31 Extra-Special Ways You Described Your Sexual Orientation on the 2020 Reader Survey

Sexual orientation labels! They matter to some people and don’t matter to some other people! Some people think about them and some people don’t. In the end, we are all made of stars. On our 2020 Reader Survey we asked our readers to select the sexual orientation label that best applied to them, but also offered another open space for them to get more or less specific, in line with their deepest desires. And as usual, everybody had a lot of fun ways to discuss who they are into or who they might potentially develop a crush on if we’re ever allowed to spend time with strangers ever again! Firstly, the big-picture numbers:

[Image 2] Pie chart depicting the 2020 Autostraddle Reader Survey Sexual/Romantic Orientation labels.   41% Lesbian 28.5% Queer 23% Bi or Pansexual 4.5% Gay  3% Other  Bar graph answering the question “Do you identify on the Asexual Spectrum?”  9% Yes  83% No 8% I don’t know.   Legal text reads: “*Data from the 3,373 respondents to the 2020 Autostraddle Reader Survey when asked "Which of these terms best describes (or comes closest to describing) your sexual/romantic orientation?”

A lot of the answers from the 605 who pitched in on the open-ended sexual orientation box were people who wanted to: share the details of their uncertainty on this matter, note that they are attracted to everybody besides cis men or that they’re into non-binary people as well as women, specifically acknowledge their ace-spectrum identity as well as their homo-or-bi/panromanic identity, clarify the impact of their gender identity and trans status on their sexual orientation, or otherwise discuss their journeys.

Here is a sampling of some of your most specific/special/interesting write-in answers, assembled here for your enjoyment and opportunity:

1. 90% very gay, 10% dudes are fine

2. Slut (but ugh covid :((((

3. Probably pan, but I like the bi flag colors more

4. queer dyke, but I often round it up to lesbian

5. A wavy slightly confused human who likes other humans, especially ones in beanies and flannels and tattoos and who are soft and gentle and like to eat food and read books and hang with cats

6. Dyke with one (1) exception

7. Ladysexual

8. Dykey soft butch femme lord with dangerous bisexual energy

9. Do I like men or am I just traumatised?? Can I be gay if I don’t have a gender??? These questions don’t keep me up at night but maybe they should

10. Raging Dyke

11. Unconcerned about exact bodily presence but consistently attracted to queer masc of centre personal energy

12. Horny Queer lesbian

13. Queer; gay bitch; A Bi Who Probably Could Never Have a Serious Relationship with a Man

14. Gay. So gay. How can anyone say no to boobs? Boobs are the best.

15. Lesbian lesbian lesbian gay gay gay gay

16. Bykesexual, as in, I’m a bisexual who prefers women

17. Really I’m queer and into all the babes regardless of gender but I like saying gay because I think it’s cute

18. Technically bi cause Chris Hemsworth exists but basically gay

19. Girls are pretty and ugh

20. Grey lesbian, queer, lots of handwaving

21. Super not sure these days, since most orientations are relative to your own gender, and I no longer WANT a gender, so how do I describe the sort of people (female-identified) that I prefer? And that’s just romantically; sexually I’m both demi and unfussed, so I both don’t care and don’t want :X yay?

22. Bi-fluid. I made it up.

23. I’m attracted to AFAB butches, androgynous people, enbies, trans dudes, masc women, and the occasional skinny cis man with soft features

24. Lesbian/Pansexual. Queer just allows me to not have a longer discussion about my identity especially because I once dated dudes. To be fair I haven’t in 7-8 years so it’d be great if people would shut up about it. 😉

25. Confused.

26. “Queer” if speaking/writing english. Only exists as an anglizism in german, so there I most often use the equivalent of lesbian, especially when not in a queer setting

27. I say lesbian, but I’m not 100% sure I’m not attracted to men. I KNOW I like women, both in real life and in “briefly seeing a random attractive person on tv” contexts. I am not 100% sure I won’t ever be attracted to men, although I never have been in real life, but then again, I haven’t been attracted to that many people in real life anyway, and I have had some experiences with movie characters that might be analogous to the sort of “passing attraction” I sometimes feel towards women, but I’m not sure. And I enjoy reading MLM stories, including (sometimes) explicit ones and thinking about them in a fictional context, but not as something I would actually want myself (I think.) So, in short, I ly identify as a lesbian, it’s possible I’m actually bisexual (probably in the “70/30 women to men way”) and at this point I don’t really care, I’m keeping myself open to whatever comes, but still strongly identify with lesbian identifying experiences. We’ll see.

28. Every combination of the words “Queer” “Lesbian” and “Dyke” with a rainbow and double heart and sparkle emoji

29. Anyone but men I think??? So like not just women, for sure, but also a hard no on dudes.

30. Sapphic Slayer

31. The more specific term would be “Baffled”

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2838 articles for us.

50 Comments

  1. a lot of people I dated, when I started dating them they were closeted enbys or questioning their gender. with the cis men I am occasionally attracted to, I always wonder when they’ll come out to me as something other than a cis guy bc I can’t believe they’re really cis guys. At the same time, even though my sexual attraction to cis men is minimal, my romantic attraction to them is sometimes bigger than to women? I guess I am attracted to the very few very amazing cis men out there, while I seem to attract women who treat me like shit?

    • yes this! my romantic attraction to men is very strong but like…i just wanna hug, no sex nope nope nope. i think my standards for men are so incredibly high whereas i am amazed by all women even those who are not right for me in the slightest

    • Saaaaaaaame.

      I’m a bi queermo who is Very Very Into The Women And Enbies (I mean hello, have you SEEN women and enbies?!?!) and also occasionally some men who, if I had my glasses off or squinted, I might mistake for a queer woman or enby from a distance.

      (*coughcough* David Tennant call me *coughcough*)

    • same!!! for me the list is.. 99% Queer Women & Enbies + 1% Billie Joe from Green Day lol..

      When will cis men ever get it thru their thick heads that a decent sub-set of us actually WOULD fuck them if they let go of their Attachment to Being a Big Serious In-Charge Man-Face? I mean my biggest hangup about hooking up with yon hypothetical pretty cis dude would be *his* hangup with getting topped lol.

    • Sorry, but no.

      Other people defining THEIR sexuality as something like “gay but also Chris Hemsworth”, or rounding the practical realities of their feelings up from 99.999% to 100, isn’t harmful in any way to either bis or lesbians.

      Sexuality is complicated! The labels we use are huge clunky things that don’t account for the deeply-felt and individual nuances of the unfathomable complexity of any one human mind! People get to use the words that feel right for their very own selves, and to do so in good faith, and that is not about anyone but their own selves.

      It’s not an attack on you or me if someone else uses the words that they find describes their heart and desires the best. It’s not about you or me in the first place.

      We don’t get to fight lesbophobia or biphobia by browbeating lesbians and bisexuals into conforming to someone else’s ideas of what they’re allowed to be. We get to fight both of those things by listening deeply to people describing their lives, hearts, cravings, and identities, and striving to understand one another in all our complexity.

      • When you take away the only word women and woman-aligned nonbinary people who > exclusively exclusively < into women and woman-aligned nonbinary people, you are contributing to bi erasure. Bisexual activists such as Lani Ka’ahumanu did not work so hard for bisexual visibility just for these bi women to call themselves d*ke or lesbians when they are clearly not.

        It’s as simple as that, yet also more complex than what your comment was essentially saying. Just say you think the highly lesbophobic and biphobic concept of “bi lesbians” is “valid”…

        I can’t believe this article even made the cut in the first place. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought this was lifted from 2014 Tumblr. Pick up a history book

      • New comment because I can’t edit the wonky previous one

        When people take away the only word women and woman-aligned nonbinary people who are exclusively into women and woman-aligned nonbinary people, they are contributing to lesbophobia.

        When women and woman-aligned nonbinary people who aren’t exclusively attracted to women and woman-aligned nonbinary people use lesbian-exclusive terms or the lesbian label, they are contributing to bi erasure.

        Bisexual activists such as Lani Ka’ahumanu did not work so hard for bisexual visibility just for these bi women to call themselves d*ke or lesbians when they are clearly not.

        It’s as simple as that, yet also more complex than what your comment was essentially saying. Just say you think the highly lesbophobic and biphobic concept of “bi lesbians” is “valid”…

        I can’t believe this article even made the cut in the first place. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought this was lifted from 2014 Tumblr. Pick up a history book

  2. “5. A wavy slightly confused human who likes other humans, especially ones in beanies and flannels and tattoos and who are soft and gentle and like to eat food and read books and hang with cats”

    #5, I just want you to know that I see you and I feel very much the same way! As much as I love summer weather, I’m excited for the start of flannel/beanie season because my partners and I are all about this 🥰

    I also appreciate how this survey breaks out the questions & data for ace-spectrum identities. There are so many of us here! I’m excited to see more survey results as they are compiled and published (I love that AS does these surveys and does them so well)

  3. New comment because I can’t edit the wonky previous one

    When people take away the only word women and woman-aligned nonbinary people who are exclusively into women and woman-aligned nonbinary people, they are contributing to lesbophobia.

    When women and woman-aligned nonbinary people who aren’t exclusively attracted to women and woman-aligned nonbinary people use lesbian-exclusive terms or the lesbian label, they are contributing to bi erasure.

    Bisexual activists such as Lani Ka’ahumanu did not work so hard for bisexual visibility just for these bi women to call themselves d*ke or lesbians when they are clearly not.

    It’s as simple as that, yet also more complex than what your comment was essentially saying. Just say you think the highly lesbophobic and biphobic concept of “bi lesbians” is “valid”…

    I can’t believe this article even made the cut in the first place. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought this was lifted from 2014 Tumblr. Pick up a history book

    • No, /you/ pick up a history book. For a lot of the 20th century, “bisexual” wasn’t a label anyone used. This was because “lesbian” had nothing about exclusivity in its definition, and neither did “gay” for that matter. If you were a women who liked women then you were a lesbian, full stop. Bi women were essentially kicked out of the lesbian community around I believe the 70’s? And /that/ is what caused bi people to form their own identity.

      The truth is, there’s a lot of overlap and shared identity between bi women and lesbians, and historically there was no difference between them.

      • *If you were a woman who liked women

        Can’t edit the comment.

        Oh, also I forgot to add, most “lesbian-exclusive” terms are from the era when bisexual women were considered to /be/ lesbians, so frankly it’s ahistorical to claim that bi women can’t use them.

        • no u :P

          If you don’t see it as harmful then you do you, but my way of showing solidarity with real lesbians is respecting their need for exclusive terms and not stealing them just because “mUh FeELiNgS r VaLiD!!!!,,,,wdym i cant be a lesbian when im in love and boning a man!!!” Material conditions don’t give a shit about people’s thirst for hyperindividualism… Stop advocating regressive arguments!

          • That’s a LOT of hyperbole you’ve got there.

            However, none of it actually engages with what people are actually advocating for.

            It seems like you’re much less interested in having a conversation with people about the nuances of their lives, than you are in parroting recycled “political lesbian” biphobic (and, let’s remember, it was/is also incredibly transphobic) rhetoric from the ’80s.

            Lesbians who don’t conform to others’ standards of purity regarding what a lesbian is allowed to do or be? Are still lesbians.

            Gender’s complicated, sexuality is complicated, and again: if your theory is threatened by the reality of other people’s lived experiences, then your theory needs to change.

            The material conditions of people’s lives include the nuances of their sexualities. You don’t get to reduce “any lesbian who has in her life felt any attraction, real or fantasy, to anyone who isn’t a woman” to this overwraught stereotype of, as you put it, “why can’t I be a lesbian when I’m in love with and boning a man!!”

            Those are not equivalent statements. To conflate one with the other is not being honest or speaking in anything resembling good-faith. Those are- to use your own words- referring to significantly different material conditions.

            (Not to mention that if you think about it for more than a little while, it’s perfectly possible to come up with a ton of circumstances where even the imaginary person you refer to could absolutely legitimately call herself a lesbian. Life’s complicated. Gender and sexuality, even more so.)

            “Real Lesbians” includes some people who get a kick out of Chris Hemsworth. That doesn’t have to be a big deal and honestly, the only one I can see who’s using that pretty-minor fact to Focus On Men is.. you.

    • So I’m just gonna say this:

      If you’d like to continue undermining my own credibility as a bi+ activist and my own awareness of our history and culture instead of engaging with what I have to say, and if you’d like to continue accusing me of biphobia and lesbophobia because I don’t agree with your ahistorical, overly-simplistic take, I think it might be useful if you google me first.

      It’s Aoife O’Riordan. Might take you a while to get through what’s there.

      And: I am a bi dyke, and I’m not gonna let some rando on the internet take away over twenty years of wearing that label proudly.

      But you better believe I am Tired As Fuck of this.

    • Also bi, but I don’t agree with all of this. Attraction can mean a lot of different things and there are a lot of reasons people can have difficulty understanding whether they’re experiencing it or not, or what level of fantasy vs reality this occupies for them, etc etc, and when it’s defined very strictly and used as the main criteria for determining someone’s orientation, you get women who really, really want to date and have sex with other women and really, really don’t want to date or have sex with men and wouldn’t really be capable of finding any happiness there…

      …but who can’t be lesbians because they like gay male porn or sometimes they think the barista is nice to look at but they genuinely wouldn’t be interested if he asked. I can’t tell if you’re the same person who’s talking downthread about how orientation categories should reflect material conditions rather than be a site for individual self-expression (you’re “Tired Bi” and they’re “Tired AF Bi” and a lot of people in this conversation are bi and/or tired), and while I’m not sure I even agree with that, I’m having trouble thinking of a materialist justification for classifying the above hypothetical person as bi instead of as a lesbian.

      Not all bi people are perfectly evenly attracted to men and women (or similar genders and different genders, however you’re defining it), some of us even have really strong preferences and they’re just as bi as any other bi person, but I don’t like the idea that everything that isn’t perfectly uncomplicatedly gay or perfectly uncomplicatedly straight is bisexuality. Grey areas and fuzzy boundaries between categories can exist without breaking down categorization altogether, and men who want to fuck lesbians will think lesbians want to fuck them no matter what bisexuals do. It’s important for bisexuality to be visible as bisexuality even when at a glance it might look more like homo- or heterosexuality, but it’s also important to remember that there’s a ton of overlap between gay and bi experiences anyway… and that if the only way to be an ally to a group is to do everything you can to make sure nobody ever even temporarily mistakes them for you because that would be horrible, the person who told you this does not see you as an equal.

      (Also, I don’t really feel like dividing nonbinary people into “woman-aligned (and therefore compatible with being/dating lesbians)” and “not woman-aligned (and therefore incompatible with being/dating lesbians)” really reflects people’s actual dating patterns, let alone patterns of attraction, let alone which relationships are perceived as compatible with lesbianism and which relationships aren’t?)

      • That addendum about nonbinary people is so important, thank you for bringing it up. It often feels like in these conversations all the nuance and possibility under the nonbinary umbrella gets reduced to “woman lite” when in reality many nonbinary people have no connection to womanhood, or have a connection to womanhood and other a/genders. Attraction is complex and fluid and so is Gender!

  4. my hairdresser said “I’m 98% lesbian, the 2% is just a quota” and i was like “dude, i get it, most lesbians are attracted to Thor” and now “18. Technically bi cause Chris Hemsworth exists but basically gay” makes me feel like I stumbled into some mystical truth

      • I don’t think that interest in male celebrities or fictional male characters should mean that a person isn’t allowed to identify as a lesbian – people’s fantasies don’t always match up with what they genuinely want for themselves, especially when those fantasies are completely unattainable (i.e. celebrities) or when some level of abstraction is going on (i.e. anime characters, etc).

        I have noticed, though, that when that kind of experience is described as comphet, there’s sort of this connotation that the person isn’t really enjoying those fantasies, and that working through their trauma around coerced heteronormativity means realizing those fantasies were bad for them, and working to replace that kind of thing with fantasies more appropriate to their orientation. I recognize that this is true and helpful for a lot of people, but ime it really isn’t universally applicable – brains are weird and sex is also weird and there really are people who are 100% into women when it comes to real life people and real life experiences, but gain real, meaningful happiness from fantasies that are kind of incongruous with that. So I don’t think that reading m/m fanfic or whatever means you have to identify as bi if “lesbian” is a better fit for how you relate to your real actual life, but I also don’t think that “lesbian” being a better fit for how you relate to your real actual life means you should stop reading m/m fanfic.

        (I don’t think you’re personally saying all this, I’m just sort of responding to a specific strain of Discourse I keep seeing around in the wild that I think is relevant here.)

  5. Also I just want to say that whenever I see someone using the bi label to acknowledge past relationships and not just think on who they’re into right now MY HEART BURSTS WITH BUTTERFLIES because all mentions of sexuality as fluid and a continuum and as an honoring of your own history makes me v v v happy

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