“What’s My Sexual Orientation?”
“If I like X and Y, but not Z, what’s my sexual orientation?”
We get questions like these a lot, and it’s understandable because figuring our your sexual orientation can be a bit rough. Just as most of us are aware that there is much more to gender than just male and female, there’s also much more to sexual orientation than just gay and straight. There’s asexual, demisexual, pansexual, queer (an umbrella term and fairly loosely defined identity), heteroflexible/homoflexible, sexually fluid, bisexual, and likely many more labels that we’re forgetting or don’t know about.
Sexual orientation is also much more than who you want to have sex with, it’s also who you are emotionally and romantically attracted to and who you want to have relationships with. It is absolutely possible to feel romantic feelings for people you don’t have sexual feelings for and vice versa. It’s also possible to have romantic feelings for some people but not any sexual feelings for anybody or to not have romantic or sexual feelings.
For trans* people (and others) it can be frustratingly complicated to explain sexual orientation when terms such as “gay” and “straight” are so closely tied to your own gender as well as the gender of the people you tend to be attracted to. A good way to get around this is to frame your orientation in different terms, such as “I’m attracted to men”, “I’m attracted to women,” or “I’m attracted to all genders.” This can get fairly complicated for some people, who are specifically attracted to masculinity, femininity, or androgyny regardless of the sex or even gender of the person (so, for instance, someone could be attracted to masculinity and be attracted to butch women and men).
Figuring things out immediately and having things nailed down is not terribly important, though, when it comes right down to it. A lot of times it takes life experience, and by that I don’t necessarily mean sexual experience, but meeting people and gaining self-knoweldge. Give yourself the freedom to explore, and to be whatever you are. The fact is that no one can tell you what your sexual orientation is, because only you can label and define yourself. Sexuality can also be fluid, and so what you called yourself five years ago might not still apply to you in ten. I would’ve sworn up and down that I was only attracted to women as recently as two years ago, but less than a year ago I dated a man and now I acknowledge some attraction to men (for the record I identify as queer).