What Does Pansexual Mean?

The LGBTQ+ community is large and ever-changing, so it may be difficult to understand where you stand on the spectrum and that is totally okay! Sexuality is fluid and ever-changing, so the most important part is letting yourself explore and learn what you feel the most comfortable with. 

In this article, we’ll tackle what it means to be pansexual and what it entails to be a part of this community. 

What does being pansexual mean?

Being pansexual refers to a person who is attracted to others sexually, emotionally, and romantically no matter what their gender identity might be. This means that if you consider yourself to be pansexual you are attracted to all forms of gender identity including, but not limited to, nonbinary, gender fluid, and transgender people. 

Someone who considers themselves to be pansexual might also say they are “gender blind” this is a great way to describe the pansexual experience. Being in a pansexual relationship can look different, sometimes the relationship will appear “straight-passing” while other times the element of non-heterosexuality will be very apparent. Regardless of how it looks, all pansexual relationships are valid and does not denote from a person’s sexuality. 

Learning that you might be a part of the LGBTQ+ community might be scary at first, but there are many ways to plug yourself into the community and learn to be comfortable with your sexuality. 

if you’re curious about how you might identify, here’s what you should know about what being pansexual means:

History of the word pansexual 

The word pansexual itself is derived from the greek prefix pan- which means all and is of course attached to the word sexual. The word first appeared in 1914 as “pan-sexualism” in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Doctor J. Victor Haberman opposed Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis method in which he claimed: “the pan-sexualism of mental life which makes every trend revert finally to the sexual.” This means the original meaning of the word pansexual referred to Freud’s theory that sex is the motivator of all things. 

Although used in a different way, the word did not carry good connotations. It wasn’t until 1940 when Alfred Kinsey created a scale that measured the degrees of heterosexuality and homosexuality did the word start to slightly evolve into what we might know today. 

In the 80s, the word kicked off and became much more popularized, but also took on a new meaning. Pansexual in this time period referred to people that are interested in having a variety of sexual experiences which is not how we define the word today. 

Finally in the 90s we see pansexual activists begin to rise and take on the current definition which means being attracted to any and all genders. The contemporary meaning is largely attributed to the BDSM community that popularized the word and the idea of many sexual orientations beyond just heterosexual and homosexual. In the 2000s we’ve witnessed many celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Janelle Monáe speak about how they identify with the pansexual label and thus grew awareness and popularity for the word. 

Alternatives to the word pansexual

Because identity is personal and different people are comfortable using different terms there are a variety of ways to say the word pansexual, including: 

  • Omnisexual
  • Queer 
  • Non-heterosexual

Over time language evolves and this creates new words derived from a multitude of historical nuances. Labels and terms can also carry connotations, bad or good, which is why one might identify more with one term over the other despite them meaning the same thing. It is also important to note that the word pansexual can encompass asexual, nonbinary, and transgender individuals, and so much more. 

What NOT to call pansexual people 

Hateful words that refer to the pansexual community should always be erased from conversations and speech. The word pansexual has gone through many definitions and usages, but negative connotations and stereotypes remain. offensive words such as the F slur should be avoided at all costs, as they are derogatory. 

It is also critical to note that members of the pansexual community have begun to reclaim derogatory terms to take back the oppression they have faced such as using the term queer to refer to themselves. Although within the community this is acceptable it is still not okay to refer to pansexual people with a derogatory term if one is not a part of the community themselves. Always ask before assuming someone’s sexuality. 

What makes someone pansexual?

Pansexuality is rooted in the idea that you love regardless of gender, it means that someone’s gender identity does not affect the way you are attracted to someone. You instead value perhaps their personality, physical attractiveness, or your connection. 

One of the greatest confusions people might have when beginning to learn about the pansexual identity is the difference between pansexuality, bisexuality, and polysexuality. For some reason or another many think these terms are interchangeable, but they are in fact very different from one another. 

Traditionally the word bi meant attracted to only men and women, but this binary definition leaves out transgender people and gender nonconforming people. Bisexuality has come to mean being attracted to two or more genders, but this does not necessarily mean they are attracted to all genders as a pansexual person might be. Sometimes pansexual people might synonymously use the word omnisexual which means their attraction to people has nothing to do with gender.

Polysexuality refers to someone who is attracted to many genders, but unlike pansexuality they are not attracted to all genders. For example a polysexual person might be attracted to all genders except men whereas pansexual people are attracted to any and all genders.

It’s always a great idea to trust that members of the community know more about their sexuality than you do, listen to pansexual people when they speak on their identities. 

Perspectives on being pansexual 

Myths and misconceptions are very dangerous to the pansexual community. These stereotypes usually lead to hateful actions towards the community. The perspective of a pansexual person is just as important as a heterosexual person’s perspective. 

One of the misconceptions that must be dismantled is the idea that pansexual people are promiscuous and are more likely to be engaged in frequent sexual activity. Firstly, the amount of sexual activity a person is engaged with should never be shameful regardless of identity. But secondly, these negative stereotypes also lead to false ideas that pansexual people are more likely to cheat and are nonmonogamous. Clearly this isn’t a fact, but it is important to understand that these are the kinds of problems and criticism that a pansexual person might encounter on a daily basis. 

The perfect way to keep up to date with these stereotypes and combating them is following pansexual people on social media and listen to what they have to say on the topic. It is also a great way to feel connected if you are a part of the community and need the support of other pansexual people. 

The pansexual flag


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A post shared by kory (@posi.pan)

The pansexual flag was created by Jasper V and was first posted on an anonymous Tumblr account in 2010.  The colors represent as follows, cyan represents attraction to men, pink represents attraction to women, and yellow represents attraction to non-binary people.

Bottom Line 

All people are deserving of respect, regardless of gender, sexuality, or any other aspect of their identity. Understanding what it means to be pansexual might change through the years, labels are always transforming and evolving. 

Understanding that you are pansexual and embracing your identity can be very special. Despite the hardships there is a whole lot of joy within the community and it is incredible to see people become comfortable and happy with who they are. 

If some of the ideas above resonate with you and you’re thinking of coming out, make sure the conditions are safe and have a plan of action regarding housing and food if things don’t go as planned. 

In addition, be sure to learn about the other identities that make up the LGBTQ+ community on our website or subscribe to the INTO newsletter to learn more.  

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