Gender & Identity

Bisexuality vs. pansexuality: What’s the difference?

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On Jan 31, 2024

Sexuality is very fluid and there are so many ways we can identify, which can sometimes be confusing. One of the two sexualities that people sometimes get confused are bisexuality and pansexuality. This is mainly because they are both about lovin’ and f**kin’ more than one gender.  

So first, some basic definitions:

Bisexual: meaning “an attraction to two or more genders.” Another definition is “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.”

Bisexuality is often seen as being attracted to only two genders but this isn’t always the case. The term was coined during a time when the array of gender identities and gender fluidity wasn’t as deeply unpacked and understood as it is now. According to Insider, ‘traditionally, many people have understood “bisexual” to mean “attracted to men and women,” but bisexual people have long defined it more broadly than that.’

Pansexual: The prefix “pan-” comes from Greek and means “all.” A pansexual person can feel sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of their biological sex, gender, sexual or gender identity. Pansexuals can feel sexual attraction towards androgynous, agender, bigender, cisgender, intersex, gender-neutral, gender-fluid, and transgender people. Pansexuals can also be called omni-sexual. 

A common misconception is that folx within the bi people are only attracted to cis folx but this isn’t the case. Pansexuality just speaks more to the engagement with gender fluidity as a concept. The dichotomy of man/ woman doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to gender. Even Facebook offers a gazillion (almost 58 to be precise) options for users to choose from when signing up for the platform. And because gender is very much fluid, ‘pansexual’ allows for a new understanding of engaging with all the different genders in terms of romantic and sexual attraction. A case of ‘taste the rainbow’, if you will.

And when we mean different gender identities we are talking about male, female, transgender, gender neutral, bi-gender, gender fluid, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer and third gender (to name but a few). So ‘pansexual’ seeks to hold all of these within the attraction/ romance framework, taking the work of bisexual that little bit further.

Even within our own streets, a lot of African languages are actually very gender neutral (for example, Yoruba and Swahili  or Zulu, which has multiple pronouns) illuminate our history of messing with gender. 

Pansexuality is a dope way of navigating this. One thing about pansexuality is that it also speaks a lot to how you view your romantic and sexual attractions in relation to your own gender identity. If you come from a framework where your gender is fluid, that might influence how and whose DMs you try to slide into.

Some people choose the term “pansexual” to highlight the fact that they can be attracted to all people, regardless of gender and some see “bisexual” as a way of saying that they can be attracted to multiple genders, but not necessarily all of them..

Finally, there are also other terms that folx can use to describe themselves:

–         Polysexuality is the attraction to many, but not all genders. 

–         Bisexual+ is an umbrella term for bisexual, pansexual, queer, and other not-monosexual identities. 




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