We tend to put a label on everything- our personality, our political beliefs and even our goals but putting a label on something as dynamic as sexuality seems a bit off. Sexuality can be looked at as a spectrum and one can fall anywhere on that spectrum, sometimes even multiple places or not at all. The rigid notion that you could only be attracted to either a man or a woman is dated and not inclusive. Sexual identities like bisexual, sexually fluid, sapiosexual, ecosexual (yes, it is real) and so many more queer sexuality’s have come into light to break the practice of labelling one’s sexuality.
While the vast spectrum of queer sexual identities is inclusive to all, it could be tough to navigate. If you're the type of person who is attracted to someone for just who they are, without looking at their gender or sex, there is a chance you are a pansexual.
Pansexuality looks beyond barriers of gender or sex
Pansexuality essentially means being attracted-either physically, emotionally or both-to someone regardless of their gender or sex. While sex is dependent on your genitals, gender is typically a social construct. Pansexuals believe that gender is fluid and hence they tend to look past this barrier and see people for just who they are. They could be attracted to people of all genders- cis, trans, agenders and even non-gender-conforming individuals.
The word originated from the Greek root word- pan meaning ‘all’ and it is apt in describing the broad spectrum within which pansexuality falls in. However, since the attraction is not limited to the opposite gender, most of the time people confused being pansexual to being bi-sexual.
Pansexuality and Bisexuality are different but they fall under the same umbrella
Since bisexuality refers to being attracted to people of the same gender and a gender that is not yours, people often think it is synonymous with being pan. However, pansexuality typically falls under the ‘bisexual umbrella’, where someone is attracted to more than one gender.
Some argue that the words are completely different since bisexuality inherently implies that gender is binary and pansexuality focusses on the fluidness of gender. However, our understanding of gender is evolving and progressing every day, so for some people putting a label on their sexuality is not really important, even if the words more or less imply the same meaning.
So while the two words might overlap a bit, a person could label themselves however they choose to if they want. Such queer identities were created outside of the heterosexual norm so people do not feel the need to conform to societal pressures and ‘fit in a particular box’ but sadly this is not the case. As we have frequently seen, people tend to judge things that they do not fully understand and this is frequently seen while discussing a pansexual’s attraction.
Pansexuality doesn’t mean that you are attracted to everyone
While pan’s are definitely attracted to people regardless of their gender or sex, they are not attracted to everyone. The same way a straight person doesn't fall for every person of the opposite gender that they see, pansexuals are not as hyper-sexualised as the media portrays them.
"Pansexual teens sometimes struggle to find a community to identify with and get support from. Even within some LGBTQ organizations, there is a misunderstanding of what pansexuality is. Therefore, these teens may experience exclusion and isolation. They're also at a higher risk for being harassed regarding their orientation. They may find it difficult to date when potential partners don't understand or are intimidated by who they are attracted to." clinical sexologist and marriage and family therapist Kat Van Kirk tells Teen Vogue.
There is a flag now for pansexuals too
For a long time, being pansexual was not considered in the ‘same league’ as other queer identities in the LGBTQ+ acronym. However, the pansexual flag was created in 2010 and it consists of 3 colours - pink, yellow and blue, in that order. The pink stands for females, the blue stands for males and the yellow represent everything that comes within or outside the male and female gender binary. All in the spirit of inclusivity and acceptance.
Pansexuality is NOT a ‘new trend’
Many people feel that pansexuality is just another ‘new trend’ but in fact, it has been around for quite some time. The Oxford English Dictionary says that this word has been around since the 1900s with its current definition being around since the 1960s! This proves to show that attraction that goes beyond the binary gender constraints is not new- it is just being accepted and more widely used now.
These celebrities celebrate their pansexuality
We tend to always look up to celebrities and more often than not, even end up idolising them. In the past few years, various celebrities have come out on their solid media or during interviews, to tell their followers what it is like to identify as a pansexual. Many of them stress how not enough people know about it and it is time that everyone educates themselves.
Amanda Stlenberg, known for playing ‘rue’ in Hunger Games(who now identifies as gender non- binary ) had initially identified as bisexual. However, in 2016 they stated that they had only used the word bisexual because they felt not enough people knew what being pansexual meant. She also said that telling everyone how she really felt was ‘freeing’ and that everyone should deserve to feel comfortable and accepted in their own skin.
Janelle Monáe told Rollingstone that she initially called herself bisexual however when she learned what being a pan mean, she found that pansexuality fit her too. "... later I read about pansexuality and was like, 'Oh, these are things that I identify with too.' I'm open to learning more about who I am," she told them. She also stressed on how educating oneself and others is the first step towards acceptance and inclusivity.
Brendon Urie of the Panic! at the disco told Paper magazine “I guess you could qualify me as pansexual because I really don't care. If a person is great, then a person is great. I just like good people, if your heart's in the right place ... It's just people that I am attracted to." and that is exactly what pansexuality stands for - looking beyond the labels that society has given us and accepting ourselves and others for however we want to express ourselves.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself
Figuring out something as complex as one’s sexuality can feel like an uphill journey but it doesn’t necessarily have to be one. Society faces us to either be ‘this’ to ‘that’ but these times are much more acceptable to truly be who you are. Sexuality should be a tool that empowers us and not something that holds us back.
Recently, Miley Cyrus came out as pansexual and described herself as being genderqueer saying ‘I’m very open about it – I’m pansexual. I don't relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy," and then posted on Instagram, "NOTHING can/will define me! Free to be EVERYTHING!!!!" and that is everything that pansexuality stands for- being and loving yourself and others, no matter who they are.