Lexicon

Orientations

Allosexual

Someone who feels sexual attraction.

A majority of the population is allosexual. Contrast with asexual.

Aromantic

Someone who doesn’t feel romantic attraction.

This does not mean they do not seek relationships, intimacy, affection or physical contact. It also doesn’t mean they are incapable of love. They might seek friendships and be fully satisfied with them without feeling a need for romance, kisses, dates, or any expectation that might exceed that of a platonic relationship.

Romantic identity is independent of sexual identity. An aromantic person may or may not seek sexual relationships.

Asexual

Someone who doesn’t feel sexual attraction.

This does not mean they cannot feel arousal, nor that they cannot have orgasms. It also doesn’t mean someone who is celibate, who is a virgin, or who never has sex. Some enjoy sex while others are sex-repulsed. Asexual people are a varied bunch. Contrast with allosexual.

Bisexual/Biromantic

Someone who is attracted to two genders, usually (but not always) the binary of men and women.

Other genders one could be attracted to are: non-binary, agender, two-spirited, and more. Technically, one would be bisexual if they are attracted to exactly two genders, to the exclusion of the others. More often than not, however, the term is used interchangeably with pansexual.

Demisexual/Demiromantic

Someone who doesn’t feel sexual/romantic attraction unless an emotional connection is established.

Gay

See homosexual.

Greysexual/Greyromantic

Someone who feels sexual/romantic attraction intermittently with no clear correlation to emotional connection.

Lesbian

See homosexual.

Homosexual/Homoromantic

Someone who is sexually/romantically attracted to their own gender.

Heterosexual/Heteroromantic

Someone who is sexually/romantically attracted to their opposite gender, usually in the man-woman binary.

Pansexual/Panromantic

Someone for whom gender and sex do not factor in their sexual/romantic attraction.

The terms are often used interchangeably with bisexual/biromantic, even though they two have a few differences. Pansexuality acknowledges there are more than two genders. It is often used inside the LGBT community to show more inclusivity than bisexuality, whereas the later is more widely known outside the community and more practical in situations where one doesn’t wish to define new terms for an audience.

Straight

See heterosexual.

Gender

AFAB

Assigned female at birth.

Term used to describe someone who, regardless of gender, was given the label of “girl” at birth. This includes cis-women, transmen, some intersex people, and some non-binary people, among others

Agender

A lack of gender, or someone who doesn’t identify with any gender.

AMAB

Assigned male at birth.

Term used to describe someone who, regardless of gender, was given the label of “boy” at birth. This includes cis-men, transwomen, some intersex people, and some non-binary people, among others

Cisgender

A person whose gender matches their biological sex.

This term describes the majority of the population who isn’t transgender. Often abbreviated to “cis-woman” and “cis-man”.

Dysphoria

A state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life.

Gender dysphoria

A feeling of unease about one’s gender or physical sex.

The term most often thought of when talking about dysphoria. It can sometimes be resolved with hormones, surgery, crossdressing, or changing one’s social role, among others. Different people feel dysphoric about different aspects of themselves, and different treatments will be appropriate.

Body dysphoria

A more general term of unease about one’s body.

This covers contexts such as body dysmorphic disorder and the more extreme body integrity dysphoria. The latter is the feeling of unease caused by being able-bodied. Cognitive behavioural therapy, anti-depressant and surgery are some possible treatment.

Emotional dysphoria

Unease felt towards one’s emotions, be they unwanted or too intense.

This is sometimes a symptom of bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, stress and depression. Treatment for these vary depending on the condition.

Genderfluid

Someone whose gender identity varies between two or more genders over a given timespan.

The person could feel more manly for a few weeks, then feminine for another week, then manly in a given situation, and so on. The stretches of time for both genders need not be equal, nor are they limited to the gender binary.

Genderflux

Someone whose gender identity varies in intensity over time.

It is a variation of genderfluid between feeling agender and some other gender identity.

Genderqueer

See non-binary.

Gender identity

One’s preferred social structures and roles pertaining to one’s masculinity and femininity.

Gender is different from one’s biological sex. Contrarily to the latter, gender is not objective, but suggestive. Different people interact differently towards the expectations society has about one’s behaviour, expression, role, actions, and emotions.

Gender binary

Either a male gender or female gender.

This is the most common view of gender.

Non-binary

A gender that cannot be classified as entirely male or female.

This term also refers to someone who’s gender doesn’t match their biological sex and who does not identify to the gender binary.

Transgender

A person whose gender doesn’t match their biological sex.

This is an umbrella term used by various people: non-binary, genderfluid, two-spirited. The term is often abbreviated to “trans”, “transwoman”, “transman”, “transpeople”, etc.

Transexual

Either a synonym of transgender, or a person who transitioned.

This term has fallen out of favour compared to “transgender” because this one puts more emphasis on transition. It is more limited in scope as it fails to encompass those people who cannot transition, those who are early into their transition, non-binary people, and people who may not want to transition at all. There is also often a connotation implied that the transition involves sex surgeries, which may further discriminate against those who are content with a social transition, crossdressing, or surgeries unrelated to their primary and secondary sex characteristics.

Primary sex characteristics

Features of the body manifest at birth which are distinct for different sexes.

This includes hormones, chromosomes, sexual organs and gonads.

Secondary sex characteristics

Features of the body that manifest themselves at puberty which are distinct for different sexes.

This includes breasts, height, body hair, hip width, waist width, muscle mass, broad shoulders and more.

Relationships

“Don’t ask don’t tell” relationship

A form of polyamorous relationship in which one or both members set a boundary on the amount of information they feel comfortable getting back to them from their partner’s dating lives.

DADT relationships are not quite cheating. There is consent given to open up the relationship, and both members can be comfortable and secure in that agreement. However, due to modesty, discretion, or sometimes insecurities, the members agree to keep silent about it, or to skim certain details. Some might not want to know anything about their partner’s dates, whereas others will feel comfortable discussing the platonic aspects of it but not the romantic or sexual parts.

Friendship

A relationship with someone outside one’s family towards whom one is affectionate and who reciprocates that affection, usually with neither romance nor sex.

Friendships can develop different levels of attachments, intimacy and trust. It is an umbrella term for a host of very varied relationships. Here are some of my descriptions for those friendships relevant to me (hence, no “friend with benefit”).

Casual friend

While we enjoy each other’s company, neither of us will be sad if either stops investing in our friendship.

Friend

Someone I care for. I will match that person’s commitment to our relationship. If we are to part ways, I will miss them.

Close friend

Someone I am committed to. I will change for them and be loyal should they ever call for me. If our commitment wanes, I will strive to understand why and we will address it together, if possible.

Best friend

Someone I want in my life. I can picture a future together. If tomorrow I was homeless and jobless, I would knock on their door without any hesitation because I know they’d be there for me, just as I’d be there for them.

The term isn’t limited to a single individual. I can have multiple best friends is those people fit the above.

Mixed relationship

A relationship between people with different culture, nation, race, ethnicity, religion, orientation, or identity.

The difference intrinsic to the relationship often causes a lot of conflict, either internally (between the couple) or externally (peer pressure, scrutiny of the family, social conformity, etc.).

Platonic relationship

Any relationship which involves neither romance nor sex.

This includes friendships, colleagues, acquaintances, family, and more.

Romantic relationship

A set of socially accepted customs one considers “romantic”.

It is difficult to define romance as a lot of people have wildly different opinions of what would be romantic. Gestures that might cause one to fall head over heels for the giver might leave someone else unmoved.

My definition of romance is the desire to charm the target of one’s affection with gestures that are slightly bigger than life, as to impress and please. It could be movies, gifts, kissing, cuddling, hand-holding; anything done with the purpose of getting the other person to like us back. In a continued romantic relationship, this would be the mutual commitment to nurture each others’ affection through regular pleasing gestures.

Queerplatonic relationship

A relationship that is neither romantic nor sexual, but which has a strong emotional bond and/or intimacy that isn’t often associated with friendships.

Often abbreviated to QPR. The level of commitment in these relationships is often on par with that of a couple or partnership. They can take various forms: two friends living together in the same apartment, long-distance commitment, lifelong friendships, family of choice, platonic girlfriend/boyfriend, etc. There is a deep trust for one another and a sense of stability within the relationship. In terms of tropes, this would be the heterosexual life-partners and platonic life-partners. These are not limited to same-sex partnerships. People from any gender, orientations and sexuality can enter a QPR together.

Queerplatonic partner

The partner one is in a QPR with.

For me, I treat someone as my QPP when we both agreed to use the words “partner”, “girlfriend”, and/or “boyfriend” to explain our platonic relationship to others because we were tired of saying “it’s complicated”.

Zucchini

Another term for one’s queerplatonic partner.

The term has been coined by Meloukhia in a forum discussion about defining the grey area between friendships and romantic relationships. Due to the lack of vocabulary to describe a friend one wants to have a lifelong relationship with, the word zucchini was offered to fill that need. The term isn’t well-known outside the asexual community, and contrarily to “queerplatonic partner” it doesn’t describe the context it should be used in, but it is one a few people are quite fond of, myself included.

Sexual relationship

A relationship where sex is an important part of the bond shared between the individuals.

Sex includes intercourse and any sexually relevant activities.

Attractions

Crush

An early infatuation and emotional desire to pursue a romantic relationship with someone.

The main difference between a crush and a genuine romantic relationship is the insecurity of not having one’s feelings reciprocated. There is often some amount of nervousness around the object of the attraction, and a lot of dwelling on the small gestures on receives from them. Compare with squish.

Romantic attraction

An emotional desire to form a romantic relationship with someone.

Most people feel romantic attraction at the same time they feel sexual attraction to someone, though that isn’t always the case. Sexual and romantic attraction are independent and can occur without the other.

Sexual attraction

An emotional desire to form a sexual relationship with someone; often accompanied with physical response such as arousal.

Sexual attraction can be either immediate, based on little more than looks, or not, in which case it might arise after getting to know the person better.

Primary sexual attraction

Attraction based on immediate attributes, such as physical qualities, sex appeal, movement, smell, clothing, etc.

Secondary sexual attraction

Attraction based on attributes not immediately accessible, such as cultural affinities, values, emotional ties, intellect, etc.

Squish

An emotional desire to pursue a platonic relationship with someone.

It does not necessarily implies infatuation nor any romantic desires, even though many of the same symptoms of a crush may be present. It’s often a desire to befriend the person and to get to know them better. Compare with crush.

Behaviours

Arousal

A feeling of sexual excitation.

This is a bodily response one doesn’t always have control of.

Celibate

Someone who abstains from mariage and sexual relationship by choice.

Celibacy isn’t the same as asexuality. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, whereas celibacy is a behaviour. A person who is straight might not want such relationship for one reason or another, and an asexual person could have sex without threatening their sexuality. An asexual person could also choose to be celibate and abstain from sexual relationships. The two terms are different concepts which can overlap but not always.

Intercourse

Sexual contact including penetration, with the goal of reaching or provoking an orgasm.

Sexually relevant

Any activity that includes some form of arousal for one or more of the parties.

The term was coined by Staci Newmar, author of Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy. Activities which can be sexually relevant are BDSM scenes, kissing, cuddling, dancing, dating, etc. Note that the same activities may not be sexually relevant if they aren’t done with the goal of arousal. Some dances can be erotic; others not. Some people may be aroused from power play or a sadomasochist scene; others not. It is context-dependent, and varies from person to person

Sex-positive

Said of a person who has a positive attitude regarding sex and sexually relevant activities.

Sex-neutral

Said of a person who doesn’t mind sex and sexually relevant activities, but doesn’t see much appeal in them either.

Sex-repulsed

Said of a person who is repulsed by sex and sexually relevant activities, through feelings of disgust, anxiety or fear.

Vanilla sex

Sexual activities which do not involve toys, kink, fetishism, nor anything outside what is culturally accepted as normal.

Polyamory

Boundary

The emotional, social, and physical space in which someone is in control of their own self and from which they can react to outside stress.

A boundary is established when one says “This is how I am. If so and so happens, I will feel like such and will react this way”. A boundary is not a limit or rule imposed on someone else’s behaviour, but rather a known limit on oneself. A boundary can be either hard or soft when regarding activities which might stress the one whose boundary is being tested.

Hard boundary

Something one will absolutely not tolerate, under no circumstances.

Soft boundary

Something one doesn’t usually tolerate, but might be comfortable doing so in rare situations where everything aligns to make them feel safe with regards to said stress.

Compersion

A feeling of joy and happiness from seeing another person joyful and happy even when one isn’t the source of the other’s feelings.

The term is usually used to describe the happiness someone feels when their partner returns from an event with their other partner with a satisfied glow on their face. While this scenario is the most commonly discussed one in poly circles, many other situations can cause one to feel happy for another due to an external source of joy, such as seeing an artist share their passion, or a parent watching their kid play with others.

Metamour

One’s partner’s partner.

There is the connotation that one’s metamour isn’t also that person’s partner, otherwise they would be referred to as “partner”. In a sense, the relationship one has with their metamour usually goes through their shared partner, with interactions between metamours being less emotionally invested.

Polycule

Any system of interconnected polyamorous relationships.

These interconnected systems can be fairly simple such as a “V” or triad, or they can be quite complex, looking more like graphs or molecules (hence the portmanteau of “polyamory” and “molecule”).