Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cheat Sheet #1: Orientation Terms

I've been poking around these parts of the internet for years, so I've picked up a lot of jargon (and there is a lot of jargon around here) and forgotten I haven't always known it. This was fine until I started talking to people who haven't been reading about orientation for years. Jargon can be overwhelming at first, especially if you haven't seen enough of it to notice the patterns, so I'm making a series of cheat sheets to help out folks just arriving to the party who need a jump on the vocab.

The first sheet covers orientation terms. I tried to keep it clean and concise while being reasonably comprehensive. If there are things that I missed, misrepresented, or otherwise could have done better, please let me know in the comments.

Future sheets will include Gender Terms, and Attraction/Intimacy/Relationship Terms. (That one may end up being more than one sheet.) The most recent versions of all the terminology cheat sheets will be available in the glossary. If there are any other areas you'd like to see a cheat sheet for, let me know!

Click to enlarge, or right click and open in a new tab/window for a zoomable version.


  1. Hi. I just saw your link in the comments of "The Asexual Agenda" and after reading your sheet, I felt a couple of things were problematic.

    Firstly, your definition of "hetero-" mentions attraction toward people of "opposite" genders. Referring to opposite genders is very rooted in gender binarism which discounts the various manifestations of gender that exist. A better term might simply be the word you use for the prefix in general: “different.”

    Secondly, your definitions of "bi-" and "pan-" are slightly unrepresentative of the whole of bisexuality and biromanticism. It is commonly accepted among the bi community that "bi-" does not exclusively refer to two binary genders. If you want to mention specific genders, it's more accurate to say that this can include a variation of genders similar to and different from one's own.

    Similarly, your definition of "pan-" currently relies heavily on differentiating it from "bi-" which is unnecessary and not completely accurate. It also discounts members of the pan community who do care about gender (for example, by having some gender preferences) but still experience a wide range of attraction. A better definition might be that "pan-" refers to being attracted to people of multiple genders. A note that there can and is overlap between definitions of "pan" and "bi" could also be helpful.

    Lastly, in your definition of panromantic you listed trans men and women which, in this context, I know in the past has been read by some trans individuals who identify as male or female as exclusionary or suggesting that they're not fully men or women due to being trans*. Someone once suggested to me it would be better to put something like men, women, genderqueer (all including trans* individuals), etc. rather than to separate trans* men and women from the categories of men and women so that the focus is on the inclusion of trans* men and women as men and women and not on the exclusion.

    All in all, I think it's a great idea to make this sheet. I know there have been a lot of times over the course of my dive into discussions of sexuality and gender issues that I’ve frantically run to Google in search of a definition for some unfamiliar word. I think it’ll be a great help to people to have a sheet like this.

  2. Re 'hetero-': The gender binary may be an oversimplification and often problematic, but it is nonetheless a useful model to many, and commonly used, and 'hetero-' is invariably defined in terms of it, regardless of etymology. When people use 'hetero-', they are referring to the binary. Writing a different definition won't change that; it will only make your definition inaccurate.

    Re 'bi-': Yes, I agree that 'both' ought to be changed to 'usually but not necessarily'.

    Re 'pan-': The definition here is consistent with all the definitions I've seen elsewhere. It doesn't discount preference, and in fact, preference and variability are explicitly acknowledged below, under the 'Spectrums' heading.

    Re 'panromantic': Yeah, the separate mention of "trans men/women" does come off as invalidating.

    Other modifiers I've seen that may be worth adding: 'gyno-' (attraction to women, irrespective of one's own gender), 'andro-' (attraction to men, irrespective of one's own gender), 'skolio-' (attraction to genderqueer people).