You may have heard the term used more recently, but be left wondering what is pansexual? With more visibility for pansexuality - thanks to pansexual celebrities like Janelle Monaé and Miley Cyrus speaking openly about their sexuality - it's important to know the difference between pansexual, queer, bisexual, and all the other brilliant LGBTQ+ identities. Here, Lana Peswani, a volunteer at Stonewall who identifies as pan explains the definition and meaning of pansexual.
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 other genders, 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 fuck them? I wonder what their genitals look like." That thought doesn't enter my head.
Here's what you need to know about pansexuality.
Pansexual is not the same as 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 or trans people for example). 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.
Pansexuals 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.
Pansexual/polyamorous/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.[instagram]https://www.instagram.com/p/ByVOq2Zh4Ty/[/instagram]
'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.
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.
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.
IRL pansexual people on their identity
1."I use bisexual and pansexual for my orientation, meaning I am attracted to everyone. Bisexual is easier to understand for most, but pansexual is more accurate [for me]."
2."[I identify as] pansexual, though the very few times I've talked about it I've said bisexual. I'd just rather not explain myself to others and most people know what bisexuality is without having to ask."
3."I use bisexual, though some people might think that's not the most accurate term for me to use. I can be attracted to pretty much any configuration of identity, presentation, and hardware. So long as I find them attractive in the first place, which some consider pansexual, but I've never been comfortable with the term. Queer feels too vague for me, but I understand how it's helpful for people who have more complicated preferences than I do."
"I'd just rather not explain myself to others"
4."So if someone asks me what my sexual orientation is, I say bisexual or pansexual, depending on how old and Tumblr-y they are. If I’m talking to a coworker, and my sexual inner life is less relevant than, 'What’s the gender of your partner' I might say lesbian. I include myself in groups I describe as queer. I think the world is a lot easier to get along in when you stop feeling like you have to find a term that perfectly fits you like a diagnosis. Straight people don’t have to tell every stranger about the one time they fantasised about a cute butt in a locker room in order to live authentically so why should I?"
5."I'm bisexual/queer/pansexual. Attracted to multiple genders/sexes."
6."[I identify as] bisexual or pansexual, depending on the audience and how deep I want to get into my sexual identity. To most I like men and women, to others I like men, women, trans and non-binary people. Honestly, I've always felt like I identify more as queer in regards to both my sexual and gender identity, but I kind of feel... I dunno, not queer enough to use that label."