When looking for queer representation in today’s culture, pansexuality is an orientation that is less visible than others (like straight, lesbian, gay, or bisexual). As more celebrities (more on this later) have recently come out as pansexual, and many folks identify this way, it is essential to break down what this term means. In this article, we will define what pansexuality is, how it is different than bisexuality, and what it means to be pansexual.
What Is Pansexuality?
Pansexual means being attracted to any person regardless of their gender identity or sex. GLAAD defines pansexuality as someone “attracted to all genders and sexes, or regardless of gender and sex, and who identifies as pan.” They also mention that pansexuality falls under the Bisexual+ umbrella, along with other identities like queer, omnisexual, and polysexual.
Is It a New Term?
The term pansexual has been around for a while. The word is derived from the Greek prefix “pan,” meaning “all.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “pansexual” was first popularized in 1914 by Sigmund Freud to conclude that sex was the motivator of all things. The term pansexuality is used much differently today than it was back then about psycho analytics.
The current meaning of pansexuality developed out of activism and identity reclamation. Early social media communities were part of the reason that the community grew so much.
In 2010, the pansexual pride flag was introduced on the web with a pink stripe, blue stripe, and yellow stripe in the middle. This flag encompasses various gender identities like trans, non-binary, intersex, agender, bigender, third gender, and more.
In 2018, “pansexual” became one of the most common searched words in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. This happened right after Janelle Monáe’s Rolling Stone interview, where she talked about identifying as pansexual.
How People Express their Pansexuality
Pansexuality is also associated with the rejection of the gender binary. The term requires much more than a simple definition – it is a way to express and interpret sexual orientation on a personal level. Some people who identify as pansexual may have their own specific view on what it implies.
What Does It Mean to Be Pansexual?
Pansexuality describes various experiences. Here are some ways pansexual people can express their identities:
By being open to possibilities.
Many people gravitate towards the term pansexual because it is inclusive and opens them up to relationships with people of different gender identities. Pansexual people may also be open to having intimate relationships with people of other sexual orientations, including asexual or demisexual.
Can still have preferences.
Some pansexual people identify as gender-blind, meaning they are equally attracted to all genders. Others, some of whom identify as omnisexual (being sexually attracted to all genders but gender still plays a role in attraction), have a preference or find themselves attracted to specific genders.
Pansexuality is about more than just sex.
Pansexuality can encompass many types of relationships. For some, pansexuality could be an emotional attraction, and for others, sexual attraction and intimate sexual relationships could be what defines their pansexuality.
What’s the Difference Between Being Pansexual and Being Bisexual?
There can be much overlap between bisexuality and pansexuality. Bisexuality usually refers to sexual or romantic attraction to people who have more than one gender identity. On the other hand, as previously mentioned, pansexuality is a sexual or romantic attraction to people of all genders or regardless of gender. What it means to be pansexual or bisexual is whatever it means to the individual and their identity.
For a pansexual person, gender doesn’t always come into play for attraction. As for bisexual people, it’s worth noting that bisexuals aren’t only attracted to binary genders. They can be attracted to transgender and non-binary folks as well as other gender-fluid identities.
Is Pansexuality Biphobic?
Some people may think that pansexuality is biphobic and that it appropriates the definition of bisexuality. However, bisexuality and pansexuality are two distinct sexual orientations and not the same at all. Also, a person who is attracted to all genders can identify as pansexual and bisexual and use both terms. The label is up to the person and what makes them feel the most like themselves.
Is Pansexual the Right Term for My Sexual Orientation?
There’s no sure way to determine your sexual orientation, but you can ask these questions to help discover your sexual identity:
- Is there any gender to which you are not attracted?
- What word feels like it fits best to describe your sexual orientation?
- What community do you most identify with?
It’s important to remember that sexual orientation is fluid, and you can identify with a different term later.
What Celebrities are Pansexual?
More celebrities are coming out as pansexual, and there is much more representation these days. Here are some pansexual celebrities:
- Janelle Monáe
- Miley Cyrus
- Demi Lovato
- Bella Thorne
- Tess Holliday
- Nico Tortorella
- Cara Delevingne
- JoJo Siwa
- Lottie Moss
- Héloïse Letissier aka Christine and the Queens
- Joe Lycett
- Brendon Urie
- Asia Kate Dillon
- Courtney Act, aka Shane Jenek
- Brooke Candy
Here are some pansexual film and television characters:
- Donald Glover’s character Lando Calrissian (in Solo: A Star Wars Story)
- Ryan Reynolds’ character Deadpool (in Deadpool)
- Dan Levi’s character David Rose (in Schitt’s Creek)
Pansexuality Continues to Evolve
Pansexual Pride is alive and well these days, and Pansexual Pride Day is celebrated on December 8 each year. Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness & Visibility Day is coming up on May 24. The term continues to become more inclusive and expands upon how people use the word to define themselves.