First things first, this article has nothing to do with pans or any other kitchen appliance. The phrase you may be looking for is objectum sexuality, otherwise known as sexual attraction to an inanimate object–and this is more of a fetish or a kink than it is an identity.
With that out of the way, we’re moving on to discussing pansexuality.
On the 26th of June in the year 2015, something significant in world history happened: one of the most influential and powerful nations in the entire world legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. This means that the marriage of any same-sex couple is considered valid and legally recognizable for all the rights traditional couples have.
Though the fight for pride and equality has been going on for years and years, and will continue to rage, this particular move from the Supreme Court of the United States has sparked massive widespread conversations on sexuality.
This is, after all, a day and age of discovery and innovation. There has been more data found and discovered in the last 10 years than there have been in the previous 300. One of these discoveries is within the spectrum of human identity itself–the one that deals with gender identity and sexuality.
It was only recently that the news of other genders that don’t fit the binary norm *i.e. genderqueer, non-binary, agender, transgender* have been discovered and have been somewhat accepted into society. And with that came the new labels within the sexuality spectrum that accommodate these newly discovered and recognized identities.
And so came the birth of the sexual identity that is pansexuality.
The basics of pansexuality
Let’s break it down with an academic-like objectivity.
Pansexuality, which is also called polysexuality or omnisexuality, simply means that you are attracted to a person regardless of their gender identity. The term “pansexuality“ comes from the Greek word “pan,” which means “all” or “every,” which is why it is the most commonly accepted term to depict this identity in the spectrum.
The thing about sexuality and gender identity, however, is that you cannot approach it objectively. Human cognition has developed astoundingly in the last thousand years, and there is no objective definition for questions regarding life, love, morals, dreams, and other abstract concepts.
Sexuality and identity are no different, as each individual perceives themselves differently from other people, and no one label will be completely accurate in its definition in every way for any one person. Even people who identify as pansexuals find themselves arguing about what the identity actually means to them and for them.
In preparation for this article, several people who have identified themselves as pansexual came forward with statements in order to clarify some commonly misconceived tropes about their given identity.
River Reeds*, for example, identifies as panromantic, while also finding herself somewhere between asexuality. She says, “Pansexuality is the sexual orientation where you have the potential to be attracted to anyone,” going on to say that the belief that pansexuals are more attracted to the personality than they are to the gender identity is completely false. To her, she states that pansexuals are able to experience sexual attraction to anyone of any given identity.
However, Somewhat* *a non-binary femme person who identifies as pansexual* argues that the personality is what they’re drawn to, instead of typical gender traits that one might first associate with attraction.
Since it is a relatively new discovery among gender scholars and people who identify as pansexuals, there are many discrepancies between people who share similar beliefs on what pansexuality does and doesn’t mean.
The most commonly shared notion between the two is that the identity was borne in order to include the other discovered gender identities in the spectrum. From there comes one of the most popular discussions about pansexuality: its relation to bisexuality.
The difference between pansexuality and bisexuality
Now, this is opening a can of worms in the discussion table as, whenever pansexuality is involved, the big sister called “bisexuality” always, always comes into play.
On a grander scale, there is very little difference between the two identities as they are, in fact, more like siblings than distant cousins. But for the purposes of differentiating the two, these are the facts.
Bisexuality takes its root word from the word “bi,” which means two. Traditionally, this accommodates people who are sexually attracted to men and women. [Read: The best of both worlds? How to date a bisexual woman]
However, this identity has been rooted upon the belief that there were only two genders, as homosexuality meant attraction for the same gender, and heterosexuality for the opposite gender. For a long time, these two identities were the only ones widely known and accepted.
It was due to the recent growth of awareness and discussion of the complexities of these new identities that the demand formed for there to be a more inclusive label for those who do not identify with the more traditional, binary sense of what makes a gender.
For the most part, though this point can be argued, those who identify as bisexual can be sexually attracted to both men and women, while those who identify as pansexual can be attracted to those of any gender identity, including men and women.
According to a statement from Ash Smith* *a female to male transman who identifies as pansexual*, “a large percentage of bisexual people only have the sexual desire for males and females, and they may have a preference. Obviously, pan people can have preferences too, but pan people are also attracted to those that may be intersex, third-gender, androgynous, transsexual, or otherwise transgender, while bisexual people are generally not.”
Again, the definitions of gender are growing more and more fluid by the day. The complexities that come with human understanding arise and challenge these labels, so the meanings are constantly growing in order to accommodate changing or developing definitions. What makes a man, a man–and a woman, a woman–are highly dependent on personal philosophy and upbringing.
Perhaps the real difference between a pansexual and a bisexual is that a pansexual person can find attraction with anyone; their prospective partner’s gender identity plays no part in determining initial sexual attraction. There are no barriers, so to speak. A pansexual person can be attracted to absolutely anyone, but that is not to say that they are attracted to absolutely everyone.
What is it really like to be pansexual?
Life as a pansexual person, in this day and age, can be frustrating to people who don’t exactly understand it. There are debates enough within the circle of people who identify as pansexual as it is, without other people constantly telling them that their identity doesn’t exist. Pansexuality has numerous definitions and subsets, including those who identify as asexual, but panromantic *no sexual attraction at all, but an open romantic attraction*, as well as those who identify as both pansexual and polyamorous *having an intimate relationship with more than one partner*.
Identifying as a pansexual person takes a lot of time, as it requires you to be comfortable with yourself and your desires. There is nothing wrong with being attracted to only one gender, or two, or no genders at all–to not feel sexual attraction, at all. The road to finding out that you are attracted to anyone–with no strings of identity attached–is a long and winding one. It can take weeks, months, or even years. Some people spend their entire lives trying to figure out which subset of sexuality they fit into.
Figuring out what you do and don’t like and eventually discovering that you identify as pansexual as early as your 20s or 30s can be a rewarding conquest of personal growth. Then you can focus on building relationships with the full understanding that there are no barriers that gender identity presents.
You can fall in love with anyone… but that doesn’t mean you will. It can be both a freeing and terrifying experience to have the revelation that this is the kind of person you are. There is so much love in you, and there is so much love that you can give with no conditions attached. As for all the frustration and politics that the discussion on pansexuality can present… the possibility of love from anywhere and everywhere is a beautiful thing.
And, for the last time, no–we don’t have sex with pans.
*Names have been changed.
[Read: The perks and un-perks of coming out of the closet]
Understanding pansexuality is a huge step in understanding the fluidity of sexuality and the nature of attraction. In line with this, understanding your own gender identity and, in turn, your sexual preferences opens your eyes to what type of person or persons you wish to bring into your romantic life.
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