What Is Pansexual? Here's How It's Different From Being Bisexual
An expert explains what it means to have the capacity to be attracted to people regardless of gender.
The range of sexual identities keeps expanding, and lately, we've been hearing a lot about pansexuality. Over the past few years, celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Janelle Monaé have come out as pansexual. In June 2020, Variety published a cover story on model and actress Cara Delevingne, 27, who said that she identifies as pansexual. "I always will remain, I think, pansexual," she said in her interview. "However one defines themselves, whether it’s ‘they’ or ‘he’ or ‘she,’ I fall in love with the person—and that’s that. I’m attracted to the person."
In July 2019, Instagram influencer Tess Holliday told Nylon that she identifies as pansexual. After she was asked if she was bisexual, she replied, "'Thank you so much for asking. I've been thinking a lot about my relationship to my own queerness, and I think the word pansexual speaks to me more than bi does.'"
So what exactly does the term pansexual mean, and who are pansexuals sexually and/or romantically attracted to? We asked an expert for insight.
Pansexuality means that you might find yourself attracted to a person regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. “It can feel strange because we still don’t hear about it that often, but I tell my pansexual patients that they are lucky, because they can love everyone and anyone. Pansexuals are attracted to the person, not their physical form,” Holly Richmond, PhD, a sex therapist in New York City, tells Health.
"Pan" is the Greek word for all, so a pansexual could be sexually and/or romantically interested in any person of all identities.
For example, pansexuals can be sexually and/or romantically attracted to someone who is transgender, non-binary, or gender fluid, explains Richmond. While anyone can be pansexual, it's more likely to be seen in people who are already members of the LGBTQ+ community, she adds.
“You can see it with anyone of any gender identity, but it’s more common for people who are already open-minded to different forms of sexual expression,” she says.
Pansexual people can sometimes think that they are just bisexual, says Richmond. It can take time for them to realize that their sexual orientation is all-encompassing. Of course, just because a pansexual person has the capacity to be attracted to a wider range of partners isn't the same as being promiscuous.
“Pansexuals have the ability to love all people and don’t look at gender as being the most important aspect,” Richmond says. “They look at personality traits versus the package they come in.”