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Pansexuality 101

General Sex

What is pansexuality?

Pansexual is a sexual orientation you might have heard before, but what exactly does it mean? And how is it different from being bi or from other LGBTQIA+ identities?

The prefix “pan” means “all” or “every” in Ancient Greek. Pansexuality is attraction to others regardless of gender or gender identity. Or, rather, it is attraction toward all genders and sexualities. Physical attributes can be just as attractive as personality, intellect, and/or the connection they’ve formed.

There’s a lot more to explain when it comes to pansexuality. Let’s get into it!

Bisexuality vs. pansexuality (vs. pangender)

Bisexual and pansexual are not the same. While bisexuality traditionally refers to attraction to two (or more) genders, pansexuality encompasses attraction to all individuals regardless of gender identity. Pansexuality acknowledges that gender is not a defining factor in romantic or sexual attraction.

For example: a bisexual cisgender woman might be attracted to cisgender and trans women (and maybe anyone who’s non-binary) but she’s not attracted to cisgender or transgender men. Compare this to someone who identifies as pansexual. Pansexuality is attraction to cisgender men and women, transgender men and women, nonbinary and gender-fluid individuals.

The term pangender can get confused with pansexual. Pangender refers to a person who finds a fluid identity with all genders and identities.

History of pansexuality

The term "pansexuality" was coined in the early 1900s by Sigmund Freud, who proposed that individuals are born with the capacity to be attracted to a variety of things. It's crucial to note that Freud's definition differs significantly from our understanding of pansexuality today.

During the sexual revolution of the 1970s, the concept of pansexuality began entering public consciousness. By the 1980s, the term became more generalized, often suggesting that a person was open to diverse sexual experiences.

In 2010, the pansexual pride flag was introduced. Featuring pink, blue, and yellow stripes, the flag symbolizes attraction to individuals of all gender identities, solidifying a sense of inclusivity within the LGBTQIA+ community.

Based on a 2018 survey from the Human Rights Council, the number of teens who identified as pansexual doubled from 7% in 2012 to 14% in 2018.

How it works in a relationship

Pansexuality acknowledges and celebrates the vast spectrum of identities. In a relationship, pansexual individuals are attracted to people based on personality, shared interests, and emotional connections and are not limited to one gender. This approach leads to relationships that transcend societal norms, stereotypes, and expectations related to gender roles.

Safe sex as a pansexual

Sex is universal, and no matter how someone identifies, it’s still important to practice safe sex. This includes communication with partners about boundaries, consent, and using protection to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies. Educating yourself about safe sex practices doesn’t need to take away from your experience. It can actually give you more peace of mind, so you can focus on being in the moment.

Safe sex as a pansexual identifying person can look like:

-Getting clear on your boundaries and giving/receiving clear signals of consent

-Using condoms or other forms of barrier protection

-Using a reliable method of birth control with penis in vagina sex

-Taking Julie if contraception failed (condom broke or fell off, missed birth control pills) or if unprotected penis in vagina sex happened

Pansexuality Myths

When it comes to pansexuality, there are some myths floating around that are important to debunk. These myths can lead to misinformation, misconception, and confusion. And who wants that?!

People who are pansexual are confused. False.

When someone identifies as pansexual, a common misconception is that they’re confused about their sexual orientation. That’s not the case. Pansexuality reflects an individual’s clear understanding of how they’re attracted to someone and how that goes beyond traditional gender and gender identities.

They’re promiscuous. False.

Promiscuity is an age-old assumption about, well, anyone who seems to go outside of societal sexual boundaries — and pansexuality is often unfairly associated with promiscuity. However, like any sexual orientation, people who identify as pansexual are not inherently promiscuous. Everyone has their own preference for the amount of sexual activity they want. Attributing promiscuity to pansexuality only perpetuates harmful stereotypes and overlooks the diversity of behaviors of all identities and sexual orientations.

They're attracted to everyone. False.

Just because their attraction transcends gender and gender identities does not mean they’re attracted to everyone. Pansexual orientation simply means they can experience attraction across a broad spectrum of gender identities. It doesn't imply a universal attraction to every person encountered.

It's transphobic. False.

Pansexuality is inherently inclusive, recognizing and valuing individuals of all gender identities. According to Stonewall, an LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization, the assumption is that pansexual people are transphobic by stating that they’re attracted to trans people because they don’t see trans people as men or women. But to be pansexual is to reject the notion that gender is a limiting factor in their attraction to them. Again, they see the personality and experience emotional connection regardless of identity.

It's a fad. False.

Pansexuality is not a passing trend. Sexual orientations, including pansexuality, are deeply rooted in an individual's core feelings and attractions. Dismissing them as trends only undermines the legitimacy of diverse sexual identities.

No one can tell you how you identify and who you’re attracted to.

Our attraction to other people is unique. People sometimes assume that we’re only attracted to others based on preference and physical appearance. In reality, this isn’t the case. You can be attracted to someone for a number of reasons. If you’re attracted to their personality first or for any other intangible reason, that’s ok. That’s a fully valid and normal form of attraction.

If you’re trying to determine whether or not you identify as pansexual, take the time to discover more about pansexuality. Only you can decide who you’re attracted to and how you want to identify. We now know that gender and sexual orientation exist on a spectrum. Love, identity, and attraction can evolve without static labels. We’re all unique and valid in our own way.