Understanding Pansexuality: A Comprehensive Guide
In the last few years, the concept of pansexuality has come more to the forefront, as more people--including celebrities--have come out as pansexual. But what does pansexuality mean? How does it impact someone? Let's take a closer look at the definition of pansexuality, along with some common myths (and truths) about pansexuality.
What is Pansexuality?
Pansexuality refers to sexual or romantic attraction to people regardless of their gender identity or their sex. Pansexuality is typically considered a sexual orientation, as it an encompass both romantic and sexual attraction.
The 2015 Canadian sitcom Schitt's Creek included a pansexual character who described his feelings towards other people in a way that many audience members found accurate and respectful: "I like the wine, not the label."
How Does Pansexuality Differ from Bisexuality?
It's a common misconception that pansexuality is simply bisexuality under another name. Someone who is bisexual is attracted to multiple gender identities, typically identified as being attracted to both men and women. Hence the "bi" in "bisexual." Someone who is pansexual is attracted to all people, regardless of their gender identities or other personal characteristics.
Does Pansexuality Change How People View Relationships?
Technically speaking, no. Pansexuality only refers to someone being sexually or romantically attracted towards all people, regardless of their identity. It has nothing to do with how someone views romantic, sex, or relationships.
Someone who is pansexual can also inhabit a wide range of other sexual orientation or gender identities. For instance, someone who is pansexual may also be demiromantic, and only feel romantic attraction towards people they are close with; or they may be aromantic entirely, and not feel romantic attraction, but still feel sexual attraction.
The only significant relationship-related characteristic defined by pansexuality is that someone who is pansexual will be attracted to people regardless of their gender identity, which can include non-binary people outside of the traditional gender identity spectrum.
Common Myths about Pansexuality
If you want to know more about pansexuality, consider the following myths and the truths behind them.
Myth: Pansexual people "can't make up their mind"
Sometimes, pansexuality is derided as being for people who “can’t make up their mind.” But the opposite is actually true: people who are pansexual know that can be attracted to anyone, regardless of their gender identity and other characteristics. It’s not that they “can’t make up their mind,” it’s that they have a much broader range of attraction than others.
Myth: Pansexuality is a modern fad
People who displayed characteristics that we would today consider pansexual have been around for centuries. For instance, some historians believe the philosopher and poet Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schille (1759-1805) would today be considered pansexual.
The use of the phrase pansexual, along with its former synonym omnisexual, has been around since the 1960s-1970s. It wasn't until the 1990s that the term "pansexual" was used as a specific type of sexual identity, but the usage of the phrase to describe people who were attracted to "all" was around for a few decades prior.
In short: Pansexuality refers to a sexual orientation in which someone is attracted to all people, regardless of their gender identity. It is not the same as bisexuality, although the two are sometimes confused.
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