Pansexuality: because bisexuality is so passé?

Pansexuals strike back

When I talk to people about gender and sexuality, a lot of people tell me that they “don’t fit into any category of sexuality”. Then I tell them about pansexuality, and I usually get an “oh, right. That’s what I am”.

Pansexuality describes a sexual orientation wherein a person has the ability to be attracted to a diverse range of people across sex and gender spectrums. Pansexuals describe their attraction as different from bisexuality, which only considers the gender binary- if you are bisexual, by definition you are attracted to either men or women. Thus it is often claimed that pansexuals are “gender blind” (though some pansexuals would argue that this is not the case- sex and gender may play a role in attraction, but their sexual orientation doesn’t rule anybody out because of their sex or gender presentation).

While academia seems to be running to catch up, some of the most interesting perspectives on pansexuality come from YouTube posts like this. What seems startlingly obvious about the presence of pansexual self-proclaimers on the internet, is their age. While I’m sure that with the evolution of the term into more popular usage there will be more and more people of all ages that adopt the category to describe their own orientation – but for now, it seems that (overwhelmingly) Generation Z is embracing the idea.

The pan flag

It will be interesting to see how this identity discourse will pan out. What effect will pansexuality as an accepted and well known sexual orientation have on our views on sexuality’s relationship with the gender binary in the first place?

What’s great about pansexuality is that it allows a new way of thinking about desire and love, that is (apparently) outside of gender. Though, I do find the pansexuality vs bisexuality debate a little concerning (our sexuality is better than your sexuality- really?). Admittedly there are both those asserting their pansexuality and those reclaiming bisexuality in the face of the new pansexual discourse.

After all, I can’t help but wonder whether some people currently identifying as bisexual meant something closer to pansexual all along?

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7 thoughts on “Pansexuality: because bisexuality is so passé?

  1. I think the dyad bisexual/pansexual is probably less good than queer/pansexual might have been. “Queer” already attempted to move out of the binary gender mode, and away from fixed identities like “gay” “lesbian” or “bisexual”. So, how to you see the evolution from “queer” to “pansexual”, since it seems more young people are now identifying as pansexual than as queer? How do you see the identities as differentiating?

  2. I am attracted to men and women (both cis and trans), including butches, femmes, androgynes, genderqueers… the whole shebang. I still like the word “bisexual,” though. Why? Because it has a history; because it, like the word “queer,” is a word that has been historically used to oppress, but has since been reclaimed. I interpret it as meaning attraction to people of a DIFFERENT gender (this encompasses not only cis men and trans men, in my case, but anyone who identifies as neither male or female) and people of a SIMILAR gender (cis women, trans women). It is the first word I learned to refer to non-monosexual people. It is a word that has been stigmatized by monosexuals everywhere. It is a word that has a growing community. Sure, “pan” works too; many might have great arguments about why it works better in my case. But a bi person and a pan person can be equally identical in everything about their sexual attractions and romantic desires. They, moreover, can be aware that the other term exists, and STILL identify the same way. And there is nothing wrong with that. Really, there is no right answer; it is just how you feel most comfortable identifying as. I also want to maintain that both bisexuals and pansexuals, as well as other non-mono people (who can go by fluid, ambisexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, biromantic, panromantic, AC/DC, ad infinitum), should put aside their differences and work together in solidarity. Remember that nobody can police your identity but yourself; also remember that it’s a tough world out there for non-monosexuals.

    • Awesome cozyblanket, I love discovering new terms too- I think the more words we have available to us, the deeper our self understanding (in a way)! I’d say spread the word- you’re not the first person I’ve talked to that’s revised their bi title after hearing about pansexuality 🙂

    • That’s exactly what happened to me. I always said I was bisexual, but I always felt that there was more to it than that. Then I looked up pansexuality to see what it was, and it described me perfectly.

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