Sexual orientation is a term that describes whom a person is sexually, romantically, or emotionally attracted to.3 Sexual orientation is different from gender identity, which describes a person’s psychological identification with a particular gender. There are a variety of different sexual orientations with which a person might identify, and these are independent of their gender and gender identity.
Heterosexuality is colloquially referred to as being “straight.” A person who is heterosexual is one who is attracted to people of the opposite gender. For example, a man who is attracted solely to women would be considered heterosexual.
A person who is homosexual is one who is attracted to people of the same gender that they identify with. A man who is attracted to other men is referred to as gay, whereas a woman who is attracted to other women is referred to as lesbian.
Often simply referred to as “bi,” a person who is bisexual is attracted to people of both their own gender and of another gender. Commonly, it refers to people who are attracted to men and women. Some bisexual people have a preference for one gender over another.
The word “pansexual” is derived from the Greek prefix “pan,” meaning “all.” People who identify as pansexual are attracted to others regardless of sex or gender. They could be attracted to people who are male, female, transgender, intersex, third gender, or genderqueer. Like bisexual people, some pansexual individuals may have a strong or weak preference towards a certain gender.4
A person who identifies as asexual generally does not experience sexual attraction or has little to no desire for sexual activity. This is not the same as sexual dysfunction or celibacy; asexuals simply do not desire sex.2 Some people who identify as asexual may still desire romantic relationships with people of the same or other genders. People who do not feel romantic desire are considered aromantic.1
1. “A Comprehensive List of LGBTQ+ Terms Definitions.” It’s Pronounced Metrosexual. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 29 January 2015.
2. “LGBT Terms and Definitions.” University of Michican. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 January 2015.
3. “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity 101.” UUA. Unitarian Universalist Association, 29
October 2014. Web. 29 January 2015.
4. Stop Homophobia. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 January 2015.
Last updated 18 February 2015