As people are becoming more aware of themselves and the people around them, there are many more options to identify with in terms of sexual and romantic orientation. These sexualities are not limited to just those involving the gender binary, as lesser-known identifications are coming about more often.
“Sexual orientation and gender are two different things,” Mark Snyder, the director of communications for Equality Federation, said. Equality Federation is a San Francisco-based organization that strives for social equality for the LGBTQ community.
Snyder, 32, grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college in Boston and then found himself moving to San Francisco. He identifies himself as queer.
“I didn’t learn the word ‘queer’ until I went to college,” Snyder said. “I felt that the weight was finally off my shoulders, and it honestly felt so good. There was finally something that identified me as me.”
Heterosexuality is sexual attraction between people of the opposite sex.
A person who is gay or lesbian is sexually attracted to people of the same sex. Same-sex sexual activity used to be illegal in many states in America until 2003. However, views on gay and lesbian relationships have changed over the years. As of June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage is officially legal in the United States.
“The term ‘homosexuality’ is so outdated and is a more clinical term,” Snyder said. “People now prefer to be called gay or lesbian, both which can be used interchangeably for men and women. The legality of gay marriage was a big step toward freedom for all but there still is a lot left to be done.”
Some people are sexually attracted to both men and women, making them bisexual. However, the percentage of bisexual men and women coming out is much less than that of gay men or lesbians. Only 28 percent of bisexual adults say all or most of the important people in their life know they are bisexual, and only 9 percent of bisexual adults have same-sex partners, according to a Pew Research Center study.
“Everybody has their own combination of what they’re attracted to and are their own unique gender,” Snyder said. “The more we can accept that everybody is different, the less violent our society will be towards our community.”
The recent addition of the letter “Q” in the acronym LGBTQ stands for queer or questioning. Queer is an “umbrella term” which includes multiple groups of the LGBTQ community, but it is an in-group term that can be considered offensive to some people, according to the University of Michigan International Spectrum website. Questioning individuals are exploring and discovering their sexual and romantic interests.
The queer political edge also implies commitment to social justice and anti-racism, Snyder said.
“These spectrums of gender and sexuality identification are like constellations in the sky,” said Snyder, who identifies as politically, sexually and gender queer. “They are endless and no one knows just how many stars exist in this world. Just like that, gender identifications are endless and more and more people are identifying differently now.”
Some sexual identification terms are less commonly known. An asexual individual is a person who does not have any sexual attraction or desires toward either sex. Asexual people can still be in romantic relationships.
Pansexual individuals are people who experience romantic and sexual attraction to all genders, not just the two genders of the binary system. They believe that there are other gender identifications besides male and female. In fact, pansexuality and bisexuality are both forms of polysexuality, which is attraction to more than one gender. Last year, pop star Miley Cyrus said she identifies as pansexual.
These are not all the sexuality identifications there are because more and more people identify themselves differently from the standard known sexual identities.
“I think that we are in a very interesting moment right now and our LGBTQ community is at an all time high,” Synder said. “But on the flip side, it does come with unnecessary violence and conflicts. We are here to just keep working towards a better and equal society for all.”