Sexual diversity in the broadest sense


When we’re talking about sexuality, we often talk about sexual diversity as well. In fact, in the Netherlands, sexual health and sexual diversity even has been one of the primary goals in education since 2012. This means that there isn’t just a focus on sexual health in the education program, but also on sexual diversity. But, what is sexual diversity?

Sexual diversity describes the enormous diversity within sexuality, outside the heterosexual norm most people know. But it is also about diversity on the spectrum of gender, and on the spectrum of biological sex. There is a lot of diversity on the spectrum of romantic attraction as well, but we won’t talk about that in this article.

Diversity in sexual orientation

Your sexual orientation describes who you are sexually attracted to. There doesn’t always have to be an overlap between those you feel sexually attracted to and those you have romantic feelings for or who you want to be in a relationship with. The most well-known sexual orientations are heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual. Orientations such as pansexual, demisexual and asexual were added to that list in recent years. On one hand, it is a shame new terms had to be added in order to include all variations of sex, on the other hand it is good that people who are searching for pieces of their sexual identity can recognize themselves in those terms.

Pansexuality means that you can be sexually attracted to anyone, no matter where they are on the spectrum of gender or sex. You’re attracted to a person when you are pansexual, regardless of their gender or sex. This isn’t the same as being bisexual, which means that you are attracted to both women and men. The binary way of thinking (you are either a woman or a man) still applies in bisexuality. Pansexuality goes beyond the binary way of thinking and lets go of these static constructs.

Demisexual means that you can only be sexually attracted to another person, and experience other kind of sexual feelings, when there is an emotional connection. The emotional connection needs to be established first in order for sexual desires to emerge.


Asexuality is the absence of sexual desires or attraction towards any other person. It is not something you choose, but something you are born with. In very rare cases, it can also develop after an intense trauma, but asexuality usually isn’t caused by anything. And because it is something you are born with, some say it is the fourth sexual orientation. You can’t choose who you are sexually attracted to, it is something you are born with.

Within asexuality there are different degrees of how much or how little someone has a desire for intimacy, affection and security, or to engage in a romantic relationship. There can also be a difference in sexual desire: there might be little or no sexual desires at all, but sometimes there is a sexual desire, albeit in a different way. This could mean that someone does masturbate, but doesn’t want to have a sexual relationship with other people. In a relationship, if there is one asexual partner they might still be sexually active together. The initiative likely comes from the partner who does have sexual needs and desires, but the asexual partner responds to it out of willingness and love. This doesn’t mean that person has sex against their will, but it doesn’t mean that they long for sex either. They have sex because they love their partner and they know that their partner does have sexual desires.

Asexuality is a valid sexuality, but there still isn’t enough awareness and accurate information about it in the world. Because little is known about it, too often the term asexual is used in the wrong way, like when women say they are asexual when they notice their sexual desires and needs are not as strong or present as they used to be. But this isn’t what asexuality is. It basically just describes a change in their sexuality, which fits with the idea that sexuality changes constantly over time.

Diversity in gender identity

Besides the diversity in sexual desires, there is also gender diversity. Gender refers to how a person identifies themselves. It is not about sexual attraction or behaviour. It largely is about the biological sex assigned to you at birth.

In the traditional binary way, we are talking about boys, girls, women and men when we talk about gender. And most people 100% identify with their biological genitals, which are either female of male genitals. If we look back in history, there are images to be found of people who can’t fully identify themselves with the gender they were assigned at birth. For instance, someone is born with female genitals, but identifies himself partly or fully with the male gender. And vice versa: someone can identify as a woman, but be born with male genitals. When this happens, it is called gender dysphoria. The diversity within the full range of gender dysphoria is enormous: some don’t identify with their biological gender at all, while others see themselves somewhere between the two genders. Some are unable to embrace their biological genitals, while others don’t mind as much that their gender and genitals don’t align. Not everyone has the desire to change their genitals through hormone treatments or surgery, but most of them do. Furthermore, there is a large diversity in gender expression: how do you dress? How do you move and behave? Which expression, or physical characteristics, do you show?


When we talk about male and female characteristics, female or male genitals, or a female or male identity, we’re describing a binary concept: it’s a dichotomy. But when we talk about gender diversity, it’s important to highlight the concept of non-binary, which literally means ‘none of two’. People who identify as non-binary, don’t identify as a woman or as a man. There are just human beings. What this does to their gender expression and their wish to change their biological genitals differs per person. It is important people know what non-binary is and that it exists, because a lot of people who now identify as non-binary didn’t even know what non-binary is for a very long time. The not-knowing caused a lot of struggles with their identity throughout their life, while they were trying to shape their gender identity and sexual orientation. As long as non-binary people don’t know that they can identify as non-binary, they will probably continue to struggle with their identity.

Diversity in biological sex

Everyone knows what the difference is between female and male genitals, but even within that there is diversity. Intersexuality means being born with both female and male genitals. History shows poignant examples of parents and doctors who have never informed children about their intersexuality, but decided to choose at birth whether that child would go through life as a boy or a girl. As a consequence, those children sometimes develop a very complex combination of mental problems, such as identity problems. In many cases, parents decided at birth whether they wanted to have a daughter or a son and then kept quiet about their child’s complex medical history. Parents often made the ‘wrong’ decision when the other genitals and gender developed in a more dominant way than the one artificially assigned at birth. Nowadays it remains a very complicated situation, but parents and doctors seem to me more hesitant in making any decisions. Ideally, they wait a couple of years before any kind of interference is done, to see how the child develops. The child itself can then be involved in any decision making. Long term, this might cause fewer mental problems and a more positive formation of their identity, but since it is still too early to draw any scientific conclusions, it remains a delicate matter.


All of the terms mentioned above show how diverse sexuality and gender are. We’re still a long way from everyone excepting that it is as diverse as it is, but it is a hopeful development that more and more people can identify themselves with one of the terms described. Once sexual and gender norms are more flexible as they are now, we won’t need as many terms and labels. But until then, it is essential for people to recognize parts of themselves in those terms and labels in order to form their identity. In the coming years, more aspects of the diversity of sexuality will be emphasized, but until then, please remember that within all of that diversity we are all just human beings.

Relevant stories

Respond or ask a question

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Are you going to follow us?