When we define pansexuality we need to be careful of the terminology we use. Most importantly, we have to differentiate between bisexuality and pansexuality. Bisexual people are attracted to people who identify with more than one gender. Whether pansexual people can be attracted to people who identify with all genders. In other words, pansexuality is a sexual orientation and a pansexual person can be described as gender blind because they can be attracted to people of any gender.
In order for this to really make sense, we need to remember that gender occurs on a spectrum. We also need to acknowledge that bisexual people do not support a binary model of gender identity as their moniker might suggest. What it does mean is that people who identify as bisexual are only attracted to certain genders, somewhere on the spectrum, whereas pansexual people embrace the entire spectrum.
It is very important not to use ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ interchangeably as there is a big difference between the two. Sex is often something entirely physical and biological and does not always coincide with feelings of gender identity. In fact, biological sex can cause anguish for some people and is often quite sensitive when talking about the gender spectrum.
This is because not everyone identifies with their biological sexual characteristics. They might feel like they identify with different genders that what can be readily seen on their bodies. Gender identities are greatly varied, and multiple genders exist on the spectrum. It is important for people to express their gender identities.
Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
There are three elements to the spectrum that play a part in gender identity.
- Social Gender
Generally, we believe that there are only two biological sexes, but this is also not entirely accurate and is coming into question in today’s society, simply because there are so many physical variations to sex organs and sexual experiences (physically speaking).
Even biologically speaking, sex is not experienced the same way between two people who share the same biological sex. There is also a wide range of differences in biological sexual representation that might not be readily obvious to the untrained eye but will definitely play a part in an individual’s eventual sexual identity.
Identity refers to our internal experiences. Although this sometimes corresponds with physical sex characteristics, it often does not. What is important is that we can identify and express our own sexuality regardless of gender identities.
Social gender refers to aspects like gender expression. How we communicate our identity to the community at large. It can also refer to how people express attraction to people.
It is only once we understand this spectrum that we can even begin to attempt to understand the intricacies of sexual orientation and romantic or sexual attraction.
Sexual or Romantic Attraction To People
Sexual attraction refers to what features and traits a person is sexually attracted to. Where romantic attraction refers to features and traits that a person is romantically attracted to. Sexual orientation often works closely together with sexual attraction. Whereas romantic orientation works with romantic attraction.
The two are not interchangeable and do not always correspond with each other. For example, people who identify as pansexual are sexually attracted to people regardless of gender identities, but that does not necessarily mean that they are romantically attracted to everyone. They might be romantically attracted only to nonbinary people, or people who identify with only one gender. Romantic and sexual orientation can vary greatly from one person to another.
This is a very narrow view on gender that calls for only two genders that are opposite to one another. Men and women, males and females, are gender-binary terms that can be problematic for individuals who do not identify as cisgender.
People who identify as pansexual definitely reject the idea of gender being binary as pansexuality clearly references multiple genders. The broader LGBTQ community also rejects the concept of a gender binary model. There are also people who identify as non-binary where they do not have a strong connection with either feminine or masculine traits. There are also people who are gender fluid and tend to move around the spectrum and identify as one gender now and other genders later, etc.
Then, of course, there are transgender people who feel like they belong to a gender that is different from their physical characteristics, they feel like they should have been born with a different sex.
Of course, this is where pansexuality comes in because pansexual people are attracted to people regardless of their gender.
Common Misconception of Pansexuality
For the most part, the biggest misconception about pansexuality remains the confusion with the bisexual sexual orientation. Both of these are indeed sexual orientations, but they are not the same. The word pansexual means to be able to have an attraction to anyone, not being limited by gender identities or sexual identity.
Pansexual people do fall under the bisexual umbrella, but they are only a subgroup among many other orientations.
This concept has been around for quite a while and aims to incorporate many sexual orientations as extended fixtures of the bisexual community. This would include, but is not limited to; bisexual people, people of a pansexual orientation, polysexual people, and flexi’s (people who are flexible in their attractions). This is not an exhaustive list, but are the orientations most often included under the umbrella.
Pansexual individuals and bisexual people are often mistaken for being the same, as we have discussed already. This is mostly because of misconceptions of gender. Because of these misconceptions, it is important for us to be careful how we describe sexual orientation, and when we use terms like “same-gender”, “gender fluid”, “two or more genders”, etc.
Even we described as pansexual people or bisexual people. A bisexual person can be attracted to more than one gender, but that description is too narrow for pansexuality. Pansexuality refers to attraction to ALL or ANY gender. Bisexuality refers to attraction to more than one gender, but NOT all or any.
There can be many determining factors for where an individual falls under the bisexual umbrella. But for the most part, the main determining factor will be personal preference.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I be bisexual and still identify with pansexuality as well?
Generally no, because both pansexuality and bisexuality refer to sexual orientations you would not be identifying with both. It is then more likely that you identify with a demi or flexi type of orientation.
Is being bisexual wrong?
No, no sexual orientation is wrong. You feel how you feel and that is okay.
Is pansexuality wrong?
No, much like our answer to the above question, you feel how you feel and that is okay.