About two years ago, my friend and I were sitting in her hot tub catching up on life when she turns to me and asks what I thought was a bizarre question. Here’s a recap of our conversation:
“Leslyn, have you heard of the term ‘pansexual’?”
“What?! Huh???” I responded.
“Well, my daughter just told me that she was pansexual and that she has a girlfriend.”
I doubt that for those of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s has ever heard of the term “pansexual”. But since that conversation, the term “pansexual” has come up more and more. Of all the varieties of sexualities, the most popular one is “pansexuality”. In this article, Cocktail Chatter will give you a brief primer upon its genesis and popularity and the “10 Things You Should Know about Pansexuality”.
A Brief History of Pansexuality
Surprisingly, pansexuality has been around for a long time. Deriving from the Greek word “pan” which means “all”, pansexuality is the sexual identity used to describe being attracted to people of all genders beyond the traditional binary concept “male” and “female”. Although Sigmund Freud used the concepts of pansexuality in his theories, it was not until 2015 when Miley Cyrus disclosed that she was a pansexual that the term became popular. More on that later.
The 7 Things You Should Know About Pansexuality
- It’s a REAL Thing: As with any new concept, there is a misconception that pansexuality does not exist. Sorry, but it truly does and to deny the existence of someone’s sexuality prevents them from accepting their identity. Pansexuals are not confused about their sexuality.
- Pansexuality is NOT Bisexuality: A bisexual is someone who is attracted to people of more than one gender (male, female, non-binary, trans people, etc.). Pansexuality does not view gender as the trait attracting them to someone; rather, a pansexual is attracted by a person’s ‘vibes’ and ‘feel’ as a being. A pansexual is attracted emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually to people of all genders and sexes.
- It is Not Uncommon for a Person Who Once Identified as Bisexual to Become Pansexual: Okay, you’re probably saying “What? Didn’t you just say that Pansexuality is not the same as bisexuality?! Doesn’t this contradict what you just said?! Actually, no. Many pansexuals have said that they have had these feeling from a young age but just did not know this until they learned more about pansexuality. In a 2016 Vanity Fair article, Miley Cyrus tells readers of her own struggle to understand her gender and sexuality. “I always hated the word” bisexual” because that’s even putting me in a box,” she said. In her Billboard interview, Miley announced her pansexuality saying, “Who I’m with has nothing to do with sex. I’m super open, pansexual, that’s me.” Similarly, the singer actor Janelle Monae spoke of her pansexuality in the Rolling Stones magazine in April 2018. She explained that originally, she identified as a bisexual, but realized the label didn’t quite fit. “Later, I read about pansexuality and was like ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too. I’m open to learning more about who I am.”
- Pansexuals Are Not Sex Maniacs Uninterested in a Deeper Relationship: Because pansexuality is literally defined as “all sexuality”, people often misinterpret that pansexuals are only interested in sex. Like other sexualities, when pansexuals connect romantically, it’s about emotionally connecting with the person, not the gender. Noted Reid McDaniel, who specializes counseling in gender and sexual identity, “Being attracted to more people has nothing to do with the kind of relationship a person wants to have with their partner or partners”. Pansexuals thus want meaningful relationships just like their more traditional counterpart heterosexuals. This fact was just demonstrated when the pansexual Miley Cyrus married her longtime boyfriend, Liam Hemsworth.
- Pansexuality Does not Equate to Promiscuity: There something about the word pansexuality that conjures up images of rampant sex and promiscuity. Being more open to other forms of sexuality like pansexuality is not the same as being sexually promiscuous. Like a heterosexual, a pansexual can engage in a monogamous emotionally deep relationship. Holly Richmond, a certified sex therapist and family and marriage counselor said, “Although pansexuals may be attracted to all people, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to have sex with everyone.”
- Pansexuality Has Nothing to do With Gender: People often mix gender and sexual identity. Pansexuality refers only to sexual orientations, that is, who someone is attracted to, not what gender they identify as. McDaniel explains, “It is completely different from gender identity which refers to how someone identifies their own gender”.
- Younger Generations are More Likely to Identify as Pansexual: Most dating and sex experts agree that the rise of pansexuality is generational with a large percentage of the younger generation embracing this sexuality versus other older generations. According to YouGov Survey (2018), 34% of young adults between the ages of 18-34 identified themselves as something other than a 0 or 6 on the Kinsey scale of sexuality. This percentage was nearly five times the proportion of those 55+. The Kinsey scale treats sexuality on a continuum with 0 being completely straight with no same sex attraction and 6 being completely gay with no opposite-sex attraction. According to James Morandini, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Sydney, “One of the reasons that the younger generation seem to be identifying as pansexual or fluid is to avoid the possibility that they’re excluding people by identifying themselves. Even dating apps like OkCupid have included gender or sexual categories like pansexual.”
According to CNN, the word “pansexuality” has been among Google’s top search terms since Miley Cyrus declared herself as pansexual. Similarly, when the singer and actor Janelle Monae came out as pansexual in April 2018, the word “pansexual” became the most word of the day on Merriam-Webster.com with an 11,000% increase in lookups! As more of our children’s generation move toward openness to non-traditional sexualities, it behooves us to understand that in the future gender may not even be a consideration about whom to date.