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What does Polysexual mean?

What is polysexual? polysexual vs pansexual? how to be an ally to polsexuality?

In times past, gender identity is rigid, and different sexual orientations are not tolerated. Society, however, has progressed already, and differences of all types are now recognized. With the fight for social justice and equal rights gaining ground ever since the last century, many sectors, those who belong to marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against, are finally gaining recognition and have their rights protected.

Homosexuals were the first to be given recognition, with their fight for rights and recognition being one of the longest. Their victory allows others to have equal protection, and more and more benefit eventually from their struggle. Among those who benefited are those who have a particular sexual orientation different from the heterosexual ones.

More and more people with different sexual orientations come out in the open, proclaim, and are proud of their sexual identities. They no longer need to hide behind the façade of discreetness and anonymity. And they can finally avail of the protection and benefits society has to offer.

Aside from lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexuals, and queers, other persons and groups will not belong to any of those mentioned and defy any classification. Hence, the positive sign to designate all those identities that will defy those five classifications.

Polysexual persons, pansexuals, asexuals, omnisexual persons are among those categories which defy simple categorizations and classifications. They can fall in either of those five classifications, but their identities and orientations are usually fluid, that it will be a category mistake to put them under such headings.

The article will be about polysexuality. It is about a polysexual’s identity, sexual orientation, and how polysexual persons relate to other identities. It will also be about their continuing fight for recognition, equal right, and protection.

What is polysexual?

Defining a polysexual

A polysexual is usually defined as someone that is sexually attracted to some or several genders. They do not have a preference for just one particular gender but can have intimacy or romantic relations with one or several genders. They could belong to heterosexual groups or some of the members of the LGBTQ community.

Word origin and coinage

The word usage was pretty recent, but it has a long history. The word comes from the Greek word “poly”, meaning many, and the word sex. It has been around at the turn of the 20th century, probably describing sexual relations that cannot be categorized easily as heterosexual or homosexual.

The term gained wide currency in the 1970s, when a writer used the term in an article, together with a host of other terms, to describe sexual tendencies and orientation among subcultures.

The very definition “polysexual” already indicates the fluid nature of sexuality for those who consider them as such. They mainly define themselves through being oriented towards others. They share an identity with other groups, but they do not define themselves through belongingness or common affinity.

Identity and difference

Their identification is with their sexual practice, not through inherent characteristics peculiar to any sexual group or community. In their practice of sexuality, they could be best defined, and that they could relate to others like them or differentiate themselves from other sexual groups.

That a person may possess multiple sexual identities, aside from just one or two, could also be behind the polysexuality and why it escapes easy definition and must not be subject to various stereotypes.

In short, it is not only that one does not define oneself to be a member of a particular social group. It is also that the polysexual defines oneself as a possessor of several sexual multiplicities. These multiplicities could vary and change in the individual as one exists during his lifetime.

The classification ultimately will depend upon what the individual decides. A polysexual may have different sexual preferences or partners but still possessors of sexual identity, which is only one type of diversity.

In this sense, thus society still has to confront the issues surrounding polysexuality. That they escape definition and categorization across the spectrum of gender identities does not mean that one must not be accorded rights, especially against discrimination, protection in the workplace and rights, diversity, and inclusivity.  

Aside from the LGBTQ community, one must still differentiate a polysexual from other groups and people whose sexual identities do not belong to heterosexuals. They do have sexual orientations that are pretty different. Nevertheless, just like polysexual people, they differentiate themselves from others through sexual practice and orientation.

In short, whereas to belong to heterosexual groups and LGBTQ is to assert some positive identity, polysexual persons and others assert their identity not through positive, inherent identity but rather through difference.

So aside from being different from heterosexual and LGBTQ groups, how do polysexual persons differ from a host of others?

Polysexuality and other identities based on sexual preferences

Polysexual vs. Bisexual

Defining the bisexuals

A polysexual is different from bisexuals, who have more limited preferences compared to the former. Polysexual have more preferences, though they cannot have or would not want all. They cannot be partners or involved with all those categorized as heterosexuals or LGBTQ.

Bisexuals, on the other hand, have only two preferences, hence the prefix “bi”. They do not have preferences across a broad spectrum of gender identities. Instead, they concentrate their attention and intimacy on one or the other preferences that they have.

The changing face of bisexuality

Before, bisexuals referred to those members of the heterosexual gender. They are either male or female, and they have a preference for both. They build romantic relationships, intimacies and have sexual relations or partners among males and females. Before, those who fall under bisexuals do not have preferences outside of this heterosexual group.

But that was before. Today, those considered bisexuals are simply those who have interests in genders across many gender identities. The definition now includes those who belong to heterosexual groups and preferences in those groups. The term bisexual now encompasses any individual who has a preference for two other genders.

In defining who is bisexual, the fluidity of the identities, how societies construct, and how individuals view themselves vis-à-vis their own identities, and other sexual identities, become apparent. By contrasting a polysexual with bisexuals, we understand why it is easy to pin down the polysexual identity and why, though defined easily, it escapes categorization.

Polysexual vs. Pansexual

Who are the pansexuals?

A pansexual is like a polysexual in that they could easily be defined yet not easy to pin down. Like a polysexual, pansexuals defy easy categorization. As a sexual identity, it is also signified by the positive sign in the LGBTQ. Many features of the polysexual persons are also shared by the pansexuals.

But there is one vital difference. Whereas a polysexual has a preference across a large cross-section of gender identities, the pansexuals, on the other hand, have “no preferences” in the sense that they could have romantic relations, sexual intimacies, or mutual understanding with any gender. They can be intimate with anyone, regardless of gender.

The words” no preference,” therefore, should not mislead you. It means that the basis of their relationship with others, whether sexual, romantic, or whatever kind of intimacies, is not based on their partner’s gender identity or even sexual preferences. They could prefer anyone, gender identities notwithstanding.

Mysterious sexual preference

Pansexuality is one of the more mysterious of all those sexual preferences or gender-related identities. Most people find it problematic that someone could be intimate with any other gender, those opposite or the same.

 It is hard to imagine that one could prefer every gender identity and thus, by implication, has no preferences. Improbable as it may sound, pansexuals, in actuality, have been in existence throughout the centuries. They are probably around as early as the dawn of history.

But it is because people engaged in having relations with opposite and other sexes have been around for so long. In any case, the idea itself would not be surprising if we consider that some people are intimate and have sexual relationships with others regardless of gender.

Only now, with the ever-widening spectrum of gender identities, could the phenomenon of pansexuality be quite surprising.

The catch-all term

Due to this characteristic, “pansexual” is usually a catch-all term for all others that will escape the usual definition and categorization based on gender identity, sexual preference, and sexual difference. They are usually implicated in other gender identities.

The difference between theory and practise with regards to pansexuality is noticeable. A pansexual, for instance, can theoretically have an intimate relationship with anyone; it does not mean that they do so. The fact that pansexuals can have attraction and preferences across the spectrum does not mean that they do have a relationship with anybody in practice.

And here also lies the great divide between polysexuality and pansexuality. In polysexuality, a can have many but not all sexual preferences. Theory and practice are closer to polysexuality, at least compared to pansexuality. Both, however, escape the usual categorization with regards to gender identities.

Polysexual vs. Asexual

Asexuals: The opposite end of the spectrum

Compared to polysexual and pansexuals, asexuals are on the exact opposite end of the spectrum of gender identification or sexual identity based on preference. Asexuals do not feel any sexual attraction at all to anyone across the broad spectrum. They do not feel the need to be attached sexually to anyone, whether the same or opposite gender.

In an asexual person, the idea of “no preference” would acquire its true meaning. They do not feel the need to be intimate with anyone or build a romantic relationship with others. They do not have the interest or liking towards the other, at least as far as building intimacy, and sexual relations are concerned.

That is not to say, however, that they can never have a relationship with others. They do form lasting relationships, but not based on being attracted romantically or sexually. It does not mean that they do not have or are not capable of sexual contact. What we mean here is that it can never be the pure, sole basis of having a relationship at all.

But still, a sexual orientation

Asexual persons consider their lack of preference as sexual orientation itself, and as such, it is wrong to exclude them in the spectrum of gender identification and sexual preferences. Lacking preference is preference itself.

For despite being asexuals, they do form other relationships with those belonging to the other gender. The basis for forming relationships may be different, but it does not mean one cannot have a lasting bond with anyone.

A polysexual could form relationships with asexuals, and the issue of an asexual’s lack of sexual preference will not matter that much to a polysexual. They could attract each other for different reasons, and it need not be mutual or a two-way street for it to be effective and long-lasting.

Polysexual vs. Omnisexual

Similar but not the same

An omnisexual, also known as “omni,” is not that different from pansexuals. They have sexual preferences that include all the other gender identities and those with other sexual preferences, including theirs. They are usually confused with pansexuals owing to this characteristic.

There is one vital difference, however. Omnis are unlike pansexuals in the sense that they could shift their gender identities in relation to others. They can take or assume one of the genders across the spectrum depending on the need, what they want, or what their partners want.

It is where the difference with polysexuality lies. Although polysexuality may have more sexual preferences, a polysexual does not need to shift or change their identity. They are comfortable with what they feel is their identity, other preferences notwithstanding.  To them, it is their sexual preferences that matter, not who they are, at least in relations with others.

Epitome of fluidity

When we talk about the fluidity of gender and sexual identities, this fluidity is more pronounced and apparent in the case of omnisexual. The need to shift identity regarding other sexual identities is the characteristic of omnisexual that stand out against the rest. The fluidity of gender identity, in short, is the defining mark of an omnisexual.

Despite nearness to the number of sexual preferences, the differences between polysexuality and omnisexuality could never be more obvious. Though defined by having several sexual preferences, polysexual persons do not shift their sexual identities and remain to the one they are comfortable with.

Polysexual vs. Polyromantic

Romantic but not sexual

Polyromantics are those people who can have romantic affectation to a broad spectrum of genders, but again, not to all. And as the word “poly” implies, it must be to more than one gender; one who falls romantically to a particular gender only will not qualify as a polyromantic. It has to be at least two.

Polyromantics, then, have much in common with a polysexual, a pansexual, and an omnisexual. In terms of possible romantic attraction, they have many preferences. Romantic attraction, however, is a very loose term. It could be friendship, some intimacy, mutual understanding, or anything that could imply any romantic affectation.

Sexual attraction, however, is not. That is the reason why polyromantic is a strict definition and excludes other possibilities. To include sexual preferences in a polyromantic person is to add another dimension to the personality or identity of the person.

Polysxuality, in truth, is polyromantic plus sexual preferences. That is why it is crucial to make that distinction, to differentiate romantic affectation from sexual preferences. And to cross that minimal difference is to cross from being a polyromantic to being polysexual.

Crossing the divide

That minimal difference, of course, is only for discourse and theory. In practice, people do cross that difference and become polyromantic or polysexual according to their disposition. One can always engage in sexual relationships or suddenly develop a liking for others and develop sexual preferences.

That divide itself is not great and should never be an issue. As the gender-based and sexual preference-based identities continue to broaden and an ever-increasing number of people who cannot be easily categorized still need a sense of belonging and camaraderie, we must ally with them and throw our support behind them.

Everyone, whatever their gender identity and sexual preference, must have equal rights, be protected, and be beneficiaries of diversity and inclusivity policy. Society must extend a hand to help them. Polysexual persons are among those individuals who need to support of society and institutions.

How to be an ally to polysexual people?

Getting rid of our own bias

To rid ourselves of bias and personal prejudices against polysexual persons is probably the easiest way to be their ally. After all, no one will prevent us from doing so. No one will prevent us from stopping having that kind of judgment detrimental to them and their cause. We can do it on our own.

Furthermore, we cannot expect others to get rid of their biases if we do not get rid of them. It would be hypocritical for us to demand of others what we are incapable of doing. To have a hypocritical stance is to diminish the power of criticism. It will take away the bite and will make our stance inauthentic and counterfeit.

We must educate ourselves vis-a-vis a polysexual. Educating ourselves about diversity issues is the best way to get rid of biases and prejudices. Only then can we understand the issues surrounding them, and only then can we assess ourselves concerning the polysexual persons. Awareness of our prejudices also is the first step towards educating ourselves.

Use neutral terminology

One way to be free of bias regarding polysexual people is to use neutral or gender-sensitive language when referring to polysexual persons. We must refer to them according to how they want to be referred and not through the usual terms we used to designate other gender minorities.

Fighting for the rights of polysexual persons

Once we get rid of our prejudices, we can now ask others to get rid of their own. We can help others by educating them by making them aware of their own biases or their complicity in oppressing polysexual persons.

If we succeed in changing the ways and attitudes of our fellows regarding them, then we have made tremendous progress in the fight for the rights of polysexual persons. Getting rid of prejudice allows people to be receptive to the idea of change, important in battling for their rights.

Only then can we fight for the rights of polysexual persons. Only then could we be alongside them, fighting for their advocacies. Clearing the minds of others of cobwebs that cloud their judgment will go a long way in convincing them of the righteousness of the cause of fighting for other people’s rights.

How do I know if I am polysexual?

If the simplest definition applies, if you have sexual preferences encompassing several genders though not all, then most likely you are a polysexual. To want to have a romantic relationship, intimacy, and mutual understanding that includes having sexual relations would undoubtedly qualify you as one.

But of course, you must know fully if that is what you want. Most of the time, people get confused both with their sexual identity and sexual orientation. The gender identity spectrum eventually broadens because sometimes, people themselves do not know whether they truly belong to a particular gender group or the other.

So you must think of everything we have discussed here, from the characteristics of a polysexual, to how they differ from other sexual orientations. The discussions we have above will surely clear the air regarding whether you are a polysexual or not. Their characteristics, as well as the difference, clarify the confusion about them.

Where can I get support as a polysexual person?

Support groups and organizations

Support groups throughout the country exist which might be of valuable help for polysexual persons. Some help gender minorities in general and have branches in numerous states and cities. They give lectures and seminars to educate polysexual persons and the general public about gender rights and protection.

Some organizations provide legal help and assistance to them and other gender minorities. They help fight for greater diversity and inclusivity in the community. Whether in the workplace, schools, universities, or other institutions.

They help those oppressed and marginalized, victims of social and gender discrimination, and provide lawyers for those polysexual persons and others who might need it. They also extend necessary assistance, everything about legal matters.

Check out our complete guide to LGBTQ organizations.

Websites and hotlines

Websites and helpdesk are also invaluable in supporting them. Aside from giving us knowledge about them, they are also easily accessible and can easily extend their help to any polysexual who would need it.

Such websites and hotlines abound on the net. If ever you will need quick assistance, you can contact those websites and hotlines. They exist precisely to help them and other gender minorities. There is no doubt they are more than willing to lend a hand and give help.

Conclusion

Polysexual persons are among the many people who belong across the broad spectrum of gender-related identity and sexual preference. Be as it may, they are very much unlike those who belong to heterosexual groups and gender minorities. They do not readily display their identity by dressing or having explicit attitudes towards themselves or other genders.

Instead, polysexual people recognize and define their identity based on the number of sexual preferences they have and how they relate to those preferences. They are among those categorized based on the number of preferences they had across the gender spectrum.

We must differentiate among other sexual identities based on the nature and number of sexual preferences. There is a significant difference between polysexual persons and pansexuals, asexuals, bisexuals, omnisexual, and polyromantics. Each has its own distinction and characteristics that marked them differently from polysexuals.

We must do what is necessary and go beyond the usual recognition of their rights to be genuinely allied with them. We must stop having biases and prejudices against them and educate ourselves about the issues they are facing. The issues they face are issues of social importance, and so we must also be engaged and help them and society deal with them.

We cannot progress if we do it on our own only. The fight for the rights of polysexual people, for greater diversity and inclusivity, must involve us and others. Therefore, we must disabuse others of nasty attitudes, biases, and myths concerning polysexuality. Only then can we enlist their support in our continuing fight for the rights of polysexual persons.

You can know if you are a polysexual based on what we have discussed in the preceding sections. We explained the nuances to understand how they differ relative to other gender identities, especially those belonging to gender minorities.

If ever you recognize yourself as a polysexual and have issues surrounding your sexuality. You can avail of the help of websites and helpdesks on the internet to help you deal with those matters. They could be of significant and invaluable help, and they could help clarify some things and essential matters.

Most of all, if you are an individual oppressed or denied rights and protection due to being a polysexual, you must avail of the services of organizations helping polysexual people and other gender minorities.

You will need institutional help if you are being oppressed and denied your rights. You must not hesitate to do so if they trampled your rights. You must ask the help of others to give you legal and institutional assistance.

Fighting for the rights of polysexual people and social justice, in general, involves not only those concerned but everyone. As a polysexual, you must not hesitate to ask for help if you ever need one.

What is Polysexual?

Thom

Polysexual vs …
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Polysexual References

https://www.dictionary.com/e/gender-sexuality/polysexual/

https://www.health.com/mind-body/health-diversity-inclusion/polysexual

https://www.health.com/mind-body/lgbtq-health/what-is-non-binary

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sexopedia/a33013910/polysexual/

https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/sex-and-love/what-is-polysexual

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/polysexuality

https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-polysexuality

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pansexuality

https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-asexual

https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-omnisexual

https://www.dictionary.com/e/gender-sexuality/omnisexual/

https://www.health.com/mind-body/lgbtq-health/omnisexual

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/types-of-sexuality#support

https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/bias-free-language/sexual-orientation

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About the author

Susanne Ricee

Susanne Ricee is the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist and Researcher at Diversity for Social Impact. Sue brings over 15 years of HR and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion consultation experience.
Sue's previous experience includes Microsoft, Target, and Kraft. Sue is also the manager of Diversity Leadership Directory