What It Means to Be Polysexual

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Polysexuality is the identity of someone who is attracted to multiple genders. Examples of polysexuality might be a person who is attracted to men and nonbinary people, someone who is attracted to women, men, and gender expansive people, or someone who is attracted to nonbinary and gender nonconforming people.

At first glance, polysexuality might seem similar to pansexuality or bisexuality. Ahead, we will discuss the ways in which this identity is different from those, as well as how to know if you may be polysexual and how to share that information with others.

Signs You Might Be Polysexual

Polysexual people are attracted to multiple genders, but there are no rules about which genders someone needs to be attracted to in order to use the term. The word simply means that you're attracted to more than one gender, due to its prefix poly, meaning multiple or many.

If you have been wondering whether you may be polysexual, and are thinking it's possible that the identity might be an appropriate one for you, here are some signs that can help you understand if that's the case.

  • You find yourself attracted to more than one gender of people. This could be any combination of multiple genders, but it isn't necessarily all genders, and it isn't necessarily only cis men and/or women.
  • Sexuality labels such as bisexual, and pansexual haven't felt exactly right for you. You're aware that you have a sexuality that encompasses more than one gender, but neither of those feel fully correct to you.
  • Even though you're attracted to more than one gender, you don't find yourself attracted to all genders.
  • When you picture an ideal partner, or partners if you are non-monogamous, you picture people of more than one gender.

Polysexual vs. Other Sexual Identities

The label of polysexuality is often confused with several other labels. Let's look closely at how polysexuality is different from pansexuality, bisexuality, and omnisexuality.

Polysexual vs. Pansexual

Because attraction to more than one gender is involved, polysexuality and pansexuality might seem like the same thing. There is one major difference between them: Pansexuality is the attraction to all genders, and polysexuality is the attraction to more than one gender.

The typical distinction between the two is that polysexual person is not attracted to every single gender, whereas a pansexual person is.

Polysexual vs. Bisexual

The term bisexual has expanded in meaning over the years. Initially, it meant a person who is attracted to women and men. In recent years, the term has grown to encompass more expansive gender identities.

However, there is still a difference between polysexual and bisexual: a polysexual person may be attracted to multiple genders without being attracted to women and men. Someone might be attracted to women and gender-fluid people, or men and gender-nonconforming people.

Conversely, even though the term has expanded culturally, if a person says that they are bisexual it is typically safe to presume that means they are attracted to both men and women.

Polysexual vs. Omnisexual

Omnisexuality is similar to pansexuality in that it denotes a person who is attracted to all genders of people.

The main difference between omnisexuality and pansexuality is that pansexual refers to someone who is attracted to people regardless of their gender, with it not being a factor to attraction, whereas with omnisexuality there is a specific attraction to all genders. because this distinction is fairly minor, pansexual and omnisexual identities are often used interchangeably.

Polysexuality is different from omnisexuality because it does not necessarily involve an attraction to all genders. Omnisexual people are actively attracted to all genders of people, where polysexual people are attracted to more than one, but likely not all, genders.

How to Tell Someone That You're Polysexual

The process of coming out is a personal one. You aren't obligated to tell someone what your sexuality is, and you should only do so if you feel that they are safe a person to come out to.

If you have realized that you are polysexual and there is someone in your life whom you want to tell, and you believe they will be a safe person to share your identity with, you can simply tell them that you have realized you are polysexual. Know that they may not be familiar with this term, and that you might need to explain it to them.

It may feel challenging, or like performing emotional labor, to have to explain the definition of your sexual identity. This is something that you can choose to do if you want to, but that you are never obligated to do. The more familiar we all become with sexuality, the less work that will be involved to share our identities with others.

Are Polysexuality and Polyamory the Same?

Both may be referred to as "poly," but polysexual and polyamory are completely different things. Polysexuality is the attraction to more than one gender, whereas polyamory is a romantic partnership model in which a person has more than one partner.

Polysexual people may also be polyamorous, but they may just as likely be monogamous. Despite having the same prefix, one is a sexuality and the other is a relationship style. The two are not the same thing at all.

How to Explain Polysexuality to Someone

Polysexuality is most easily explained as the attraction to multiple genders. If you are polysexual and someone wants to know more about it, and you are comfortable sharing with them, you could tell them about the genders of people you're attracted to, but you do not have to do that.

The simple explanation that polysexuality means that someone is attracted to more than one gender can suffice just fine if you do not want to delve deeper into the topic.

If it feels useful, you can explain how polysexuality is different from bisexuality and pansexuality, to help someone understand the identity more fully.

How to Support and Be an Ally to Someone Who Is Polysexual

LGBTQIA+ allyship is important. That's because the more we support marginalized people, including those with LGBTQIA+ identities, the better their wellbeing is. Here are some ways that you can provide support and be an ally to someone who identifies as polysexual.

  • Always ask if it's ok to ask questions. Don't assume that someone owes you an explanation of their identity. If there is a question you could easily ask google instead of a person, opt for that before asking someone to explain a subject to you.
  • Keep an open mind and don't make presumptions about another person's relationship models. For example, being attracted to more than one gender does not necessarily mean that a person is promiscuous or non-monogamous.
  • Advocate: LGBTQIA+ rights are under attack by many states. Showing your allyship with actions in addition to words is the best way to demonstrate your support. Speak up on behalf of others when they are in unsafe situations, and take action against harmful legislature.

LGBTQIA+ Resources

There are many resources available for polysexual people and their allies. Here are some LGBTQIA+ resources.

  • For youth, the CDC has a full list for everyone from young people themselves to family members, teachers, and parents.
  • Buffer offers a list of resources specifically for allies.
  • The U.S. Department of Education has a resource list available for LGBTQIA+ students.
  • GLAAD has an expansive resource list that includes military, legal, and political websites.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does the abbreviation "poly" refer to polysexuality?

    While it would make sense that the abbreviation "poly" would refer to polysexuality, the word usually refers to polyamory. That's likely because polyamory is a larger part of our culture than the identity of polysexual, which has only become more widely used in recent years.

  • What if I can't figure out whether I'm polysexual or another sexual identity?

    There's no hurry! It's perfectly ok to be unsure of your sexual identity. It's not a race, and there's no prize for labeling yourself. Take all the time you need to discover who you are. You might find that you're polysexual, or you may realize you aren't. You might find a label that fits you perfectly, or you may realize you function optimally as a person who doesn't use labels.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ceatha N, Koay ACC, Buggy C, James O, Tully L, Bustillo M, et al. Protective factors for lgbti+ youth wellbeing: a scoping review underpinned by recognition theory. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Nov 7;18(21):11682.

  2. Mapping attacks on lgbtq rights in u. S. State legislatures [Internet]. American Civil Liberties Union. 

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.