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Sexual Identity Dictionary: Here’s What Each Label Means

The ABCs of sexualities explained.
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It can sometimes feel tricky to put a label on your own identity, especially when you’re still figuring things out.

Teenagers – and plenty of adults – can often feel like they’re not sure what words best describe them. That’s especially true when it comes to sexuality and gender identity.

WATCH: 10 celebs who say they’re attracted to men and women!

While we still live in a pretty heteronormative society (AKA one where most people are assumed to be straight/heterosexual) the world is definitely getting more inclusive.

That means understanding the language people use to define and explore their own sexual identities is super important. It can help you figure out what words you feel describe your own experiences best, and help you be a better ally to people in the LGBTQ+ community.

We’ve rounded up some of the most common sexuality labels that teens hear and explained what each one means. And remember – you don’t need to label yourself with one of these terms if you don’t want to or don’t feel ready yet.

You can also change your mind about what words fit you best as you learn more about yourself and your relationships over time.

And just as a heads up: throughout this guide there are references to the “same” or “opposite gender” but it’s important to know that gender exists on a spectrum including transgender and non-binary people.

Keep reading to learn more about everything from bisexuality to asexuality!

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Original Teen Wolf star Colton Haynes is proud to be a gay man. (Credit: Instagram)

Gay/homosexual

Homosexual or gay describes people who experience attraction to the “same” gender that they are; for example, guys who are attracted to guys and girls who are attracted to girls. This label can also include people who have relationships with trans and non-binary people, but still feel they identify best with the gay/homosexual label.

Some gay men also use the term “mlm (man loving man)” to describe their attraction.

Lesbian

Lesbian is a specific term used for women who are attracted to other women, including trans and non-binary women. Some are comfortable with the words gay and homosexual as well, while others prefer to only use the term lesbian.

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Hayley Kiyoko has been open about identifying as a lesbian. (Credit: Instagram)

Bisexual

Bisexual describes people who experience attraction to more than one gender, usually genders that are similar and different to their own. The “bi” in bisexual doesn’t exclusively mean “two”, and many bisexuals don’t just experience attraction to cisgender (non-trans) men and women.

Some bi, pan and queer women also use words like “sapphic” and “wlw (woman loving woman)” to describe their attraction to women – some lesbians use these words too.

Pansexual

Bi and pansexuality are two different identities that share some similarities! People who identify as pansexual experience attraction regardless of another person’s gender identity or sex.

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Megan Fox has said she identifies as bisexual and is attracted to men and women. (Credit: Instagram)

Asexual

Asexual describes people who don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of their sex or gender identity, though they still experience romantic attraction. Some asexual people still enjoy sex and sexual relationships, while others don’t.

Aromantic

This is like the inverse of asexual, where people experience sexual attraction but not romantic attraction. Some people do identify as both asexual and aromantic.

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Need a queer icon? Miley Cyrus is your girl – she has used the term to describe herself in the past. (Credit: Instagram)

Queer

Queer is often used as an umbrella term to encompass people who experience attraction to people of the same or similar genders. This can include gay men and women, bisexual people, pansexual people, etc.

In the past, queer has been used as a slur in certain places and communities. Many people who identify with the term will use it to describe themselves, but it’s important to recognise the word’s history. It’s always best to ask what word a person is comfortable with before using it.

Heterosexual

Also known as straight, heterosexual describes people who experience attraction to the “opposite” gender. Typically, this means men who are attracted to only women, and woman who are attracted to only men.  

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Willow Smith hasn’t labelled her sexuality but said recently that she is attracted to men and women. (Credit: Instagram)

Transgender

Transgender is actually a gender identity, not a sexuality. People who identify as transgender don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, whether that is male or female. Some identify as the “opposite” gender, e.g. someone who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) may identify as a woman, while others have different gender identities altogether.

Non-Binary

This term is quite fluid and will be used by different people in different ways, but at its core non-binary means someone whose gender identity isn’t just male or female. Many non-binary people use the pronouns they/them, but it’s best not to assume – you can ask non-binary people privately what pronouns they use to ensure you don’t misgender them.

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Euphoria star Hunter Schafer has spoken about how proud she is of her trans identity. (Credit: Instagram)

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