What is Pansexuality? What's the Difference Between It and Bisexuality?

Published September 23rd, 2021 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler

What is Pansexuality?  | Difference between pansexuality and bisexuality | Difference between pansexuality and polysexuality | Pansexual Relationships

Many people are unaware of the term pansexuality and may mistake it for bisexuality. But what is pansexuality? Is there a difference between pansexuality and bisexuality? And how does someone identify as pansexual? We will answer all these questions surrounding pansexuality and more. 

What is pansexuality? 

The word pansexual is derived from the ancient Greek word "pan" which means "all." So the term pansexual means attraction to all genders, which includes transgender people. It's more than just bisexuality. Pansexual people are attracted to someone regardless of their gender identity or biological sex and would be open to dating all genders, including the genders outside of their own cisgender identity. This can include trans-men and trans-women who identify as male or female, respectively. A person could identify as male and still date a non-binary or transgendered person. However, they don't have to identify with either binary option in order for this to happen. Meanwhile, someone who identifies as bisexual may not necessarily want to date people outside of their identified gender (cis). There are many misconceptions about what this orientation entails, but it's important for you to know the facts so that you understand them better.

What is the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality? 

Bisexual means someone who is attracted to two genders - male and female; whereas a person who identifies as pansexual might be attracted to all other types of people not listed above, including those outside their own gender identity. Pan means "all" so this sexual orientation includes transgender individuals along with cisgender males and females identifying as bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual etc.

Both terms refer primarily to sexual attraction rather than behavior. There does tend to be a higher percentage of people who identify as bisexual, which may have something to do with the fact that pansexuality is newer and less familiar. In addition, some believe that paneroticism implies an interest in sexuality regardless of gender identity or sex while bisexual eroticism suggests interest only within contemporary western culture.

What is the difference between pansexuality and polysexuality? 

Polysexual people are attracted to many genders (male and female) while pansexuals are attracted to all other genders outside their own cisgender identity. The key difference being that polysexual people are not attracted to certain genders. For example, a polysexual person may be attracted to all people except women, whereas a pansexual person is attracted to any person, regardless of gender or how they choose to identify. Polyeroticism refers to multiple types of attraction. This can include sexual, romantic, or emotional, whereas paneroticism defines one's sexual identity as including everyone regardless of gender identity or sex.

Is pansexuality called anything else?

Pansexuals are sometimes called omnisexual too. "Omni" being the Latin term for "all" while "pan" means the same thing in Greek. The two words have a muddied history regarding if they are describing the same thing. They are often used interchangeably but that is not always the case. There is a belief by some people that omnisexuality is more all-encompassing because gender still plays a role in the attraction, even if the person is attracted to all genders. 

How do pansexual relationships work? 

Pansexuality means no gender preference and can mean many things but it does not necessarily have anything to do with whether somebody is monogamous or polyamorous. Although someone who identifies as pansexual might well prefer these lifestyles the term pansexual does not denote it. For some people, pansexual simply means attraction towards all sexes and genders equally while others might see it as the fluidity of preferences over time.

Pansexuality relationships work similarly to all other relationships. Some people prefer not to use the term "relationship" because it can be very limiting, but for simplicity's sake, we will refer to all pansexual dynamics as being either a relationship or having a partner from now on. Although pansexuals are attracted to all genders, this does not mean that pansexuals are attracted to every single person they see. It may seem that way because of the assumption that everyone in a homosexual or bisexual-based community must be sexually promiscuous. Pansexuals are often put into this same stereotype even though they do not act on these impulses. This is a common misconception that is false. Just because somebody is capable of loving people of all genders does not mean that they will try to start a relationship with everyone. A pansexual person can be just as picky when picking a partner just like a hetero/homo/bisexual person. 

Pansexual communities welcome everybody regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. The pansexual community is very supportive and loving, just like many other communities. People who identify as pansexual can usually fall under the umbrella term of "queer" along with all of its connotations.

As with any relationship, when dating a pansexual person it's best to be open-minded, patient, understanding, realistic, nonjudgmental, and noncritical. It is also important if one of the partners is not pansexual to communicate with their partner should they have any questions regarding their partner's sexuality. Always respect your partner's boundaries even if they seem "weird" or different from yours. Try not to go in with too many expectations (including outcome expectations; just go with the flow) make sure your partner is not too shy to express their desires. It's always best if both partners can communicate effectively, whether it be about sex and intimacy issues or about other problems in the relationship. 

Summary

Pansexuals are attracted to all genders, including non-binary people. While bisexuals typically only like men and women and sometimes transgender people, pansexuals can be sexually or romantically involved with anyone regardless of their sex or gender identity/expression. The difference between pansexuality and bisexuality comes down to attraction, whereas someone who identifies as a bisexual person will have certain preferences when it comes to who they want. Someone who is pansexual has no specific preference for either male or female. Polysexuality simply means that someone is attracted to more than one gender but not all genders. Sometimes omnisexual is used interchangeably with pansexual but not everyone ascribes the same meaning to both. These terms do not denote whether someone prefers monogamy over polyamory. Communication is vital to any relationship and the same rings true for dating pansexuals. Being mindful of your partner's wants and needs from the relationship is crucial to its success, regardless of your sexuality. We hope this article gives you a better understanding of pansexuality and a deeper understanding of this community. 

References and Sources: 

Wikipedia - Pansexuality

Pansexuality - GLAAD

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