What Does it Mean to be Polysexual?

Identity is ever-changing, it may be difficult to understand where you stand and that is totally okay! Sexuality and identity are fluid, the most important part is letting yourself explore and learn what you feel the most comfortable with. 

In this article, we’ll tackle what it means to be polysexual and what it entails to be a part of this community. 

What does being polysexual mean?

Polysexual refers to a sexual orientation in which the person feels an attraction to many, but not always to all genders. Although bisexuality and pansexuality also refer to multiple gender attractions, this does not make them the same. Polysexuality means being romantically and/or sexually attracted to a variety of genders. Traditionally the word bisexuality means to be attracted to both men and women, but its meaning has expanded to being attracted to more than one gender which in this case makes it synonymous to polysexuality. For example, a polysexual person might be attracted to women and genderqueer individuals, but not to men. 

Learning that you might be a part of the polysexual community might be scary at first, but there are many ways to plug yourself into the community and learn to be comfortable with yourself.

if you’re curious about how you might identify, here’s what you should know about what being polyamorous means:

History of the word polysexual 

The word polysexual comes from the Greek prefix poly-, meaning “many” and -sexual, the word first became popularized in the 1920s and 30s. Before it became the definition we know today, the word related to polyamory (link to polyamorous article). This outdated definition refers to polysexuality as having multiple sexual partners instead of attraction to multiple genders. 

In the last decade, the terms polysexual and polyamory have distanced from each other and now have completely different connotations. Polyamory now refers to a non-monogamous relationship and being open to various romantic relationships. 

The word polysexuality is one of the less recognized words within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Because it is often confused with bisexuality and pansexuality, the word did not become as popularized as many would hope. Very few celebrities and public figures have explicitly come out as polysexual. However in 1974, Noel Coppage wrote an article for Stereo Review, Noel titled ‘asexual, bisexual, polysexual, [and] pansexual pop stars’, and refers to David Bowie. Bowie however did not come out as polysexual himself, but the article did help distinguish polysexuality from bisexuality and pansexuality. 

Alternatives to the word polysexual

Because identity is personal and different people are comfortable using different terms there are a variety of ways to say the word polysexual, including: 

  • Poly
  • Ambisexual
  • Fluid
  • Multisexual

Over time language evolves and this creates new words derived from a multitude of historical nuances. Labels and terms can also carry connotations, bad or good, which is why one might identify more with one term over the other despite them meaning the same thing. It is also important to note that polysexual identity can encompass nonbinary individuals, intersex, individuals, transgender individuals, and so much more. 

What NOT to call polysexual people 

Hateful words that refer to the agender community should always be erased from conversations and speech. The word polysexual has come a long way, but negative connotations and stereotypes remain. Offensive words should be avoided at all costs, as they are derogatory. 

It is also critical to note that members of the polysexual community have begun to reclaim derogatory terms to take back the oppression they have faced. Although within the community this is acceptable it is still not okay to refer to polysexual people with a derogatory term if one is not a part of the community themselves. Always ask before assuming someone’s sexuality and gender identity. 

What makes someone polysexual?

If you think you might identify as polysexual try asking yourself these questions: Do you feel attracted to more than one gender? Does the idea of romantically being with a singular gender bother you? If you answer yes to those questions you might be polysexual. 

Because the word bisexuality has morphed into the same definition as polysexual over the years you might be asking yourself why people choose this term to describe themselves instead of bisexuality. The answer is that many feel like the term polysexuality strays from the idea of binaries that sometimes is connotated with the word bisexuality. Because the word bi itself is originally binary and refers to man and woman, the term polysexuality completely erases this idea and connotation. So although the words are similar it is a matter of choosing a label that better fits how you approach gender and sexuality. There is not one right way to label yourself, choosing to refer to yourself as polysexual instead of bisexuality, or vice-versa, is completely acceptable. 

It’s always a great idea to trust that members of the community know more about their identity than you do. Listen to polysexual people when they speak about their identities. 

Perspectives on being polyamorous

Being polyamorous sometimes comes with the unsolicited opinions of those who don’t understand the concept of this sexuality. One of the biggest misconceptions regarding the polysexual community is that polysexual people cannot be faithful to their partners because they are “attracted to everyone.” This is completely false as polysexual individuals do not approach relationships any differently than someone who is not polysexual. Just because they have the ability to be attracted to more than one gender does not condone or mean that polysexual individuals are more prone to cheating, they are no more likely to cheat than anyone else.

Another myth that must be debunked is that polysexual individuals will eventually “choose a side” or that they are “confused.” Polysexuality is not a choice, it is an identity and a sexuality like any other and must be respected as so. This misconception that also applies to bisexuality and pansexuality has been around for years and needs to be dismantled. Polysexual people did not decide to be polysexual, they were born that way and it is a part of who they are. 

The polysexual flag

The polysexual flag was designed by a Tumblr user, Samlin, in 2012. Samlin created the flag as there were no flags to represent the polysexual identity. The flag is inspired by the bisexual and pansexual flags as they are all under the multisexual umbrella. The colors mean as follows below,

  • Pink: Represents attraction to female-identifying people. 
  • Green: Represents attraction to people who identify outside the traditional male-female binary, such as those who identify as genderqueer or non-binary. 
  • Blue: Represents attraction to male-identifiying people.

Bottom Line 

Polyasexuality is slowly but surely gaining recognition within social conversations. Many are realizing that this label suits their identity best and are beginning to popularize the term. Although there are many who don’t understand the nuances and layers that come with this multifaceted identity, there is nothing wrong with being polysexual. Always remember that there is no right or wrong way to be polysexual and that you are the only person who can determine your identity.

It is important to address the myths and misconceptions that are associated with polysexuality so that we can debunk them and bring awareness and visibility to this identity. Any and all sexualities and identities are worthy of respect, if you ever feel otherwise it is important to seek out members of your community that can show you support and help you be comfortable with your identity. 

If some of the ideas above resonate with you and you’re thinking of coming out, make sure the conditions are safe and have a plan of action regarding housing and food if things don’t go as planned. 

In addition, be sure to learn about the other identities that make up the LGBTQ+ community subscribe to the INTO newsletter to learn more.

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