What Does It Mean to Be Androsexual? Here's What Experts Say
For years, LGBT has stood for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Recently the acronym evolved into LGBTQ+ to include the many other non-cisgender and non-heterosexual gender and sexual identities that exist—with the Q representing “queer” (or sometimes questioning) and the “plus” serving as something of catch-all for everything else, including androsexual.
What does androsexuality mean?
The concept of androsexuality may be new to people, but the identity certainly isn't, American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) certified sexuality educator Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, tells Health.
In a nutshell, an androsexual is someone who is sexually attracted to men, males, or those who identify on the masculine spectrum, regardless of whether they were assigned male at birth. (“Andro” is the Greek prefix meaning male or masculine.)
Isn’t that the same as being a heterosexual cisgender female?
Definitely not. “There are plenty of cisgender heterosexual (cishet) women who are attracted to masculine characteristics but there are also plenty of others who, though they are sexually and romantically attracted to men, find that traditionally masculine characteristics are not the central focus of their attraction,” Lindsay Fram, MPH, sexuality educator and coauthor of Above the Waist: Sexuality Education Beginning with the Brain, tells Health.
Someone who identifies as androsexual is attracted to masculine characteristics, but the object of their attraction doesn’t have to identify as male. “Historically, 'heterosexual' has been interpreted as being attracted to the other sex,” Fram explains. “In this way, it requires that the object of attraction for a cishet woman identifies as male.”
This is where androsexuality is a little different than other gender and sexual identities. Unlike many of the labels for sexual orientation—including the ones people are most familiar with, like straight, gay, and bisexual—it doesn’t reinforce the binary of male and female by defining both the gender of the person experiencing the attraction and the gender of the people they are attracted to.
“Androsexuality doesn’t assume anything about the sex or gender of either the person who is experiencing the attraction or the people they are attracted to,” Fram says. “Someone who identifies as androsexual could be cisgender, transgender, non-binary, or intersex. The same goes for the people they are attracted to—they could be cisgender, transgender, non-binary or intersex, so long as they exhibit traditionally masculine characteristics.”
Is there an androsexuality pride flag?
Yes, the androsexuality pride flag contains three bold stripes. The top stripe is sky blue, the middle strip is a dark maroon shade, and the bottom stripe is violet.
What challenges do androsexual people face?
Being androsexual isn't necessarily a societal challenge, Boskey says. After all, cishet women are androsexual and in the majority culture. “However, those who use androsexual to describe their orientation may be faced with a constant need to answer questions about what it means,” Boskey explains. “If they are sexual or gender minorities, they may also face homophobia or transphobia related to their attraction to men.”
Why is it important to be familiar with all sexual orientation labels?
Aside from the fact that you or your loved one might identify as androsexual (or another sexual orientation altogether), a wider acceptance of the fact that human sexuality takes numerous forms is crucial to help reduce stigma.
“Shame grows in silence, when we can’t name something, when we literally do not have the words to talk about it,” Fram says. “As the world expands its understanding of the flexibility of human sexuality and the beautiful diversity of how, to whom, and when people experience attraction, our vocabulary expands by necessity."
Of course, labels don’t work for everyone. But for those who do find some comfort in labels for their sexual orientation, hitting upon one that feels just right can be transformative. “It can help you feel more comfortable sharing your full self with others,” Fram says. “A ‘just right’ label can help people find community and feel a true sense of belonging.”