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Gender & Sexuality dictionary

pansexual

[ pan-sek-shoo-uhl ]

What does pansexual mean?

Pansexual refers to the sexual orientation of someone who is romantically, emotionally, or sexually attracted to people of any gender identity, gender, or biological sex.

Some pansexual people say that, when it comes to attraction, they don’t see gender or they find it irrelevant. That’s what distinguishes pansexuality from omnisexuality or bisexuality.

The term pansexual is also used in the name of Pansexual Visibility Day, observed on May 24. 

Related words

omnisexual, nonbinary gender, queer, gender-fluid, gender-neutral pronouns, Kinsey Scale, polysexual, aromantic, positionality

Where does pansexual come from?

Black background with illustration of the pansexual flag (pink, yellow and blue stripes)

Pansexual was first used in psychology to refer to the idea that sex is the primary driver of all human behavior, pan here from the Greek meaning “all.” The word was originally leveled against the ideas of Sigmund Freud as far back as 1914. Critics were still arguing against this supposed pansexual psychology in the 1950s and 1960s.

New meanings for pansexual emerged in the 1960–70s. A 1960s study described pansexual rats who paired sexually with other rats regardless of their biological sex. In 1966, Life magazine described poet Allen Ginsberg as being in favor of pansexual freedom, apparently meaning complete sexual freedom. On a similar note in 1974, the Saturday Review saw a trend of pansexuality or “sexual anarchy” in New York theater. Around the same time, an article in Ramparts magazine made reference to pansexuality as a sexual identity, contrasting it with “the older term bisexual.” A 1979 book titled The Gay Report also includes reports from people who called themselves pansexual.

Pansexual celebrities

A handful of celebrities have spread awareness of the term when they came out as pansexual. Superstar Miley Cyrus described herself as pansexual in an interview with Elle UK in August 2015. In a later interview with Variety, she said, “I don’t ever think about someone being a boy or someone being a girl.” In 2017, she released a song, “She’s Not Him,” which Billboard called “a pansexual milestone in mainstream music.”

In an April 2018 Rolling Stone interview, artist Janelle Monae identified as pansexual. She noted that she previously called herself bisexual, but then learned of pansexuality and thought that fit, saying “I’m open to learning more about who I am.” Google searches for pansexuality spiked in April 2018 after the interview.

In March 2021, singer Demi Lovato described themself as pansexual during an interview with Joe Rogan on his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. When asked by Rogan if Demi liked “girls” and “boys,” Lovato answered “Yeah, anything, really.” Rogan responded by asking if pansexual was the correct term, and Lovato answered that it was. Lovato’s interview with Rogan was covered extensively by the mainstream media. In May 2021, Lovato announced that they identify as nonbinary and use they/them pronouns.

Examples of pansexual

I'd refer to myself as pansexual because I believe in hearts not parts. #embracethequeer
@nharmertaylor, September, 2018
Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo) is Sabrina’s English warlock cousin who is on house arrest inside the funeral home he lives in (because of course he does). Ambrose is described as, “witty, puckish, and pansexual…always up for mischief.”
Alex Velazquez, Into, September, 2018
i like how deadpool is canonically a pansexual feminist who kills pedophiles and is against racism and homophobia, but he still has dudebro fans ...
@spideysilverr, March 30, 2021
SEE MORE EXAMPLES

Who uses pansexual?

Pansexuality can mean different things to different people, so let’s unpack the term:

It’s sometimes thought of as an identity distinct from bisexuality and sometimes as being under a broader bisexual umbrella. From that latter viewpoint, bisexuality can be thought to include attraction to people of multiple genders, including both those with the same gender as one’s own and those of different genders.

glaad.org

Pansexuality specifically refers to sexual and/or romantic attraction to people of all gender identities or attraction regardless of gender. It is often considered to be more inclusive than bisexuality. Some pansexual people choose that term because they feel that bisexual reinforces the idea of a gender binary rather than a gender spectrum.

Bisexual people, however, can be attracted to nonbinary people, and some nonbinary people identify as bisexual. Some take the bi- prefix to mean attraction to both their same gender and other genders. The activist Robyn Ochs has described bisexuality as “the potential to be attracted—romantically and/or sexually—to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

Pansexuality on the other hand is sometimes thought of as being gender-blind. A pansexual writer for Cosmopolitan noted she is “drawn in by a person’s ‘vibes’ and the ‘feel’ I get from them as a being” rather than thinking “I wonder what it’d be like to f*ck them? I wonder what their genitals look like.”

The Marvel superhero Deadpool is considered pansexual, bringing some notable representing of sexual diversity in popular culture.

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Note

This is not meant to be a formal definition of pansexual like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of pansexual that will help our users expand their word mastery.