Are Pansexuals Bisexual, Queer, Trans, Asexual, or Unique?

Pansexuals deserve their own identity, and so do panromantics.

Posted Jun 14, 2018

 Julyo CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Source: United States Government, 1959 derivative work: Julyo CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This is a follow-up to my previous post on Pansexuals—several interesting studies have been recently published. Just to clarify several definitions:

Pansexual versus Bisexuality

Pansexuality refers to sexual/romantic attraction regardless of the person’s gender, sexuality, or biological sex. It’s an inclusive identity because it’s the person that counts—and what’s attractive about that person which appeals to an individual is distinctive and, perhaps, fluid over time. By contrast, bisexuality refers to sexual/romantic attraction to both men and women, to varying degrees.

Plurisexual

You may have noticed during the past several years the term, plurisexual. This refers to “identities that are not explicitly based on attraction to one sex and leave open the potential for attraction to more than one sex/gender (e.g., bisexual, pansexual, queer, and fluid)” (Galupo, p. 1242). In their study, nearly 60% of plurisexuals identified as bisexual, queer, or pansexual.

Queer

Whatever you want it to mean—I cannot find a universal definition of queer.

Pansexual’s Invisibility

Pansexual is rarely offered as an option on research or online surveys, unless alternative sexualities are explicitly explored. In the past, if individuals wrote in “pansexual,” they were deleted from the sample or they were combined with bisexuals. For example, Salway & associates made the first decision: “Other sexual identities (e.g., queer, pansexual, mostly heterosexual) were not consistently measured or reported and were therefore excluded from the present analysis” (p. x). Another study combined pansexual with open/fluid/flexible and together they registered 0.5 percent of a New Zealand population (Greaves & associates). This was at the same level as bicurious and far below bisexual (1.8%) and lesbian/gay/queer (2.6%). Another set of investigators, Rodrigue & associates, combined pansexual and queer—which confuses me even more regarding what queer actually means. 

Prevalence of Pansexuality

1. Pansexual was the third most common identity adopted by trans male-to-female and trans female-to-male participants (following bisexual and gay/lesbian). Asexual was fourth (Walton & associates).

2. In a large study of youth, teenagers could select “other” as a sexual identity. Of the nearly 3% who took that option, the largest proportion was pansexual, double that of asexual. Unsure, questioning, demisexual, and queer followed (White & associates).

3. Five times more cisgender females than cisgender males identified as pansexual—more female than male individuals also identified as queer (Walton; Galupo). Greaves found the same trend, but to a lesser degree.

Trans and Pansexuals

Galupo reported that while pansexuals and queers were similar on many dimensions, pansexuals were more likely to be young and to identify as transgender. Both were not particularly happy with traditional sexual orientation scales because they felt the scales were a less valid measure of their sexuality. Because pansexual is “explicitly conceptualized outside or beyond the gender binary … non-normative identities are not captured in our current systems of sexual orientation measurement” (p. 1246).

My View

Walton concluded with a question that has not yet been answered, “Do some of these diverse and less common expressions of sexual orientation [such as pansexual] more accurately reflect variations in sexual arousal (as opposed to sexual attraction) or, alternatively, reflect distinct and independent sexual orientations [or identities]” (p. 1596)? We don’t know because these kinds of questions have seldom been raised.

Although it’s not necessarily a bad thing that most of what we know about pansexuality is based on qualitative research and not national probability surveys, I hope the day will come when “pansexual” is a routine optional sexual/romantic identity and orientation. My only objection to the pansexual word is its emphasis on the sexual—which is also my objection to the term bisexual. Indeed, there may be more panromantics and biromantics than pansexuals and bisexuals.

References

Galupo, M. P., Mitchell, R. C., & Davis, K. S. (2018). Face validity ratings of sexual orientation scales by sexual minority adults: Effects of sexual orientation and gender identity. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47, 1241-1250. doi: 10.1007/s10508-017-1037-y

Greaves, L. M., Barlow, F. K., Lee, C. H. J., Matika, C. M., Wang, W., Lindsay, C. J. et al. (2017). The diversity and prevalence of sexual orientation self-labels in a New Zealand national sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 1325–1336. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0857-5

Salway, T., Ross, L. E., Fehr, C. P.,  Burley, J., Asadi, S., Hawkins, B., & Tarasoff, L. A. (online). A systematic review and meta-analysis of disparities in the prevalence of suicide ideation and attempt among bisexual populations. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s10508-018-1150-6

Walton, M. T., Lykins, A. D., & Bhullar, N. (2016). Beyond heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual: A diversity in sexual identity expression. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 1591–1597. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0778-3

White, A. E., Moeller, J., Ivcevic, Z., & Brackett, M. A. (2018). Gender identity and sexual identity labels used by U.S. high school students: A co-occurrence network analysis. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. doi: 10.1037/sgd0000266

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