Updated: Jul 30
We learn much about sex education in school - but not so much about sexuality and its expressions thereof. Hence our world view is mostly through a heterosexual lens - what a straight man or woman is, and how they should act. And if you grew up knowing and understanding the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans) community, then consider yourself lucky since it's a subject that a lot of schools seem to shy away from. Those who want to learn about other sexualities are left to fend for themselves, picking up their information through sparse educational materials or through their peers.
This situation leaves a lot to be desired. Human sexuality is very complicated; there are many distinct ways humans can love each other, and putting a label on each one can result into confusion and befuddlement. For example, one term in particular - pansexuality - has lots of people puzzled over its exact definition.
What does it mean to be a pansexual? Is it a new kind of sexuality? To what kind of people are pansexual people attracted to?
First off, let's start with a quick definition. A pansexual refers to someone who is romantically or sexually attracted to a person regardless of that person's biological sex. There are some experts, most prominent of which include the sociologist Emily Lenning, further expands that definition to include gender identity and gender expression. So it doesn't matter what kind of biological, sexual equipment a person has, or how masculine or feminine-presenting he or she is- a pansexual doesn't care. He or she loves that person as an individual, and nothing else.
Is It A New Kind Of Sexuality?
Pansexuality has been getting a lot of attention lately, primarily because of the fact that some popular artists have publicly outed themselves as being one. Miley Cyrus and Janelle Monae are the most recent ones who are actively identifying themselves as pansexual.
But no, pansexuality is not a new thing. Throughout history, people have been attracted to all kinds of genders, though there was no specific name for it.
So, Isn't It Just Bisexuality?
A little bit, but no, for the most part. Many bisexuals have very pansexual behaviors and attractions, but we must be very careful in confusing one term for the other. Being bisexual is having the assumption that you only have two genders you're attracted to. But what if you find yourself falling in love with someone who fall outside that traditional gender binary of man-woman? Is there a name for that kind of sexuality? Here's where the term pansexuality comes in. Bisexuality implies a strict dichotomy, while pansexuality is a whole spectrum. And no, pansexuality doesn't mean you're polyamorous. It just means that you're in love with a person, and now his or her genitals or how he or she presents themselves.
The problem with labels is that you're strictly boxing everyone into one definition. It is helpful, in a way, for some people to form an identity around. But the traditional lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans labels doesn't encompass attractions to all kinds of people, including non-binary folk.