Pansexuality is an umbrella term to describe a sexual, romantic, and/or orientation characterized by experiencing attraction towards and the desire for relationships with people regardless of their gender. People of any sex or gender identity can be pansexual.
Someone who experiences pansexual attraction is referred to as pansexual or “pan” for short. The word "pansexual" comes from the Greek pan-, which means "all" or "every".
While the terms will often overlap, pansexuality is distinct from bisexuality (i.e. an attraction to two or more genders) and omnisexuality (i.e. an attraction to all genders, while gender still plays a role in the attraction). However, people within the queer community who use these terms to describe themselves may interpret their nuances differently.
Pansexuality and the Sexuality Spectrum
Sexuality exists on a spectrum with heterosexual (i.e. a sexual attraction that only occurs between men and woman) on one end and homosexual (i.e. a sexual attraction that only occurs between people of the same gender) on the other. This means that there is a range of how an individual’s sexual orientation be expressed which cannot be classified under strict binary parameters.
Sexual identity is not determined solely by one’s sexual behaviors. One does not need to have a certain collection of sexual experiences in oder to “prove” their pansexual orientation. The same way a heterosexual person can know that they are heterosexual prior to having a partner sex experience, pansexual people can know that they are pansexual without having a partner sex experience with someone of every gender.
Pansexual vs Bisexual
By definition, pansexuality rejects the sex and gender binary outright. It posits the notion of gender-blindness: that gender does not sway or affect one’s potential attraction to another person.
Pansexual is included under the broader category of bisexual identities (i.e. any orientations that involve attractions to multiple genders). However, some controversy exists between the use of bisexual and pansexual, even within the queer community. Some people claim these terms are synonymous, while others feel bisexual is not inclusive enough, hence the need for pansexuality.
Some even go so far as to claim that bisexuality is transphobic and pansexuality is the response to that. These arguments cling to the archaic definitions of bisexual based on a male-female binary, and do not account for how the bisexual community describes itself today.
However, the bisexual community at large has always stood with trans and whether someone uses bisexual or pansexual is a matter of which one resonates most with them. Because bisexuality predates pansexuality as a term – Freud coined “pansexual” in the early 1900s by Freud, but it did not come into use until the 1990s – the age that someone was when they learned these terms can play a role in which one they claim for themselves now.
Pansexual Pride and Symbols
The pansexual pride flag consists of three horizontal stripes: pink, yellow, and blue in descending order. Since the early 2010s, this has been the symbol of pansexual pride in popular use.
The pink represents attraction to women and femmes, yellow represents attraction to nonbinary and gender non-conforming people, and blue represents attraction to attraction and masc folks. While this is arguably the same as what the bisexual flag represents, the separate flag was created to distinguish pansexuality from bisexuality.
International Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness Day is celebrated annually on May 24.