The idea of pansexuality is newer than some other sexual orientation terms, but it is a necessary label for a unique and important experience that has been a part of human existence since the beginning.
What is pansexuality?
Pansexuality, based on the Greek prefix “pan” meaning “all,” is the sexual and/or romantic attraction to people regardless of their gender identity.
In other words, pansexuals don’t find the gender or gender expression of others to be important with regards to their attraction. Some people use the word “gender-blind” to describe themselves and their sexual tastes. This may often be mistaken for bisexuality, but they are not the same—pansexuality has a distinctive philosophy.
Let’s explore some facts and myths about pansexuality.
Myth #1: Pansexuality isn’t real.
Pansexuality, just like bisexuality, often gets criticised as being less of a “real” orientation than heterosexuality or homosexuality, but is often even less accepted than bisexuality is. Many people think that bisexuals and pansexuals need to “pick a side” or that they are being indecisive, when that is almost always not the case. While some bisexuals and pansexuals might find that they later identify as hetero- or homosexual, most continue to identify as bi or pan throughout their entire lives.
Fact: Pansexuals find their unique sexual orientation to be an important part of their identity.
Pansexual people often say that their sexual orientation represents a way of thinking about sexuality that is disconnected from traditional ideas, and therefore they often get brushed to the side and minimised.
Pansexuality is becoming a widely-accepted orientation and experience. There are even some notable celebrities who publicly identify as pansexual, including singers Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monae, Brendan Urie, and Angel Haze and Texas legislator Mary Gonzalez.
Myth #2: Pansexuality and bisexuality are the same.
A bisexual (as we will define more specifically in the next section) is someone whose attractions are not limited to one gender. However, they generally do not describe being “gender-blind” like pansexuals do.
Fact: There are many reasons why someone might choose to identify as pansexual over bisexual.
Bisexuals and pansexuals have the ability to be attracted to the same people, but they represent unique experiences of sexuality. To put it simply, the gender of another individual factors into the bisexual experience of sexuality, whereas for pansexuals, it doesn’t.
Myth #3: Pansexuals are the only people who are attracted to non-binary individuals.
This is actually a hotly debated issue among people in the LGBTQ community.
For those who might not be up-to-date on LGBTQ terminology, non-binary individuals are people who identify outside the two traditional choices of male or female. They might experience themselves as all genders, no gender, third gender, or any of a myriad of other choices. Not all transgender people are non-binary; many trans people find that a designation of “man” or “woman” works just fine for them.
Fact: Bisexuals and pansexuals can both be attracted to people of any gender.
While some have criticised bisexuality for not being inclusive of non-binary people, bisexuals have come forward saying that “bi” in this case means “both same and different,” and therefore their orientation includes attraction to non-binary people. Their orientation was named in a time period when people were less knowledgeable and accepting of transgender experiences and might reflect outdated ideas about gender, but that doesn’t mean that their personal beliefs and attraction patterns haven’t changed based on the times.
Around 25% of transgender people (including non-binary people) identify as bisexual, and therefore we can see that much of the trans community agrees that bisexuality is inclusive.
Myth#4: Pansexual people can’t be happy in a monogamous relationship.
This is another myth that pansexuality shares with bisexuality. Many believe that bisexuals and pansexuals can’t be happy in a monogamous relationship because they need sexual experiences with people of a variety of genders.
Fact: Pansexual people can be monogamous or polyamorous.
This is not the case—some bisexual and pansexual people choose to be polyamorous, but many are perfectly satisfied with their monogamous relationships. While bisexual and pansexual people have the ability to be attracted to a variety of people, it doesn’t mean that they need to be engaged in sexual activity with all of them at all times.
This myth is as ridiculous as saying a straight woman can’t be happy with monogamy because she needs sexual experiences with all the different men she might experience attraction to.
Don’t worry—if your monogamous partner is pansexual, they have no higher likelihood of cheating.
Myth #5: Pansexual people are promiscuous and don’t have standards.
While the prefix “pan” means “all,” it’s a common myth that pansexual people are promiscuous and will have sex with anyone they meet.
Fact: Pansexual people find that someone’s gender identity is not important in their attraction or lack thereof.
As we’ve defined above, pansexual people describe their sexual orientation as an experience that doesn’t take someone’s gender into account—that’s all. It doesn’t mean pansexual people are attracted to everyone and anyone.
People with this sexual orientation have types and tendencies to their attraction, just like everyone else.
How do I know if I’m pansexual?
In the end, only you can decide your sexual orientation. While it’s always okay to hear about the experiences of others and talk about your own before you make any kind of decision, you are the only person who can come to a conclusion about your orientation. (You’re also free to never come to any conclusion at all.)
That said, many people who identify as pansexual start out identifying as bisexual instead, because they find themselves attracted to men, women, and other genders too, and bisexuality is a more commonly used term. However, they find that gender doesn’t play an important part in how attracted they are to someone and therefore they start identifying more closely with pansexuality.
Remember that it is always okay to change how you identify, regardless of where you are in your life or who you have come out to!
If you suspect you may be pansexual or another type of LGBTQ, it could be very beneficial to make an appointment with a therapist today to help sort out your feelings and decide if pansexuality is a word you can identify with.
Are you a LGBTQI+ person who is struggling with your life or relationships?
If so, contact Sydney Gay Counselling on (02) 8968 9323 to find out how we can help.