Many people don't realise they're pansexual until they have the word explained to them. I was lucky enough to have a close friend explain to me what it was when I was 17. I'd always known I was attracted to a person's presence, but had left my sexuality strictly unlabelled until that day, when it all came together.
As a pansexual person, as well as fancying males, females and others, I feel I experience sexual attraction differently to the average person. I never look at someone and think, "I wonder what it'd be like to f*ck them? I wonder what their genitals look like." That thought doesn't enter my head.
Here's what you need to know about pansexuality.
1. It's NOT the same as being bisexual
While there are definitely some similarities, there are some distinctive differences between the experiences of being bi and being pan. Bisexuality is where someone's attracted to people of more than one gender (whether that's male, female, non-binary, trans people, etc). Whereas pansexuals 'don't see gender' — this might be hard to wrap your head around but bear with me on this.
I, personally, get drawn in by a person's 'vibes' and the 'feel' I get from them as a being. A person's energy when they walk into a room is the most important thing here, and I tend to fall in love with overall beauty (which I see in EVERYTHING.)
Gender is just not a thing that comes into it at all for me as this overall 'picture' of the person is what creates the attraction. I believe that there are more than two genders and that gender works along a spectrum. My attraction spans the entire spectrum and my brain just does not divide people up into categories.
I don't know if this is just a pan thing or if it's even related, but I am especially attracted to people who are androgynous, non-binary, gender fluid and trans. This is not to say that bi people don't experience all of the above, too.
2. We don't only fancy people based on their personality
There's a word for that: demisexual (when you only ever experience attraction to others after getting to know them).
I fully believe that you can be a shallow-ass person when it comes to looks (I know I am!) and still be fiercely pansexual.
3. Pan/poly/gender fluid are NOT "all the same thing"
These are all very different things. 'Pan' refers to sexuality - who you're attracted to.
'Poly' (or polyamorous, as opposed to monogamous) refers to the types of relationships you have - are you happier committing to just one person at a time or do you feel more comfortable having more than one relationship at once? This doesn’t mean you have to actively date multiple people all of the time, it just means that you have the capacity to love more than one person at once. Which is lovely, really.
'Gender fluid' refers to a person's own gender identity and comes from within - this is about how they 'feel' they fit into the social notion of gender. If you’re genderfluid, you may well feel like you identify with a mix of many genders at once, or maybe your experience of your own gender might fluctuate from day to day.
4. Pansexuals are not "confused"
Okay, stop right there, hun. As humans, we all know who we are internally and I've always had a strong sense of that. I knew from a very, very young age who I was attracted to and how I was attracted to them. I never grew up questioning my sexuality or feeling confused - I just knew.
5. Being pansexual does not mean you have sex with frying pans
Seriously. The number of people that ask me that is ridiculous. You're not smart and you're not funny.
This piece was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.