When we think about sexual orientation, what probably comes to mind for most people are the three listed in the well-known acronym: LGBT. That's lesbian, gay, and bisexual (the T stands for transgender, which is a gender identity, not a sexual orientation). Some might even think of the Q that's sometimes tacked on to the end of that acronym and most often stands for queer.
These (plus "straight") are the sexual orientations that get the most play in television and media (and even then, LGB representation is hardly stellar). But there are so many more ways someone can identify their sexual orientation than that little acronym suggests — and it's time that we start talking about them, too. Ahead, we've compiled definitions for some of these terms.
Keep in mind that this isn't a be-all-end-all list, and we'll be regularly updating this story with new definitions. After all, language around sexual orientation is always evolving.
1 of 22
Sexual Orientation/Sexuality: Describes a person's enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a straight woman.
2 of 22
Gay: The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions are to people of the same gender (e.g., gay man, gay people). Sometimes lesbian is the preferred term for women. Avoid identifying gay people as "homosexuals," an outdated term considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people.
4 of 22
Bisexual, Bi: A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.
5 of 22
Queer: An adjective used by some people, particularly younger people, whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual (e.g. queer person, queer woman). Sometimes, for those who only identify as queer, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are perceived to be too limiting and/or fraught with cultural connotations they feel don't apply to them. But many people identify as both queer and another sexual orientation (e.g. queer and a lesbian). Once considered a pejorative term, queer has been reclaimed by some LGBT people to describe themselves; however, it is not a universally accepted term, even within the LGBT community. When Q is seen at the end of LGBT, it typically means queer and, less often, questioning.
13 of 22
Closeted: Describes a person who is not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. It's better to simply refer to someone as "not out" about being LGBTQ. Some individuals may be out to some people in their life, but not out to others due to fear of rejection, harassment, violence, losing one's job, or other concerns.
21 of 22
Polyamorous Describes people who have consensual relationships that involve multiple partners. Polyamorous people talk openly with their partners about having or having the desire to have sexual and/or emotional relationships with multiple people and often set ground rules for their relationships. Polyamorous people can be in relationships with monogamous people.