What is the difference between bisexual and pansexual?

Hi suggestive! I love your blog and been following you for, gosh, 3/4 years now? Anyway, I have a question to ask and I thought you would be the best person to be able to address it. It may be a rather complicated question, as I am having trouble answering it myself, since the topic could be considered complex, as sexuality is for many.

I understand the definitions of bisexual and pansexual, and to help form my question I’m going to leave some google definitions.

bisexual: sexually attracted to both men and women.

pansexual: not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.

Now, in my view, if a person assigns themselves an identity in regards to sexuality (assuming they are assigning it solely being true to themselves), that person is picking the best label for them. I recently identified myself as bisexual, a label I’ve been putting off for awhile now, because I understand sexuality is fluid and I felt no need to assign myself a label. However, recently I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m attracted to both men and women, and have always known I could fall in love with a man (actually I’m in love with one now yay). Although I always knew I was attracted to women (and had crushes on them), I wasn’t always certain I could fall in love with a woman, because I’ve never been in a intimate relationship with one.

However, I don’t think you necessarily need to be in a relationship with a certain gender to know your sexuality, and I personally feel 90% positive that I could fall in love with a women, if the opportunity were to arise.

I’m currently given the above information to help delve into the question at hand. If a person identifies as bisexual, wouldn’t it seem likely they could be more suited for the term pansexual? Considering a bisexual person is attracted to both men and women, and thus all body parts, what stops that person from believing they are pansexual? If your attracted to both sexes aren’t you then attracted to all people? I know some people may not want to gender themselves, but still, they have the body of either (or both) sexes. I’m sorry if this didn’t come across as clearly as I may have wanted.

This is a great question. It’s also a question that has got me thinking, which is appreciated.

It comes down to a belief in gender identity, and a preference in labeling. Bisexual is older language and so it restricts more closely to the gender binary. You like men and women. It is inclusive, but does not directly confront gender as politics. There may be an implied tone that these are cisgender men and women. Men and women who were born men and women and identify as men and women.

Pansexual opens up bisexuality to include transgender people, intersex people, and like you said – people that don’t necessarily gender themselves. In other words, someone who is pansexual is more or less bisexual, but someone who is bisexual is not necessarily pansexual.

Someone who is bisexual may have a more fine line on what makes a man and a woman. They may appreciate a woman for being feminine and womanly, they may appreciate a man for being masculine and manly. Someone who is pansexual may bend those lines more freely – lets say, someone who was misidentified as a man at birth, lives as a woman, but still has a penis.

Labels are made to fill in blanks in our language, ways to describe things. As we explore the subject of gender, new language is created to discuss things in ways that we feel are most accurate. Pansexual makes room for people who do not see gender as a binary. Bisexual is a simpler (and often times much easier) way to say that you like men and women.

I think I most frequently identify as bisexual because if I’m discussing my sexuality at all, it is to pass along a message to someone else. Because not everyone is super ultra-aware of this language, I found bisexual the easiest language to pass along a simple message. “I am not straight.” In that sense, identifying as pansexual may also open you up (or restrict you) to others who are interested in gender identity or agree that gender is not a binary.

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit at the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog. 

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