What is pansexuality?

Being pansexual is all about being attracted to other humans without getting too hung up on what bits they’ve got, who they like to hook up with or how they define themselves. Find out about what it means to be pansexual.

Find out about what it means to be pansexual.

Pansexual pride flag flying high

Pansexuality is the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction to anyone regardless of their sex or gender identity. Pan means ‘all’ in Latin (see, Latin is useful), so substitute ‘pan’ for ‘all’, and you’ve got ‘allsexual’, which gives you a pretty good idea of what it means to be pansexual.

One of the key things about being pansexual is being open to intimate, romantic or sexual relationships with people who identify with gender and sex outside of the classic gender binary: masculine and feminine.

So those who identify as pansexual could be up for cuddles and stuff with someone who is male, female, transgender, intersex, agender, genderqueer, or any other gender identity or sex.

But isn’t that just being bisexual?

Nope. But there are some similarities.

‘Bi’ in Latin (back at it again with the Latin) means ‘two’. Bisexual people are typically attracted to those who identify as male and those who identify as female, which suggests some level of recognition of two types of gender: male and female. But some bisexuals may also be attracted to people of other genders and sexes too. The key difference with bisexuality is that it recognises those gender constructs.

For example, a bisexual cis woman might be attracted to a cis man or woman, whereas a pansexual would be attracted to a cis person. That’s why some people use the term ‘gender blind’ to explain pansexuality.

Wait, you used the term ‘cis’, what’s that?

It’s a term for people whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. So, if your birth sex is male and you identify as male you’re cis-gendered. The term non-trans is also used to explain the same thing.

What about omnisexuality?

There are a lot of similarities between omnisexuality and pansexuality. They’re both all about being into the whole world of gender and sex, but the key difference is that omnisexuals recognise whatever someone identifies as, whereas pansexuals don’t.

How do I know if I’m pansexual?

If you’re down for hooking up with the whole range of sparkly human beings out there, then pansexuality could be for you. It can be a liberating way of giving a name to something diverse and ever-changing if you find other definitions restrictive.

Are pansexuals attracted to everyone, all the time?

A common misconception – that would be exhausting.

It can be hard to find the right person no matter what sexuality you identify as. Just because someone is open to a wide range of sexual or romantic possibilities it doesn’t mean they have to act on them.

Remember, sexuality is fluid. You don’t have to choose a label, but if you do, you can change that label whenever you want.

Next Steps

  • Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline offers a range of help services for the LGBT community, including message boards and a helpline. 0300 330 0630
  • Brook provides free sexual health and wellbeing services for young people in the UK. Brook's services include local clinics and online digital sex and relationships tool.
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 13-Feb-2018

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