The prefix “poly” means many, and polysexual individuals are attracted to people of multiple genders.
People who identify as polysexual often use that word because it suggests a greater variety of sexual orientations than traditional gender binaries of male and female, or hetero- and homosexual. Each person will have their own specific preferences when it comes to who they are attracted to.
What Is the Difference Between Polysexuality, Bisexuality, Pansexuality, Pomosexuality, and Polyamory?
Polysexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, and pomosexuality, all refer to sexual orientations that mean a person is attracted to at least two genders. Multisexual is an umbrella term for these types of attractions. Polyamory is having more than one romantic relationship at once.
Bisexual individuals are attracted to people of their own gender and at least one other gender. Pansexual people do not take gender into consideration when forming attraction.
Pomosexual people prefer to resist conventional categories of sexual identity, including those including those that label gender at all.
Polyamory refers to an involvement in multiple, romantic relationships at once. People of any sexual orientation can be in a polyamorous relationship.
Pansexual people are attracted to people regardless of their gender. But gender may or may not be a factor for polysexual people. And although they may be attracted to people of multiple genders, they’re not attracted to people of all genders.
Because bisexuality means a person is attracted to more than one gender, it can be seen as a form of polysexuality. Some people may even use the terms interchangeably.
While bisexual people are not necessarily attracted to both cis men and cis women, the word “bisexual” is historically associated with this gender binary. For this reason, some people prefer the term polysexual because it ignores gender binaries altogether.
People may also refer to the “bisexuality umbrella,” a term for all groups of orientations that are attracted to more than one gender.
Myths and Misconceptions about Polysexuality
There are several misconceptions that can hurt bisexual, pansexual, or polysexual individuals:
Myth 1: Polysexual people can’t be faithful to one partner.
Polysexual individuals form relationships in the same way that other people do. If they’re in a monogamous relationship, they are no more likely to cheat than anyone else.
Myth 2: Polysexual people are hypersexual and/or want attention.
Polysexuality means nothing about a person’s libido. Like everyone else, they have preferences for with whom and when they want to have sex. Consent is just as important when approaching a polysexual individual as it is for anyone else.
Myth 3: Polysexual people are unsure or experimenting and will eventually pick a side.
Polysexuality is a valid identity. It is not a choice.
When left unchecked, these myths can lead to abusive or dismissive behavior.
Helping Your Loved Ones Understand Polysexuality
If you are polysexual, it is your choice whether or not to share that information with friends and family. Coming out can be traumatic. However, it can also reduce stress, help self-esteem, and connect you with a community.
If you do decide to come out, you are not alone. Many organizations provide free counseling and advice. The Human Rights Campaign has a helpful pamphlet of available resources.
The Trevor Project has a guide to coming out specifically tailored to young people as well as a support hotline and other resources.