Pansexuality vs. Bisexuality: an explanation for the sake of education

Pan– : from a Greek term meaning “all” or “every”

Bi- : also from a Greek term, meaning “two”

To identify as pansexual, as I proudly do, is to be “gender blind”. It refers to the potential to be sexually and/or romantically attracted to persons of all other gender identities and biological sexes. Gender and sex are insignificant or totally irrelevant when it comes to picking partners, and often the attraction is to the person’s personality rather than physical appearance or gender. Pansexuality rejects the notions of the gender binary and of specific sexual orientations.

Bisexuality implies a potential for romantic/sexual attraction to either both genders (man and woman) or both sexes (male and female). The literal definition of the word does not include intersex or gender nonconforming people the way that pansexuality does.

I am by no means saying that people who identify as bisexual are only attracted to two genders or are incapable of being attracted to people outside the gender binary. I just frequently hear absolutely nothing about pansexuals within Queer dialogues and I find it a bit frustrating. I understand that pansexuality is a “new” orientation, but I feel like we are largely forgotten about or lumped in with bisexuals.

There really is a difference between bisexuals and pansexuals, especially when it comes to preferences of sexual and romantic partners. Pansexuality and the way pansexuals feel attraction is often entirely gender blind and personality based. Almost, in my case, borderline demisexual (Def: a person who does not experience sexual attraction until they form a strong emotional connection with someone). I do not see people on the street and think, “Wow, he/she is really hot. I want to have sex/date him/her.” My sexual attraction to people is very very much based on personality and almost nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the aesthetics of attractive people, but I do not experience it as sexual attraction.

I’d like to see a greater discourse about pansexual issues and ideas, as I feel that it is quickly becoming the “hot new” sexual orientation. I think it poses an interesting dialogue between the traditional ideas of sexual attraction and gender.

And mostly I  guess I would like to see recognition of the legitimacy of my sexual orientation.


3 responses

  1. Pingback: Beyond the Binary « livingatchoice

  2. rad post! i’m always stoked to encounter pansexual internet writings (like this post) cuz, well, we totally do get lumped in/tucked away in the alphabet soup.

    i want to call you on something, though. with all respect, i totally disagree that pansexuality hinges on being “genderblind”. i think pansexuality often includes genderblindness, but not always. personally, i think genders can be totally hot and i’m pan. later in the post, you DO say that pansexuality “is often entirely genderblind…”, but the first line just says that “to be pansexual…is to be genderblind.”

    i also disagree (see? i’m being fussy) with your assertation that sex is “insignificant or totally irrelevnt…”. not all pansexuals experience their pansexuality that way. i mean, i often experience attraction in a very physical way. while i’m very flexible/open-minded about what bodies/sexes i’m attracted to, i DO experience attraction to sexes/bodies, so your post makes me feel a bit marginalized.

    here’s a really good explanation of how i feel about all this:

    i’m not trying to jump all over you; i actually really love your blog. i just had to tell you how i feel about this post. and, well, what do you think about this? rebuttal?

  3. It’s also important to recognize that the “two” in bisexual can mean “same and other genders” – so it does not necessariliy deny genderqueer or intersex or trans* (or other non-binary) attraction. I think everyone should be able to use and talk about and be recognized under whatever label feels most comfortable and accurate for them, but it’s really hurtful as a bisexual to have the “literal” definition used as a weapon against, when it it, just as literally and accurately “same and other” as “man and woman” or “male and female.”

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