Social Justice Advocates Handbook: A Guide to Gender Understanding

Sexual Orientation for the Genderqueer Person

by Sam Killermann · 101 comments

in Sexuality,Stepping Beyond the Genderbread Person

This is an installment of the “Stepping Beyond the Genderbread Person” series, offering further explanation to themes and ideas presented in the original introduction article.  If you haven’t read the intro, we suggest you read it first.

We understand that sexual orientation and gender are separate concepts.  This is something that is relatively easily understood within the contexts of cisgender identities.  But how does sexual orientation “work” for genderqueer or trans-identified peeps?  Let’s talk about it.

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Before I go any further,  I want to address that ”genderqueer” is a relatively new term that means different things for different people.  I’m partial to using it as a catch-all for folks who don’t identify as cisgender (including, but not limited to, people who identify as transgender, bigender, third- fourth- and some-gender, two-spirit, and agender) instead of including an exhaustive list of identities every time I need to make a point.

Also, it’s worth noting that “sexual orientation” itself is a loaded – and in some ways limiting – term.  I’m using it here to employ at least one term most people are familiar with, and to describe a combination of physical, emotional/romantic, and spiritual attraction.

Beginning to understand

Before we talk about how sexual orientation “works” for genderqueer folks, which is a question I am (and I’m sure, many who identify as genderqueer are) asked on a regular basis, it’s important that we understand how attraction works.

Attraction is in your head, like an imaginary friend

For a moment, stop thinking in terms of cisgender versus genderqueer, and instead think just think about attraction.  Attraction is something that comes from within.  There are a lot of theories on what drives attraction – or where it comes from.  I buy into the theory that attraction is the result of your subconscious interpretation of hormonal influences, and your ability to make sense of attraction is a result of your socialization and self-awareness.  That is, attraction is largely out of your control, but how you make sense of it and act upon it is up to you.

This understanding of attraction applies to cisgender folks and genderqueer folks.

It’s who you’re attracted to, not you

Still not thinking about cisgender attraction versus genderqueer attraction, and just thinking about attraction in general, which doyou think plays a larger role in the attraction dance: the other person’s identity(ies), or yours?  A lot of cisgender straight people would say that if they became (through magic, perhaps) the opposite gender, they would still be straight.  You’ve probably heard a straight cis- guy say something like “if I was a girl, I would totally be into Brad Pitt.”

Guess what, dude, you’re into Brad Pitt.

Sexual orientation does not depend on gender.  If you suddenly became a different gender, you would still be attracted to the same people, or you would no longer be you.  Now, this is smudgy, because one could argue that if you became a different gender you would likely have a different mix of hormones floating around inside your hat rack, but we’re not going to go there.  Remember, there was magic involved.

What’s important is that I’m suggesting that attraction – truly, absolutely, distilled and rinsed – is about the other, and not about the you (or, for all the grammar nerds, it’s about the object, not the subject).  Though that might be hard to imagine (“I’ve just always imagined my penis going into a vagina,” a guy told me once, to my mirth), it’s the case.  Or it’s at least most of the case.  Understanding identity is like utilizing the light side of the force: there are no absolutes (except for the one absolute absolving that there are none, of course).

Updating our terminology

In order to make this as clear as we can, we need to be speaking the same language.  Conventional terms to describe sexual orientation (hetero-, homo-, and bisexual) don’t work well outside of the cisgender world.  Many have argued that I shouldn’t use those terms at all in my gender article because they aren’t inclusive of genderqueer folks.  While that’s true, the conventional (and non-genderqueer-inclusive) terms are more accessible to people who are new to these concepts, which is why I kept them in place.

New terms for expressing sexual orientation

Androsexual/Androphilic: attracted to males, men, and/or masculinity

Gynesexual/Gynephilic: attracted to females, women, and/or femininity

Skoliosexual: attracted to genderqueer and transsexual people and expressions (people who aren’t identified as cisgender)

Pansexual: attracted to all people, regardless of biological sex, gender identity, or expression

Asexual/Nonsexual: no sexual attraction, but often romantic or spiritual attractions exist

Limitations of these terms, and in general

The terms presented above are far better than the conventional terms for describing sexual orientation, but they are certainly not perfect.  You have to remember: identities are far too numerous to create a list or a graph or an article that describes them all.  Some would argue that the list above (and this article), for example, isn’t super inclusive of third-gender (or fourth-, or some-) folks, or two-spirit folks.  But it’s another step toward understanding an incredibly complex concept.  When in doubt, rely on the platinum rule.

So, how does genderqueer sexual orientation work?

Just from reading the terms above, you should start to have a basic understanding of how attraction works for our genderqueer friends.  If you’re particularly quick, you’ll realize it’s not too different from how it works for our cisgender friends.  Not quite there yet?  It’ll be my pleasure to explain.

In short, genderqueer sexual orientation works just like cisgender sexual orientation works. In short, genderqueer sexual orientation works just like cisgender sexual orientation works.  People are attracted to certain kinds of people; attracted to certain expressions of masculinity and femininity; attracted to certain physical manifestations of sex and gender (breasts, and/or hair, and/or penises, and/or etc.); and attracted to certain self-identities of gender as they pertain to relationship and societal roles.

If a genderqueer person is attracted to women, you would say that person is gynesexual.  If a cisgender person (man or woman) is attracted to women, you would also say that person is gynesexual.  If a genderqueer person is attracted to genderqueer people, you would say that person is skoliosexual.  If a cisgender person (man or woman) is attracted to genderqueer people, you would say that person is skoliosexual (see how much more inclusive these terms are?!).

So let me say again: genderqueer sexual orientation works just like cisgender sexual orientation works.  In fact, those “new terms for expressing sexual orientation” work just as well for cisgender people as they do for genderqueer people.  Some (I) would argue we should do a better job adopting them into our vocabularies (and I will argue that, in another article).

It can’t be that simple.

No, of course not.  Nothing in identity is actually simple.  But it can be simplified to be this simple, and it just was.  The sooner we stop thinking of genderqueer people as “the other” and finding more ways to differentiate between cisgender and genderqueer, the sooner we’ll begin to understand one another, accept one another, and legislate fairly for one as well as the other.  Hopefully, mostly that last one.

What do you have to add?

There are a lot of books and articles and research papers you can read about this stuff if you’d like to learn more.  Using the comments below is a great place to ask questions, add your own thoughts, or full-on refute mine.  I welcome all three.

Written by Sam Killermann

Sam is a writer and performer who uses those skills as an ally to advance progress in the realms of LGBT equality and social justice. He tours the country speaking to college students about stereotypes, prejudice, and oppression, and writes for this site when he's at home in Austin, TX.

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  • tcd

    I think you’re a little off base saying someone who says ”if I were a girl I’d be totally into Brad Pitt” is actually into Brad Pitt. I think your example dude who says is saying his sex fantasies are exclusively hetero but that he can see why someone into guys would go for Mr. Pitt. It’s like someone saying, “Dude, I’m not into pizza, but I can totally see why you love it, all kinds of good stuff there, it’s just not for me.” Which, if you think about it, is a nicely accepting point of view. But you make me wonder whether there might be such a thing as cis attraction and trans attraction?  Sure, we can write sci-fi scenarios in which the guy wakes up in a female body with either female hormones or his male hormones, and people have, but your typical nine-year-old is getting social messages about who he or she will be assumed to be interested in in a few years way before the hormones kick in. Doubtless a lot of them wonder whether those messages are going to be true, and why, and think a little about the what-ifs…

    • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

      You know what’s funny?  When I wrote that line, I thought to myself “I really hope people don’t get too hung up on this” :)  haha, okay, so to your comment:

      I’m not suggesting that dude wants to have sex with Mr. Pitt, be in a relationship with him, or even give him a slightly-longer-than-appropriate handshake.  What I’m suggesting is that he, on some level, finds Brad Pitt attractive, even as a straight-IDed man.  He’s into him.  Though that suggestion makes a lot of straight people (particularly men) uncomfortable.

      And for a while I was really entrenched in though about what you mentioned: the idea that there might be some sort of cis- and trans-attraction.  It’s a curious thing to consider, as it would be (as I’m thinking of it) a mostly nurture over nature form of attraction.

      Maybe I should soften that line up anyhow so it doesn’t throw anyone off track.  Think so?

      • Caspar

         Could you, by any chance, add (at some stage) asexual and non-sexual, and, indeed, antisexual people to the mix? I wouldn’t want people to get the idea that every genderqueer person has a sexuality (some do not and do not want to give others the wrong impression)…We’re like a minority in a minority, and that really is frustrating…

  • annonymous

    Maybe there should be a term for people who are attracted to men and/or women, but not especially to trans/genderqueer?  I’d guess there are such people . . .

    • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

      Generally, that’s how the term bisexual is used, meaning someone who is attracted to men and women.  Though being bi- doesn’t necessarily explicitly exclude attraction to trans/genderqueer people, it implicitly does (and generally works that way in practice).

      And yep, there are plenty such people :)

      • bi queer

         I’d like to lovingly challenge you on your definition of bisexual. As a member of the bisexual community, I have found it is ABSOLUTELY NOT THE CASE that bisexual people are not attracted to trans and gender queer people. Bisexual is not about a gender binary (either explicitly or implicitly as you claim)- here’s a really great link that discusses that issue well. Please read the part titled: “Bisexual isn’t about there being only ‘two sexes’”.
        http://www.bisexualindex.org.uk/index.php/Bisexuality

        Also, with regard to anonymous’ question- why is there a need for such a term? There’s not a term for people ONLY attracted to trans/genderqueer folks.

        • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

          Hi there!  

          Thanks for the loving challenge.  I’m a huge fan :)  And I’ve got one for you in return.

          It’s been my experience that folks who are attracted to cis- men and women self-ID bisexual, while pansexual folks identify as being attracted to individuals regardless of traditional gender roles.  

          Thoughts?

          And obviously, as with all labels, the way they manifest on an individual level are — well — individual.  But I’m talking in groupspeak here :)

          Sorry I missed this comment until now!

          • shoshabean

            I know I’m late on this, but I’ve been following this blogger for a while and I think they do justice to many of the conversations around bisexuality. Below and definitely worth a read is a post from last fall that helped me come into my political bi identity and reject the oppression that follows coming out as such in other corners of our community. As you said, identity is individual, but most people, in my experience, have a great time assuming and never bother to ask. 

            http://radicalbi.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/some-differences-and-similarities-between-bisexuality-and-pansexuality/

    • anon

      One term sometimes used along with androphilic and gynephilic (or gynecophilic) is ambiphilic. Ambiphilic could refer to someone attracted to all types of people, but the “ambi” part of it specifically points to its use for people attracted to the two normative genders. Ambiphilic is basically an alternative to bisexual.

  • P David

    Sam, let me say that I love reading your posts. Well thought out, indeed. And thought-provoking in many ways!

    I’m just kind of curious . . . as a soon-to-be biologist, I look at genders in the animal kingdom and they are by and large inextricably tied to genetically determined sex. And it’s not arbitrary, but rather quite practical–the gender roles are determined by biological status (build, speed, capacity for childbirth, length of life, etc). So from an evolutionary perspective, a sexual identity that is attracting the opposite sex so that one can breed, produce gametes, and pass on their DNA, would be considered highly advantageous. So I’m wondering . . . how arbitrary can we truly say that gender roles and sexual attraction are? I’m not saying that gender -is- binary . . . but at the same time we didn’t just pull the male-female dichotomy out of thin air.

    I mean, obviously we can think and self-reflect which is something that other animals really can’t do . . . but this is still something of a hang-up for me.

    • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

      Thanks for the kind words.  I’m happy I’m provoking thought!

      Regarding your question, I think that’s a solid, well thought out hang-up.  A few things pop into my mind.

      First, homosexual behavior has been observed in some 1,500 species, and it’s well-documented in mammals and pack/herd/social mammals in particular (not sure if you already knew this or not – if so, my bad).  Homosexuality in the animal kingdom has been hypothesized to serve a lot of functions beyond reproduction (pecking order, conflict resolution, etc.).  Now, calling a male lion who has sex with another male lion “gay” might be a bit of a stretch, because, as you hinted at, the assigning a sexual identity requires some acknowledgement on behalf of the thing being assigned.  So we’re not the only species ignoring the pull of evolution.

      Second, the ideas of gender and sex are human constructs.  We’re the only people who assign any genders or sexes (as far as we know), and we do it in a way that has evolved as the meaning of what man/woman has evolved.  For a dog to be genderqueer, we would first need to determine what gender means in terms of dogs.  That’s not to say that animals don’t possess and express various gender identities.  My partner’s boy cat seems to prefer wearing bras around the apartment over boxers, perhaps he identifies as genderqueer.  Also, that last sentence was a joke :)  (but he really does)

      Finally, a little Op-Ed, of all the non-biologically-sensible things we do, being lesbian, bi-, gay, trans, queer, agender, asexual, or (…) makes more sense to me than smoking, marrying/procreating with poor mates (alcoholics, violent people, stupid people), or eating at McDonalds.

      Does any of this ring true?  Are you still hung up?

    • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

      Also, if you want something to read, this is related enough, and certainly thought-provoking: http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/BIB/bauer02.htm

      Oh, and that comment thread on the Ron Paul Morality article cracked me up.  

    • Anonymous

      You should check out Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature by Joan Roughgarden if you haven’t already, you might find some interesting surprises about the animal kingdom in there! :)

      • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

        Great share, Marilyn!  That’s a fantastic read that I think would be insightful for P David.

  • Anonymous

    Sam, it may be better to phrase this as “Sexual Orientation for the Genderqueer Person”. It has the same kind of reducing-to-identity implications as “Sexual Orientation for the Transgender” or “for the Gay” / “the Gays” would, for example. I see you’ve used “genderqueer person” and “genderqueer folks” throughout the rest of your article though, so that’s all good!

    This is too complex of a personally specific situation for details about this kind of identity scenario to be included in such an article, but I thought I should share anyway: for me, as a genderqueer person in terms of gender, I do use the word “androsexual”/”androphilic” to describe my attraction, but I also use the word “gay” because I identify sex-wise with being male and the term makes sense and gels with my conception of self, relation to gay subcultural elements, and my attraction to other male-id’d folks in a way that the andro- terms don’t. People who are genderqueer may or may not see their bodies as ‘sex-queer’ too, and instead identify as as a specific sex (either assigned or self-determined). This won’t have an effect on everyone’s description of their orientation, but it has on mine, so I thought it was important to share. :)

    • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

      Thanks for the suggestion!  I was so caught up on the article itself that I never gave the title a second thought.

      And thanks even more for sharing.  I was terrified to write this article, because it’s 100% me writing with the voice of my friends who are genderqueer.  It’s such a tough subject to tackle, but I felt I had to give it a shot.  Too many people are afraid to actually ask someone to hear it first-hand, so hopefully this will be a decent intro.  Your situation makes perfect sense to me, having read your solid explanation.  I’m sure it will help stretch anyone who reads this article a little further along the concept, which I appreciate.  So thanks again :)

  • Savanni D’Gerinel

    I’m really liking how this is shaping up.  I’ve run the original Genderbread Person past a few people, and the only “objections” we had were that the sexual orientation part seemed too restricted.  So…

    1) the new terms are helpful, but I’m finding myself a little uncomfortable with how they sound.  Probably created soundly of root words, just… uncomfortable.
    2) love revised sexual orientation diagram you posted in http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/02/improving-the-genderbread-person-i-need-your-help/ – this revision actually addressed my exact objections

    I’ve also been thinking for a couple years about redefining sexual orientation exclusive in terms of who I am attracted to without reference to my gender identity.

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  • anakinmcfly

    It kind of skeeves me out that binary-identified trans people are being lumped together with non-binary folk as separate from men and women. I’m a trans guy, I’m attracted to men, and I’d like to think that gay guys would potentially be attracted to me too, not just the skoliosexual and pansexual ones. Perhaps the reality is otherwise, but I hope not. :(

    • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

      Hey Anakin Mcfly (if that’s your name, I’m seriously envious),

      I’m not sure if I understand exactly what’s getting to you, but I’m guessing it’s the “teaching to the majority” approach I used in this article.  If so, I am sorry you had a negative reaction to it, but you have to understand that if you try to write to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one.

      Now, regarding your second point, I would like to think that, too.  And odds are, it’s the case that a lot of gay guys would be potentially attracted to you, just not everyone.  Unfortunately, transphobia doesn’t just affect the straight community.

      Also, thanks for using the word “skeeves.”  I hadn’t heard it in a while and forgot how much I liked it.

      • anakinmcfly

        Heh, no, that’s not my name, sadly.
        My main issue was how you listed attraction to men, attraction to women and attraction to genderqueer/trans people as separate categories, effectively implying that trans people aren’t considered men or women, which I doubt will go down well with trans people who do identify as such. Also, while attraction to androgynous or non-binary folks is probably legit, it’s unsettling to apply the same to trans people, especially if they’ve undergone medical transition and are otherwise indistinguishable from cis people. And if they haven’t undergone medical transition – well, actually both ways – it feels extremely fetishising and othering to think that someone might be attracted to trans people because of body parts and assigned genders that have might caused us so much pain in our lives.

        • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

          Ah!  I see what you’re getting at.  The andro-, gyne-, and skolio- terms?

          Those terms are cis- and trans-independent.  Androsexuality, for example, isn’t just attraction to men (and certainly not just attraction to cismen).  It’s attraction to all things manly, which would not only cover post transition men, but also women expressing as men.

          And I agree that the idea of skoliosexuality is potentially skeevy.  If someone is into intersex folks in a solely a novelty/fetish way, there’s a big chance that things in a relationship will go awry.  Regardless, it’s a form of attraction that exists, and it can exist in a healthy, positive way.

          • Guest

            I think the main problem that exists with the way you wrote this article
            and explained these concepts is your use of the term “genderqueer.” I’m
            trans* and very involved in online and offline trans* communities and I
            have never before seen the term “genderqueer” used as a “catch-all”
            term for ALL transgender people (or as you said, all people who are not
            cisgender). Transgender (or trans*, to be even more inclusive) is the
            correct umbrella (or “catch-all”) term for all people who are not
            cisgender. “Genderqueer” is a specific identity some people have, though
            it can be defined differently by each person who identifies this way.
            It COULD (emphasis on could, since this is not common yet) be used as an
            umbrella (or “catch-all”) term for non-binary identifying trans* people
            (though alternative umbrella terms like “gender variant” and
            “non-binary” are more common) but it does not and cannot apply to trans*
            people who identify in binary ways (such as many trans men and trans
            women). By including binary-identifying trans* people within the term
            “genderqueer,” you are possibly confusing many cis people. “Transgender”
            (or trans*) should still be the default word used as an overall
            umbrella term, if an umbrella term is to be used, because it includes
            both binary and non-binary identifying people who are not cisgender.

            Also,
            as a note, I think you may be missing the general point I believe the
            poster above was trying to make. Simply including binary-identifying
            trans men and trans women in your explanation of those who skoliosexual
            people are attracted to can be seen as very offensive. By including them
            in this (such as by defining genderqueer as including them and by also
            specifically writing “transexual” in the definition) you are in effect
            othering them from cisgender people who share their gender identity. For
            example, people attracted only to men, including binary-identifying
            trans men, would be androsexual, not skoliosexual. For trans men whose
            gender identity is the same as the gender identity of cisgender men, the
            term used for people who are attracted to them should also be the same
            as it is for cisgender men. I think skoliosexual (or a more fitting
            additional term) would function much better as a term for attraction to
            trans* people who identify in non-binary or gender variant ways.

            I
            think if you corrected your use of the term “genderqueer” and perhaps
            redefined or better explained skoliosexuality, your article would be
            much more helpful as a reference for cisgender people who want to
            understand these things.

          • LoyalWolf

            I think the main problem that exists with the way you wrote this article and explained these concepts is your use of the term “genderqueer.” I’m trans* and very involved in online and offline trans* communities and I have never before seen the term “genderqueer” used as a “catch-all” term for ALL transgender people (or as you said, all people who are not cisgender). Transgender (or trans*, to be even more inclusive) is the correct umbrella (or “catch-all”) term for all people who are not cisgender. “Genderqueer” is a specific identity some people have, though it can be defined differently by each person who identifies this way. It COULD (emphasis on could, since this is not common yet) be used as an umbrella (or “catch-all”) term for non-binary identifying trans* people (though alternative umbrella terms like “gender variant” and “non-binary” are more common) but it does not and cannot apply to trans* people who identify in binary ways (such as many trans men and trans women). By including binary-identifying trans* people within the term “genderqueer,” you are possibly confusing many cis people. “Transgender” (or trans*) should still be the default word used as an overall umbrella term, if an umbrella term is to be used, because it includes both binary and non-binary identifying people who are not cisgender.

            Also, as a note, I think you may be missing the general point I believe the poster above was trying to make. Simply including binary-identifying trans men and trans women in your explanation of those who skoliosexual people are attracted to can be seen as very offensive. By including them in this (such as by defining genderqueer as including them and by also specifically writing “transexual” in the definition) you are in effect othering them from cisgender people who share their gender identity. For example, people attracted only to men, including binary-identifying trans men, would be androsexual, not skoliosexual. For trans men whose gender identity is the same as the gender identity of cisgender men, the term used for people who are attracted to them should also be the same as it is for cisgender men. I think skoliosexual (or a more fitting additional term) would function much better as a term for attraction to trans* people who identify in non-binary or gender variant ways.

            I think if you corrected your use of the term “genderqueer” and perhaps redefined or better explained skoliosexuality, your article would be much more helpful as a reference for cisgender people who want to understand these things. And I think it could still have the “teaching to the majority” approach you want to use.

          • Peter L

            Whats the difference between a “fetish” for transwomen and a completely unremarkable attraction to genetic women? People love to call guys who like transwomen skeevy, which seems harsh considering most straight guys dont mind at all about openly mocking transwomen, Theyre the assholes.

        • Matt

          Yeah, it is really sad and unsettling that some people are only attracted to transpeople and genderqueers as a kink. It also ruins it for people like me, I just happen to be attracted to female bodies combined with an androgynous to slightly masculine appearance and clearly masculine gender expression and mannerisms (which over 2/3 of the time happens to be bio-female genderqueers). But that doesn’t mean I’m attracted to every genderqueer female on the planet, there’s quite a few I’ve seen that even if they are nice people, I don’t feel attracted to them, just like how a straight guy isn’t attracted to every woman on the planet. For me, it’s more what I’m attracted to happens to more often than not be a genderqueer, because they tend to have personality characteristics as well as physical characteristics that I’m attracted to (and unsurprisingly enough, the cis-women I am attracted to still over half the time identify as queer in some way and often act far more masculine than the average woman).

          But yeah, I do agree that fetishizing genderqueers and pre-transition transfolk is disturbing. In some ways, it’s actually as bad as transphobia. I’m actually a little worried that if I do have a genderqueer partner that I’d have to constantly be on the watch to protect them from sleazeballs that just see them as a living embodiment of a kink.

  • A H Schultz1

    Just wanted to point one thing out. You say you like to use genderqueer as a catch-all term, including a catching term for those that are transgender. However, I know that I personally (and maybe other people that are transgender may agree) don’t identify with this at all. My identity is not genderqueer; I actually fall into a very binary gender identity; my gender isn’t very ‘queer’. I WISH I could ‘identify’ as cisgender, but because of the technical nature of biological sex, I have to have a trans label put on my identity like an asteric, a disclaimer.

    So, sorry for the brief rant, but just thought I’d specify that as a man who identifies within the gender binary (and who happens to be transgender), I don’t feel comfortable at all being put into the category of genderqueer.

    Otherwise, love everything that you write, and I’m so glad someone is writing about it.

  • TeganB

    This was a really informative article and very helpful. Great work! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/alister.puddifer Alister Elliot Puddifer

     I’m genderqueer and I’ve never heard of those first 3 sexual orientation terms. :L

  • CJ

    I am both androsexual and demisexual (demi-androsexual). Demisexual is an interesting term. Instead of describing who you are attracted to, it describes how you become attracted. It was coined by the asexual community to describe people who were usually asexual, but occasionally had certain patterns of attraction. A demisexual is someone who is normally not attracted to anyone. But when the person develops an emotional connection with another person, they may develop sexual attraction towards them. Another way of explaining this is to say that a demisexual doesn’t experience primary sexual attraction (attraction that comes first for most people, and is based on looks, personality, status, etc), but they do experience secondary sexual attraction (usually comes after primary sexual attraction, based on level of emotional connection with the other person). 
    Demisexuality creates an interesting pattern of attraction. Demisexuals are not turned on by “hot” celebrities (most of us don’t even completely understand the idea of thinking of someone as “hot”) or porn. It can also create difficulties in dating because by the time they become interested in someone, that person may have lost interest in them. Demisexuals also aren’t attracted to many people because it takes a long time to build up the necessary emotional connection.
    I guess I like this label because it describes me very well, and it can be used by genderqueer/nonbinary people like myself. I’m just wondering what you think about this way of describing sexuality. 

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  • Sara

    I really like this post because I think there has been a lot of trouble in the blending of non-problematic discourse about attraction and non-problematic discussion about gender identity.  It might be helpful, but I don’t know, to even possibly specify further separate sexual and gender attractions; I’ve seen, for example, lesbians who are called transphobic because they aren’t attracted to women who have penises and don’t have breasts, because lesbian means “women who like women.”  But that’s because society is exclusive toward trans people and assumed there wouldn’t be any need to specify, apart from the above, “woman who likes breasts and vaginas” or possibly even “woman who likes breasts and vaginas and also is a woman.”  Some women, too, do only care about gender identity and don’t care about physical sex.

    What I don’t like about some of your posts is the inclusion of all transgenders in the “third gender”/”other”/”genderqueer” category.  There are always exceptions to absolutes in how people identify, but the rule goes that trans women are women and trans men are men, and it’s harmful to treat them as separate because that implies they aren’t “really” men and women, they’re never truly binary.  I think “skoliosexual” should refer to attraction toward nonbinary identities and/or nonbinary sex.  (Also to briefly tangent: I know it comes off as fetishizing to some, and some people absolutely do fetishize transitioning and intersex bodies, but I think it’s important to not automatically label all attraction that isn’t to the default majority “fetishization.”  To me fetishization is about objectification, not having an attraction outside of the majority thin white pretty able-bodied cis etc ideal)

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  • charlie

    thanks so much sam. i have always identified as psychologically male and physically i look very female. i enjoy dressing in all clothes, ultra feminine and masculine. i am a writer with a male pen-name, and i am attracted to men more dominantly than woman, all of my friends are male modern and embrace their feminine side, besides two very amazing women who i find embrace more masculine traits. i openly connect with androgyny in a mental way, but physically i like to express myself in both very feminine and masculine ways, so physically, due to what most people identify as androgyny does not apply to me. this is the first of the few articles i found on being genderqueer. i am so happy and excited, yet, i am afraid people will not understand. is it okay to enjoy looking feminine sometimes and be open sexually to men? will other genderqueer people not like me because i look female? i have heard things from “you are such a grily girl” to ” oh that pony tail makes you look WAY more feminine.” as in, i don’t look femine. my physical appearance shouldn’t matter right?
    ps- i am also open to being with anyone, i only care about love and psyche. maybe you could give some advice as to my validity in genderqueer association.
    if anyone could e-mail me at : [email protected]
    thank you so much everyone and you too sam, you’re awesome!!

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  • Vivi Orunitia

    As a self identifying skolioromantic, androsexual, genderqueer person and as someone who recently discovered this site I would just like to express how greatly I approve of this article and of the site in general. Keep up the good work Sam! :-)

  • Jesse

    I’m kinda wierd, I like the meaning of the word gynephilic, but not the word, I wish there was a different word that didn’t have the same syllabic structure, but still expressed that idea in a single word, rather than phrases like “I’m into girls” or “I like woman” or something like that, because they are awkward. Because I’m kinda questioning at the moment in terms of my gender identity (pretty unsure), I do prefer to use those words that apply to who you’re attracted to rather than the traditional hetero/homo/bi lables.

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  • Claire

    I wish there were separate terms for “attracted to women-identified people” and “attracted to female bodies” (and the same for men vs. males). Also I wish it weren’t expected that everyone pick a single word to describe their sexual/romantic attraction.

    • Matt

      So true! Since I’m oddly NOT attracted to femininity but I AM attracted exclusively to female bodies. Some of the bio-females I’m attracted to actually use male pronouns. I have a weird combination of attraction to masculinity in gender expression and personality yet attached to the female body.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=549882715 Angelle Horste

    Hi Sam. You made a good effort at it, but you missed something huge. I consider myself genderqueer, but none of your areas of attraction describe me. In fact, unfortunately, the one that was technically the closest is kind of offensive to people like me: Pansexual: attracted to all people, regardless of biological sex, gender identity, or expression”. I beg to differ hugely. I am NOT attracted to ‘all people’, and my attraction to any people is not in any way based on what parts they have (this is what makes me genderqueer). I am not attracted to men. I am not attracted to women. I am not attracted to androgynous people or trans people. I am attracted to *certain* people – REGARDLESS of what they have or do not have, regardless of their biological OR ideological identity. I could not care less what parts they have or what label they wear – I do not recognize those. For me and those like me, we are ONLY attracted to people who are, well, ‘right’, and there are no criteria or categories that they need to fit into. That is an area of genderqueer that you missed – but don’t feel bad, no one else has room for us, either. And please, please, by all you hold sacred, do NOT try to shove us into the ‘bisexual’ category!!! No, I am not into men AND women. I’m into certain, very few, people – with no recognition or acknowledgement of their bio gender or identity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ellen.hagerman.99 Ellen Hagerman

      I think that is pansexual is intended to mean attraction to people regardless of gender, meaning there is a technical possibility for you to be attracted to anyone, but not that you are necessarily (or, I’ve always believed that’s what it meant), because other terms- “lesbian” “skoliosexual” etc- doesn’t mean you’re attracted to everyone who is female or everyone genderqueer. It means those you are attracted to tend to fall in that category. Most people have a type, and most people only are attracted to a small number of those in the realm of their own possible attractions. I’d assume that this fits in the same sort of way for you, where you like people for people, and in your case, there is no other sexual definition.

      That being said, sometimes it’s easier just to feel it without labeling it. Labels complicate everything- I use omnisexual as my identity, but I often just say I’m attracted to people who are androgynous, and that includes both genders.

      • Charlie Copley

        In a way, could poly-, pan-, skolio-, etc could be subsets of pan-/omnisexuality?

      • Harley Amundsen

        This is far more accurate.

      • Kannon

        I consider myself demisexual, I think the term would fit better

    • orlando098

      I believe some people get round that by using “polysexual” instead – so, acknowledging more options than the binary ones, but at the same time saying they are not attracted to absolutely every possible variation of gender

    • Peter L

      well said!!!

    • Shelly Altenburg

      I’m pretty sure that’s meant to say something like potentially attracted to all genders. It isn’t true that lesbians are into all women or binary cis-hetero men are into all women; things don’t work that way. LIke you, I am genderqueer pansexual, but there are plenty of people I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. I think (I hope?) that’s it’s understood that we don’t fuck everything that moves.

  • FP

    I love this post. Thank you so much. All my life I have been categorized (by others) as ‘male’ and ‘heterosexual’ based on my body and heteronormativity.

    In fact I am pleased to say what I really am is a gynesexual genderqueer!

    • Hikari

      The same goes for me, also. =3

  • http://www.facebook.com/megan.sailsbury Megan Storm Sailsbury

    I have to admit that, due to a combination of innate incomprehension and bad past experiences, I struggle with my own level of acceptance regarding my genderqueer kindred. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I’m only human, and sometimes my feelings don’t live up to my ideals. At any rate, this article addresses a particularly troublesome element of my confusion. Thank you for writing it.

    However, as a cisgender bisexual, I do wish you had included people like me in your genderqueer-friendly list of terms. I’m not pansexual, I’m bi. In terms of attraction (which is, as you point out, pretty involuntary), I like men or women. I suppose I could say I’m androsexual AND gynesexual, but that’s clumsy, confusing, and totally unnecessary on both counts when there’s a perfectly accurate word right there. So I have to ask: is describing myself as bi actually offensive/ exclusive/ what have you?

    • Thalida

      My (personal) issue with adding bisexual to the list of terms above, is that it’s not as clear cut as the others. For you bisexual is andro & gyne. But, for someone else that could be andro & skilo or gyne & skilo. So, we’d need two additional types of “bi-sexuality”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/megan.sailsbury Megan Storm Sailsbury

    whoops!

  • Matt

    I was wondering if someone could help me. I have a very unusual sexual orientation. Perhaps heteroskoliosexual? Heterosexual hetero-queer romantic? I’m a cisgender male, and a masculine one at that, but I’m attracted to females but more masculine/androgynous females. I like it when they look and act boyish, even beyond what most hetero men into tomboys like, but again to be specific, I like boyish, but not manly. For example, I think Erika Linder is super hot, but I don’t even feel the remotest of attraction to Chaz Bono. Basically, I’m a “straight” cismale (straight in quotes for obvious reasons) who prefers genderqueers of female birth although I’m also attracted to ciswomen, I’m more attracted to androgynous and genderqueer females, and the difference is even more pronounced when we’re talking about personality (which is far more important to me than looks anyway), and the ciswomen whose personality I’m attracted to do tend to fall fairly close to the androgynous boundary (such as Michaela Paige who sometimes looks on the feminine end of androgynous).

    Sorry for the long essay, everyone, but I just wanted to see if there’s a name for my situation and if there is any hope for me. Most androgynes and genderqueer of female birth who are even interested in men aren’t interested in big burly guys who look like stereotypical lumberjacks from the 19th century frontier and I’m not about to change myself. Also, what would be the best resource or the best kind of support group to join? I’m cautious about joining a genderqueer or allies group because I’m afraid they’d see me as a chaser or whatever (even though there are a LOT of genderqueer folk I’m not attracted to, just like those who prefer ciswomen aren’t attracted to every ciswoman on the planet), but that is my orientation.

    I long knew I had this kind of preference, and I varied over the years from accepting it to denying it but only recently have I embraced it. Anyone who can shed any light on this subject would be a great help to me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/orse.lina.1 Orse Lina

      I don’t have any advice for what you should call yourself, but I’m going to be brazen and say – I hope I meet someone like you someday. lol. I’m a genderqueer (but bio-female) who LOVES burly/frontiersmen a LOT. I wish you luck in love, and damn, they will be one lucky gq/lady :)

      • Matt

        You have no idea how happy this made me to read. I thought I was cursed with having to choose between denying who I am as a person or denying who I’m attracted to. If you also love musicians then you just might be my soul mate since I have over 300 songs I’ve written, LOL. But seriously though, thanks for your kind words and I hope to meet someone like you someday. Another thing I do is I like to microwave weird stuff and put it on YouTube, way beyond the soap and marshmallows most people do, for example sometime this week I’m going to be microwaving CO2 cartridges. Again, thank you so much for posting this. It really cheered me up.

        PS: I’ve decided on “hetero-queer” for myself.

    • Guest

      This sounds exactly like my attraction patterns, but in reverse. (Replace “women” with “men,” “feminine” with “masculine,” etc. And I’m a ciswoman.) I have also sort of settled on “heteroqueer” to describe it, at least to myself. But I do also find “skoliosexual” helpful. I only just discovered the term today, and it feels like a revelation.

  • Confused

    I still don’t know if I am genderqueer. Am I genderqueer just because I forget I’m a girl and think of myself as a boy and act like one sometimes?

    • orlando098

      If you sometimes think of yourselve as a boy, I’d have thought that would be a reasonable definition. It’s up to you, no one else can say

  • NGN

    Hi, Thank you for the article… I’m biologically male but identify with and also am attracted to women, and I haven’t come out or anything yet, but I’m just getting used to the terms and everything.. anyways thank you

    • squirrelgirl

      My lover found Kate Bornstein’s “My Gender Workbook” immensely helpful when she was coming out as a trans woman — you might want to check it out. (Bornstein is a gynophilic trans woman). For a more scholarly discussion of terms, and for gender theory, check out Julia Serrano (feminist, and also a gynophilic trans woman). For a story about coming out as a trans woman that’s easy to digest, fictional and yet remarkably authentic (I have heard from multiple trans women)(… and now that I think about it, the main character is also gynophilic), try “Being Emily” by Rachel Gold.

  • Fruit-Fly

    my best friend is a guy, he is very girly, says he wishes he was born female but he is only attracted to girls. he wants to know where he stands sexual orientation wise.

    • squirrelgirl

      Gynephilic according to the article above. But there are definitely trans women who identify as lesbian.
      Your friend might be interested to read the writings of Kate Bornstein — including “My Gender Workbook” and “A Queer and Pleasant Danger” — she identifies variously as a trans women who loves women or a person who “sees where gender is and then goes where it isn’t” — she plays with gender extensively and encourages others to find their best identity fit, even if it’s way outside the gender binary.

  • Amee

    What if you’re attracted to people of a certain non-cisgender identity (eg. Agendered people) but not others?

  • Angel

    Suprisingly I’ve actually used the term androsexual long before I realized other people did. I also used the word gynosexual however whenever I tell people I’m androsexual they think I’m attracted to Androgynous people. It can be very frustrating.

  • Wren Wilkins

    How do you find out what you are though? I’m pretty sure on everything else on my Genderbread but when it comes down to sexual orientation, I don’t know. I’ve only ever been with a guy. But I’ve said stuff about girls before like “if she asked me out, I’d totally date her” and I’ve had girl-crushes. And I’ve been attracted to girls who dressed like guys and transmen. But I can’t see myself actually marrying them. Or maybe even having sex with them. But I’m not hugely a fan of male genitalia anyway. I’m really just so confused. I honestly don’t care what people identify as or what they really are so would that make me pansexual? I mean, do you know what I’m asking? Can you try to help me?

    • KO

      You are what you identify as. I have a gay friend who has once had feelings for a girl. We consider her an exception, which happens, given that all of this is on a spectrum. He could just as easily identify as bisexual, but he doesn’t feel he is, therefore he isn’t.
      If you’re in general attracted to only some males, you can identify as straight, and just recognize that people are people, there are exceptions to most rules, and to many orientations.
      If you feel you like some people of the same gender and of another gender, whether it is equal preference, or not, you can identify as bisexual (same and another gender), polysexual (multiple genders), pansexual (attraction to any gender, based on factors outside of gender and sex).
      Bicurious and questioning are of course also options, but they can sometimes give off the connotation of uncertainty, and I don’t think having a knowledge of who you’ve liked, and an idea of what you identify as is uncertain, whether your orientation identity shifts to a different more accurate label over the years, or stays exactly the same.
      You are who you feel you are. If you change your label a couple times to figure out exactly how you feel, that’s fine. :)

    • KO

      And, genitalia’s weird. Fun sometimes, but weird. Most aren’t attracted to their others just based on those sex bits, so don’t worry about it. ;)

  • Wren Wilkins

    An add-on, am I an ally? You wrote in another article that “Ally: a straight person who supports queer people”. But given what I’ve stated, am I really straight? So where on the LGBPTTQQIIAA+ would I really belong?

  • L-Boy

    Interesting concept…I ID as genderqueer, but am often attracted to women (gynosexual) who look/act in what many would consider a masculine/boyish manner. I hope I’m getting this right. I just turned 49 on Tuesday…hard to teach us old dogs new tricks! Thanks.

  • vera

    hello, I wonder if it fits within the concept of genderqueer my case: I am biologically female, I feel a mixture of male and female, sometimes male, sometimes female, but overall I feel more masculine. My appearance is a bit neutral (use hoops, paint my lips, but only wear pants). I like women, the feminine, but this is the problem: I like heterosexual women, ie women who like men, women who have this sensitivity, then I can not find loving couple. I have 41 years and I just realized that maybe I’m transgender. May you guide me.

  • anne marie

    I love your writing Sam!! Your columns have been of interest to me lately as I have been studying and thinking about feminism and its responses to transwomen, especially in the activist community. I am reading a lot of people’s perspectives to get a more robust idea of how others are thinking about their own gender and sexuality. I think the conversation is important. I am a ciswoman and pansexual.

    I want to bring up this: all throughout the 90s when I was young and dating I got this from men many times: “I am a lesbian in a man’s body”. It always seemed like such a pick-up line. These men did not mind benefiting from their maleness in social privilege and they have absolutely no experience in how it feels to be a woman in a patriarchal society, much less a lesbian. It seemed like a way for them to assert that I should look past their maleness and see them as I would see another woman. I am not sure how to integrate this now, as I learn about the lovely plethora of variation in how people perceive themselves and how they want to engage their sexuality and gender.

    Any thoughts on this?

  • Ken Jaszkowiak

    This is the most helpful site I have found so far. I am giving my parents resources that would help them understand me better. Thanks!

  • Charlie Copley

    Would rather use gynesexual or gyneromantic. Anything ending in “-phile” sounds like pedophile, with the bad connotations, unfortunately. :(

  • http://binarynull.wordpress.com/ charlie

    A nonbinary pansexual.

  • orlando098

    I don’t agree at all about “genderqueer” being a “catch-all” term. At a pinch you can use “transgender” like that (as it’s used in the term LGBT), though of course not everyone would agree, or maybe gender variant, or gender minorities, but “genderqueer” is specifically used by people who feel they are a mixture of man and woman or are neither. It doesn’t apply, for example to transwomen and transmen who identify full as women and men.

  • Gray

    How about not lumping all trans folk into the term genderqueer. Genderqueer is often used as an identity term for people who do not identify within the binary. I think many binary trans folk would be insulted to be lumped into this term and then further insulted that you’re implying that only pansexual/polysexual/multi-sexual folk are interested in trans people. That is a gross misconception that is commonly held by cis people who don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

  • phanny

    what does its private bits look like?

  • phanny

    whats its private bits look like?

  • Krozan Kapali

    Is heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, asexuality & polysexuality for cisgender and Androsexual,Gynesexual & Skoliosexual for genderqueer???

  • starsnstripes

    For some gender queer people ie transsexual people who are attracted to them are gay if the trans person was born male and had full sex change to be a girl then if they date a girl that girl will be lesbian or bi or also trans. For some when the trans person dates a man then that man is usually bi or straight cisgender as you call it or also trans. This is a better way to understand the sexuality of transexuality.

  • Dylan

    Not sure if this has already been addressed, but genderqueer is not a catch-all term for people who don’t identify as cisgender. Trans people can be transgender and certainly not cisgender, yet not genderqueer. Binary-identified trans women and trans men are not genderqueer nor cisgender, and they make up a huge segment of trans* people.

  • Elanit

    Bisexuals can be attracted to no-binaries. This notion that feeling most comfortable with the label bisexual makes someone a bad person is wrong. Bisexual can mean attracted to same and other genders, rather than men and women, which effectively is the same thing as pansexual. Everyone is either the same gender as someone, or a different gender. It’s perfectly fine to use the pansexual or any other label for sexuality, but this elitism that bisexuality “enforces the binary” doesn’t make the world any better.

    • KO

      Thank you so much for posting this, I truly appreciate that you found such an eloquent way of wording it. A lot of the time, in these discussions I find that in the search to explain identities and/or pan or polysexuality, bisexuality and cisgender get treated derisively and by stereotype, and it hurts.

  • Sig Sauer

    You folks are seriously seriously f***ed up.

    • Lauren

      Your comment makes me really sad.

      • Anonymous

        The homophobia/lesbophobia and the appropriation of gay & lesbian culture on this thread makes me really sad.

  • Peter L

    ” You’ve probably heard a straight cis- guy say something like “if I was a girl, I would totally be into Brad Pitt.”
    Guess what, dude, you’re into Brad Pitt”

    I don’t agree, attraction for me boils down to what kind of makes me want to orgasm. Saying you admire someone not within your categories of attraction doesn’t necessarily reveal some repressed attraction, it just means you want to be like Brad Pitt in some way.

  • Shelly Altenburg

    pansexual genderqueer with a slight lean toward gynesexuality, checking in! (commonly tagged as a bisexual woman though. but meh, I’m chill about it)

  • nAME

    I AM A WOMAN ATTRACTED TO ONLY MEN BUT I WISH I HAD A PENIS AND WOULD LOVE TO FUCK A MAN AS IF I DID. WHAT DO YOU CALL THAT?

  • Clare

    I wonder if anyone can help me out in regards to my complicated sexual orientation. I’m bio-female and identify as genderqueer, which is simple enough. Sexually I’m not attracted to men whatsoever, although I am turned on by the thought of being with a man AS a man. I’m not sexually attracted to females either, unless a) I’ve developed romantic feelings towards them first or b) they are bio-female but male in gender expression – it’s important though that they maintain the female bodily form as I find the male form utterly unattractive unless considered from a male perspective. Romantically I’m only attracted to females, and by that I mean anyone of the female sex; in terms of gender identity and expression, I am pansexual. Also, I say I’m not sexually attracted to males but I can find them attractive facially – which is something I don’t tend get with females independent of romantic feelings.

    Sorry for the essay, I tried to keep it as simple as possible. The main problem for me is that I just fall into too many categories: homosexual, homoromantic, pansexual, demisexual, skoliosexual, homotransexual and asexual all apply to me in ways. I understand that people are complicated and can’t be expected to fall neatly into one label, but it would be nice if I could find a way to sum it up in a sentence, at least. So I really would appreciate it if you could read the paragraph above and let me know yours thoughts on how I might best go about describing my sexuality more simply. Cheers guys.

  • J

    I thank you for this article, it made me understand myself more.

  • confused

    Why is it that someone can consider themselves straight for 38 years then suddenly decide there only attracted to the same sex

  • Raven

    I got your book. I am very impressed! :3

  • anonymous

    As a lesbian, I dislike the word “gynesexual” because it lumps lesbians into a category with straight men. There’s nothing similar about my attraction to women and a straight man’s attraction to women. I find it both homophobic and lesbophobic when people argue that we should do away with words like “homosexual” in favor of “gynesexual” and the like because it comes uncomfortably close to saying that my sexual orientation is just like a straight man’s. No thanks! That’s an attitude I get from the hetero world all the time, I don’t need to hear it coming from “my community” as well.

    • Anonymous

      For whatever it is worth, i’m a Gay man and i agree with you. lumping Gay in with straight is offensive and it’s doubly offensive for Lesbians to be lumped together with straight men.

  • LW

    this was really helpful for me, as i identify as trigender, but i couldnt figure out what my sexuality would classify as. hetero/homo wouldn’t work because those mean either attracted to the same gender as you, or the opposite gender, and that didnt really work in my case! glad to finally find the word Gynesexual or in my case, Gyneromantic. I am a proud trigender asexual Gyneromantic. took me so long to figure this whole mess out.