It’s time for us to recognize pansexuality

Pansexual is not a term many people know, both in and out of queer communities. But the term is being used more frequently than ever before, and it continues to grow. It is my hope to create further awareness of pansexuality.

Pansexuality is the potential for an individual to feel sexual attraction, desire, or romantic love towards people of any gender expression, identity, or biological sex. It is not the sexual attraction kitchen pans, as some may believe.

I often struggle with explaining to people what pansexuality is. When I finally manage to get an explanation out, people most often respond by asking “well, isn’t that the same as bisexual?” The answer is no.

I often get frustrated when asked this, but I shouldn’t. Pansexual is a new term to most people and when giving a simple explanation, bisexual and pansexual sound very similar. But if I explain what pansexuality is, you must take it seriously.

If you dissect each word, they mean very different things. Bisexual has a prefix of bi-, which means two. Pansexual has a prefix of pan-, which means all. In elaboration, bisexuality is the attraction to two sexes, male and female, or two genders, men and women. Pansexuality is the attraction to all sexes and genders, or any mix thereof.

Many people may ask “Aren’t there only two sexes and genders?” Again, the answer is no.

There are intersex people who aren’t strictly male or female. Intersex is a varied combination of physical characteristics that usually define male or female. Intersex people may have any mix of chromosomes or reproductive organs that do not define them as either male or female.

There are also more than two genders. For a long time sex and gender have been intermixed. But they are two different things. Sex is the biological characteristic of a person and gender is how they identify with mostly socially constructed roles. Typically people think of females as feminine and men as masculine. But a person’s biological sex does not determine how “feminine” or “masculine” they are, nor what “femininity” nor “masculinity” necessarily look like.

There are people who may be biologically one sex, but identify with the “opposite” gender expression. A person may be biologically male but identify with typical “feminine” expressions. There are also people who physically identify as the opposite sex, some who transition and some who do not. There are even people who physically identify as the opposite sex but not the “opposite” gender expression.

The main point is that people of any sex vary greatly in their gender/sex expression. Bisexuality recognizes a gender binary, which is the idea that there are only males and females and they are only men or women. I am in no way attempting to invalidate or mock bisexuality. It most definitely exists and some people are only attracted to men and women.

Pansexuality entirely rejects the idea of a gender binary. Pansexuals have the capability to be attracted to people of various identities. It doesn’t matter what a person’s sex or gender is. For many pansexuals sex and gender, and sometimes even sexual orientation, bar zero restriction to their capability to be attracted to a person. Many also have attractions to people based on certain sex or gender characteristics, but they are not necessarily the same for all people.

A common misconception is that because pansexuals have the ability to be attracted to anyone, that they are attracted to everyone. This is not true. Just because someone may have the capability to have attraction to people of all sexes and genders, does not mean that they do have an attraction to every person.

Pansexuality faces invisibility. Not only do many people not know what it is, but many do not take it seriously. Within some queer communities, pansexuals face the thought or pressure that they are “not queer enough.” Many bisexuals face the same pressure. But the difference is that more people recognize bisexuality. It even has its own place in the LGBTQIA acronym.

The Q in LGBTQIA stands for queer and questioning. Queer is a very broad and inclusive term that envelopes many different identities. Pansexual typically falls under this “queer umbrella.” While myself and other pansexuals feel comfortable identifying as queer, I believe pansexuality needs to come out from beneath the “queer umbrella” and gain more recognition. Recognition that would force more people to see that it exists.

Pansexual needs to be seen as its own identity. People need to start taking pansexuality seriously and stop regarding it as “a fancy way to say bisexual.” It is just as valid as homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality.

8 comments on “It’s time for us to recognize pansexuality
  1. I read this in the school paper and I must say…
    It it the dumbest article I have ever read. Honestly it is a waste of time. I didn’t realize this paper only cared about producing articles about sexuality and life choices. Serena Korn just sounds like a dramatic whiny little girl who desperately wants to be different and acts misunderstood. Pansexuality “faces invisibility” because it is completely unimportant and vague. The potential to be attracted to either male or female genders is basically everyone. Why should we care about this “new term”?
    If you were looking for a way to fill up space in the paper, you would have been better off inserting a full page ad for vagisil. No one cares about Serena and her personal life. We don’t care that she is a Pansexual Vegan who most likely chooses the song “Fireworks” by Katie Perry as her personal anthem. We just don’t care, and by allowing meaningless crap like this into the paper you take away the chance for something thought provoking or genuinely interesting to be printed.

    • As someone who is Pansexual myself and tired of being completely invisible both in and out of the LGBTQIA community, constantly being shuffled into the “bisexual” category against my will because people classify the distinction I have between being pansexual and bisexual as not important or non-existent. I’d like to just say: I care.

      A year ago you said this article was dumb and meaningless. This article is neither because it’s trying to get people to accept and actually see that Pansexuality is not the same as bisexuality and it’s not fair to reduce it to being just a subgroup of “queer”. When I identify as pansexual for my orientation EVERY SINGLE TIME I have to explain myself, and every single time people go “oh! So isn’t that just bisexual?”

      If you were completely invisible you wouldn’t be thinking this is pointless.

      • I agree with you Becca, like you I am also pansexual and I hated it when I have to explain to people “no it isn’t a fancy way of saying bisexual.” Bi means two Pan means all.

    • Sorry Serena, but I agree with John. Nobody cares. Be who you are, love who you love– I promise you nobody (save for a handful of backwoods bigots) cares. Bi-sexual is as far as people care in the discussion of anybody else’s sexual or romantic life, and even that is a stretch. Beyond campaigning for marriage equality & equal rights across the board, I do not give a single f$^& how you came to choose the lover that you ultimately choose. After you get into your 30’s, the whole world stops caring who you are sleeping with, and why. Get over it.

  2. I myself understand that sexuality shouldn’t be that important but to the people whose sexuality is forgotten and thrown away, it is. And you should respect that. So yes it is important. And getting off the topic by bringing in other statuses that the author of this article may hold automatically makes whatever argument you could come up with completely irrelevant.

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  4. Thanks for this very true & overall well written article about pansexuality; I finally feel exceptionally understood. I am doing research for a speech I have to give in my SPC 1608 class, and I am definitely going to reference this article (with proper citation of course)! Keep up the good work, my fellow journalist.

    • Side note: holy shit that picture is super old. I guess that’s what I get for entering an old email address into an internet forum lol

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