One of the biggest changes we can celebrate in our media over recent years is the increasing visibility of LGBT people onscreen. But what about people whose sexuality doesn’t fit into any of those labels?
There are many, many people who think of themselves as not quite gay or straight—especially asexual-leaning and questioning people who struggle to find the right name for their identities. Filmmaker Christopher Stoudt has an interesting new visibility project for people who don’t fit neatly into any orientation: His video “I’m Graysexual,” which explores his romantic life as a 30-year-old graysexual man.
“Graysexual” is a term that covers the fluid area between people who are sexual and people who aren’t. While graysexuality is usually under the asexuality umbrella, a huge term that includes a lot of different identities, it’s a bit of a misnomer to include graysexual people in the same category as people who never experience sexual attraction or sexual desire in any circumstances.
According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, people who are graysexual (or gray-A or gray-ace) might not normally experience sexual attraction, but do sometimes. They might also experience sexual attraction, but a low sex drive. Or they could experience sexual attraction and drive, but not strongly enough to want to act on them. They could also be people who can enjoy and desire sex, but only under very limited and specific circumstances. There are a lot of options there. Altogether, the term graysexual helps to describe people who really don’t want sex very often, but who do sometimes experience sexual attraction or sexual desire—those who experience fluidity or don’t fit cleanly into the asexual or sexual camps.
Graysexuality is not a brand-new term—this The Frisky article from 2011 explores the personal experiences of two women who identify as graysexual. Both women enjoy certain types of physical intimacy, but the way they experience and express those feelings are very different. And that’s pretty common for people that are graysexual. The experience can take a lot of different forms, but there is room for everyone’s story.
This short video from Christopher Stoudt is important because it draws attention to two groups that often get forgotten: asexuals and people on both the sexual and asexual spectrum who experience some type of fluidity.
I’m sure a lot of people will wonder why if you think of yourself as having a fluid sexuality, you’d want to find a label for yourself at all. In her article “The Questioning Continuum,” Bitch contributor Joshunda Sanders shared just how alienating it can be to not fit any of the existing categories. “Like many people, I long to fit into a neat category, and it irks me to be so open to the possibility of love in any form. But a lifetime is a long time to be at war with yourself,” she writes. It’s important to create spaces for people who don’t clearly fit labels because their identities and their experiences are real, and they matter. It’s an incredible feeling to discover you are not the only person experiencing something.
And people who are fluid really aren’t alone. A lot of people feel this way—a recent study showed that 19 percent of British adults identify as something other than completely straight or fully gay. That’s a lot of experiences that don’t have a neat label! So far there isn’t a lot of data about how many people identify as graysexual, but creating language that describes being grasexual is necessary if we ever hope to grasp what graysexuality really looks like.
People who are fluid in their sexuality are often overlooked in part because they're not easily labeled. But that doesn’t make their experiences any less valid. Having language that more accurately describes those experiences helps us all to understand them better and allows us to talk about them in ways that normalize those experiences. It’s nice to have a label that recognizes how narrow most labels are.
Related Reading — We're Not Broken: Asexual Characters in Pop Culture