What Does 'Pansexual' Mean? An Expert Explains
Over the past few years, many celebrities—including Miley Cyrus, Emily Hampshire, and Janelle Monaé—have come out as pansexual. In June 2020, Variety published a cover story on model and actress Cara Delevingne, who said that she identifies as pansexual. "I always will remain, I think, pansexual," she said in her interview. "However one defines themselves [...]I fall in love with the person—and that's that. I'm attracted to the person."
But what exactly does the term pansexual mean, and who are people who identify this way sexually and romantically attracted to? We asked an expert for insight.
What does it mean to be pansexual?
Being pansexual means that you might find yourself attracted to a person regardless of their gender identity. In fact, "pan" is the Greek word for all, so a pansexual person could be sexually and/or romantically interested in people of all sexual or gender identities.
People of any gender identity can be pansexual, but according to Holly Richmond, PhD, a sex therapist in New York City, those who are already members of the LGBTQ+ community may be more likely to identify this way. "It's more common for people who are already open-minded to different forms of sexual expression," she tells Health.
How do I know if I'm pansexual?
It can take time for some people to realize that their sexual orientation is all-encompassing, she explains. Of course, just because a person has the ability to be attracted to people regardless of gender identity, it doesn't mean that they're going to be attracted to everyone. It just means that attraction works a bit differently for them.
"[Pansexual people] look at personality traits versus the package they come in," says Richmond. However, this doesn't mean that pansexual people don't experience physical attraction—they very much do, but feeling that physical attraction to a person is not dependent on their sexuality or gender.
There's some confusion and discourse (even within the LGBTQ+ community) about the difference between the terms "pansexual" and "bisexual." The argument comes down to the misunderstanding that the word bisexual refers to being attracted to only two genders, though many people have now expanded that definition to the more inclusive, "I'm attracted to my gender and other genders." No one can tell you how to identify, so feel free to try on these terms and see what feels right to you.