People often confuse pansexuality and bisexuality — here's how they differ
- Bisexuality refers to a person who is attracted to people who are the same gender as themselves, as well as those of different genders.
- Pansexuality is an identity label used to describe a person who is attracted to all gender identities.
- Celebrities and activists have helped introduce the idea of pansexuality into mainstream culture, and that's helping to educate others.
A growing number of celebrities, such as Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monae, and Jazz Jennings, are publicly self-identifying as pansexual. And as a result, the term has entered our mainstream lexicon, leaving some to question what pansexuality means and how it differs from bisexuality.
Traditionally, many people have understood "bisexual" to mean "attracted to men and women," but bisexual people have long defined it more broadly than that.
But "man" and "woman" doesn't even come close to covering all of the gender identities that exist. Facebook alone offers nearly 60 gender options for users to choose from when assembling their profiles. And as we know, gender is fluid, and there are more genders out there than the typical binary we're used to.
That's where pansexuality comes in. The prefix "pan-" comes from Greek and means "all." Those who identify as pansexual are attracted to all gender identities, according to GLAAD.
Gender identity is a key component of understanding bisexuality and pansexuality.
At first glance, the two concepts may seem almost identical. They are largely similar. However, some people choose the term "pansexual" to highlight the fact that they can be attracted to all people, regardless of gender. And some see "bisexual" as a signifier that they can be attracted to multiple genders, but not necessarily all of them.
Whether or not a person chooses to identify as pansexual has a lot to do with how they view gender identity. Identifying as pansexual means that gender plays no role in that person's sexuality and that they don't have a preference for one gender over another, according to the American Institute of Bisexuality.
People who are pansexual can be attracted to people who identify as male, female, androgynous, transgender, or intersex, taking it a step further than the traditional view of bisexuality.
Of course, sexuality varies from person to person, so these definitions are by no means set in stone - all that matters is what a person means when they claim the label.
It should also be noted that younger generations are likely to be more open to the concept of love and attraction beyond the gender binary.
In a 2015 study by J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, 82% of respondents (ages 12-19, or those in Generation Z) said they did not care about people's sexual orientation, and 81% said they did not think gender defines a person as much as it used to.
Asia Kate Dillon, the first openly gender non-binary actor on television, noted that though pansexuality is a relatively new mainstream concept, the term perfectly describes the way they've always chosen to look at love.
"From the time I came to understand sex and sexual orientation and all of that, I've identified as pansexual, and I've always felt like I had the spiritual, emotional, physical capability of being attracted to any gender," Dillon told HuffPost.
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