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.

a diagram of the gender possibilities of sexual attraction

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.

Genderqueer Identities

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.


16 responses to “Skolioromanticism

  • Siggy

    In the 2011 AAW census, it only asked who people were romantically attracted to, rather than romantic identity. One result was that about 1% said they were attracted to non-binary people, and not to binary people. For lack of a better term, I called this group “androgynoromantic”, but I’m not fond of the term, and not fond of imposing it on other people.

    This is all to say that, yes, I agree that there is a need for a term like “skolioromantic” or other.

    • acetheist

      Good to hear there’s data for it! So it’s not just “in theory”. Cool.

      I think I’ve seen that term (androgynoromantic) at least once before, but yeah, it might not be the best option. As I understand it, there are non-binary people who don’t consider their identity to be a combination of binary genders and who wouldn’t be accurately described by androgyno- as a prefix.

  • swankivy

    I have seen some people using “ambiromantic” to mean what you’re discussing as “skolioromantic” here, but I think it’s a little weird because the SAME place had that listed as a synonym to “biromantic.” Anyway, I like “skolioromantic” (but I am not non-binary so it’s not really for me to name). I am writing a book about asexuality and skolioromanticism IS discussed in the book. I also mention transromanticism. I saw this discussed as trans* people who are attracted only to other trans* people. (And I guess they could describe it further by calling themselves transgyneromantic or transandroromantic if they wanted to specify gender.) But the place I saw it defined specifically said that trans* people are generally the only people who should use the word for their attractions. For cis people, it’s more respectful for them to say they’re attracted to the gender that the trans* people they’re attracted to are.

    • acetheist

      Whoa, swankivy commented on my post. Livin’ the ace blogger dream.

      Yeah, while terms can have some definition overlap, I think we should at least maintain a clear distinction between multiromantic terms and monoromantic terms.

      And I was about to say, “transromantic” sounds like it could be fetishy or misgendering, but as long as it’s not cis people using it, I guess that’s okay.

      • swankivy

        LOL, I’m part of a fulfillment of a dream? I didn’t know I was that important. Haha.

        Yes, I think a cis person calling themselves transromantic would be weird because it’s sort of “chaser”-like and there are all kinds of Bad Things attached to that. But anyway, some of the trans* people who have read that section of my book have suggested modifications and have said actually “transromantic” isn’t very commonly used even within the trans* community; some trans* people prefer to only date people with similar histories to theirs, but it’s not actually the basis of attraction for many of them. So it should be used with care if it’s used at all; better to just use the genders you’re attracted to since otherwise it suggests that the trans* person is some non-authentic or different version of that gender.

  • Jillian

    As a genderless person, I think it’s a good idea to have a term like skoliosexual, because I wouldn’t want anything related to andro- and gyno- applied to me. I have been getting out of the business of worrying about labels lately, but if other nonbinary people like skolio-, then I say go for it.

  • M.J.

    I am a genderqueer person and I personally like that there is a term for attraction to genderqueer/non-binary people (not all genderqueer people are non-binary). I like the separation from the gender-binaric terms.

  • Anna

    As a native Greek speaker, I find the prefix “skolio” extremely problematic, and feel it is missing -or misrepresenting- the point. Apart from its very obvious medicinal connotation (see scoliosis), it is not used like that, and does not encompass the idea of queerness. As language is often a random, living, thing where concepts are named arbitrarily, I could see this catching on, but since it’s still in the early stages of its conception, perhaps we could find something else that more accurately represents the idea of being (primarily) attracted to non-binary individuals.
    It wouldn’t even have to follow the Greek/Latin (medical terminology) paradigm, since it is not a medical categorisation, and does not need to evoke such a status. Let’s be creatively queer in linguistics as well I say! :-)
    With queer regards,

  • L

    So I’m non-binary in identity and expression (a 4-6 on a feminine-masculine spectrum) and am romantically attracted to people who are relatively androgynous (a 3-6 on a feminine-masculine spectrum). In general verbal conversation with friends I call myself gay because that’s how I identify. However, the issue of cisnormative assumption comes up when I have no method of elaborating on my non-cisness where, for example, sexuality is not the topic directly in discussion. It becomes then a question of whether to give the assumption that I am cisgender (inaccurate) or the assumption that I am attracted to more than one trinary expression (bisexual: inaccurate) or the assumption that I am asexual (not sexually attracted to anyone: inaccurate). In looking for a word that will easily convey my orientation, something like skiliosexual is the least inappropriate way to answer a question of “what is your sexuality” without outing my trans status or needing to elaborate on my [complex] asexuality. Someone not knowing what it means will cause a “what’s that?” to which the easy reply is “attracted to androgynous people only.” And that terminates the incredibly unnecessary topic of debate. In forums where discussion is appropriate, maybe a better term could be used, but I feel like coming up with an umbrella term for the very few people who feel the effects of this phenomenon is outweighed by the fact that regardless of what the term is, any forum in which a one-word answer is warranted is not a forum in which a skiliosexual/romantic person has the need to elaborate on what their identity means. Introducing a mouthful of a word like “androgynosexual” can be overkill. If that makes sense? That said, skiliosexual is linguistically inaccurate. Not a bad thing in of itself, but for a widely unknown identity, that inaccuracy can cause huge issues in communication. Androgynosexual is not binary, in a sort of response to some other comments: androgyny – depending on which dictionary you consult – is, while still utilizing the binary in prefix, not binary at all. Androgyny is the neutral combination OR absence of masculine and feminine, the creation of either an aesthetic that is 50% of the time viewed as feminine and 50% of the time as masculine OR 100% of the time unknown. But then there’s the skiliosexual people who aren’t attracted to neutralized androgyny, rather a more flavorful combination of gender mixing. Can we argue that a person with a hypermasculine physique in glittery makeup is androgynous if we are claiming that androgyny is neutralization? Or, is a butch lesbian “androgynous” even when she presents and identifies actively as a hypermasculine female? It is andro-gyn-ous in that it is a non-binary combination of masculine and feminine characteristics, but would someone who is solely attracted to one of those particular expressions be considered androgynosexual? On another note, why should only non-binary people be allowed to use the term, whatever it may be? If there is a cis person who is only attracted to people outside of the binary (in identification or in presentation) then how else are they expected describe it? If men, women, and non-binary people are allowed to use the term homosexual, why can’t men, women, and everyone else all get to use the term for this? I’m attracted to women, men, or anyone else as long as they fall inside my range of identification/presentation. It just happens that my range spans mostly people who are non-binary-identifying or androgynously presenting. Cis people are just as able to fall in love with non-binary and non-binary-presenting-people as I am. It’s not disrespectful to say it, just on the basis that you are cis. Obviously too there are differentiations for when the only women you’re attracted to are trans women, for example, but that’s not relevant in the skiliosexual debate simply because trans women are women like any other woman and therefore not non-binary unless they identify and/or present as such. Also important to remember that a lot of attraction isn’t identity-based. Just because a straight woman falls in love with a non-binary person does not mean that she is being disrespectful. Verbal identification is not – as much as we’d like to this it is – the only factor in determining whether a person is inside your attraction range. <3 Lixi

  • Joshua

    I identify as skoliosexual. I am not interested in straight women as they come off as fake to me. I also noticed that my personality has more similarities with that of queer or gender queer women. I have been personally using the identification at Atlanta Pride this past weekend and a handful of people were interested. Some people are very interested in giving skolio’s their own flag. The vendor of Strongestlink has asked me to send her the chart by

  • Serena

    I’m nonbinary and am attracted to fellow nonbinary individuals. So I love the word skolioromantic!

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