Pansexual and bisexual: What is the difference?

A pansexual person is attracted to all genders, and even non-binary individuals, while bisexuals are attracted to more than one gender.
Woman with pride flag
Pansexuality refers to a person being emotionally, sexually and romantically attracted to someone, irrespective of the gender. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 16 Jun 2024, 09:00 pm IST
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Sexuality is a diverse concept. In the modern day, there is more familiarity with the different relationship dynamics that exist in the LGBTQI community. Yet for some people, it may be easy to get confused about certain terms. Pansexuality and bisexuality are two sexual orientations that are often considered to be similar. But in effect, they are different. A pansexual person is someone who experiences romantic or sexual feelings towards people of any gender, or even no gender at all. Bisexuality, on the other hand, means that you are attracted to both men and women, as per the Journal of Sex Research.

What does it mean to be pansexual?

If you are pansexual, you would find yourself being attracted to people of all genders, and also to people who don’t identify with any gender. You are more attracted to how the person is, rather than the gender to which he or she belongs. Therefore, pansexual people can be attracted to any gender. According to this research published in the Journal of Bisexuality, pansexuality and its meaning is something that is not tangible and cannot be put into a clear category. They say that pansexual people base their relationships on “hearts, not parts”. They might be attracted to trans, and non-binary gender identities as well.

How is pansexual different from polysexual and omnisexual?

Polysexual is a much larger term, one that encompasses both pansexual and bisexual orientations. Polysexual means that one is attracted to multiple genders, while pansexual means that one is attracted to all genders, and bisexual means that one is attracted to more than one gender. Omnisexual, on the other hand, means that you experience an attraction for all genders, which is why it is much like pansexual. However, in pansexuality, gender holds no consideration; while this is not true for omnisexuality.

Bisexual vs pansexual: What is the difference?

Many traits of bisexual and pansexual overlap with each other, making it tough to give a straightforward answer to the question. While pansexuality refers to one being attracted to another person, regardless of their gender, in bisexuality, a person can be attracted to more than one gender. Now, one may assume that non-binary genders are excluded from the definition of who a bisexual person might be attracted to, but it is not so. Many bisexual people are non-binary as well. The difference lies in the terms ‘all’ and ‘multiple’. While pansexual people are attracted to people from ‘all’ genders or even no genders, bisexual people are attracted to to two or more genders, not all.

Can you be attracted more to just one gender if you are pansexual?

Yes, you can. A study published in the Journal of Bisexuality conducted an assessment with 172 bisexual, pansexual and queer adults. They were given an online survey and were analysed based on their sexual identity and preferences. It was seen that it is okay to have a preference towards one gender, and still be called bisexual or pansexual.

You may face a trend where you are emotionally attracted to one gender and physically attracted to another one. There are many kinds of romantic orientations that you might face. Romance is very different from being sexually attracted to someone. According to this paper, published by the University of North Carolina, many kinds of romantic associations exist.

  • Aromantic: These are people who do not experience romantic attraction toward individuals of any gender.
  • Biromantic: Here, the romantic attraction is basically toward males and females.
  • Heteroromantic: These people experience romantic attraction toward persons of a different gender than theirs.
  • Homoromantic: Here, there is a romantic attraction towards persons of the same gender.
  • Panromantic: In this category, the romantic attraction is towards persons of every gender.
  • Polyromantic: Here, there is romantic attraction toward multiple, but not all genders
  • Grey-romantic: In this, individuals don’t often experience romantic attraction at all.
  • Demiromantic: Here, a person does not experience romantic attraction until there is an emotional bond.
Two hands with the pride flag around one.
A pansexual person might be romantically inclined towards one gender, and sexually attracted towards another. Image courtesy: Pexels

Can a pansexual person become straight if he or she dates someone from the opposite sex?

No, just because a pansexual woman dates a man, does not mean that she is straight. Neither does a pansexual man dating another man make him gay. Your partner’s gender holds no meaning for you when it comes to relationships. That is what it means to be pansexual.

Also Read: This is how you can become a true ally to your LGBTQ+ friends

What is sexuality and how do you fit into the right category?

Sexuality refers to who a person is attracted to. This is where sexual orientations such as homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality; the LGBTQ community, come into play. Many people associate sexuality with a spectrum. At one end of this spectrum are heterogenous people, who are attracted to the opposite gender, while those who are attracted to the same gender, are at the other end. Pansexual, bisexual, and other sexuality where you feel attracted to more than one gender, are placed in between.

A couple in bed
Romance is very different from being sexually attracted to someone. Image courtesy: Pexels

According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation can be decided based on your pattern of emotional, romantic and sexual attraction to both men and women or people who identify with no gender as well. However, sexual attraction and being in a relationship are quite different, and so, people often find it difficult to identify themselves on the spectrum. However, it is important to note that there are no rigid markings when it comes to identification. You may even identify yourself with multiple orientations. You can even switch to other terms if you feel that your attraction pattern has changed over time.

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Also Read: What does it mean to be asexual? A psychologist explains

Summary

Being pansexual refers to the sexual orientation of a person where he or she is attracted to a person, regardless of their gender. This means that the love interest can identify as male, female or even non-binary. This attraction includes not only sexuality but emotional and romantic connections as well. It is often not possible to identify yourself with one particular orientation, and that is perfectly fine. Your sexual orientation might evolve and change with time as well.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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