Twenty years ago, the queer community referred to itself as the LGBT community. Now, the full acronym is LGBTQQIAAP2+. (The added letters stand for Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, Pansexual, Two-spirit, and plus for the remaining labels not represented in the acronym.)
Undoubtedly, the growing number of identity labels is a lot to keep track of, but in this explainer, we're going to focus on the P, which stands for pansexuality. In April of 2018, Janelle Monáe came out as queer and pansexual in a Rolling Stone cover story. That day, searches for the word pansexual on Merriam Webster rose by a whopping 11,000 percent, becoming the most looked up word of the day.
So what exactly is pansexuality, who are more likely to identify with the P, and how does it differ from bisexuality? Let's break it down.
Pansexuality can be different from bisexuality, but sometimes, both identities indicate the same attractions.
Confused? You're not alone. Even within the LGBTQ community, people use the label "bisexual" differently. Pansexuality was birthed from this confusion. But let's start with defining pansexual, since it has one universally-accepted definition. Pansexual simply means a person is attracted to all genders. Pan, after all, comes from the Greek prefix meaning "all." Thus, a pansexual person would be attracted to cisgender, transgender, gender nonbinary, genderfluid, and agender folks (a person who doesn't identify with any gender).
Now the prefix "bi," as we're all aware, means two. Because of this, many folks, perhaps even the majority of people, believe that a bisexual person is attracted to only two groups of people: cisgender men and cisgender women. If you're one to believe this, you may think that the term bisexual is exclusive of trans and nonbinary folks. It would also be why you'd likely prefer to use the pansexual label as opposed to identifying proudly as bi.
Here, however, is the kicker. Many folks, myself included, don't view the "bi" in bisexual to mean that they're attracted to only cisgender folks. Instead, we use renown bisexual activist Robyn Ochs' definition: "I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted—romantically and/or sexually—to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree."
With Ochs' definition, bisexual simply means that you're attracted to two or more genders. While this could mean you're attracted to only cisgender men and cisgender women, you could also be like my close friend Sarah. Sarah, 28, is a cisgender woman who identifies as bisexual, and she'll date trans men, cis and trans women, and gender nonconforming folks, but never a cisgender man. She's a perfect example of someone who's bisexual but not pansexual.
However, just like pansexuality, bisexuality can mean you're attracted to all genders too, since, after all, multiple genders can also mean all genders. In fact, actress Sara Ramirez will state she identifies as both pansexual and bisexual since she is attracted to all genders. She's not alone. Many individuals will state they identify as both to illustrate that they're attracted to all genders. (I do this often, too!)
Some pansexual people see gender whereas others do not.
I know...yet another way that pansexuality is confusing, but here's all this means: You'll speak to some pansexual folks who will say they don't believe in gender. My close friend, John, 24, can be heard saying "gender is a social construct" no less than ten times a day. These people see everyone simply as humans with different body parts. Body parts—or how a person expresses their gender—isn't what's attractive to them.
Then you'll have folks who see gender and are actively attracted to various genders. I know I like hyper-masculine men, effeminate women, and more androgynous folks too. I also like the anatomy that comes with different sexes and find myself wanting to be sexual with different genders at various times. Hence, instead of saying, "I'm not attracted to a person's gender, which is why I'll date anyone," I would say, "I'm actively attracted to all genders, which is why I'm open to date anyone."
Younger generations tend to prefer the term pansexual to bisexual.
Due to a combination of more celebrities embracing the label and a desire to be more inclusive, younger generations are significantly more likely to identify as pansexual rather than bisexual. It also makes sense that someone who spent years to finally embrace the bisexual label wouldn't want to throw it away for a new one, especially if they feel as if bisexuality denotes their attraction to all genders.
Yet, like Janelle Monáe, you'll have folks who initially identify as bisexual, but then do in fact decide to change their sexual orientation to pansexual because they feel it's more inclusive of everyone.
Pansexuals aren't more likely to be promiscuous or cheaters.
Just because you have the capacity to be sexually attracted to everyone, doesn't mean that you want to have sex with everyone. "We still have standards," John explained to me, when I asked him about his pansexuality. "And as for this idea that I'm more likely to cheat? Have you met straight people? They cheat all the damn time. So do gays. So does everyone. I don't, but that has nothing to do with being pan. I'm just not a shitty person."
Bi and pan people, however, are more likely to be polyamorous. Most academic studies tend to lump bi and pansexual folks together, making it difficult to parse out some of the data, but the current data show that bi and pan folks are significantly more likely to be polyamorous or otherwise ethically non-monogamous than straight folks.
Last but not least, we're awesome to date.
Okay, am I biased? Perhaps. But I will say that in my experience, pansexual folks are often extremely open-minded and some of the kindest, most big-hearted people I know!
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What Is Pansexuality—And How Is It Different From Bisexuality?, Source:https://www.prevention.com/life/a28365203/what-is-pansexuality/