What Does it Mean to be Pansexual?
Every time I come out as pansexual I have received comments like ‘Pfft, that’s not a real thing’, ‘So… you’re bi?’, ‘PANsexual?! Do you like pots too?’ or ‘What, you’re hot for Peter Pan?’.
Trust me, I’ve heard it all.
Even though I did have a huge crush on Jeremy Sumpter as a child and a non-stick frying pan does make my heart flutter, these remarks make me eye-roll so hard that in the moment, I choose to label myself as bisexual instead.
After talking to some other pan-pals, I know my experience is pretty common.
So, I’m here to shine a light on pansexuality, we’ll explore its definition, how it compares to other sexualities and I’ll give a bit of an insight to what it means for me to be pansexual.
An important idea to keep in mind throughout this article is gender diversity.
Current thought perceives gender as the interrelationship between body, identity and expression which does not always align with the gender binary (the belief that gender and sex are two different and opposite forms) so it is therefore in question.
It is believed that gender can be chosen, changed, and exists more on a spectrum rather than as a binary.
This spectrum is inclusive of all gender expressions, including those who are intersex, transgender, gender non-binary and gender fluid.
Gender diversity exists as the basis of my sexuality and I am a strong believer of this idea.
The capability to be sexually, romantically or emotionally attracted towards persons of all biological sexes and gender identities.
Pansexuality is often likened to bisexuality.
While it’s very similar and many people use them interchangeably (as with several other sexual identities), the subtle nuances and interpretations between them can be very significant to some people.
It’s important for us to recognise and define these identities and allow people to self-identify how they wish.
Traditionally, the capability to have, show or involve sexual or romantic feelings towards both biological sexes. However, bisexuality has many interpretations.
For some people, bisexuality can also mean being attracted to two groups (e.g. women and non-binary people, but not cis-men) or being attracted to one’s own gender/sex and other genders/sexes (i.e. bi = two).
Ambisexual (synonym to bisexual)
The capability to have, show or involve feelings towards both biological sexes.
Omnisexuality is often used as a synonym to pansexuality as it has the same definition.
However some people understand pansexuals as being ‘gender blind’ while omnisexuals recognise gender and are attracted to all of them.
The capability to have, show or involve feelings towards persons of many different sexes and genders, but not all.
The capability to have, show or involve sexual or romantic feelings towards multiple sexes and genders (this is generally used as an umbrella term for all of the above).
Growing up, I only knew of the terms straight, gay and lesbian.
Bisexuality came into play during high school but at the time it was hugely stigmatised and was seen as ‘worse’ than being gay.
People who were bisexual were seen as promiscuous, greedy and weren’t taken seriously – it was always ‘just a phase’.
This interpretation of bisexuality is incorrect and is 100% not okay.
It wasn’t until moving on to university (and away from that cohort) that bisexuality became accepted, and I was one step closer to figuring out who (or what) I was.
I can’t remember where or when I learned the term pansexual, it was probably somewhere on YouTube a few years back. I liked how it sounded, preferred the meaning and here we are.
All of the confusion I felt as I dated boys (and loved it) while being utterly mesmerised by girls who liked girls and falling head over heels for non-binary people, was finally validated.
It actually had a name and there was suddenly a huge group of people that shared my experience.
Now, like I said earlier, I do still identify myself as bisexual on occasion. Honestly, most of the time it’s for the sake of simplicity.
There have been occasions in my life that the “there are more than two genders” conversation isn’t appropriate and might come off as pretentious, so I choose to stick with ‘bisexual’ and continue on.
While I wish this wasn’t the case, it is my reality.
But, that’s okay! I love identifying as bisexual just as much as I do pansexual and will continue to carve out a big ‘love for everyone’ hole in this world as we all learn and grow together.
Eleni is a health communications student from Sydney. Her favourite topics to communicate are sexual health, gender and sexuality; she spends her time smashing taboo topics everywhere she goes.
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