Everyone, everywhere around the world, uses characteristics, interests, beliefs, the way we look, and even how we feel to express all of these factors through the use of labels or terms. The terms often represent how we think or feel and help us find likeminded or similar people to ourselves. Humans are fundamentally social beings, and the need to belong is coded into us all from a young age. I have listened to debates in the past, which discussed why there are so many labels, especially amongst certain groups. Though there is a perception, most of those debating often fail to realise that they too are often using labels to define themselves, as terms or labels are part of our everyday lives. Whether you are British, a person of colour or a republican, these are all terms used to convey who you are and what best represents how you think and feel. People who cannot identify using existing labels will seek out other like-minded or similar individuals and collectively create a term that best expresses and represents them.
What is the gender spectrum?
Usually, when a child is born, a doctor or family member will assign a baby’s gender based on their biological or physical appearance. The older we become, the more aware we are and the more we are taught the meaning of our gender and the expectations around how we should act and behave. Traditions, religions, family beliefs and the societies we grow up within shape and mould the understanding and teaching imparted on us what being a specific gender means. The gender stereotypes will vary depending on the environment we are brought up within, and the country and region in which we are born. Unlike the traditional gender definitions, the gender spectrum is more a scale where an individual might not necessarily identify or conform to one side (masculine) or the other (feminine) within the gender scale. Instead, people may lean towards one particular side, frequently move across the scale or not identify at all. The term genderfluid refers to people that will often move across the scale (from masculine to feminine-orientated identities); whereas those that identify as non-binary do not identify anywhere within the gender spectrum.
An individual that identifies as demisexual may also identify as a man, woman, within the gender spectrum or as non-binary. Demisexuality falls within the sexual identity grouping within the LGBTQ+ community, and people that identify as such might be considered either sexual or asexual, depending on the person’s situation. Unlike gay or lesbian individuals who feel sexual attraction towards people of the same gender, a demisexual individual only feels attraction where there is a deep emotional or romantic connection. Any connections formed can be with a person from either the opposite or same gender as their own. Whenever a demisexual person has not developed a romantic or emotional relationship, they will likely be considered more asexual, meaning that they have little to no sexual desire or attraction.
Let us walk through an example relating to demisexuality:
- Alex identifies as a man from a gender perspective and is 25-years-old. Before and after puberty, Alex quickly noticed that unlike his friends and from what he saw in the media, he did not feel sexually attracted or aroused by people he met. Alex would fantasise about celebrities and well-known personalities because Alex usually felt a connection through their music or work. In his everyday life, he had not had any close relationships or experienced sexual attraction towards anyone he had met. Shortly after his 26th birthday, Alex was introduced to Jay, who identifies as gay. The two quickly formed a friendship, and over months, the more time they spent together, the sooner Alex realised that he was becoming more attracted to Jay
In this example, the strong connection Alex was forming with Jay was creating the sexual attraction. Before meeting Jay, Alex experienced more asexual like characteristics, after his connection, more gay sexual attractions.
Not to be confused with polyamory, which is a term that relates to relationships between three or more people. A polysexual individual can be defined as someone who is male, female, within the spectrum or as non-binary. The main characteristics of polysexuality are that many within this group will experience sexual attraction and desires, which is considered much more fluid than individuals from other LGBTQ+ groups. A polysexual individual will likely feel attraction to more than two genders or sexes, but will not be attracted to all groups. For example, a polysexual male might be attracted to women, transgender and transexual women; however, might not be attracted to men or those considered more masculine.
Polysexual people are often referred to as bisexual or pansexual; however, they are unique in their own right, and distinct differences exist between the different groups.
- Polysexuality vs Bisexuality – Bisexual individuals are attracted to men and woman; however, they may not feel attractions towards some within the gender spectrum. For example, a bisexual individual may not feel sexual attraction towards a transgender person, genderfluid or non-binary person. In contrast, polysexual individuals likely feel attraction towards many genders or sexes, including those from within and outside of the gender spectrum
- Polysexuality vs Pansexuality – those identifying as pansexual are often grouped under the bisexual banner as pansexual people, will typically be attracted towards a person rather than a gender. Pansexual people, unlike polysexual individuals, usually feel attraction towards those from more traditional gender identities whereas polysexual individuals feel attraction both inside and outside of the gender spectrum
To summarise, Polysexuality from an attraction perspective is much more fluid. It can be both from within and outside of the gender spectrum, more so than any other group from within the LGBTQ+ community. For example, individuals attracted to women, and transgender women could identify as polysexual under the classification of the term.
For most of us, how we identify is crucial and is often much more than where we are born or our skin colour. When we cannot identify, find a term or even label, which describes how we are thinking or feeling, we might feel alone, isolated, and even some cases, ashamed. The moment you meet people similar to yourself, those who share the same feelings, beliefs or identity as you do; it can instantly change how a person views the world around them. The desire to belong is encoded into all of us, is nothing new and typically the positives outweigh any perceived negatives relating to labels and term.
How a person identifies is unique to them, and even though they may see or liken how they are thinking or feelings towards a term or label, it does not necessarily mean that they can identify 100%. Instead, it is often more about bringing together people with similar experiences, beliefs or feelings. Regardless of our personal views and opinions, respecting how a person chooses to live their lives and supporting their desire to live their true and authentic selves is crucial. Ultimately more things in life bring us together than keeps us apart.