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22 Gender & Sexuality Terms You Might Not Know — But Totally Should

It’s not just about straight, gay or bisexual anymore.

If Miley Cyrus is on your radar, you probably know that she came out as pansexual. But the first time I heard that term was from my eighth grader; I had to look up the definition.

Sexuality terms like “heterosexual,” “bisexual” and “transgender” are well known. But what about “pansexual,” “demisexual” or “homoromantic?” I hadn’t heard of any of these, but my daughter knew all about them and more.

This is a whole new generation, with increasing awareness when it comes to identity and sexuality. Look no further than Facebook, which expanded its 58 gender options by allowing members to add up to 10 gender terms. According to the Pew Research Center, a 2013 survey found that 92 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults in America said that society has become more accepting of them in the past decade. An equal number expected it to grow even more accepting in the next 10 years.

With the notion that there’s a wide spectrum of sexual identity — which can be fluid — means that there’s a need for words to define who we are. Who knew there were so many? Here are gender and sexuality terms that you might not know about but probably should:

Aromantic: Experiences little or no romantic attraction to others.

Asexual: Someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction to others. Perhaps the most famous asexual is Tim Gunn, of Project Runway fame.

Bigender: People who feel they have both a male and female side.

Cisgender: Gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth, or in other words, not transgender.

Demiromantic: Doesn’t experience romantic attraction until a strong emotional bond is formed.

Demisexual: Doesn’t experience sexual attraction until a strong emotional connection is formed. In general, demisexuals aren’t sexually attracted to anyone of any gender, until they are drawn to a specific person.

Gender binary: The idea that there are only two distinct and different genders: Female/Male.

Gender fluid: Gender identity that varies over time. Think Jaden Smith, who’s the newest face of Louis Vuitton’s women’s line. He recently made headlines for wearing a skirt in the company’s new Spring/Summer 2016 ad campaign.

Gender non-conforming: Behaving and appearing in ways considered atypical for one’s gender.

Gender normative: Behaving and appearing in ways considered typical for one’s gender.

Gender normative privilege: This is a subset of gender normative, which refers to the privilege experienced simply by virtue of being gender normative or perceived as such. For example, people who are gender normative can assimilate without being stared at. They’re not asked whether they’ve had the surgery, called by incorrect pronouns, nor do they have to worry about harassment or violence.

Genderqueer: May not identify as male or female, but as both, neither or a blend. This person might refer to themselves as a demigirl or demiguy. See also nonbinary gender.

Gray-asexual or gray-sexual: Experience sexual attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances, or of an intensity so low that it can be ignored. This is considered the gray area between asexuality and sexuality.

Heteronormative: The belief that everyone is a heterosexual.

Heteroromantic: Romantically attracted to the opposite sex and/or gender.

Homoromantic: Romantically attracted to the same sex or gender.

Intersex: Biologically neither completely male nor completely female; this is now the preferred term to hermaphrodite.

Nonbinary gender: Gender that isn’t exclusively male or female. Pronouns used are usually they/them. See genderqueer.

Panromantic: Romantically — but not sexually — attracted to others regardless of sex or gender.

Pansexual: Romantically and sexually attracted to basically anyone. Bisexuals are attracted to men and/or women, whereas pansexuals look beyond gender as they’re also attracted to transgender, intersex, genderqueer, etc. Similar to polysexual.

Polyamorous: Having open relationships with multiple partners that may or may not include polysexuality.

Polysexual: Attracted to multiple genders while rejecting the idea that there are only two genders (male and female). Bisexuality and pansexuality are forms of polysexuality. The differences are slight; rather than being attracted to all genders (like pansexuals), polysexuals are attracted to multiple genders, not necessarily all.

Whew. Hopefully you learned something. And here’s another thing to keep in mind: Wherever you might be on the spectrum, what’s important is your happiness and comfort — not a label.

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