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7 Things People Need to Understand About Pansexuality

Understanding pansexuality by dispelling the falsehoods.

RODNAE Productions/Pexels
Source: RODNAE Productions/Pexels

Recently, a student of mine, who identifies as pansexual, questioned why there is still such a misunderstanding of pansexuality. It’s true. My own research and the research of others confirm an ongoing misunderstanding. Even as more people openly identify as pansexual, what pansexuality is continues to produce confusion among the general populace.

Complicating the issue further is the wealth of myths and outright fabrications that accompany the term. Let’s start there, with a definition of pansexuality and then address the myths that plague the definition. Pansexuality is a sexual orientation in which an individual has the capacity for sexual, emotional, or romantic attraction for others regardless of their sex or gender identity. That is the simplest explanation. I will now expand the idea by debunking the myths.

MYTH 1: Pansexuals are sexually promiscuous. They will sleep with anyone.

False. Just because you have the capacity for sexual attraction for anyone regardless of their sex or gender identity, that is a long way from saying that you are attracted to everyone and will have sex with anyone. It would be the same as saying that a heterosexual woman wants to have sex with all men. From the outset, it’s a ridiculous, and rather insulting, notion.

MYTH 2: Pansexuality is not a real thing.

False. Not only is pansexuality a real thing, those who identify as pansexual embrace the uniqueness of their identity.

MYTH 3: Pansexuals just need to “pick a side” and stick with it.

No, they do not. And exactly which side would they pick from? Pan comes from the Greek meaning “all.” As “all” refers to all gender identities, there is not a side. If you are suggesting they need to choose a single sex or gender as the object of their attraction — again — no, they do not.

MYTH 4: Pansexuality is a new thing. It’s just the latest trend.

False. The term “pansexual” has been around for over a century. The team was originally coined by Freud, but with a very different meaning. Freud used pansexuality to attribute behavior to sexual instinct. The term has been changed and honed over the decades to the current meaning we assign to it.

MYTH 5: Pansexuality is the same as bisexuality.

False. Making a distinction between the two is necessary. While there are complexities in that distinction, I will attempt to simplify it here and address other aspects at another time. Bisexuality was once considered to be a sexual orientation wherein the individual had the capacity for sexual attraction to both men and women. This is no longer necessarily the case in that we recognize that gender is not binary. It’s more accurate to say that bisexuals have attraction for their own gender and another gender (or more than one other gender). Pansexuality, on the other hand, is not only all inclusive of sex and gender identities, but pansexuals also are attracted to others regardless of their sex and gender identities. In other words, they take sex and gender out of the equation altogether. Some pansexuals have adopted the phrase “Hearts not Parts” to illustrate their capacity to have emotional or romantic attraction for someone despite their sex or gender identity. To clear up one other confusion between the two sexual orientations, it’s often questioned that if bisexuality includes an attraction for your own gender and, potentially, multiple other genders, isn’t that the same as pansexuality? No. Simply put, multiple is not the same as all.

MYTH 6: Pansexuals cannot be happy with just one person.

False. It’s a bit like the promiscuity falsehood. Just because a person has the capacity to be attracted to anyone regardless of their gender identity, doesn’t mean that they are attracted to everyone or want to be with everyone. Pansexuals have the same propensity for monogamy or polyamory as anyone.

MYTH 7: Pansexuals are just confused about their preferences.

False. Just because their preferences may be more inclusive, this does not mean they do not know what they want or to whom they are attracted.

There is a wide variety of gender identities and sexual orientations from which individuals may choose in order to best identify themselves. Some of these identifiers are common (LGBT), while others are less common but consistently emerging (pansexuality). Those that are less common, such as sapiosexuality (wherein intelligence is necessary for sexual attraction) or demisexuality (wherein a strong emotional attachment is necessary for sexual attraction), are often mired in misunderstanding due to the widely spread falsehoods that plague other identifying labels, including pansexuality.

Before questioning the validity of a sexual orientation or readily accepting suspect claims, make the effort to educate yourself on the lengthy list of LGBTQIA+ identities. Better yet, when you meet someone claiming one of those identities, listen to them. Give them the opportunity to educate you by explaining who they are. Not only will the effort allow you to get to better know the people around you, but knowledge serves to reduce stigma, prejudice, and discrimination that negatively affects folks in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Facebook image: Mego studio/Shutterstock

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