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Let’s talk religion and sexuality: Bisexuality vs. pansexuality

Logan Field is a freshman at Maryville College and shares her experience with her religion and sexuality. Photo by Clair Scott.

Logan Field is a freshman at Maryville College and shares her experience with her religion and sexuality. Photo by Clair Scott.

Bisexuality and pansexuality are quite often assumed to be the same thing. However, this is not true. Just because someone identifies as pansexual doesn’t mean they’re bisexual with a broader range to choose from. Pansexuality isn’t the only other term outside the common three, but this article is to focus on how these similar sexualities are independent.

The first thing that needs to be understood about the differences is that the term bisexuality is more common. In my personal experience, I’ve met few people who know what the term pansexuality is and don’t immediately ask if I like pans.

Because of this, I used to explain to people that pansexuality is like bisexuality only without gender restrictions. While this isn’t exactly true, it’s a much easier way for people who aren’t in the LGBTQ+ community to understand the term.

This doesn’t mean that bisexuals only like females and males. Bisexuality itself is a descriptor for someone who’s attractions are not limited to one sex. It’s a term that’s well-known, or at least more so than pansexuality.

Even though they are more recognized, bisexuals are often shamed by gay and straight individuals for not being able to “choose” one sex or the other. Please remember that this is not only unfair but can make an individual feel invalid.

Pansexuality is the clear expression that an individual doesn’t care about gender when it comes to their sexuality. The biggest key to the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality is the focus on gender identity.

The dictionary states that to be bisexual, you feel attraction to both men and women. Pansexuality implies that there are more than two genders.

As a pansexual, I don’t believe the gender binary has only two options. I, myself, fall out of the typical binary by identifying as gender neutral. A pansexual individual has no problem dating or having a relationship with, say, a transgender individual or an aromantic individual.

Bisexuals might also be comfortable with dating a transgender or aromantic person, but pansexuals clearly state that gender plays no role. Now, when I inform someone of my sexuality, I tell them that I can form a relationship with anyone regardless of what they have between their legs. At the same time, I also don’t believe gender is categorized simply by the “equipment” you’re born with.

This subject, along with many others of the same theme, has much more to do with the social aspect rather than the physical one. Unfortunately, this means that topics such as this are slightly watered down with a bunch of social conformities or nonconformities. I like to think of it as progressive.

3 Comments

  1. “The dictionary states that to be bisexual, you feel attraction to both men and women.” The dictionary is OUT OF DATE.

    This is the definition currently used by most bi activists: “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge the potential to be attracted romantically and/or sexually to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way or the same degree.”

    I’m the one who coined this definition, and I’m writing this as someone who identifies as BOTH bi and pan, who has identified as bi for 40 years and three months, so far. I’m also the editor of Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, and RECOGNIZE: The Voices of Bisexual Men, and the Bi Women Quarterly (available free online at biwomenboston.org). I don’t see these words as in conflict but rather as highly overlapping.

    I think we’d do well to support and affirm each other no matter which word we choose, and work together to defend non-binary sexualities and gender identities.

    Peace.

  2. P.S.: Thanks for speaking up!

  3. 1: Binary trans people(those who identify as man or woman) would find the idea that somehow they are a gender other than male or female to be transphobic.
    2: Your statement “I also don’t believe gender is categorized simply by the “equipment” you’re born with.” is about acknowledging non-binary genders, and not about attraction to non-binary genders so is pretty much off topic.
    3: Aromantic means “forms no romantic attachments,” and has nothing to do with gender what-so-ever so quite odd you should use that as an example of who pansexuals can be attracted to.
    4: What Robyn said.
    5: The difference between bi and pan is quite accurately and clearly stated in your one phrase, “pansexuals clearly state that gender plays no role,” that’s all you needed to say. For many bisexuals gender is irrelevant, for some it is, but for pansexuals there is a clear statement that gender is not an issue.

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