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Pansexual vs. Bisexual: All the Ways to Tell the Real Difference

If you’re confused between pansexual vs. bisexual, you’re not alone. Let’s clear things up by discussing the real difference between these terms.

Pansexual vs. Bisexual

How to tell the difference between pansexual vs. bisexual? Don’t worry. You’re not the only one who asks this question.

It’s a widely known fact that there isn’t just one sexuality in this world. There aren’t even just two or three, but TONS of different ways people can describe how they feel about others and themselves.

[Read: Heteroflexible: all you need to know about a rare sexuality]

What’s unfortunate about this is that most people only know of a few. The biggest debate between sexualities seems to be the pansexual vs. bisexual one. But it really seems to be the rest of the world who debates it, not the pansexual and bisexual people themselves.

Most people are confused as to how they differ, and truthfully, it’s understandable. Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t tell the difference yet. There’s nothing wrong with educating yourself.

So let’s find out together!

[Read: 23 secret signs of female bisexuality to read a bi girl & how to date her]

Pansexual vs. bisexual: You love who you love

Before we get into definitions of pansexual vs. bisexual, we should first acknowledge that sexual identities don’t really matter much. Yes, they matter for the person and who they love, but they don’t truly matter to anyone else. Who someone else loves shouldn’t make a difference in the way we see them at all.

You love who you love and that should be that. With the world becoming more accepting of different sexualities, it’s easy to mistake a curious person for a skeptical one. Just remember that sometimes, people just want to understand and they don’t want to criticize. [Read: Pansexual confessions – What is it like to be one?]

History of the terms

Contrary to popular belief about pansexual vs. bisexual, they’re definitely not the same thing. Although these two sexualities may be similar, they’re very different. And knowing the difference can help you better understand an individual and who they are. It’ll also help you not mistake one for the other and offend anyone.

In the past, when the terms bisexual or pansexual didn’t exist, some people preferred not to categorize their relationships. Some identify themselves as heterosexual, others as gay or lesbian.

Percentages or ratios were also preferred when talking about sexual orientation. For example, 60:40 lesbian:straight, 30:70 straight:gay. Sexuality was viewed as some sort of spectrum that one can move along from time to time. It wasn’t until the late 70s that the term is used as we use it today.

[Read: Graysexual: what it is and the common qualities of greysexuality]

Pansexual vs. bisexual: What does it mean?

Bisexuality and pansexuality are both terms to describe sexual orientation. While bisexuality refers to an attraction to more than one gender, pansexuality may be defined as an attraction regardless of gender.

[Read: The definition of Queer – What does the Q in LGBTQ really mean?]

However, it’s important to note that when someone identifies as pansexual, it doesn’t mean they’re attracted to everyone. Just like a heterosexual person is not attracted to every person of the opposite sex. Many think that bisexual defines their gender according to biological sex. But the truth is that many bisexual people specify themselves as either agender or gender-fluid.

No, it’s not all about the body. Some people say that bisexuals are all about the body parts and pansexuals are all about the soul/core of a person. Obviously, bisexuals care just as much about the person behind the body. They are just only attracted to two or more genders, but not all of them. [Read: Sexually fluid – What does this even mean in the dating world?]

Pansexual vs. bisexual: Misconceptions about pansexuality

This is a sexuality that is relatively new when it comes to actually naming it. Many people have obviously felt this way before but didn’t have a word for it. If you’ve never heard of pansexuality, or are curious as to what it means, let’s find out through these common misconceptions.

1. Pansexuality equates to equal attraction

Pansexuals like more than one or two genders. This is what sets them apart from bisexuals. They like their own gender, plus the opposite, and all the genders in between. They even like nonbinary genders and even those who don’t believe in genders at all. [Read: Dating a bisexual – 12 things you should never say]

That being said, pansexuality is a broader spectrum. It’s not as limited as bisexuality. But it doesn’t mean they’re attracted to every single person they see, just like straight people aren’t attracted to every single person that’s not their gender. They just have the potential to. [Read: Am I lesbian or bisexual? How to understand your true desires]

Not all pansexuals are “gender blind,” though. Some say they cannot see a person’s gender while some do acknowledge the gender of someone they like. However, it just doesn’t make a difference in their feelings for them at all. In fact, it’s only relevant to the other person, and doesn’t matter so much to a pansexual even if they acknowledge it.

[Read: Pansexual confessions: what is it like to be one?]

2. Pansexuality is the same as polyamory

Though a pansexual person may identify as polyamorous, pansexuality and polyamory are two completely different things.

For pansexual individuals, it’s more about the person at their core. People say pansexuals care less about the body the person is in and more about the person. This is the best description you can find about a pansexual. The other person’s body is irrelevant to them, and if they’re attracted to the person, they’re attracted to the body.

Meanwhile, polyamory is about the ability and commitment to form romantic or/and sexual relationships with more than one person. You can be of any type of sexual orientation and be in a polyamorous relationship.

[Read: Polyamorous dating: everything you need to know first]

3. Pansexuals are promiscuous

There’s a myth that pansexuals are promiscuous, that they sleep with everyone. This is far from the truth.

Just because you have the capacity for sexual attraction for everyone regardless of gender, it doesn’t mean they want to have sex with everyone they see. It would mean the same as saying a straight woman would have sex with every straight man.

4. Pansexuals are less likely to be monogamous

Again, being pansexual doesn’t equate to being sexually attracted to everyone. Pansexuals have the same propensity for monogamy or polyamory, just like every other sexuality.

Pansexual vs. bisexual: Misconceptions about bisexuality

In the discussion of pansexual vs. bisexual, bisexuality is probably the one you’re more familiar with out of the two. It’s really one of the “original” sexualities we learned about when we thought there were only three different kinds: straight, gay, and bisexual. But there’s more to it than just that.

Here are some common misconceptions about bisexuality. [Read: 9 clear ways to tell for sure is someone is really bisexual]

1. Bisexuals are only attracted to binary genders

The “bi” comes from liking two different genders. When this term first came about, people described their feelings as liking both men and women because “bi” means “two.”

However, bisexuals can like more than two genders. If you like your own, and more than one other gender, you can still use this term to describe your sexual preferences. Since there are a number of different genders out there, people can like more than two, but not all of them – like pansexuals.

Some bisexuals date only men and women, some date nonbinary people, and some are attracted to all genders. So, suggesting that being bisexual is inherently transphobic is biphobic.

[Read: How to read the signs of a bisexual woman when you’re around her]

2. Bisexuals are 50% straight and 50% gay

In addition to biphobia, many assume that bisexuals are either straight or gay based on the gender of the person they’re currently dating. That’s what leads to hurtful comments when someone comes out as bisexual like, “You’re just confused.”

No, they’re not just “confused.” Many people out there don’t believe bisexuality is a real thing. They think that those people don’t know what they want and don’t want to identify as homosexual, which is false. Bisexuals know what they want, and what they want is their own gender and other genders. [Read: 10 things women need to know about dating a bisexual man]

2. Bisexuals are cheaters

Many people think when a bisexual is in a committed relationship, they may be cheating on their partner because they are not satisfied. This is completely wrong and insulting even. Having an attraction to all genders doesn’t make a person automatically unfaithful.

Bisexuality is a sexual orientation, not a description of what’s going on in a person’s life. When a bisexual female dates a man, it doesn’t make her less bisexual or more straight. You can be bisexual and be in a long-term committed relationship, just like you can be straight and still cheat on your partner.

[Read: 10 things women need to know about dating a bisexual man]

3. Bisexuality is just a phase

Common misconceptions find their way into even casual conversations.

“This is just a phase, right?”

“You’re only doing this for male attention.”

“You’re just following a trend.”

Many bisexuals are treated like their identity is just a sticker that can be peeled off or replaced. When in fact, bisexuality, just like every other sexuality, is a tattoo into each person’s existence.

No, bisexuals don’t identify themselves as bi for attention or to follow a trend. Especially bisexual women, who have to constantly face misogynistic accusations such as “you’re only doing this for male attention.”

The fetishization of bisexual women is a huge issue of societal structures. It is completely wrong to invalidate someone’s sexuality based on stereotypes, and to say that anything a woman does is for male attention is just disrespectful.

[Read: Biromantic vs. Bisexual: how to understand who you really are]

Can you switch your sexual orientation later on?

Yes, the sexual orientation of a person can be changed throughout their lifetime, and becomes stable when the person identifies which gender they’re attracted to.

[Read: Am I a lesbian or bisexual? 31 signs to the truth without asking around]

Some people grew up in a strict household, and when they finally break away from those constraints, they are free to explore their sexuality which may result in an identity shift. Another case is when they develop an attraction for a new person, which calls their identity into question.

Sexual fluidity is a concept that describes how a person’s sexual identity may shift and can shift at any time, but it’s not the same as gender fluidity. A change in sexuality doesn’t equate to a change in gender. A person may remain attracted to the same gender(s) even after changing their sexuality.

[Read: Sexually fluid: what it means, how it feels & how to make sense of it]

Pansexual vs. bisexual: What if none of the terms feels right?

What if none of the terms feels right to you and you’re still questioning your sexuality? Don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with that.

In this case, you can either refer to yourself as queer or questioning. Queer is an umbrella term for anyone who isn’t identified as heterosexual without providing details about who they are or who they’re attracted to. Questioning is the term for people who are in the process of figuring out their sexuality.

Just because someone else figures out who they are at your age, it doesn’t make your struggles any less valid than theirs. You are on your own unique journey, so go at your own pace.

[Read: The different types of gender & why you really need to know them]

Overall, the pansexual vs. bisexual debate isn’t that difficult. The two sexualities are very similar, yet different. Think of them as an umbrella where bisexuality is the actual umbrella and pansexuality falls under it. They’re in a similar category, despite being much different.

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Natasha Ivanovic
Natasha Ivanovic is an intimacy, dating, and relationship writer, and the creator and author of her short stories on TheLonelySerb. She completed her first degr...
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