You may know or have heard people using the terms pansexual, queer, skoliosexual and demisexual to describe their LGBTQ+ identity. But not many people really know what it means to be greysexual. Greysexuality concerns one of life’s ‘grey areas’, disregarding rigid, societally-enforced black and white binaries. It's often confused with asexuality. So here's what you need to know about greysexuality and what it really means to be greysexual.
What does greysexual mean?
There is no simple definition for greysexual and greysexuality – sometimes spelled gray sexual or graysexuality – but it could be described as the experience of limited sexual attraction.
"In other words, [greysexual people] experience sexual attraction very rarely, or with very low intensity," is Healthline’s extended definition. It could also, for instance, mean only feeling sexual attraction in a very specific set of circumstances.
Daniel Beeson, 29, from London, began identifying as greysexual a few years ago. “Greysexual goes deeper, it’s not ‘I just don’t fancy it tonight’," he tells Cosmopolitan UK. "For me, it’s being completely devoid of sexual desire in bouts, which can last months, and then one day waking up and realising that instinct has returned.”
Asked when and where he first heard the term and realised it was something he related to, Dan says, “I used to work for an online LGBT news website and one day I read an opinion piece by one of our contributors about their greysexual identity. It was like a mirror had been put up to my face.
“I’d been aware my drive for sex wasn’t as regular as others, but I just put it down to my own relationship with sex. That may still be true, but finding out others were having similar feelings and there was at least a community of some number of us was reassuring," he adds.
The myths around greysexuality
There are many misconceptions around greysexuality, also known as grey-asexuality and grey-ace, including that greysexual people aren’t interested in romantic and/or emotional attraction.
In Dan’s experience, myths are "similar to those [around] asexuality. That it’s a result of trauma, and we avoid sex and we don’t want romantic relationships. For me, the latter resonates the most. It confuses me that sex weighs so much on one’s love for another, like if you’re not having sex, you’re not in love. I understand the importance of sex, [but] I don’t understand how it outweighs everything else you do to show love.”
Dan says he’s yet to meet another greysexual person, to his knowledge. “It doesn’t necessarily come up in conversation and to be honest, I don’t bring it up," he says. "I’ve explained it to guys I’ve dated in the past and their reaction is always the same: no regular sex means no love.”
Coming out as greysexual
For anyone realising they may be greysexual and/or considering coming out, London-based psychotherapist Jane Czyzselska says, “It can be hard in both queer and wider culture to confidently own a sexuality that acknowledges desire differently.
“In a cis-heteronormative and homo-normative context, where people are often defined by having a marked and particular binary sexual preference, coming out as greysexual can feel daunting if you're not connected to other greysexuals." Jane recommends talking to people you trust won't judge you first, "so you feel supported and accepted as you go on your journey".
Jane also advises thinking about the contexts in which you can imagine feeling sexual desire and those where you can't. "This will help you to learn where your boundaries lie and are part of the consent process," Jane says. "These boundaries may change over time, with certain people, and in certain situations. That's OK too.”
Remember, human characteristics aren't fixed
“We change throughout our lives. From our cells and bodies to our identities and desires. We may start out knowing or feeling that we are gay or lesbian and binary-identified and then after some time realise that these labels or identities no longer fit us so we need to re-think and re-calibrate and ask, 'Who am I now? What do I now like and dislike?'" Jane says. "Others may well find it difficult to go with your flow but remember this: no one should tell you who you should be or who you are.”