Many Genders, Many Loves: A beginners' guide on the multi-attraction sexualities.
Written and Researched by Mx. Rowan Quinn
Posted August 9th, 2023
LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender.
LGBTQIAP: LGBT now with Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and Pansexual.
Now, there are even more terms, like Omni- and Polysexual. So what's the difference? Don't Bi, Pan, Omni, and Ply (the shortening of Polysexual) all basically mean the same thing?
Well, not really. They have some overlap with each other, but each is a specific and unique way of explaining just how, and often who, people love.
Let's start with Bisexual, or Bi for short. Bi as a prefix means “two”, which is where most people stop. Bi means two, so Bisexuals must like only men and women, right? Well, yes, and no. Bisexuality started with that definition but has since expanded to be more inclusive. Now it means anyone attracted to “Two or More Genders” – usually with some level of preference for different genders in different ways. The Bi community embraces preferences and any variation thereof. Some Bi people like women and nonbinary people, some like men and women, some like men and nonbinary people, some like all of the above or more. Some Bisexuals have a 90/10 preference split, some have a 25/25/50 split or any other ratio!
So what about Pan or Pansexuality? Doesn't that mean All? Well, yes, and also no. Pansexuality ignores gender entirely. Much like Asexuality, where you're not attracted to anyone, regardless of gender; Pansexuality describes being attracted to people, regardless of gender. Pansexuals see the person first, and what's in one's pants, or even gender identity, has no bearing on that attraction. Ratios don't exist, attraction is entirely up to the individual person.
Then what are Ply and Omni?
Let's start with Omnisexual. Omni has an attraction to all genders of Pansexuality, but the preferences and differences in attraction are based on genders similar to Bisexuality. So Omni people are attracted to all genders, but instead of being essential 'gender blind', the way they are attracted varies based on femininity, androgyny, and masculinity. It honors and finds joy in different genders, well, differences! That doesn't mean they have preferences. Just that Omni is a great way to explain finding joy in, and different attraction styles to, the many different forms of gender and expression!
That leaves us with Ply. Polysexuality is closer to Bisexuality, in that it's an attraction to many genders, but with a preference for some over others. The distinction between the two is a bit hazy and stems from a brief, but aggressive, wave of transphobia in the Bisexual community over a decade ago. Also, like Pansexuality, there's a strong preference for the individual over the gender they are. They're all very much sister sexualities, and mostly nowadays are used to specify the user's personal experience with each community.
But what about Asexuality, or the newly coined Sapphic, or other new terms coming up almost daily? What about the intersections with Transgender dating? Or even Intersex relationships?
That, my friends, is another article, for another day.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with this handy infographic, made by community members to explain the differences:
Bisexual. (n.d.). LGBTQIA+ Wiki. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from https://lgbtqia.fandom.com/wiki/Bisexual
Bisexual, Pansexual, Omnisexual: What’s the difference? (2023, February 15). SextEd. https://sexted.org/faq/bisexual-pansexual-omnisexual-whats-the-difference/
Cade , N. (2022, May 23). Laws of Attraction: Omnisexual vs. Pansexual (F. Kuehnle, Ed.). Greatist. https://greatist.com/grow/omnisexual-vs-pansexual
Omnisexual. (n.d.). LGBTQIA+ Wiki. https://lgbtqia.fandom.com/wiki/Omnisexual
Pansexual. (n.d.). LGBTQIA+ Wiki. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from https://lgbtqia.fandom.com/wiki/Pansexual
Polysexual. (n.d.). LGBTQIA+ Wiki. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from https://lgbtqia.fandom.com/wiki/Polysexual#Bisexuality
Victoria. (2021, June 15). #TuesdayTerms: Bi/Pan/Omni/Polysexual. Center for Positive Sexuality. https://positivesexuality.org/tuesday-terms-bi-pan-omni-polysexual/
What is the difference between bisexual and terms like pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual, ambisexual, and fluid? (n.d.). Bi.org. https://bi.org/en/questions/what-is-the-difference-between-bisexual-and-terms-like-pansexual-polysexual-omnisexual-ambisexual-and-fluid