Types of Sexual Orientation

The word sexuality is written across a banner in pink, blue, yellow and green colours, with symbols representing various sexual orientations scattered across the banner.

By Harper Walton (they/them)


How many sexual orientations are there?  And what are they? Are there 20, 50, 100? If you ask Google you’ll get a bewildering array of different answers as sites compete for your attention. It’s hard to believe that only a hundred years ago the orthodox belief was that there were only two; that everyone was either homosexual or heterosexual.

That binary dogma had survived thousands of years, and was also reflected in regressive beliefs about the binary nature of gender. But in the last 50 or 60 years we’ve become so much more enlightened about the spaces between the binaries, and we've started to understand and accept that both sexuality and gender can be conceived as inclusive spectrums or universes instead of restrictive binaries.

This should be no surprise though. As humans we have always felt the need to categorise the world around us. And with our sexuality/sexual orientation being such a huge part of who we are it’s natural that we’d want to apply this to ourselves. The surprise is that it’s taken us this long. We are, after all, a social species, so it’s a useful way to help us find our tribe, to understand ourselves.

In the last 15 years we’ve seen a huge explosion of new sexual orientations being identified and articulated as people constantly search for a more specific, more accurate and more nuanced way to define themselves. We’ve also seen some of the more longstanding identities evolve in definition. So it’s worth looking at a snapshot of where we are, to help us and those who are still exploring find our place in this amazing and natural spectrum.

What’s My Sexuality or Sexual Orientation?

This is the huge question that everyone in our wonderful rainbow community has asked themselves at some point. Understanding who we’re attracted to, what gender they are, are we attracted to how they look, or their intellect, or primarily because of their gender, and how does that attraction feel to us.

Exploring can help, as can talking to other people, trying to find ourselves reflected back in others who have been on the same journey, who can help us find our place, make us feel seen and help us build a clearer picture of where we fit. And then throw in the complexity that our orientation may evolve over time. It’s often a life’s work.

What Is Sexuality?

Sexuality can be a difficult thing to define. The word itself is used in several ways. We might say someone like Nicki Minaj is ‘confident in their sexuality’ – being proud to show off their body in a sensual and empowering way. 

We might talk about sexuality as a broad concept – relating to sex – for example studies of human sexuality, which look at libido and cultural practices. But in this case we’re looking at sexuality only in terms of orientation and preferences.

We should all feel free to enjoy our crushes, flings and romances as natural and beautiful things. Sexuality has traditionally been defined by gender – yours in relation to your partner’s – but as you’ll see from the list below, we now understand it as a far more complex and expansive phenomenon. 

How Many Sexual Orientations Are There?

In truth, there are hundreds! If you include all of the duplicates and similar orientations there are well over 600, with new ones are being created and others being archived each year. Mostly the new ones come about through drilling down into greater specificity, to give people an even tighter definition of how they feel, for example splitting exclusive and non-exclusive orientations into separate identities.

With this list we’re in no way pretending to be completist. This is really a snapshot of the ones that we think are important based on current thinking. We have settled on 44. This list focuses purely on sexual orientations, the Asexual Spectrum and Aromantic Spectrum identities are covered in separate articles on our website. As are the variety of Gender and Genderless Identities. 

Types of Sexual Orientation and Definitions


It may feel a little dated now, but homosexual is still a recognised sexual orientation. Coming from the Greek word homos, meaning same, homosexual means you’re attracted to someone of the same sex or gender as you. You can be a homosexual man or woman, and many people who also identify as bi or pan may still say they’re homosexual, as that isn’t negated by their attraction to other genders. The word itself has fallen out of fashion and a straight person saying something like ‘he’s a homosexual’ might have discriminatory connotations. But many queer people enjoy the historical significance of this word, and proudly use it to describe their sexuality. 


A woman who is attracted to other women. It doesn't matter what sex those women were assigned at birth, as long as they identify as women. This definition is inclusive to trans+ people, as in recent times there have been issues with some trans exclusionary lesbians demanding that only AFAB (assigned female at birth) women are allowed to be lesbian.

Which is a shame, because as a famous sign at a gay pride march once read, ‘a day without lesbians is like a day without sunshine!’ In the 1960s and ‘70s, some people saw lesbian as a political identity, a practical application of feminism. 

The word Lesbian does of course come from the Greek island of Lesbos, because in ancient times it was home to Sappho, an iconic poet and queer woman. 

A Rainbow Stores t-shirt with a lesbian pride flag on it in the shape of an ice lolly
Click this image to see our Lesbian range 


The identity that took over from homosexual to mean same-sex attraction because it didn’t have the negative connotations. It started to have sexual overtones alongside it’s accepted meaning as ‘happy, joyful and carefree’ in the 1300s, when it was more aligned with looser morals and promiscuity, but It’s widespread usage as a term to mean same-sex attraction happened in the very late 1940s, and it entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 1951. 

Although its claimed by Queer historians to have been used colloquially within the community for decades before then. It’s mostly used by men, and some women prefer the term ‘gay woman’ to lesbian. But it can be used by people of pretty much any gender. Thanks to legislation like Section 28 in the UK and others elsewhere it has gained some negative connotations and been used as a slur, but the community has largely reclaimed it as a positive word. 


The word that was thrown at us by hateful individuals for decades as a slur has now been reclaimed as the ultimate umbrella term. Anyone in the LGBTQ+ community, whether you’re Gay, Bi, Trans or Asexual, can call themselves queer. 

But it’s not without its issues, as many in the community are still traumatised by its use and refuse to accept it, some even becoming angry when it’s used. It’s often used interchangeably, or as a shorthand, for LGBTQ+ (for example, ‘the Queer community’) and also by those who don’t feel any of the existing identities really fit who they are.

As its only recently been reclaimed, its mostly used within the mid and younger elements of the community and as a self-identifier, so cis and straight people should be careful when using it to describe their friends and family. “She’s a queer’ is unacceptable as it still sounds like a slur, while “She’s queer” is only fine if that’s how someone identifies.

It also has a radical meaning, for example ‘queering the literary canon’ or ‘queering heteronormative spaces.’


A broad term that includes all people who are attracted to more than than one sex or gender, including identities such as Bisexual and Pansexual.


Often shortened to ‘Bi’ or occasionally ‘Bi+’, the definition of bisexual is the one that has perhaps evolved most over time, and means people who are attracted to more than one gender. 

It’s also often used as an umbrella term for all identities that include people attracted to multiple sexes/genders, but Multisexual is the more accurate umbrella term.

The definition of bisexuality is also nuanced and different people who identify as Bi can define it differently. Attraction can be physical, romantic or emotional, and the way that attraction manifests may be different for different genders.

There is a huge misconception that bi means attracted to only two genders. While this may have been an interpretation when it was coined in the late 20 th century when the common belief was that there were only two genders, bisexuality has been expanded to mean any gender. Although there are differing definitions on whether same sex attraction should be one of the sexes/genders a Bi person is attracted to.

Bi erasure is a significant issue Bisexual people face, where a Bi person in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex is seen as being straight by some people.

Fun fact! Before it was adopted as a sexuality, the word ‘bisexual’ meant unisex. There’s a great clip of David Bowie being asked in a TV interview if his flamboyant footwear were ‘men’s shoes or women’s shoes’ to which he replies, ‘they’re bisexual shoes, silly!’

A Rainbow Stores t-shirt with a line drawing of a peacock in the bisexual pride flag colours
Click this image to see our Bisexual range 


A Multisexual orientation, Pansexual or ‘pan’ has a much clearer definition. Pansexual identified people may be attracted to someone based on any number of factors, except for gender. Gender plays little or no part in why they are attracted to someone. 

And you’ll hear a pan person say ‘I’m attracted to the person, not the gender.’ There are lots of unfunny ‘jokes’ about how pan people are turned on by pots and pans – I’m afraid that’s objectophilia, which we won’t go into here.


Another identity under the Multisexual umbrella. Polysexual means you’re attracted to people of many, but not all, genders. And maybe you have preferences for some genders over others. It’s important not to confuse Polysexual with polyamory, which means having romantic or sexual relationships with multiple people at once.


A Multisexual identity in which a person is attracted to all genders, but they may have preferences. 


A Multisexual identity similar to Polysexual, but in which the attraction is more likely to be for a spectrum of identities rather than selected ones. 


A term for people who see themselves as straight but realise they’re experiencing some attraction to someone of the same sex. Perhaps you’re a guy who’s seen a video of Henry Cavill with his shirt off and you’re suddenly feeling something different inside of you… not to worry, you might be bicurious. 

For some people, bicuriousity is an initial stepping stone on the way to Bisexuality, and for others, it’s a comfortable place to exist in for the rest of their life. Some choose to experiment to find out more, for others those feelings persist but are left unexplored. 


Similar to Bicurious, this label is for people who are primarily straight but are occasionally comfortable with experimenting with people of other sexes or genders. Differs from bicurious in that heteroflexible people are probably more likely to explore those feelings. 


Remember that iconic queer female poet we mentioned earlier? The one from ancient Greece? This term is named after her, and is slightly more casual way of saying lesbian. Often used by Bisexual women and Trans women as a more inclusive alternative. 


Someone whose sexuality fluctuates over time, fluidly moving from one orientation to another or to asexuality. 


Andro is Latin for 'man', so an Androsexual is someone attracted to men, maleness, masculinity, masculine gender presentation and masc traits. You can be any gender and identify as Androsexual. And the person you’re attracted to doesn’t have to be a cis man, they just have masculine energy or physical or emotional characteristics. Also known as Mascsexual.


The opposite of Androsexual. Gyne is Latin for female, but the gynesexual orientation is another that is nuanced and can have several subtle alternative definitions. But in essence Gynesexual individuals are attracted to femininity in all its forms. That includes feminine energy or characteristics, femme presenting or physically feminine bodies, these may include cisgendered women, trans women or men with feminine physical characteristics. Previously called Femsexual.


This is now largely outdated term that refers to a particular attraction to trans, non-binary and genderqueer people. If they are not queer or trans themselves, then a Skoliosexual should be a committed ally and be attracted to trans people as people, and not just as an exotic delicacy or a fetish. 

Skoliosexuality has been mostly archived because the etymology of ‘skolio’ not only means queer in Greek, but also can be translated as ‘broken’ or ‘bent’. It was also considered to ‘other’ trans people so became seen as transphobic.


Ceterosexual people are Non-binary or Genderqueer people who are attracted to other Non-binary or Genderqueer people. It at one point included binary trans people but this no longer the case. 


A term similar to term Ceterosexual but with a wider range. Allotropo means ‘different’, so Allotroposexual people are attracted to those who’s gender presentations differ from those they were assigned at birth. So that would include binary trans folk or any gender non-conforming person.

This is the term that has replaced the outdated Skoliosexual, which was seen as problematic for many reasons, not least of which was that the Greek word ‘skolio’ not only means queer in Greek but could be translated as ‘broken’ or ‘bent’. It was also seen as othering trans people.


In this orientation an individual’s attraction to one or several genders remains static, while their attraction to other genders may fluctuate or there may occasionally be no attraction at all.


FIN is acronym for 'feminine in nature' so this orientation refers to people who are exclusively attracted to femininity and feminine people. Similar to Gynosexual.


MIN is the acronym for 'masculine in nature', so this is people who are attracted exclusively to masculinity and masculine people. Similar to Androsexual


Attracted exclusively to people who are Non-binary or neutral in gender. 


The first of our planet-themed sexualities! Neptunic means an attraction to binary women, feminine and feminine aligned Non-binary genders. Basically anyone except men or masculine people. 


Similar to Neptunic, but this is an attraction to binary men, masculine and neutral Non-binary gender people.


Similar to Ninsexual but more specific in that this refers to an attraction to androgynous Non-binary people.


A broad term that describes people who are only attracted to one sex or gender. For example, a Gay man only attracted to men would technically be Gay and Monosexual.


Similar to Abrosexual so someone who’s sexuality or orientation changes over time, but perhaps a more casual way of describing it. Not to be confused with Gender fluid, which is where someone’s gender identity fluctuates over time. 


If you experience little or no attraction to other people, but get turned on when you look in the mirror, you may be Autosexual! Simply put, it is when someone is primarily attracted to themselves. 


If you do not feel you fit into any other labels or orientations around sexual attraction then you may identify as Pomosexual. It’s possible that you just don’t think any of the definitions particularly fit the way you feel or you may not want to frame your sexual orientation. Pomosexuals may or may not experience attraction, but they don’t feel the need to articulate it. 


Anyone of any gender who is exclusively attracted to any gender that falls under the Non-binary umbrella.


Also known as straight. When you are attracted to people of the opposite sex/gender to yours. For example a man who’s attracted to a woman or a woman who’s attracted to a man. This label is not part of the LGBTQ+ community, but, for example you can be Trans and Heterosexual at the same time. 


If you’ve ever wondered how to define a relationship where one of the people is Non-binary. Well the answer is Diamoric. The relationship would be Diamoric if at least one of the people in it was Non-binary, but it could be both. If a binary person is in a relationship with a Non-binary person they would be neither straight or Gay.

It is also used by some Non-binary people as an orientation, so they would identify as Diamoric, because any relationship falls outside of the historical same/opposite attraction identifiers.

The term originates from a combination of the greek word ‘dia’ meaning through, across or between and the Latin word ‘amor’ meaning love.

Diamoric is also an umbrella term and for all orientations that describe Non-binary attraction that does not conform to a similar/opposite gender dichotomy. The following are some of those orientations:


This is a term that refers to Non-binary or Genderqueer people who are exclusively attracted to other Non-binary or Genderqueer people. 


A Diametric orientation that means Non-binary people who are attracted to other Non-binary people, but not necessarily exclusively. So they may be attracted to other genders as well.


This is an umbrella orientation that refers to anyone who is attracted, exclusively or otherwise, to Non-binary people. 


A Diamoric orientation that is Non-binary or Genderqueer people who are exclusively or primarily attracted to men.


A Diamoric orientation that is Non-binary or Genderqueer people who are exclusively or primarily attracted to women.


A Diamoric orientation that is Non-binary people who are exclusively attracted to other Non-binary people.


A Diamoric orientation that refers to Non-binary people who are exclusively attracted to men, maleness, masculinity, masculine gender presentation and masc aligned individuals.


A Diamoric orientation that refers to Non-binary people who are exclusively attracted to women, femininity, feminine gender presentation and femme aligned individuals.


A Diamoric orientation that is similar to Marsic and Viramoric but refers to Non-binary people who may or may not be exclusively attracted to men. Also known as Quadrisian.


A Diamoric orientation that is similar to Venusic and Feminamoric but refers to Non-binary people who may or may not be exclusively attracted to women. Also known as Orbisian.


A Diamoric orientation that refers to Multisexual Non-binary people who are attracted to men and women. Also known as Ordrisian. 

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