What is Pansexual? 10 Things You Should Know.
Sexual orientation and questions of identity are always a difficult field to navigate for those without as much experience. Given the recentness of recognition for those within the LGBT community, it can be difficult for many not within the community to ensure they are fully informed on the terminology and nuance between many different people in the community. And though there remains much progress to be made, there has been a larger acceptance and desire of non-LGBT people to learn, than in previous decades.
One area that has become a recent area of interest is pansexuality. As time has gone on, more and more public figures are coming out as pansexual. Unlike other parts of the LGBT community, pansexuality is not currently as well known or understood. The use of the term pansexual has been gaining more popularity in recent years. From the Greek prefix pan, meaning “all”, it’s a label describing people who are much more open in their attraction than any of the other LGBT classifications.
As a result of increased social acceptance and cultural awareness, more and more people have come out in the LGBT in the community. The distinctions between gender and sexuality have come more and more to the forefront as a result. Recently, the increasing attention on bisexuality has also increased the discussions of different types of attraction. And with that discussion, has come discussion of pansexuality.
But what is pansexuality? If you have wondered this, you are not alone. Here is a list of 10 things you need to know about pansexuality.
Pansexuality Describes the Openness of Someone’s Attraction
Pansexuality is a description of someone’s attraction to other people. Unlike homosexuality, where people are attracted to those of the same gender, and heterosexuality, where people are attracted to those of a different gender, pansexuality does not make the distinction. It is similar to bisexuality, where people are attracted to others of both genders, i.e. male and female.
However, while bisexuality has more to do with being attracted to at least two genders, being pansexual is being attracted to people who identify by any gender identity. In essence, many of these people are not taking into account gender in their attraction. Regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, pansexual can be attracted to a variety of people.
It is important to note the existence of more than two genders in order to understand pansexuality. For many transgender and gender fluid people, the existing gender binary is not sufficient to explain their situation, or where they fit. For example, for many transgender and gender fluid individuals, simply picking one or the other gender in the traditional binary does not accurately describe them. This is imperative for understanding pansexuality. While bisexual cis people may be attracted to cis women and men, pansexual people are much more broad in their attraction, being attracted to cis people, trans people, and gender fluid people. There are many other types of people, but these are just a couple of examples. This isn’t to say that bi people are only attracted to cis people, but that conceptually, they are two different types of attraction.
Pansexual People Don’t Like Everyone
Being a pansexual does not mean that you are automatically attracted to everyone and anyone. Although it is commonly referred to as “being able to like anyone” that doe not mean that pansexual people do not have preferences. In fact, it is not uncommon to meet a pansexual person who has a preference for men, women, or any other gender. This can often make it confusing to identify who is pansexual vs. who is not. The general rule of thumb is to wait until someone positively identifies as pansexual before assigning the label (this is also a good rule to follow with all of other sexual orientations).
Just as you do not want to be involved romantically with everyone you meet in life, neither do pansexual people. The difference lies in the fact that there are certain people you may never be attracted to, even if you wanted to be, if you do not fall into the pansexual category.
It helps to focus on the fluidity and openness of the attraction. People who are pansexual don’t believe in gender, and instead think of it as a social construct which takes the sex roles assigned at birth and gives them arbitrary definitions and categorizations. When taken in this lens, the ability to love and be attracted to people of different genders, or who are placed into different genders, is much easier to understand. Pansexual is the most open you can be about who you would be willing to consider as a romantic partner, and takes away a lot of the barriers that other identifications would impose on these people.
Being Pansexual is Different From Being Bisexual
However, this can still be very confusing for people who are thinking of sexual orientation in the traditional gender binary. Also, there are many people who take a much more flexible definition of bisexuality, instead describing bisexuals as people who can and do date people who are not sis. Truthfully, when it comes to this point, there is not an agreement about whether or not this is true. However, it does introduce an interesting discussion about how to navigate between bisexuality and pansexuality, and organize the discourse around the two.
There is an overlap between bisexuality and pansexuality. Whereas bisexual people are attracted to at least two genders, pansexual people are completely fluid, being attracted to people of multiple genders outside of the binary. Thus, pansexuality falls under the umbrella of bisexuality, but is distinct. Despite this, many in the bisexual community feel that pansexuality is a form of bi-erasure, a practice whereby bisexuals are often left out of discourse having to do with LGBT issues, or having their identity and struggles not taken as seriously.
Bisexuality has often been plagued with a number of stereotypes, including that those identifying as bisexual are promiscuous or that bisexuality serves as some sort of proof sexuality or orientation being a choice, and not something you’re born with. Many bisexuals even face backlash from people within the LGBT community itself. Therefore, it can be very difficult for them to discuss their orientation without being misjudged. Similarly, because of its proximity to bisexuality, pansexuality also comes with its own set of stigmas.
Many Celebrities Have Come Out as Pansexual
There are many celebrities that have come out as pansexual. Popular pansexual people include Laci Green, Jazz Jennings and Miley Cyrus. Green also took the opportunity to explain to the audience of her popular YouTube channel the subtle differences of sexual orientation and gender identity. As for Jennings, she defined being pansexual as the ability to be attracted to anyone, and focus more on the personality of the person in front of her, rather than fixate on whether they identified as male or female.
In a 2015 Elle UK interview, Miley Cyrus came out about her sexuality. She then did an interview with Out Magazine, where she pressed that she did not feel as comfortable relating to what people defined as a boy or a girl, coming out as gender neutral. This is unsurprising giving the emphasis most pansexual people have on the syntheticness of gender definition. Rep. Mary Gonzalez of Texas has also come out as pansexual, a term she stated felt more appropriate after dating many transgender and gender queer people. For her, gender was simply something that she had never considered in her love life.
Having celebrities come out as pansexual has allowed a voice to build around the movement that was not previously present, and given courage to many people to speak about their sexual orientation. Given the high profile discourse that has begun around it, pansexuality has become more popular recently, and as a result, much more clear and defined for those outside the community who wish to learn about it.
There are Many Misconceptions about being Pansexual
Although pansexuality is not the same thing as bisexuality, it expands on the term. And like bisexuality, it is still slow to be accepted or taken as seriously among those who don’t know much about it. There are a number of theories about pansexual people that are circulated, with very little background, that have made life much more difficult for pansexuals.
Many people incorrectly believe that pansexuality includes very extreme forms of attraction such as bestiality, pedophilia or objectophilia. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Pansexuality is not a kink, or niche form of attraction. It’s the focusing on the acceptance of different genders and the recognition of gender fluidity. As a result, pansexuals are no more likely than everyone else to be attracted to things that are illegal, dangerous, or immoral. It is imperative that we make that distinction, so that this sort of language does not vilify people that are coming out.
Pansexuality, like bisexuality, does not depend on the person you are dating or involved with. As a result, dating a heterosexual cis person doesn’t take away a person’s pansexuality. It is perfectly plausible to date a heterosexual cis person and still be attracted to people of all gender identities.
Being pansexual also doesn’t automatically mean you are going to date many different people at the same time. It’s very possible, and common, to be monogamous and faithful to someone while being pansexual. The mere fact that you can be attracted to many different people doesn’t mean you are or that you are going to act on it every single opportunity you get.
Pansexuality has been around for a While
Although it may come off as a relatively new phenomenon, pansexuality has actually been around for a while. The term originated in the 1900s, when Sigmund Freud described “pansexualism” as the view that most behavior is derived form sexual instincts. It would develop over the years to take on the more common interpretation as people began to refute and understand more about sexuality and how it plays into daily life. With the new resurgence of gender queer and non-binary dialogue, as well as protests in the 1990s, the term pansexual began to take shape again.
The new resurgence of the term doesn’t mean that it was not around before, and thus should not be treated as a made up creation by the people who identify using that label. In fact, similar to many other people in the LGBT community, pansexuals face the double challenge of describing to people their orientation, which was barely talked about when they were growing up, while also explaining why they never identified under the term that took them years to find because it was barely talked about.
Being pansexual is not about keeping up with the latest trend; it’s an opportunity for a large segment of the population to find a way to identify that they may not have about to describe before. This is a conjuncture whereby many of the lessons that were not included in the past may be brought back to the forefront, given the new faces the movement is gaining and getting widespread popularity.
Deadpool is Pansexual
Deadpool is pansexual. It’s been established in the comics, not longer before the film adaptation starring Ryan Reynolds. Deadpool’s pansexuality is canon; he is a hero who makes no distinction between genders or gender identity when he is choosing whom he is flirting with or wants to be with you. He has flirted with everyone from Thor, Spiderman, and many other characters. One of the comic’s creators, Fabian Nicieza, described Deadpool as having no sex and all sexes, and the “epitome of inclusiveness”.
Even in the movie, people point to Deadpool’s flirting with everyone without discrimination as to evidence of his pansexuality. Whether this is evidence, or plays into many of the misconceptions about pansexuality are still up for debate. The mere fact that Deadpool is a flirt does not make him pansexual. It has been debated that he could be bisexual as well. It would be hard to ascertain at a distance.
That being said, the fact that Deadpool is with his girlfriend Vanessa in the story does not exclude him from being pansexual. As mentioned, it would be hard to know the sexuality of Deadpool without getting to know him, but given his equal zest with which he goes forth flirting with people around him, it’s safe to say Deadpool has not made a huge distinction in the types of person he sees himself becoming close to.
Indeed, Ryan Reynolds even mentioned that 20th Century Fox may not be ready to yet introduce a same sexy partner for Deadpool, but that decision lies outside the character itself.
3It’s More than just Sex
Pansexuality may be defined by attraction, but it goes beyond the realm of sex. It’s not about the sexual relationship people have with each other, though this part of it. Pansexuality focuses on the ability to make a romantic connection, and relate to another person in a way that is romantic, but focuses on whom they are, regardless of what gender they identify as.
Therefore, pansexuals should not be judged by those they are romantically or sexually involved with, as it does not give as clear of an indication as to openness of their attraction. Pansexuality has much more to do with the building of relationships and the openness and perspective that people have in considering how to about successfully doing that.
Given the misunderstanding of pansexuality, there is a hyper focus on sex and multiple sexual partners when it comes to describing pansexuality. This can often create a number of hurtful stereotypes, that can do long term damage to many reputations and romantic lives. For example, another misconception that has become popular concerning pansexuals has to do with the safety of being intimate with someone who is pansexual. Since it has become associated with promiscuity, many people assume there is a huge risk in being involved with people who are pansexual. This is not only a hurtful stereotype, but untrue. People who are pansexual are not more at a risk for sexually transmitted diseases. This misconception takes root in many of the stereotypes associated with bisexuality, as well as the gay male community.
2Pansexuals Have Their Own Flag
The colors of the pansexual flag are pink, yellow, and blue; each of these represents an identity regardless of biology. The pink is for those who identify as female. Similarly blue is for those identifying as male. And yellow is an inclusive color, which includes people who identify as androgynous, transgender and many other categories.
The pansexual flag was created as a way for people to separate themselves from a bisexual label, as well as create a symbol they could celebrate and rally behind. As previously mentioned, although pansexuality is becoming more popular, there are still many controversies.
For instance, although it is discussed in the context of different LGBT publications and forums, it is not widely accepted by everyone in the community. Many bi sexual people feel the implication of a pansexual identity makes bisexuality seem much more closed off than it is. Many people disagree about whether to identify as bisexual or pansexual. In addition, for some, the creation of so many identities serves to dilute the struggle solidarity by many in the LGBT community.
There is a balance that indeed exists between the inclusiveness of a movement, and its washing out. Currently, 2% of Americans identify as pansexual, with the number steadily on the rise. As this number increases, the pressure for inclusiveness begins to mount. The creation of the pansexual flag, seeks to promote that idea by taking into account all the variations of pansexuality that it can and pushing an image of a far reaching and inclusiveness part of the community for many younger people coming to grips with their sexuality.
1Netflix Will Be Bringing Back a Popular Film, now with a Pansexual Character
Still confused? That’s okay. Much of this is nuanced information and takes a background knowledge that has unfortunately not been provided regularly provided for the majority of people growing up in the United States. Luckily, Netflix is here to clarify a few things.
In a somewhat revival of Director Spike Lee’s classic, She’s Gotta have It, Netflix will be adapting the movie as a TV series. This time, it will star Darling (DeWanda Wise), “sex positive, polyamorous, pansexual”. This character takes on the difference between the different angles of her sexual orientation and romantic life. She is a confident, sexually independent, career woman, who spends much of her time juggling three different men (hence, the polyamory). The trailer showcases her having a healthy and fulfilling intimate and romantic life with each of the three men, while asserting her independence throughout the process. Though many question her motives and try to discourage her, she holds fast to her sense of sexual independence throughout the film.
It’s important to keep in mind that while this sassy character has a fruitful and healthy sex life, every pansexual person is different, so her journey cannot be held as a mold for other pansexuals. For instance, many would point out that her relationship with 3 cis men, while still leaving her as a pansexual, doesn’t show the full breadth of what it means to be pansexual. However, the series may shed light on a number of misconceptions and provide another perspective. It’s worth giving a try.
Pansexuality can be confusing for people who have not heard of it. There are a number of nuances that have to be understood first. Understanding the difference between biological sex, sexual orientation, and gender is pivotal to understanding how pansexuality plays with the three.
The recent increase in celebrities being brave enough to share their experiences and truth has allowed many people to challenge the traditional labels that have existed for talking about many of these distinctions. As time goes on and more people come forth, many more things about pansexuality will become clearer.
Pansexuality itself is not defined so rigidly. What makes it difficult is the inability of many to separate gender and sexual biology. For many people, orientation is a product of biological sex assignment and their relationship to that. But this mold does not fit everyone. The sooner that you begin to see it through that lens, the more sense pansexuality will begin to make sense. For now, there are plenty of resources available online and interviews of individuals who have been brave enough to come out and can address what being pansexual means for them.
It’s important to remember that with all of the labels and definitions thrown around, much of this is contains a human element, and the best way to learn is to hear or read it from the mouths of people experiencing it. With a growing number of pansexual people in the United States each day, pansexuality is set to grow even further into the mainstream discourse.