Sexuality is something people experience on a continuum. It is something that can fluctuate for many people and each individual goes on their own journey to discover their own sexuality. Sexuality is not just about the act of sex. It involves people on a physical, a relational, and an emotional level. As people become more open about their sexuality, the ability to understand the differences in human sexuality can improve. Pansexuality involves being sexually, emotionally, or romantically attracted to someone regardless of sex or gender.
Gender is no longer seen as either-or, black or white, or one or the other. Gender binary is the idea of two sexes meaning usually male and female. An important part of pansexuality is being attracted to someone regardless of gender and that includes all genders and sexes. Therefore, pansexuality does not fall into the gender binary like most people view bisexuality does. Traditionally, bisexuality is the attraction toward males and females specifically. However, some adopt a definition that sounds similar to pansexuality. Pansexuality is open to attraction beyond the gender binary. Because of this, the term gender-blind often gets used with pansexuality.
Pansexuality is sometimes seen as more inclusive than bisexuality. By using the prefix pan meaning all instead of bi meaning two or both, it can more be a more accurate description for how some people experience sexuality. The biggest component for understanding if a person is under the umbrella of pansexuality is the part that includes “all.” Pansexuality involves looking beyond sex, gender, and sexual orientation. For pansexual individuals, they feel attraction and a romantic connection to specific people that is not based on sex or gender. Another term sometimes confused with pansexuality is polysexuality. While in direct meaning they seem very similar, polysexuality means attraction to more than one sex and gender but does not necessarily include attraction to all like pansexuality. This is why sometimes pansexuality is seen as more inclusive overall. A final distinction to make is between pansexuality and omnisexuality. Often, these two terms are used interchangeably because the prefixes of both words mean all. However, the key difference people note relates to the idea of pansexuality being gender-blind. Omnisexuality tends to recognize gender but says people are attracted to all genders whereas pansexuality is said to not notice gender and is also attracted to all (thus the term gender-blind). For some people, the distinction may be a subtle one, but the main point is that those terms are in fact different. In general, the definition of pansexuality allows more fluidity for individuals on the basis of sex, gender, and orientation. The labels or identifiers do not matter for someone who is pansexual.
In terms of sexuality, everything can seem very complex. It can be helpful to understand how sexual orientation differs for people. Being well-informed and gathering knowledge can allow people to recognize and appreciate each other’s differences more.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.