I’ve been thinking about the term “skolioromantic” lately. Like other romantic orientation terms, it’s derived from a word for a sexual orientation — in this case, skoliosexual. They’re not common terms by any means, but I’ve seen them around a few places here and there. While the concept it refers to may be valid, the “skolio” prefix itself is a little dubious, and this post is going to dabble a little in the question of whether it’s the most appropriate choice.
However, before I say anything about that, this post will go over how gender-specific orientation terms (as opposed to orientation terms that reference the attractive genders in terms of correlation to the gender of the attracted individual) can be useful to us. That’s not to say that they should supersede or replace the terms with more familiar prefixes (i.e. “hetero-” & “homo-“) but rather, that gender-specific terms (which do not make any reference to the gender of the attracted individual) may serve certain purposes that the traditional prefixes cannot.
What are you talking about?
Apologies for the verbosity thus far. When I use the phrase “gender-specific orientation terms”, that’s really just a clunky way to refer to the following category of prefixes/orientations:
androromantic — the orientation pertaining to romantic attraction to men and/or masculinity
gynoromantic — the orientation pertaining to romantic attraction to women and/or femininity
The a/bi/pan/poly variations will remain the same either way. “Skolioromantic” has been proposed to fill in the gap, accounting for romantic attraction to androgyny and/or people of non-binary genders.
Do we need a word for that?
Logically, yeah. Consider the following. If we know that we have:
- people who are attracted to members of all genders, including non-binary genders
- people who are attracted to members of only one gender
then in theory, it is at least possible that we could have:
- people who are attracted to members of only one gender, that gender being a non-binary gender
So if we’re going to have gender-specific orientation terms like androromantic and gynoromantic, we should have one exclusively for non-binary gender(s) as well.
But what do we even need those for?
What, you mean andro- and gynoromantic? A couple of reasons.
Gender-specific orientation terms can be handy for generalizations in a certain context. I’ve been in situations where I needed a quick way to convey the idea of “people who are sexually attracted to women” and decided to say “gynosexual people” rather than to write out “straight men, lesbians, bisexual people, etc.” The specifics are still important to acknowledge, but sometimes it can be nice to have a term that says the same thing in a different way.
In addition to simplifying demographic matters, gender-specific orientation terms can solve the problem of finding monoromantic identity labels for non-binary people. If a genderqueer person is attracted to multiple genders or no genders, their label needs can be met with the same terms used by binary people. However, what if they’re attracted to only one particular gender? And what if that gender is a binary gender? What then?
Under the more familiar system of gender-correlation prefixes, heteroromantic and homoromantic are the only options. Non-binary people are neither men nor women exclusively, so “homoromantic” would be inaccurate, unless the individual is a attracted to gender they consider similar to their own. “Heteroromantic”, on the other hand, could be misleading.
Technically, considering the meaning of “hetero”, all that’s needed to qualify is that the people involved (the attractive and the attracted) be of “different” genders, which doesn’t have to mean binary genders. For many people, though, “hetero” has associations of “men and women” and the gender binary. For that reason, some might want to avoid it. Yet even setting that aside, the label of heteroromantic can be seen as insufficient to describe the pattern of attraction for a non-binary individual because — due to the word being generally used to refer to attraction to men or women — the word does not specify which of the two is the target of attraction when the person experiencing the attraction is not of a binary gender. One could even argue that it could refer to someone’s romantic attraction to people of both binary genders but not of their own gender. It’s a complete mess.
So that’s why it’s nice to have gender-specific orientation terms.
Then why “skolio” for the non-binary prefix?
Good question. “Andro” means man, “gyno” means woman, but there’s not exactly a Greek word for genderqueer people, as far as I know. The use of the “skolio” prefix (in the context of orientation terms) seems to have originated from this image.*
*Note: this image features an incorrect, binarist definition of bisexuality.
In the fine print, the creator of this graphic admits/claims “I invented that term [skoliosexual] using the Greek word for queer”. Although I’m not a student of Greek, I’m skeptical of the idea that the word “skolio” is the word for “queer” — or whether Greek-speakers even conceptualize queerness in any way similar to the way Anglophones do. Someone who knows more about Greek will have to comment on that.
Though there’s not much out there to be found, a cursory search brought me this other piece of discussion over the term.
Someone in the comments pointed out that “skolio” (σκόλιον) translates more like “tortuous” while “allotropo-” (αλλότροπο-) translates more like “different,” and suggested a change to “allotroposexual”, while someone else suggested the meaning of “skolio” as “bent” or “curved”. It is rather a recently created term which is subject to variation and questioning. σκολιος (skolios) is related to the term scoliosis, a medical condition with no relation to a sexual terminology, so this may pose an issue as well.
Admittedly, “skolio” does make me think of scoliosis, but then again, that doesn’t have to be any more of an obstacle than the alternate definitions of asexuality. On the other hand, the etymological relation to genderqueerness seems tenuous at best. On the other other hand, it’s already made some headway, and it’s not too much of a mouthful. Aesthetically, I kind of like it, but that’s not what’s important in the grand scheme of things.
Is “skolio” a good prefix to keep? Should we start using something else in its place? I don’t know. One thing’s for sure; it’s not really for binary people to decide. To any non-binary people who are reading: what do you think?
P.S. There are a few places where “skolioromantic” and/or its sexual counterpart have been defined (at least in part) as attraction to trans people. This is incorrect because it implies there are no trans people of binary genders. The only trans people that the skolio prefix (or any replacement) can refer to are the those whose gender identities are non-binary.
However, I’m loosely cis myself, so if any of this (this section or the whole post) is inaccurate, I am open to corrections.