Hallelujah, it’s raining labels

If you hate labels, this post is not for you.

Labels are simply adjectives that hold a lot of meaning for us. I could label myself blue-eyed, if having blue eyes was an important part of who I am, but for me the important adjectives are the ones that go against what is considered normal. This includes adjectives about gender, sexual orientation, romantic orientation, and relationship structures. There are others as well, but today I want to focus on them.

So, my friends, let’s play a game. I’ll give you a few lists of labels and define them as well as I can, and you pick which ones fit you or ignore the lot! Sound like fun? Let’s go!

Step 1: Gender identity

Before we can find a label about how you relate to other people, we have to find a label that’s just about you. Gender is a good place to start. Buckle up, because this could get complicated.

Some gender identities

  • Genderless/Agender: What did you say? Gender? What’s that? I don’t think I have that…
  • Neutrois: I have one gender, which is neutral. And it’s usually said noo-TRAW, kind of French-like, or noo-TROSS, or noo-TROZ, or noo-TROYS, or noo-TROYZ. Take your pick.
  • Woman/Man: I have one gender, which is feminine or masculine. It is very nice to have society accept the existence of my identity!
  • Androgynous: I have one gender that is a mix of two, masculine and feminine. Andro = man, gyno = woman.
  • Bigender: I have two genders, maybe including male or female, maybe not.
  • Trigender: I have three genders, maybe including male or female, maybe not.
  • Genderfluid: Some days I may be female, some days I may be male, some days I may be other genders. Try to keep up.
  • Polygender: I have multiple genders, but not necessarily all of them. Poly = many.
  • Pangender: I have all the gender! Yay gender! Pan = all.
  • Genderqueer: My gender is unusual, and that is all I need to say about that.

Whew. This isn’t a complete list; I only included labels that I know about and understand, and you may disagree with some of my definitions. My own identity is genderless, so I have no personal experience with any of the others and can only use research and my knowledge of language to define them for you.

There are some other labels that you can use to describe yourself, too, and you can pick some of these if you like.

Related identities that don’t specify your gender

  • Transgender/Transsexual: When they assigned me a gender/sex at birth, they got it wrong.
  • Cisgender/Cissexual: When they assigned me a gender/sex at birth, they got it right.
  • Intersex: My body doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male.

Now that we’ve chosen some labels that describe only ourselves, we can move on to labels that describe how we relate to other people. Are you excited? I’m excited.

Step 2: Sexual orientation

One important way that we relate to other people is how our bodies respond to them, and one kind of response is sexual. Sexual attraction is something that I can’t personally understand, but allow me to consult my good friend, the dictionary.

sexual adj. of, characteristic of, or involving sex, the sexes, the organs of sex and their functions, or the instincts, drives, behavior, etc. associated with sex

attraction n. the act of attracting or condition of being attracted

Helpful, thank you, dictionary.

attract v. 1: to draw to itself or oneself; make approach or adhere 2: to get the admiration, attention, etc. of; allure

Okay, let’s put this together then.

sexual attraction n. admiring or being drawn to something based on sex, the sexes, or the organs of sex and their functions

That sounds pretty good. Let’s use that. It’s time to find a sexual orientation label!

Some sexual orientations

  • Asexual: I don’t experience sexual attraction. The way you feel about people you’re not sexually attracted to? That’s the way I feel about everyone.
  • Demisexual: When I get to know someone really well and like them a lot, I can start to feel sexually attracted to them, but otherwise I don’t experience sexual attraction.
  • Gray-asexual: I’m kind of asexual, but kind of not. Black and white thinking sucks anyway.
  • Homosexual/Gay: I’m sexually attracted to people whose gender is the same as mine.
  • Heterosexual/Straight: I’m sexually attracted to people of one gender that’s different from mine.
  • Bisexual: I’m sexually attracted to two or more genders, or two groups of genders. Sometimes one more than the others. Bi = two.
  • Polysexual/Multisexual: I’m sexually attracted to many genders, but not necessarily all of them.
  • Pansexual: Gender doesn’t factor into my sexual attraction, so people of all genders are eligible. Pan = all.
  • Omnisexual: I’m sexually attracted to anyone/anything that can consent. Omni = all.
  • Queer: My sexual orientation is unusual, and that’s all I need to say about that.

Related identities that don’t specify your sexual orientation

  • Nonlibidoist: I don’t have a sex drive, and that’s all right. Libido = sex drive.
  • Hyposexual: I have a low sex drive, and that’s all right. Hypo = below.
  • Hypersexual: I have a high sex drive, and that’s all right. Hyper = above.
  • Sexually abstinent: I choose not to have sex. This may be for religious reasons, medical reasons, safety reasons (STIs and unwanted pregnancies suck), or because I just don’t want to have sex, okay? (Many people use the term celibate instead, though the literal definition of celibacy is the choice to be unmarried. These two things get combined because certain people think that you should only have sex when you’re married.)
  • Selfsexual/Autosexual: I’m not interested in having sex with other people, but I do like to have sex with myself (i.e. masturbation).

Cool, let’s take some labels! I am a nonlibidoist asexual. Got yours? Good, now it’s time for…

Step 3: Romantic orientation

Another important way that we relate to other people is romance. I don’t understand romantic attraction all that well, and when I ask people how they define it they all give me different answers, so I’m just going to give you a kind of cop-out definition. (My good friend the dictionary just wants to talk about Romance literature, which is nice, but not helpful right now, dictionary.)

romantic attraction n. wanting a romantic relationship with a person

So what’s a romantic relationship? I know, ugh. I’ll deal with this in a later post. For now, I’m going to distract you with romantic orientations, ooooooh.

Some romantic orientations

  • Aromantic: I don’t experience romantic attraction. I may not even know what it is. Let’s be friends!
  • Demiromantic: You might lock eyes with someone across the room and immediately want to be with them, but I need to know someone really well before I feel romantic attraction.
  • Gray-aromantic: I’m kind of aromantic, kind of romantic. Black and white thinking is for squares.
  • Homoromantic/Gay: I’m romantically attracted to people whose gender is the same as mine.
  • Heteroromantic/Straight: I’m romantically attracted to people of one gender that’s different from mine.
  • Biromantic: I’m romantically attracted to two or more genders, or two groups of genders. Sometimes one more than the other.
  • Polyromantic/Multiromantic: I’m romantically attracted to many genders, but not necessarily all of them.
  • Panromantic: Gender doesn’t factor into my romantic attraction, so people of all genders are eligible.
  • Omniromantic: I’m romantically attracted to anyone/anything that can consent.
  • Queer: My romantic orientation is unusual, and that’s all I need to say about that.

You may have noticed that romantic orientations have basically the same structure as sexual orientations. That’s because the only people who usually concern themselves with romantic orientation are asexuals, who wouldn’t use the word “homosexual” to refer to themselves, for example. Most non-asexuals use their sexual orientation to apply to romance as well. That’s why there are words like gay and straight, which can be used for sexual and romantic orientations alike.  Of course, there are sexual people whose sexual and romantic attractions don’t line up, and this list can be useful for them, too. A woman who doesn’t feel romantic attraction to anyone but is sexually attracted to men would be an aromantic heterosexual. I have a character who is sexually attracted to women and romantically attracted to men; he could call himself a heterosexual homoromantic, but he calls himself bi.

My own romantic orientation is aromantic, because I have no idea what romance is and I kind of suspect that it might not exist. More about this in another post. For now, let’s get into some really fun stuff: relationships themselves.

Step 4: Relationship structures

I’m going to write a whole post about my views on relationships, so this is just about the labels for romantic ones. [EDIT: P.S., I wrote that post.]

  • Single: I’m not in a romantic relationship, either because it doesn’t fit into my life right now, I can’t find one, or I’m just not interested.
  • Celibate: I choose not to be married, maybe for religious reasons, maybe for personal reasons, or maybe as a protest against the flawed institution and laws of marriage. (This is the literal definition; many people use celibate as a synonym for sexually abstinent — see above under Sexual Orientation — Related identities.)
  • Open relationship: I have a committed romantic relationship, but we are each free to have romantic and/or sexual connections with other people, depending on our agreements.
  • Monoamory/Monogamy: I have one romantic relationship/marriage at a time, with one other person. Society is built to cater to my needs, and it’s very nice for me. Mono = one, amor = love, gamy = marriage.
  • Polyamory/Group marriage: I have romantic relationships/marriages with more than one person at once, with the full knowledge and consent of all involved. Society thinks that cheating is better than what I’m doing, but society sucks. Poly = many. Poly folks usually don’t use the grammatically correct word polygamy for marriages with more than one person, because of the cult connotations.
  • Polyfaithful/Polyexclusive: I have one romantic relationship with multiple people, and all of us are in love with each other. This is a specific form of polyamory.

Does one of these relationship labels fit you? They don’t really fit me that well, except for celibate, so don’t feel like you have to pick one. Again, there will be another post where I’ll talk about relationships some more.

Step 5: Putting it all together

The fun part is when you get to list all of your labels in one sentence and sound like the biggest freak in the world. If you want to see some examples of this, go no further than the profiles on Genderfork.

As for me, I am a genderless, aromantic, nonlibidoist asexual. Sometimes I identify as trans, trying to avoid the whole transgender vs. transgendered debate (I agree with this article, and this one provides an interesting counter-argument). Sometimes I identify as celibate, because marriage law is really screwed up right now and I’m not participating until it gets an overhaul. Sometimes I tack on other unrelated labels, like atheist, existentialist, pacifist, minimalist, and barefooter. That’s just because I love labels.

What would your string of labels include? Did I overlook your label? Did I define your label totally incorrectly? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.


[EDIT: The response to this post was much bigger than I could have anticipated! Thanks, everyone, for your input and kindness. I’ve decided that I’m not going to add any new labels to the list, since it was never intended to be exhaustive, but I will still change the existing definitions that might need some work. Feel free to tell everyone about other labels in the comments, though — I always like hearing about them.]

82 Responses to Hallelujah, it’s raining labels

  1. This is GORGEOUS. Thank you so much for writing this post! It’s a fantastic summary of stuff that I find really complicated and therefore tend to ramble on about forever, probably confusing the heck out of whoever’s listening in the process. I’m going to put this on my sidebar and refer people to it whenever they ask me about something like this from now on. Yay! Again, thank you!

  2. aaa this is a wonderful post! the only things i have a problem with here are 1) your definitions for bisexual and biromantic and 2) the missing labels polysexual and polyromantic! bi- can mean an attraction to any two genders or sexes, not just the binary two. poly- orientations are sort of the middle ground between bi- and pan-/omni-, poly meaning “many” or “several”.

    i’m still working on my labels, but i’m content with confusion for now, haha. i’ll definitely be bookmarking this for future reference!

    • Thanks for the kind words! I also saw these things on tumblr and I’m editing now.

      I know I won’t be able to catch every label, and I don’t want to edit my post too terribly much, but I think these are two important fixes.

      • You’re also missing “multisexual” and “multiromantic”. Multisexual is the umbrella term for people attracted to more than one gender as well as a specific term for people who don’t identify with number-specific labels or “pansexual”.

        • Thanks for bringing multisexual/multiromantic to my attention, Raibean — I hadn’t heard of them before. I didn’t use any umbrella terms in my post, but now I’m thinking of adding them, so I will certainly add multi- if I do. In the meantime, I have added multisexual/multiromantic as a synonym of polysexual/polyromantic. I’ve also changed “but not all” to “but not necessarily all” to every instance of poly- to be more inclusive.

          Oh, and I separated omnisexual from pansexual, too.

          • Actually, I’d like to recommend a correction: the bisexual/biromantic community generally uses the definition “attracted to two or more genders” rather than just two. For example, a bisexual or biromantic individual could be attracted to both men and agender people, or women, men, and bigender. Bi-ness is not restricted to two genders. (Otherwise, you’d either have one, two, or all, with no threes or fours or fives.)

            • Thanks for mentioning this. Back when I wrote this post, I had not seen the “two or more” definition. I’ll add that. (Though I will say that polysexual/romantic can include threes or fours or fives.)

  3. Do you mind changing the definition of “open relationship” from “I have a romantic relationship with one person, but…” to “I am in a committed romantic relationship, but…”? I’m in a polyamorous relationship with two people and we consider ourselves to be in an open relationship.
    Another synonym for “polyfaithful” is “polyexclusive”.
    Plus, another one for the Relationship Structures: “Relationship anarchy (RA): I recognize that there can be a spectrum of romantic to nonromantic and sexual to nonsexual relationships, and I prefer in general not to divide the relationships I have with various people into ‘partners’ and ‘friends’.”

    Thank you for this article. It’s clear, concise, empathetic, and even though it doesn’t seem like you went out of your way to be funny your style does strike a certain dry comedic tone that I really enjoy. (Five stars: would read again!)

    • Since I just saw that you didn’t want to edit the post too much, I wanted to clarify that I’m not demanding that relationship anarchy be included; I’m fine with it just hanging out in the comments section.

      • Okay, that’s cool. I’ll put a link to the post I wrote about how I do relationships, anyway, because I guess I’m a relationship anarchist! (Awesome term. I hadn’t heard it before.)

    • Also, I fixed the open relationship definition and added “polyexclusive”. It seems like a good idea to mention the edits in the comments so that things don’t get confusing.

  4. Hullo! This is a very well-worded, friendly definitions list, which I appreciate greatly. Yay!

    I do think it’s very important to note that homosexual/romantic means “attraction to people of the same gender” and gets used by people who are neither men nor women. (Hetero- is less commonly used by non-binary folks I suppose? but also an option. ’tis a little harder to define; perhaps “attraction to people of a gender different from my own.”)

    • You are so right. I struggled for an elegant way to word those definitions. I should have known that the answer was to take the words literally and break them out of the binary! Fixed it.

      I don’t personally know any heterosexuals who aren’t men or women — I wonder if they still call themselves straight. The very idea makes me so happy that I left “straight” as an alternate.

  5. I feel like you’re missing something in the relationships part, something a little like “friends with benefits”, where we aren’t in a “romantic relationship” but do have sex.

  6. Also, to me, “celibate” means that I choose to have sex only with myself, or not at all, and doesn’t say anything about my relationship status. I could be in a celibate marriage, for example, if my partner and I chose not to have sex. (It also has no bearing on who I’m attracted to, just on who I choose to have sex with.) Not everyone will agree, but that’s the way I use it.

  7. Sorry about the multiple comments. It thought I was a spammer, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. I think it doesn’t like my identity, because the string it refused to let me post was my self-identity.

    • I’m sorry the system got confused! I’ll answer all your comments in one place.

      1. The reason I didn’t include “friends with benefits” is that I wanted to keep that section just about romantic relationships. There are so many kinds of relationships that I couldn’t possibly list them all in one little part of my post, so I stuck with romance.

      2. I had a hard time deciding what to do with “celibate”. The word literally means unmarried, so that’s how I defined it, but I know that many people use it to mean not having sex. This happened because those who are unmarried for religious reasons in Catholicism (priests, nuns, etc.) are not supposed to have sex, because sex is only supposed to be for marriage. In this context, celibacy assumes abstinence. I don’t like that assumption, so I chose to separate the definitions. But I don’t want to be out of touch with the way other people really use words, so I’m adding something to reflect that.

      3. My blog guards don’t like your identity?! Bad guards. Maybe if you try again, now that you haven’t had a comment for a while, it will accept it. I’ll see what I can do to make the system less restrictive.

      • In my case I identify as a (currently-)single (currently-)celibate genderfluid demiautosexual-demipolysexual panromantic disabled woman. At least currently. As for the mindbending “genderfluid woman”, well, y’all will just have to cope with that one, ’cause that’s how I see myself right now. What I mean by that is that my gender expression varies, and my gender perception varies, but the long-term average seems to be somewhere in the “woman-ish” camp, and that matches the gender assigned to me at birth (and the physical characteristics I display, which happen to be OEM parts in my case). On specific days I may identify as female, as both female and male, as neutral, or occasionally genderfree (“I know I had a gender yesterday. Maybe I left it in the car?”). I rarely identify as purely male, although that may be more my own mental hang-ups than anything.

  8. I am a cisgendered, female, monogamous, homoromantic, homosexual. But eh, I guess my expression contradicts my gender identity a bit. I do identify as a female, I can’t see that any other way, but I love crossdressing on occasion and my clothing sometimes fluctuates from masculine to feminine each day.

    Is that normal?

    • Thanks for sharing your string of labels, Carmen!

      I know a lot of females who look more masculine than feminine sometimes. So I guess it might be normal, but I’m more inclined to say that normal doesn’t exist and we’re all weird in our own way, no matter what we present to the world.

  9. First, given Lady Gaga’s rampant cissexism, I find it grossly inappropriate to quote her when talking about gender identity.

    Second, “Intersex: My body doesn’t fall into the male or female category.”

    No. No. No. Intersex means that your body never fit into science’s dyadic view of sex. Trans people who aren’t intersex appropriating the label is GROSSLY inappropriate. Also, while I don’t know if there are people with an intersex who wish to view their body as male or female, if there are- you damn well better support how they view their own bodies.

    • Thank you for commenting, Dreki. Would you mind giving me a few examples that you’ve found of Lady Gaga’s cissexism? I’m usually pretty good about noticing that kind of thing, but I’m certainly willing to admit when I’ve missed something.

      Second, I’m sorry I misworded my intersex definition. To make sure that my understanding of intersex is correct, I went to ISNA and I’ve changed my wording accordingly. I do support everyone’s views of their own bodies.

      I’m glad that everyone is making sure I have these things right. I wanted this post to be a useful resource, and it is the opposite of useful if the definitions are wrong.

      • If you google “gaga cissexism” – there are a lot of hits. For instance, http://genderbitch.tumblr.com/post/3233012232/lady-gagas-cissexism-updated

        Lady Gaga has a lot of problems in general; cultural appropriation (ex: the headdress outfit), racism (ex: use of slurs in Born This Way – no she doesn’t get to reclaim them), little bit of all-people-are-sexual, ableism (ex: stunting onstage in a wheelchair, wtf; using the r-word), using phrases like “the gays” and presuming to be a spokesperson for “the gay community,” …

        There is so much analysis of Gaga all over the internets, it’s ridiculous, but it also makes it a little bit tricky to find *good* articles.

        • I googled it last night and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Some of it seems like overreaction and misunderstanding, but some of it is definitely legitimate, so I’m going to say ‘better safe than sorry’ while I do more research on my own. I’ve removed the quotation. Thank you for your help, epocryphal.

        • Lady Gaga is bisexual, so she’s part of the queer community… Which doesn’t excuse her cissexism, but she can pretty much call her community whatever she likes, can’t she?

          • Well, no. Not when she’s in this position of power as a famous person, not when her words other a lot of people from the community/ies she’s claiming to represent and she doesn’t do the work to listen and properly represent our voices. Not when calling the LGBT community “the gay community” erases trans* folks and erases bi people too, yet she claims to be our greatest spokesperson and ally.

            With great visibility comes great responsibility and all that, at least in public channels.

  10. This list is brilliant. Defining ‘queer’ has always been a sticking point for me when trying to explain the concept to allies and parents and such. Aside from this, the only thing I’ve figured out is “not straight,” and that might not even be true for everyone. Thank you so much!

    • Thanks, Cameron, I’m glad it was helpful. It sometimes seems to me that people say they’re queer when they want to avoid being defined, so I’m happy to let them go ahead with that!

      • I loved this whole post. I turned out as “Genderfluid sexually abstinent queer single/celibate”. Something like that. I definitely feel that way about “queer” because I am bored by fixed definitions. They always get in my way, so I am happy to ignore them.

  11. I love the format of this and I applaud what you are doing to make these sometimes complex ideas accessible but I have one problem; your definition of Bisexual is incorrect. I know Janna commented on this, saying ‘bi- can mean an attraction to any two genders or sexes, not just the binary two’ but I would have to disagree with that too.

    It’s important to de-couple the concept of ‘2’ from bisexuality. Bisexual people are attracted to more than one gender , not just 2 or any 2.

    This is such a great idea and I know trying to write accessible definitions will always open a can of worms, but thank you for making the effort.

    • Thank you, Eve!

      The reason I said that bisexual is attraction to two genders is that “bi” means “two” and so that is what the word literally means. I’m not sure that it’s useful to try to separate “two” from the prefix “bi”; I think it’s more useful to use a different prefix that is already correct without changing its definition. I know that a lot of people use the word “bisexual” to mean something more like “polysexual” (poly = many) or “pansexual” (pan = all), but my guess is that they don’t know that they could be using poly- or pan- instead. Also, I know that there are some people who really are attracted to two genders, and I don’t want to take their label away from them.

      I’m happy to hear another perspective, though. Is there a reason you think it’s better to use bisexual instead of polysexual or pansexual?

      • Hi,

        first, thanks for the list! It’s quite detailed, which is great. :)

        I do however want to second the above commenter’s issue with your definition of ‘bi.’ I and many bi people I know use the work to mean ‘attracted to people whose gender is the same as mine, and people whose gender is different.’ That is, attraction to two *gender groups* rather than only two *specific individual genders.* The nuances of attraction to similarly- and differently-gendered people may be an important part of some people’s sense of their orientation, and thus keep the ‘two’ there to reference that. Many people who according your definition would be poly or pan identify as bi for a number of reasons and feel like the label adequately covers how they understand their orientation, and I think it only fair to account for them. This definition after all would not rule out your definition and people who understand themselves that way, but include them. So it can simply be added on as a “two genders or gender groups, for instance same-gendered and differently-than-me-gendered.”

        Thanks again for the great list!
        Cheers, m

  12. Hi there Jillian –
    I think this a list and post like this is a great idea! A few comments:
    1. Male and female are generally considered sexes or sex-identities or sex-assigned-at-birth, not genders. Man/boy and woman/girl are genders, for example.
    2. I’m not sure about that definition of genderqueer. My basic definition of genderqueer is generally something like “My gender is neither 100% man nor 100% woman.” A brief definition is over here: http://genderqueerid.com/what-is-gq

    Let me know what you think.

    • Ooh! Yes. Silly me. I knew that male and female are not genders. Thank you for reminding me, Marilyn. I’ve fixed that.

      As for genderqueer, it sounds like you use it as an umbrella term, from reading your site? I defined it the way I did because I know some people who use ‘queer’ to avoid being defined, so I thought ‘unusual’ was the best way to describe that. I avoided mentioning umbrella terms anywhere in my post, but I am thinking I may now add them. Would it make more sense if I mentioned that genderqueer can be used as an umbrella term?

      • Genderqueer definitely is often used as an umbrella term, along with some people just preferring “genderqueer” to define their gender and that’s it. Yeah, some people don’t utilize the term because of potential political implications, ideological opposition to ‘queering’ gender, etc., so otherwise ‘non-binary’ is specific to ‘not identifying as a man or a woman’, whereas genderqueer is often used to cover those with non-binary gender *too* in an umbrella sense. It’s up to you how to word your definitions of course, just wanted to put that in. :)

        • Thanks for your input. :) This all fascinates me. I generally don’t use any word with ‘queer’ in it to refer to myself because I don’t like the ‘qu’ sound, haha. More seriously, I haven’t quite decided if I like the idea of queering gender because I think it needs it, or if I don’t like the idea because I want all genders and lack of genders to be normal, instead of having some of them normal and some of them queer. Perhaps one will lead to the other.

          • Yeah, that’s the problem with the label. Whenever you’re talking about a norm and anything deviating from it, it won’t really work. But then again, I like “queer” because currently there’s still so much gender norm out there, it’s good to have an alternative. So, I’m undecided on that one, too.

  13. Omnisexual should come with the note that when discussing fictional characters, it usually means “attracted to anything that can consent (thereby including non-humans)” rather than simply being interchangeable with pansexual.

  14. This is lovely, I just found it on tumblr. I’m totally linking this to my sociology of gender class a an easy reference that is much less technical than our textbooks.
    I’m a genderqueer pan-demi-romantic gray-a-hypo-heterosexual, the length of which is why I don’t go into it so much with most people.

  15. I’m still kind of iffy putting a label on my orientation — I’ve admitted to my boyfriend(I’m a female) and a few of my close friends that I’m interested in girls sometimes too, and they’ve handled it well. I’m not worried about what my friends will think of me; I’m worried about how my female friends will feel around me. That, and my parents, are really my only problem.

    But, this post with a whole array of labels helps so, so much. Thank you — you’re beautifully handsome, inside and out. <3

    My name's Sami and I'm a cisgender girl, polysexual, abstinetly hyposexual, panromantic, and monoamorily taken.

  16. very helpful and informative article! :)

    if you don’t mind me asking, do you have a tumblr account that i can follow? XD

    sorry if i sound intrusive. ^^

    • No problem, yun! I put an unobtrusive link in the sidebar without announcing it, so I am not surprised you didn’t see.


  17. Maybe you could add “Epicene: I have one gender, which is the least common denominator between all genders” or something like that. I identify as epicene and see it as something similar to androgynes but not a “mix” and not just andro and gyné but “everybody” (except perhaps genderless people I suppose?). And I’m pretty sure some people identify as just “Non binary” too.

    • I hadn’t heard of epicene before, Sigma, and I don’t think I completely understand what it means. Google is not being very helpful at the moment, and I prefer to hear from people themselves anyway. Is epicene similar to pangender?

      • It’s similar to pangender, agender, neutrois and androgyny. It’s like pangender, but less, and without the sense of having different distinct genders (that I imagine pangender means – I might be wrong). It’s like agender but more – “not a lot of gender, but still a bit”. It’s like neutrois but neutral in the sense of “a little bit of all” and not as in “something completely different”. It’s like androgyny but without the strong connection to the gender binary.

        I actually found it as an alternative word for “androgyne”. The word comes from the Greek “epikoinos” and “koinos” is the same word as the English “common” – it pretty much means “what many have in common”, but it has been used only about to gender related stuff for a long time. An “epicene word” is in grammar a word that can be used for either gender. “Epicene beauty” is when someone is beautiful without looking distinctly male or female. It has been used as a slur towards both “effeminate men” and “mannish women”.

        • After some more thought I’ve realised that my understanding of the word could be seen as synonymous with “demigender”, which would stand in a similar relation to agender as demisexual does to asexual.

  18. “Woman/Man: I have one gender, which is feminine or masculine. It is very nice to have society accept my identity!”

    That doesn’t even make sense. Let’s take the first part—all men are masculine? You have to be masculine to identify as a man? I think you know that’s ridiculous.

    Second, just because someone identifies as a woman (for instance) doesn’t mean society accepts her identity. How about women who were (coercively) assigned male at birth? Another example: extremely feminine men (of any assigned sex) whose feminine self-expression undermines their ability to identify as men, as far as society is concerned.

    • Fair points, fair points, Levi. Let me see if I can explain myself.

      When I say that a man’s gender is masculine, or a woman’s gender is feminine, I don’t mean that the man is masculine or that the woman is feminine. The gender itself is masculine or feminine. Other than those words (masculine/feminine), I have no idea how to define ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as genders. Do you have definitions for ‘man’ and ‘woman’? I would be very happy to get some suggestions.

      And you are correct about society not accepting all men and women’s identities — that was a simple miswording on my part. I’ll change it to “the existence of my identity” to be clearer.

      • I don’t have a definition of man/woman for you, but how many of the other genders up there can be expressed without implicitly or explicitly referencing ‘man’ and ‘woman’? Most definitions of man and woman you see are cissexist/recursive: “a woman is a female human,” for instance. That’s usually a sign that either it’s an axiom or something is really bolloxed up (perhaps both).

        It’s generally accepted that man/woman describe genders and masculine/feminine describe gender expressions. Saying “man is the masculine gender” is about as nonsensical as saying “man is the orange gender,” but since it also buys into old-fashioned ideas about man=masculine it’s even more repellent sitting there in the middle of a gender-liberationist blog post.

        So I don’t have an answer for you, but the way you have it doesn’t work. Maybe the root of the problem is trying to make a list of genders and their “definitions” like it’s actually possible to pin this stuff down in words.

        • I agree with you Levi, the descriptions of man/woman as having a masculine/feminine gender is problomatic. I understood it as man/woman with a primarily mainstream masculine/feminine gender expression which would make the statement about societal recognition appropriate. That being said, I think you did a really nice job trying to sort things out in a consise way Jillian. I really appreciate your hard work. Gender,sex,attraction, and identity are difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to others. I think the issues surrounding the wording of the descriptions of gender identities are particularly challenging since there seems to be a lack of words and ideas in Western culture to accuratley express the intricacies of gender.

        • I believe that if it’s possible to think about something, it’s possible to put it into words, because thought and language go hand-in-hand. Since a lot of people do quite a bit of thinking about gender, I think it’s possible — and important — to define our terms.

          I’m not convinced that masculine and feminine are only about gender expression. I don’t think it’s nonsensical to say that a gender is masculine or feminine, and I don’t think that a gender’s masculinity or femininity is related to the way people express that gender. Then again, I’m not a man or a woman and I don’t often feel masculine or feminine, so maybe I’m wrong about this. I’ll think about it some more (it’s been on my mind, like, constantly, for days) but for the moment, I’m not sure what a better definition would be.

          • I guess this is one of those points where we just have to agree to disagree. As someone who has days where ze feels like a woman, days where ze feels like a man, days where the only thing ze feels is that ze isn’t a man, and just-plain-wtf days, my experience of gender still isn’t possible to put into words beyond “I feel like a ____.” While it usually “feels good” when I believe that people are perceiving me as a ____, this isn’t even always the case. (For instance, when I’m feeling like a guy, I often don’t mind how I’m read… if I’m she’d, it’s “ha ha, shows what you know.”)

            I don’t believe everything we experience is possible to put into words. How would you explain green to somebody who’d been blind their whole life? I’m inclined to think that a lot of cis people are actually some kind of genderless… that if they woke up one day and started being read as “the opposite sex” they’d shrug, learn the new social rules, and get on with their lives. How do you explain what it’s like to feel gender strongly to someone with that experience?

            While I don’t ever feel like the words “masculine” and “feminine” have anything to do with me, I know I’m perceived as a very masculine woman and/or an effeminate man. There’s nothing about femininity, or even about rejecting femininity, in my feeling of what “woman” means. YMMV.

  19. I asked some people on tumblr about defining pansexual since it confused me a bit (well not so much the reasoning, but the label itself). I usually don’t think about labels and I used to think they were ridiculous because I felt that it’s unnecessary to explain to others what you are or are not “into”, it’s no ones business you know?

    However, the more I thought about myself as a person the more I realized that the reason I question these things so intently is because I went through a phase (and still going, more or less) where I just found myself attracted to people regardless of what gender they were, and thinking maybe I would fall under one or two of these types of labels. The more I hear about people born gay or intersex or trans the more I feel bad for questioning these labels because I feel like I am privileged in some way because I don’t really have to think about it, but at the same time, I’ve never really had a romantic partner, so maybe I’m missing something as well heh.

    From my understanding I tend to think of things in terms of genetic disposition, where there are people with XY and XX, and klinefelter and XYY etc. From there I think is where I think a lot of my confusion came from, because when people say things like “third gender” or “all genders” I still think of it in terms like X and Y, which are more related to sex/reproduction rather than gender.

    I think that’s where a lot of discrimination comes from, because people feel like there needs to be cold hard proof that people are simply born the way they are and not “confused” or rebelling, and again, I feel terrible because I keep asking these questions as much as I support the LGBTQ community, but most of it conflicts because of the things I learned in biology and anthropology studies (note, I haven’t taken a human sexuality class, so maybe that explains it LOL)


  20. Thank you for this list. I’ve been trying to find a way to explain my orientations to people in a way that doesn’t take the worlds largest run-on sentence, and this helped a lot! I identify myself as a monoamorous gender-curious hyper-omnisexual pan-demiromantic, which can be a bit hard to explain sometimes. So again, thank you for this list. I have a somewhat easier way to explain my identity now. c:

  21. I am really not sure, I have always identified as Bisexual but now after reading this post I am not sure.

    Like I guess I would be homosexual heteroromantic Celibate.
    But Then I overall I am a Demisexual…which in this society where everyone just goes around fucking like rabbits or waiting till marriage, I might just be single for the rest of my life.

  22. I never said there is anything wrong with having sex with many people whether it be one night stands or having multiple partners, that’s their business and they can do as they want (preferably being safe like using condoms would be wise but once again it’s there liberty to do so or not). As well as if someone wants to wait till marriage, their business.

    Another note I never used the word slut nor was I referring to females only, I was referring to people in general but mainly club behavior/how people(Americans) are shown in Media/Hollywood/ the fact that there is a growing number of kids in Junior High and High School having sex…the list goes on.

    I am coming from a place of frustration where in today’s world with Media and in almost any advertisement or product, sex is the most used way to sell.
    Yes sex is apart of majority of peoples lives but it’s not the most important thing obviously because it’s the first function to shut down when the human body is under extreme stress.

  23. hello i`m sensitive aha yeah…well i don`t mind peoples religions exept if they force it on me with abuse.
    i am an omnisexual and it feels good to confirm that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! don`t descriminate me and tell me your not …i like lesbian por* and po*n he! that`s all i`ll say!! xxox

  24. I would tweak the transgender/transsexual definition a little bit, because transgender is an umbrella term and why transsexuals were born in the wrong body, other members of transgenderism such as drag queens, transvestites, etc, aren’t.

    • It seems to me that being a drag queen/king or transvestite is about gender presentation rather than identity, and in this post I’m talking about gender identity, so that’s why I defined it the way I did.

  25. Can somebody please explain to me the difference between pansexual and omnisexual? Based on the definitions here, they seem to be the same thing?

    • As I understand it, pansexual is when you can be attracted to people of any gender, while omnisexual is when you’re attracted to everything — all people (and, in fiction, other individuals or objects that are not people) who consent to have sex with you.

  26. So what gender is “I don’t give a fuck about gender, but I prefer this set of pronouns (male, female, neutral, whatever; female in my case) because it’s what I grew up with and I’m used to it”? Agender, genderqueer, genderblind, what?

    Sorry if this is late.

  27. Hi,

    Wonderful post. With your permission, I will distribute it to my students in Human Sexuality at Queens College. Thank you again,

    Professor Simone Kolysh

  28. *grins* That is the best definition of grey-asexuality I have ever seen. Thank you. That is me to a tee.

    Also, thank you for the definition of genderqueer! I’m usually (mostly) female gendered, but it fluctuates between female-neutral-male sometimes. I always figured it was just me.

    I found this really accessible, succinct, and informative. Thanks!

  29. I just want to say thank you, again, for making this post. Like, I need one of those pope kitty images that say “bless this post” because it’s just that wonderful.

    I get a few asks every now and then on tumblr about how I found out my sexuality and I always direct them to here, because this is the most comprehensive and well, helpful, thing I have ever seen on sexuality and romance orientation and even things I hadn’t heard of.

    Thank you, so much. :)

  30. “My own romantic orientation is aromantic, because I have no idea what romance is and I kind of suspect that it might not exist. More about this in another post. For now, let’s get into some really fun stuff: relationships themselves.”

    This is so me!

    In fact, your labels mostly match up with mine, except I’m unsure whether I’m cissexual or agendered. I’m female and fine with it, but I don’t think it’s a very important part of my identity. (I’d change less if I changed gender than if I got a cure for my autism, for example.) I guess I’d say probably I’m an indifferent cissexual.

  31. So this was fun… figured out where I would fall, hell of a lot of hyphens.
    cis-gendered (with a wish to be physically intersex, I want an enlarged clitoris for penetration, does not affect my gender identity, If I had it I would still see myself as cis)
    hyper-auto-demi-pan-sexual (high sex drive, with a tough time finding other sexually attractive but when I do… ;) )
    in a currently monogamous celibate relationship who is open to polyexclusivity.

    Or I’m queer… that’s a little simpler.

    Wouldn’t a “omni-exclusive world” be wonderful (all the love and commitment to each others well being.) letting each other be who we are, and just loving our individuality for the gift it is… dream world

  32. I’ve been looking for something this for such a long time! Very helpful, especially for story writing. Trying to define myself… probably would go with:
    androgynous (I’m biologically female, but I feel in between and wish I had no sexual characteristics)
    poly-gray-asexual (I find males attractive 99% of the time when I do find someone sexually attractive, but have found some non-cis people attractive, as well – generally when they have masculine qualities), and
    polyromantic (similar to my sexual attractions, but romantic attraction comes much more easily to me)

  33. Just wanted to add that some people identify with “Quoiromantic also known as Wtfromantic also known as ???romantic- I don’t understand the boundaries between platonic and romantic feelings and often get confused by this.” It can be added on another label like “Quoi-homoromantic”. You don’t necessarily have to add it but I just wanted to add that lil comment!
    (Ps; my beautiful label is agender hyper-bisexual quoi-biromantic polyamorous.

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