Are you poly and poly? What is polysexuality?
When we use the word “poly,” polyamorous folks are usually referring to polyamory. But the term polysexual is becoming more and more widely used.
In an era where sexuality, identity, and inclusivity are becoming much more openly discussed, more definitions and descriptions are needed. Polysexuality itself is nothing new, but common usage of the word is relatively recent.
What Does Polysexual Mean?
Polysexuality is a type of sexuality, sexual orientation, or sexual identity where someone is attracted to multiple genders.
Where heterosexual means women are attracted to men or men are attracted to women, and gay means people are attracted to their same sex, and bisexual means people are attracted to both men and women, polysexual means they are attracted to many genders.
Polysexuality does not necessarily mean someone is attracted to all genders, but to many.
Polysexuality can be confusing to those used to the classic gender binary. Some people may use bisexual and polysexual synonymously. But using the term polysexual signals the inclusivity and recognition of genders beyond the binary—“many genders” rather than “bisexual” which originally meant “both” genders.
Using the word polysexual acknowledges more genders than male and female, such as nonbinary, transgender, multigender, genderqueer, etc.
Polysexuals may be attracted to men, transgender men, and nonbinary people, but not to women, for example. They may be attracted to women, transgender women, and transgender men, but not to men.
Often the term polysexuality is used to demonstrate attraction to all genders, but not necessarily.
Is Polysexuality Really a Word?
Polysexuality was coined about 100 years ago but was never widely used. When it was, it usually meant polyamory—people who were open to being sexual with more than one person, rather than the social norms of monogamy.
However, because polyamory is not just about sex or sexual attraction, but also about how relationships are structured, about love and commitment, family, and so on, polyamory seemed a more inclusive word that better described itself.
As gender binaries expanded, and people were looking for ways to express their attractions and openness toward transgender lovers or nonbinary or genderqueer lovers, the term polysexual has come back into parlance with a different meaning.
Polysexual vs Pansexual
Polysexuality and pansexuality are sometimes used synonymously. The difference is that polysexual people are attracted to many genders and pansexual people are attracted to all genders.
More accurately, perhaps, pansexual people find gender irrelevant in their attraction. They are potentially attracted to anyone, but not necessarily attracted to someone because of their gender.
Polysexual vs Polyamorous
Today, the words polysexual and polyamorous are not synonymous and have different meanings. Polyamory is about being open to dating more than one person at the same time. Polysexuality is about being open to and attracted to more than one gender.
Polysexual people can be polyamorous and polyamorous people can be polysexual.
A polyamorous person may date transgender people, men, women, or nonbinary people, or be open to dating them and attracted to their genders, as well as dating more than one person at the same time from any of these genders.
A polysexual person may be attracted to women, transgender men, and transgender women, but prefer to date one person at a time, or one person for long-term monogamy, even if they are attracted to many people.
Is Polysexual the Same Thing as Sexual Fluidity?
Maybe. With terms changing to reflect changing social norms, and with countless words for gender today when there were only a few words before, definitions are not ground in stone.
People who didn’t pin their sexuality into one place in the past— open-minded or open to change and different people—may have described themselves as sexually fluid in the past, or as sexually flexible.
Sexual fluidity commonly means that you are open to sexuality outside of your usual trajectory. For example, you may usually date women but feel open to dating transgender women. You may be traditional in your taste but open to exploring kink with a new partner.
People who are open to more orientations, more kinds of sexuality, and more people may have used or may use the words sexually fluid and not necessarily use the words pansexual, polysexual, or omnisexual.
Examples of Polysexuality in Practice
A person may be a man dating a woman in a monogamous relationship, and still identify as polysexual. Polysexuality is about who you are attracted to and what you are open to, not about your lived experience so far.
A woman may date many women at once, but also be open to dating transgender women and transgender men as well.
A transgender woman may be equally attracted to men, women, and other transgender women.
A polyamorous throuple with open doors may include someone who also dates nonbinary and genderqueer people.
The variations are unlimited.
How to Know If You’re Polysexual
You may identify as bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, open, sexually fluid, sexually flexible, or as a transgender admirer—in other words, you already know you are attracted to different genders.
Perhaps long before the discussion about multiple genders became public or trendy, you felt genderqueer and believed there were a lot of different ways someone could identify. You were open to being and also attracted to those different genders.
Maybe you are transgender and know your attractions are potentially to anyone.
You may be cisgender but when you met someone who was transgender you found it didn’t matter to you what gender someone was, and you realized there were more than two genders and you felt attracted to them.
You may be bisexual, but have broadened the term because you are also attracted to people who define or express gender differently.
If you are attracted to many genders, you may be polysexual.
Do you identify as polysexual? Please share in the comments.