The Key Differences Between Omnisexual, Pansexual, and Polysexual People

Crystal Jackson

Because our understanding of sexuality keeps expanding, so do the definitions. Sexuality isn’t just a spectrum between gay and straight. There’s an entire world, a whole rainbow if you will, of sexuality types along that spectrum up to and including asexuality.

The abbreviation LGBTQIA keeps expanding, which is why many people abbreviate it to LGBTQ+. It stands for the following:

  • Lesbian — a woman who is romantically and sexually attracted to other women
  • Gay — a person who is romantically and sexually attracted to the same gender (any gender can use this designation)
  • Bisexual — often shortened to “bi”, a person who is romantically and sexually attracted to more than one gender
  • Transgender- often shortened to “trans”, a person whose gender identity is different from what they were assigned at birth (not a sexual orientation designation; transgender individuals can identify as any sexuality including straight)
  • Queer- a term that can encompass any sexual identity other than straight (any gender can use this designation)
  • Intersex- a person who is born with more than one sex trait or reproductive anatomy
  • Asexual- often shortened to “aces”, a person who has little or no sexual attraction to others
  • +- This symbol is an umbrella term that can include pansexual, demisexual, or questioning individuals.
  • Pansexual- often shortened to “pan”, a person who is attracted to anyone but does not recognize gender
  • Demisexual- often shortened to “demi”, a person who only feels sexual attraction to people they’ve bonded with
  • Recently, the plus expanded to include omnisexuals.

The truth is that these sexuality types have always existed, but it’s only recently that there’s been an emergence of categorizing them to better understand the full human experience. Each of these categories describes a type of human and the kind of person they feel romantic and/or sexual attraction toward. By understanding these designations, it’s possible to learn to be more inclusive and intersectional of others.

What Is an Omnisexual?

“Omni” means all, so it makes sense that omnisexual means that you’re multisexual, or attracted to everyone. This term is fully inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations.

The omnisexual, or “omni”, flag has five horizontal stripes: light pink, pink, dark purple/black, light blue, and dark blue. It was designed by Tumblr user pastelmemer in 2015 to represent omnisexuals and those who identify as the related term omniromantic. (Omniromantic flags are depicted with a heart in the center of the flag).

by Tumblr user pastelmemer

Someone can be in a straight relationship and still identify as omnisexual if they have an attraction to all genders and sexual orientations. Because the attraction is specific to the individual, it is possible for an omnisexual individual to have a monogamous heterosexual relationship. In fact, they usually prefer one particular gender over others.

Omni is an emerging sexuality type. While it may sound similar to pansexual, there are key differences.

How Does This Differ from Pansexual?

Pansexuals are attracted to individuals without accounting for gender. In fact, many pansexuals will tell you that they don’t notice gender at all. They simply feel attraction based on the individual and not their classification as male, female, trans, or non-binary.

Omnisexuals, however, are attracted to everyone — all genders, all sexual orientations. They do recognize gender and are simply attracted to all of them. Unlike pansexuals, omnisexuals tend to prefer one gender more than others. While pansexuals have taken gender out of the equation, omnisexuals admit that gender is a factor in their attraction.

How Does This Differ from Polysexual?

If omnisexual sounds similar to polysexual, it’s because they do share similarities. Someone who is polysexual is also attracted to multiple genders and sexual orientations. However, polysexuals are not attracted to all of them. Unlike omnisexuals, they have specific preferences that exclude some part of the LGBTQ+ continuum. While both qualify as multisexual, it’s important to distinguish between them.

It’s important to call someone the sexuality type they’ve designated. For someone who is omni, they may not appreciate being called “pan”, “bi”, “multi”, or “poly”. Understanding the label(s) they choose is important to showing respect for their identity.

What Are Signs You Might Be Omnisexual?

If you’re struggling with finding the sexual orientation that best describes you, let’s break down the signs that you might be an omnisexual. Whether you’re a male, female, non-binary, or gender fluid individual, ask yourself the following questions.

Gender-Related Attraction

  • Are you attracted to men?
  • Are you attracted to men and women?
  • Are you attracted to men, women, transgender men, and transgender women?
  • Are you attracted to men, women, transgender men and women, as well as intersex individuals?
  • Are you attracted to men, women, transgender men and women, intersex individuals, and those who identify as gender fluid?
  • Are you attracted to men, women, transgender men and women, intersex individuals, gender fluid individuals, and non-binary individuals?

Sexual Orientation-Related Attraction

  • Are you attracted to straight people?
  • Are you attracted to straight and gay people?
  • Are you attracted to straight, gay, and bisexual individuals?
  • Are you attracted to straight, gay, bisexual, and queer individuals?
  • Are you attracted to straight, gay, bisexual, queer, and pansexual individuals?
  • Does your sexual and romantic attraction include all genders and the full spectrum of LGTBQIA+?
  • Are you capable of experiencing romantic attraction to anyone but have a particular gender or sexual orientation preference?

If you kept answering yes, you might be an omnisexual. If you answered no at any point, you may identify as pansexual or another sexuality type. While many omnisexuals may prefer a particular gender over others, it’s possible to be omnisexual and not state a specific preference, too.

Misconceptions About Omnisexuals

Although omnisexuals are attracted to all people, this doesn’t mean that they are sexually promiscuous or likely to cheat when partnered. This is a common misunderstanding that many pansexual and even bisexual people often face. Omnisexuals who choose monogamous relationships are no more likely to cheat or sleep around than any other sexuality type.

This stereotype can be harmful to omnisexual individuals who may desire monogamous relationships. Omnisexuals can be attracted to and interested in anyone. This doesn’t mean they are attracted to and interested in everyone particularly when they are partnered. It’s an important distinction. In simple terms, it means that an omni won’t rule someone out on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

Because this is an emerging sexuality type, other people may not to understand the distinction between omnisexual, pansexual, and other sexual orientations. If you identify as omni, you may need to be patient with others as they learn more about your preferences. You’ll likely need to explain the difference — unless you don’t feel the need to explain at all.

How To Be a Good Ally

Additionally, if you know someone who identifies as omnisexual, it’s important to take measures to be a good ally. An ally is a person who actively supports LGBTQ+ people regardless of their own sexual orientation. While it’s common for ally to be designated to straight people who support all orientations, it can equally be applied to one sexuality that supports all others.

  • Be a safe person for them to talk to about their identity. To model safety, they should be able to share without feeling judged or invalidated. They should also trust that you will keep what they share in confidence.
  • Don’t give unsolicited advice or question their sexuality. Don’t tell someone that you think they are wrong about their own sexuality or that they are going through a “faze”. It’s offensive and condescending to assume you know more about someone else’s sexuality then they themselves do.
  • Accept them exactly as they are. Continue to treat them as you always have but with respect to their identity. Include them as you would have before they shared this information with you.
  • Don’t stigmatize them with misconceptions about their gender or sexual identity. Don’t assume they are unfaithful or polyamorous simply because they are omnisexual. Instead, realize that one has nothing to do with the other.
  • Ask them to share their preferred personal pronouns and then use them accordingly. Omni doesn’t define their preferred gender, only their sexuality. However, it’s important to understand if they wish to use other pronouns than the ones they preferred prior to self-identifying as omni.
  • Avoid sharing their sexuality preference with others as they might not be open yet about publicly identifying as omnisexual. It’s important to follow their lead and not discuss their sexual orientation with others. If they trusted you enough to share this information, they’re showing faith that you won’t disclose this without their express consent.
  • Don’t make jokes about their sexuality. It may seem funny to you, but it’s likely stereotypical assumptions they’ve heard before — and likely don’t appreciate.
  • Speak up when you witness discrimination up to and including microaggressions. If you see them or another LGBTQ+ individual receiving discriminatory treatment, stand up for them. The best way to be an ally is to take on their cause as if it were your own.
  • Treat them, and all humans, respectfully. This should be normal operating procedure, and yet it’s possible to have previously unknown biases come up when introduced to an unfamiliar idea. Confront those biases and listen with an open mind.
  • Don’t invalidate their feelings even if you don’t understand them. You may not understand why it’s important for them to identify as omni. You don’t have to. To be a good friend, partner, or ally, simply show your love and support.
  • Spread awareness. While it’s best to keep what is shared with you to yourself, you can still be a proud ally to the LGBTQ+ community by advocating for them, spreading awareness, and voting for politicians who make inclusive policies and protect their rights.

Love Is Love

Omnisexuals truly embody the idea that love is love. While they are not gender-blind like pansexual individuals, they do not discriminate when it comes to gender or sexual orientations. Although they may prefer one over others, they find it possible to be romantically attracted to anyone.

You can expect the spectrum of sexuality to continue to include new categories as the world better understands gender and sexuality. While often dismissed as being a fad, emerging sexuality types are as valid as any other.

A good rule of thumb is to simply respect the identity of others — including their gender and sexual identity. You don’t have to understand it to be kind and considerate, but if you’d like to know more, it’s possible to educate yourself further so that others aren’t taking on the mental and emotional burdens of educating you.

Article originally published on The Truly Charming

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA
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