Are You Graysexual? Here’s What It Means, and How to Tell.

Are You Graysexual? Here’s What It Means, and How to Tell.

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“NOT EVERYTHING IS BLACK AND WHITE.” You’ve probably heard someone say this about life at some point. For people who identify as graysexual, the areas of gray hold particular weight when it comes to sexual attraction.

Graysexuality—sometimes spelled “greysexuality,” and sometimes known as gray asexuality, gray-ace, grey-ace, or gray-a—is a term people use to describe their identity. And because it can mean different things to different people, the word can be tricky to define.

What does graysexual mean?

In general, a person who identifies as graysexual is “someone who identifies with the area between asexuality and sexuality,” according to the Asexual Visibility & Education Network. “For example, they may experience sexual attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances, or of an intensity so low that [it] is ignorable and not a necessity in relationships.”

Shadeen Francis, LMFT, CST, licensed marriage and family therapist and board certified therapist, says people who identify as graysexual may relate to statements like:

  • “I feel like I experience sexual attraction occasionally, but only in particular contexts.”
  • “Maybe I like certain kinds of sexual activities, but I’m repulsed by or turned off by others.”

        This lack of sexual attraction to other people is not the same as having low libido due to life or relationship changes, or due to health reasons such as taking certain medications or having certain health conditions. (If you have questions about a potential medical issue, talk with your health care provider.)

        What does graysexuality feel like?

        It can be different for everyone.

        For instance, someone may use this term to show they belong to a community of people who experience little to no sexual attraction, but their attraction is context-based, says Francis. Some people may consider demisexuality—characterized by only experiencing sexual attraction after making a strong emotional connection with a specific person—to be under the graysexuality umbrella.

        “Some demisexuals also relate to other definitions of gray asexuality, such as finding experiences of sexual attraction confusing or hard to pin down,” according to the Demisexuality Resource Center. “It is possible and valid to use both labels if they both apply.”

        According to the Demisexuality Resource Center, people who identify as graysexual may:

        • feel sexual attraction infrequently, of low intensity, to just a few people, or in specific circumstances
        • feel sexual attraction but have no desire to act on it
        • have confusing or ambiguous feelings of sexual attraction
        • feel sexual attraction is not a meaningful concept to them personally

          Not sure how you identify yet? Before settling on a label, Francis encourages people to “take stock of where they are.” Ask yourself questions like:

          • “What brings me pleasure?”
          • “What doesn’t feel good?”
          • “What am I feeling open to?”

            What’s the difference between graysexuality and asexuality?

            Sexual attraction—just one of several kinds of attraction—refers to desiring someone in a sexual way (like desiring sexual activity or touching).

            Someone who identifies as asexual “does not experience sexual attraction or an intrinsic desire to have sexual relationships,” according to the Asexual Visibility & Education Network.” Meanwhile, someone who is allosexual (sometimes called “sexual”) does feel sexual attraction, or desire for other people.

            “A person who identifies as graysexual is often a person who is saying that ‘my identity—my sexual orientation—exists in the gray,’” Francis says. “Graysexuality is part of the larger asexuality, or ace, umbrella.”

            All these labels can help people understand themselves, connect to a community, and find comfort in knowing others feel similarly, according to Francis. “Language helps us understand our experiences,” she says. And if you’re dating someone who identifies with a certain label, having that language can help you learn more about their experience, she adds.

            Labels should help you feel freer, not more boxed in. While terms like graysexual, asexual, and allosexual can help people find belonging, if you do identify with a particular label, it’s not necessary to identify with—or act out—every single attribute, says Eric Marlowe Garrison, a sex counselor and best-selling author.

            Also, remember that sexual attraction isn’t the same as sexual behavior. So a person can choose to have sexual contact for various reasons, even if they don’t feel sexual attraction. (Similarly, a person can choose not to have sexual contact though they do feel the attraction. Because…boundaries, ya’ll.)

            If you feel confused, or want support with processing feelings, you can talk to someone you trust, reach out to people in related online communities and networks, or talk with a therapist trained in sexuality.

            Can you be straight/gay/bi/pansexual and graysexual?

            Yes. People who identify as graysexual may identify with other orientations. (For example: if you’re drawn to people of all genders on the rare occasions you feel sexual attraction, you might be pansexual and graysexual, or gray-pansexual, or pansexual gray-a, or whatever label feels right to you!)

            Also, it’s possible to feel infrequent sexual attraction but still feel romantic attraction. So people may combine labels to communicate about their identities and the relationships they want to have.

            How can you communicate about graysexuality when dating?

            As with any dating relationship, communication is important. So if you’re dating someone who identifies as graysexual, or you identify this way, talk about how you both feel, what you both like and don’t like, and what you both want to do—or not do.

            For instance, if your partner says “I don’t do this X thing,” Garrison says you can look into positive commonalities and discuss what they are comfortable doing.

            “It’s a process of exploration,” says Francis, suggesting that if you experience something that feels unsafe, scary, or “very bad,” to honor that. She also highlights ensuring you have a partner who is patient, communicative, curious, and respectful of boundaries.

            Also know consent is ongoing, and you and your partner can say no at any time.

            If your desires don’t match up, and you’re not able to move forward, understand that it happens. Ideally you can both be honest about how you feel and wish each other the best. Everyone isn’t a match, and that’s okay.

            Finally, if someone who doesn’t understand graysexuality insults you either intentionally or unintentionally, don’t internalize it, Garrison says. Your identity is valid.

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