Sexual orientation is, super simply put, what type of person turns you on. This can be romantically or sexually but is generally used in a sexual sense.
There are many sexual orientations. These can change over a period of time or with experiences. Many people start out feeling forced into being heterosexual because that is the perceived norm in American society.
Let’s start with terms you may be more familiar with. Keep in mind that this is without taking one’s gender identity into consideration so some of these terms may not necessarily be operating how they would in the real world. When I say the opposite sex or same sex, I mean it as if this may be operating in a more gender binary world. Again, this is not reality, so please keep this in mind.
Heterosexual (straight): attracted to members of the ‘opposite’ sex (i.e., a man who is sexually attracted to women)
Homosexual (androsexual, gay): attracted to members of the same sex (i.e., men seeking men)
Lesbian: generally used for women or non-binary people who identify as attracted to women
Bisexual: the well-known term to say one is attracted to all genders – this does leave out some people as this word operates in a gender binary system (bi literally means two)
Pansexual: similarly to bisexual, this term basically means “I am attracted to everyone, regardless of their or my gender identity” (it’s more accepting in my opinion as someone who used to identify as bi)
Bicurious: someone who is curious about experiences with multiple genders
There are layers here that aren’t explained well in a mass definition post like this. One can be bi/pan and more sexually attracted to certain people than others. As someone who has literally always been attracted to everyone, I personally believe that pansexual is a more inclusive term. You can read my story for National Coming Out Day to learn more about my experience.
Skoliosexual: someone who is attracted to those who are not in the gender binary norm, such as transgender, non-binary, androgynous, etc.
Asexual (ace): someone who is not generally interested in sexual relationships – this is a spectrum in and of itself, though, because this can range from those who are asexual and aromantic (see below) to those who are asexual but are demiromantic (see below)
Aromantic (arrow): someone who is not interested in romantic relationships with others
Demiromantic/demisexual: someone who generally needs to have a very strong emotional connection to someone in order to feel attracted to them romantically (former) or sexually (latter)
Polyamorous: someone who is in a consensual non-monogamous relationship
Queer: this is a very broad term that can be used to describe the LGBTQ+ community; it can be used as a way to avoid labels that may not fit for long, too, since sexual orientations change
I’m sorry, but ‘ally’ is not a sexual orientation. Being an ally just means you’re a good person. You still have a separate orientation from that – generally straight.
What sexual orientations have I missed? Have one to add? Do it in the comments! Please note, though, that gender identity will come in its own post.