What Does It Mean to Be Allosexual? Here’s What You Need to Know, According to Experts

Plus: Why it's an important term to know.

For many years, most people only knew of two or three sexual orientations—but as time goes on, so improves our understanding of gender and sexuality. Most of those that we're aware of—straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual—all fall under one umbrella term known as allosexuality, which, simply put, is the orientation of a person who experiences sexual attraction of any kind.

Going further, allosexuality is not ascribed to any gender, nor does it describe the depth, frequency, or intensity of sexual attraction. That means a person can identify as allosexual, regardless of what their gender identity or expression is.

If you're just now learning about allosexuality, don't feel bad—it's a fairly new concept. "This is a term I have only seen in the last ten years," Sarah Melancon, PhD, an independent researcher studying sociology and clinical sexology, tells Health. The term was developed to describe the opposite of asexuality, or the lack of sexual attraction to others.

It's important to know the term allosexuality to deter others from thinking that sexual feelings are a "normal" part of life, which can be dehumanizing to those who are asexual. "It's a way of exploring asexuality without stigmatizing [ace people] simply for existing," Dr. Melancon says. "By creating these concepts and having labels out there, it gives us a way to have a conversation."

Allosexuality also helps enhance the understanding of the spectrum of sexuality. While heterosexuality and homosexuality fall under the umbrella of allosexuality, so does pansexuality, or when someone experiences attraction to others regardless of their gender identity or sex. Someone who identifies as demisexual or greysexual, however, fall more under the asexual umbrella, as they experience sexual attraction only along with a strong emotional connection, or on a very limited basis.

While it can be confusing to know when, where, and how to use the term allosexual, a good rule of thumb is to ask new acquaintances how they prefer to be addressed, and then do so accordingly. If someone tells you they identify as allosexual (or asexual, for that matter), be supportive and respectful.

And of course, knowledge and understanding are important steps to being open the gender and sexuality identities of others who think differently than you. To learn more about allosexuality and the sexuality spectrum in general, educational resources like the Trevor Project, GLAAD, and Asexuality.org, among others, can help.

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