What does it mean?
A heteroflexible person is someone who’s “mostly straight” — they usually find themselves attracted to people of a different gender to them, but occasionally find themselves attracted to people who are the same gender.
This attraction could be romantic (that is, concerning the people you want to date) or sexual (concerning the people you want to have sex with), or both.
Where did the term originate?
The origin isn’t clear, but it seems like the term only started appearing on the internet in the early 2000s.
That’s not to say that the experience of being “mostly straight” is something new. There’s a long history of straight people experimenting with and experiencing a degree of attraction to people of the same gender as them.
What might this look like in practice?
Heteroflexibility is different for every person who identifies with the term.
For example, a heteroflexible man might find himself attracted to women and nonbinary people for the most part but occasionally attracted to men. He may or may not act on this attraction by having sex with or dating a man he’s attracted to.
A heteroflexible woman might find that she’s mostly attracted to men, but open to experimenting with women.
Every heteroflexible person is different, though, and their experiences may look different.
Isn’t that the same thing as being bisexual?
Bisexuality is about being sexually attracted to people of more than one gender.
Heteroflexible people are attracted to more than one gender, so aren’t they technically bisexual?
Indeed, some bisexual people do feel mostly attracted to people of a different gender — bisexuality is a spectrum, and people have varied preferences.
So yes, the definition of heteroflexibility can also fit into the definition of bisexuality. In fact, some people describe themselves as both heteroflexible and bisexual.
Remember: These labels are descriptive, not prescriptive. They describe a range of experiences and feelings; they don’t have strict definitions that you must adhere to in order to use it.
Why is this distinction so contentious for some?
There are a few reasons why the word “heteroflexible” is controversial.
Some people still believe that a person can only be attracted to one gender and that this orientation can’t be flexible.
Another argument is that “heteroflexible” is a bi-phobic term, meaning that it’s bigoted toward bisexual people. This argument is that someone should simply call themselves bisexual if they’re attracted to more than one gender.
In an article in Affinity Magazine, writer Charlie Williams says the term contributes to bi-erasure because what we describe as heteroflexibility is actually just bisexuality.
There’s a common misconception that bisexual people are attracted to people of all genders to the exact same extent, but that’s not true — some bisexual people prefer one gender over others, so the word “heteroflexible” would fit into this definition.
However, as Kasandra Brabaw argues in this Refinery29 article, “People identify as queer, pansexual, fluid, polysexual, and many other words that mean they’re attracted to more than one gender. Those labels aren’t erasing bisexuality, so why is heteroflexible?”
It’s important to remember that, when it comes to orientation, we all get to choose our own labels.
Some people simply feel that “heteroflexible” suits them better than “bisexual,” not because they misunderstand or dislike bisexuality, but because it better describes their experience.
As mentioned before, some people might describe themselves as both bisexual and heteroflexible.
Why might someone opt to use one term over the other?
There are many reasons why people choose to use “heteroflexible” over “bisexual.” For example:
- They might strongly prefer people of different genders to them, and they might feel that “heteroflexible” conveys this specific experience more than “bisexual.”
- They might be open to the idea of being attracted to people of the same gender but aren’t totally sure.
- They might want to acknowledge their privilege as someone who mostly comes across as heterosexual while acknowledging their flexibility.
These are just examples. You might identify as heteroflexible for a totally different reason — and that’s OK!
When figuring out your orientation, it’s a good idea to think about why certain terms resonate with you. However, you don’t have to justify it to anybody else unless you want to.
How do you know if this is the right term for you?
There’s no quiz or test to determine whether you’re heteroflexible. However, you may be able to figure out if you’re heteroflexible by asking yourself the following questions:
- Who do I feel most attracted to?
- Have I felt attracted to people of my gender in the past?
- Did I ever act on those feelings? Did I want to act on those feelings?
- If so, how did it feel?
- In a world where people weren’t homophobic or biphobic, who would I date, sleep with, and be attracted to?
- Would I like to experiment with someone of the same gender?
There are no right answers to these questions — they’re just intended to get you thinking about your orientation, your experiences, and your feelings.
Use them to help you think about the topic, but don’t feel limited by them.
What happens if you no longer identify as heteroflexible?
This is totally OK! Sexuality is fluid, which means it can change over time. You might find that you identify as heteroflexible right now, but after a while, your experiences and feelings may change.
It’s important to remember that a changing orientation doesn’t mean your orientation is invalid or wrong. It doesn’t mean that you were confused — although confusion is fine, too.
No matter whether your identity stays the same your whole life, or whether it changes regularly, you’re valid and the term you use to describe yourself should be respected.
Where can you learn more?
If you want to learn more about queer orientations, there are numerous websites you can visit.
- Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Here, you can search the definitions of different words relating to sexuality and orientation.
- The Trevor Project. This site offers crisis intervention and emotional support to queer youth, including young asexual and aromantic people.
- Online forums. Some examples of these include the Bisexual subreddit and various Facebook groups.