Graysexual/ grayromantic. What I didn’t list was: fraysexual, cupiosexual, placicsexual, abrosexual, and apothisexual. What I didn’t list was: gynoromantic, androgynoromantic, androromantic, neutroisromantic, transromantic, polyromantic, and monoromantic. There’s so much more to sexuality and romanticism than the world has been willing to explore. Psychological and sociological professionals believe that sexuality can be situational, adding deeper degrees to our sexuality.
Let’s go back to Keller from the first story. Keller identifies his sexual orientation as homosexual. But, let’s say because of his demiromantic orientation that he falls in love with a female. Emotionally and romantically the two of them connect very deeply. As the result of that connection Keller finds that he want to have sex with this woman. So even though he identifies as homosexual, he engages in heterosexual sex. Keller only does this because his romantic needs have been fulfilled and sexual desires arose from that relationship exclusively. It could be said that Keller is circumstantially heterosexual. Circumstantial sexualities and romantics could be considered a secondary attraction.
What’s that? What’s a secondary attraction? If there’s a secondary then there must be a primary, right?
And that brings us into the last little bit of information I wish to discuss in this particular article. One’s primary attraction is a reflection of one’s preferred desires. You could equate these to your “standards” for a partner. Going back to Keller again. With him being demiromantic and homosexual that means that his wants are strong emotional bond and male sexual partners. Those are his first factors when engaging someone sexually or romantically. However, when Keller found a woman who met his needs romantically he then found that he could engage in heterosexual sex because of his romantic satisfaction. This is a secondary attraction, which has developed over time as the result of his circumstances. Keller was not forced to change his sexual orientation for the relationship, but his needs and wants changed to reflect his circumstances. People too often forget one vital thing about life, or perhaps they conveniently forget. I guess I don’t care to know which… but…
People change. We make mistakes. We learn lessons. We grow, and we learn. All the time we are changing our clothes, our homes, our jobs, and any other innumerable amount of details about ourselves and in our lives. However, nobody tells us that it’s okay for our sexualities and our romanticisms to change too. It is perfectly acceptable to be heterosexual and heteromantic during one part of your life and to later realize that sex isn’t really your thing, and change your orientation to asexual but heteromantic. Or perhaps you are heterosexual but panromantic for several years, but you quickly find that heterosexuality is limiting your ability to find a stable relationship and broaden your interests before identifying as bisexual and panromantic. So many changes happen in this world, right down to our sex assignments. Before long we will be able to alter genetics manually.
And that’s why I wanted to write this article. Why is it we want to control the way people look and the way people feel with surgeries and medications but we don’t want to acknowledge the wide spectrum of sexuality and romance that exists in the world? I can’t wrap my mind around why it is such a controversial topic. We aren’t deciding life and death by allowing people to love and have sex the way that they want to… but we would deny these people their ability to choose how to make those decisions for themselves? It is all very wrong to me that we can’t let people maintain whatever relationships make them happy. As long as nobody is in emotional, mental, or physical distress – what should it matter to anyone outside of that relationship?
In conclusion – sex and romance are complicated. Love is wild. There’s not a single box in the world that could ever hold all of the different aspects of sex and romance. There is no ribbon long and wide enough to tie it up and put it into a pretty bow of containment. Sex, love, and romance – it’s always going to be as untamed as the ocean. Instead of leaving these people in the dark depths, unknown and unrecognized, why don’t we explore what their world is like? Why don’t we give show these people that we know that they exist…
And that we think it’s wonderful that they do ❤
*I am not using a References section for this article. I have hyperlinked everything within the article for easy access while reading. Normally I would create a hyperlink reference section at the end of the article too, but I nixed it. Express your concerns in the comments below if necessary, and thank you for your understanding.