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Polysexuals are attracted to people of multiple genders. Polysexuality is defined as omnisexuality, bisexuality, and pansexuality.

Some people consider polysexuality to be an umbrella term that encompasses other queer identities.

You might be curious about whether there’s a difference between being polysexual and being omnisexual, bisexual, or pansexual.

Polysexual vs. pansexual

The prefix “pan-” means “all”, while the “poly-” means “many”.

Being attracted to many genders doesn’t necessarily mean you’re attracted to all genders. For example, you might be attracted to women and men, but not nonbinary people. You might be attracted to women and nonbinary people, but not men.

“People of all genders are attracted to pansexual people. Many pansexual people say that gender doesn’t factor into their attraction to someone.”

Pansexual people are technically considered to be polysexual, but not all of them are.

Polysexual vs. omnisexual

The word pansexual is similar to omnisexual. omnisexual people are attracted to people of all genders, and this is referred to as the “omni-” prefix.

Some people prefer the wordpansexual over the wordomnisexual, while others refer to themselves as both.

Someone can identify with both polysexual and omnisexual at the same time.

Polysexual vs. bisexual

The definition of bisexual is similar to the definition of polysexual.

Bisexual people have described the orientation as an attraction to two or more genders, despite the belief that it means only two genders.

The Bisexual Manifesto, which was first published in the year 1990, pointed out that bisexual people can be attracted to more than two genders:

“Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Bisexuality is not a two-sided game, we must be involved with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. Don’t assume that there are only two genders.”

It means two or more genders. Polysexual can be the same thing as bisexual. People might want to choose one label over the other for their own reasons.

Pansexuality and omnisexuality can be seen as umbrella terms for bisexual and polysexuality.

Someone can identify as both bisexual and polysexual at the same time.

Nope! Polysexuality is about who you’re attracted to, while polyamory is about how you structure your romantic relationships.

Polyamory is a kind of consensual non-monogamy. In polyamory, people have (or are open to having) intimate relationships with multiple people, with the consent of everyone involved.

Being polysexual might look like being bisexual or pansexual.

“You don’t need to have had relationships with people of multiple genders to know you’re polysexual. It is not about your sexual history, it is about who you are attracted to.”

“Unless your partner is accepting of your sexual orientation, being polysexual won’t compromise your relationship.”

A polysexual person might be happy in committed, monogamous relationships. This doesn’t need to change when they “come out,” unless they want it to change.

“It doesn’t make you straight if you are dating someone who is the opposite gender. A woman might date another woman and be polysexual, while a woman might date a man and be polysexual. It is not about who you are dating, but who you are attracted to.”

There might be some challenges that arise. People might assume you are gay or straight if you are polysexual. They might not see your polysexuality as valid. These assumptions can be very upsetting.

There is no test to determine if you are polysexual. If the definition applies to your experience, you are welcome to use the term to describe yourself.

You can always experiment with different labels. Talk to your friends about it, and explore what it means to be polysexual.

It is okay to change your identity.

At one point, you might find that “bisexual” fits you. Over time, you might prefer the term “polysexual” or “pansexual.” There’s nothing wrong with changing the term you identify with.

You might also find that your attraction shifts over time. Some people might take a while to realize who they’re attracted to. Others might find that their attraction to certain genders disappears over time.

“You might find that your feelings change spontaneously, even though you can’t consciously change your orientation.”

Sharing your orientation with your loved ones is something you should do.

Many people don\’t know what “polysexual” is. You might want to send an educational article to help them understand. How do you define it?

Your loved ones might be interested to hear how you arrived at the conclusion that you’re polysexual. Of course, only share this if you’d like to.

You can talk about your romantic and sexual experiences if you want to.

Set boundaries about what you would and won’t like to talk about. Let them know if you need them to support you in a specific way (for example, by being there when you come out to others, or by listening to you when you need to talk.)

“Many people think that polysexual people don’t exist, and that they are either gay or straight. This can be very upsetting for people who are polysexual.”

Some people may be met with disbelief and other people may be more accommodating. It is possible to avoid this by choosing your words carefully.

There are some tips for supporting polysexual people.

  • Asking doubtful questions like “Are you sure?” and “But how do you know?” can imply they are confused or incorrect.
  • “Don’t assume that someone’s sexual orientation is based on the gender of their partner. Someone in a seemingly heterosexual relationship might be polysexual, queer, bisexual, pansexual, or something else.”
  • “Unless they are interested in talking about their sexual experiences, don’t ask about it.”
  • They should be given space to talk about their experiences without being asked about their sexuality.
  • “Unless you have their permission, don’t tell other people that they are polysexual unless you have their permission to do so.”
  • Use language that is inclusive. Don\’t use the term “gay” as a synonym for all people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer.

Ask your loved one how they want to be supported. They might have a specific problem.

You might benefit from the following online resources.

You might benefit from joining online groups. These can be great places to get support and learn more about your sexual orientation.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance writer and editor based in Grahamstown, South Africa. Her writing covers issues relating to social justice, cannabis, and health. You can reach out to her on Twitter.