Differences Between Bisexuality and Pansexuality

November 5, 2014 Vanessa Celis

Bisexuality and pansexuality are similar sexual orientations but have differences. Learn more about the key differences between pansexuality and bisexuality.

Many questions arise when one proclaims that they are bisexual. But what about pansexual? Pansexuality is not a familiar term within people outside of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community. I only learned about pansexuality in a feminism class three years ago. I had never heard the term before but when I learned its definition, I immediately came to like it. While I don’t mind identifying as bisexual, I prefer the term pansexual when it comes to my identity. But how are bisexuality and pansexuality different? Aren’t they the same thing?

How Bisexuality and Pansexuality Differ

 

The dictionary states the definition of bisexual as: “sexually attracted to both men and women”. Meanwhile, the definition of pansexual is: “not limited or inhibited in sexual choice with regard to gender or activity.” While it can be easy to say that both definitions mean the same, exact thing, the key difference between bisexuality and pansexuality rests on the focus on gender identity.

Bisexuality implies that there are only two genders, that being male and female. Pansexuality, on the other hand, implies that there are more than two genders. Pansexuals have no problem dating or sleeping with a transgender person, for example. This also includes people who fall out of the gender binary and consider themselves genderqueer (people who do not identify as just man or woman).

Pansexuality and Bisexuality -- Love Isn’t Based on Gender

Bisexuality and pansexuality are similar sexual orientations but have differences. Learn more about the key differences between pansexuality and bisexuality. One thing that bisexuality and pansexuality do have in common is that the people who identify as such usually don’t base their feelings on gender. Lately, I have noticed on social networks such as Tumblr that there is an active discussion between the bisexual and pansexual communities. A lot of bisexuals have come out and stated that they don’t base their sexuality on gender identity, either. They still consider and call themselves bisexual, though.

This has created some confusion between the two labels. But I think it’s great that there is an active discussion. If anything, it shows how fluid sexuality is in many people. Instead of it being as a concrete thing, sexuality is more complex and intricate than society likes to make it. Not everyone falls into the neat labels of straight or gay, and that’s okay. That doesn’t make pansexuals and bisexuals confused about their sexuality.

Choosing to Label Your Sexuality

For a long time, I had issues labeling my sexuality. I was ashamed of being bisexual and wanted so badly to just be a lesbian because of all the biphobia I had experienced outside and within the LGBTQ community. It’s something that I regret to say, but it’s true. Now, though, I am trying to accept and love myself more.

There is nothing wrong with being bisexual or pansexual. Also, I am learning that while labels are important in self-discovery and in accepting your sexuality, it’s okay to not know. Sadly, I have noticed that many people are so hung up about labels and try to be a living, breathing replica of the exact definition. Maybe we should focus more on ourselves instead of trying to live up to a textbook definition. That way there is more room for growth and happiness in our lives.

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APA Reference
Celis, V. (2014, November 5). Differences Between Bisexuality and Pansexuality, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/thelifelgbt/2014/11/differences-between-bisexuality-and-pansexuality



Author: Vanessa Celis

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Ariana Butler
says:
December, 7 2017 at 6:30 pm
There is already such thing as bi gender and pangender but that’s to gender, what you identify as, while bisexual and pansexual are your sexuality, who you’re attracted to.
Cali
says:
September, 19 2017 at 2:06 am
To put it in super simplified terms all pansexuals can consider themselves bisexual but not all bisexuals can consider themselves pan.
Bezza
says:
September, 11 2017 at 5:17 pm
Really great article but one small thing. You said "Bisexuality implies that there are only two genders, that being male and female." However, I am bisexual know and acknowledge there are more than two genders, I just am not attracted to those genders.
Rohan Parker
says:
August, 28 2017 at 2:13 pm
Hey all, I need education!!!! If someone can please direct message me over my email (rohspo1@gmail.com) or just message me on Facebook, that would be wonderful. All these terms confuse me, and I don't know what I am yet... please help
Steve
says:
August, 26 2017 at 4:45 pm
I'm not sure that it really matters how you identify yourself. I am proud father of my 20 year old daughter who was born as my son. It has taken some time to get my head around it but I'm getting there. She has now told me that she is pansexual hence my interest in this topic.
I'm not sure that we should be arguing about definitions and peoples interpretation of them though. Maybe I'm wrong?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Anonymous
says:
September, 15 2017 at 11:56 pm
We need more people like you in this world. Thank you. Some of my friends' parents have issues with their orientations, and I think it's so cool that you don't :)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Anonymous
says:
September, 15 2017 at 11:59 pm
I personally am trying to find out whether I'm hetero, bi or pan; so your saying that labels don't matter has resonated with me quite a bit

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Nice Article
says:
July, 3 2018 at 10:25 pm
Perhaps you are a virgin. You have no sexual attraction to anyone or you would be aware of it. Unless your comment is about the definitions of words? I had no sexual feelings toward anyone until after I had sex and recognized how my monthly cycle affected my impulses. Sexual feelings and body chemicals are somewhat intertwined. I think of homosexuality the way I think of robbing a bank; it may be fun, but that does not necessarily mean it is a good idea. I may have strong inclinations to rob a bank, but I don't justify my actions based solely upon what is pleasurable or enticing because actions have consequences.
Anonymous
says:
July, 19 2017 at 11:30 pm
Is there someone or some material authorized to talk about this? I mean I was curious about these terms ,these being new to me and due to lack of examples locally. I thought I got a clear interpretation when I read the post, but as I scrolled down, everything went blank again. I would really like to know more about these stuffs. I am sorry if some of the words I used are rude or something. If they are ,it is due to lack of my vocabulary. I hope I get my point across without striking anyone as rude.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Ya ya
says:
November, 21 2017 at 9:22 am
You can check out Bisexual.org foruch better definition of bisexuality. The term as defined in the dictionary is not same as how bisexual people define ourselves. I do not define “bisexual” as attracted to “only 2 genders”.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Just Sayin
says:
July, 3 2018 at 10:06 pm
The word bisexual has a traditional meaning. Why would you use a term that does not suit you to inadequately define yourself to those who are accustomed to a traditional rendering of the word? Why call yourself "bisexual" if that's not what you are? That's like me saying "I'm a toaster, but I don't agree with your definition of the word "toaster", to me a toaster is a person who is sexually attracted to pizza ovens." You seem to be twisting words just to confuse people and get attention.
Diana
says:
July, 8 2017 at 4:35 pm
This article is extremely rude and misinformed. So I'm going to leave this here: https://bisexual.org/?qna=what-is-the-difference-between-bisexual-and-terms-like-pansexual-polysexual-omnisexual-ambisexual-and-fluid

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Luis
says:
July, 11 2017 at 10:56 am
What is rude about it? Not trying to be rude, just genuinely curious.
Toby
says:
June, 12 2017 at 6:30 pm
Pansexuals lack sexuality attraction based on gender. It doesn't need to imply that there is more than two genders. It's just simply you do not care for what you're dating on a physical level. That is all.
Sarah
says:
May, 10 2017 at 11:38 pm
I really liked what you said and could relate!
Jesse
says:
May, 6 2017 at 1:58 am
No, bisexuals do NOT only date men and women to the exclusion of trans people. That is grossly incorrect. As a bisexual trans man, I should know. Thanks for spreading stereotypes and misinformation about bisexual people.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Lissa
says:
June, 26 2017 at 9:38 am
Why don't you just nicely correct them?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Diana
says:
July, 8 2017 at 4:39 pm
This article is indeed spreading a biphobic message so he/they are entitle to outraged. And people who wrote and approved this article should have politely informed themselves before, but they didn't.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jaimee
says:
July, 29 2017 at 3:59 pm
They probably thought they did by just reading this article as this was supposed to be informative

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Still Confused
says:
July, 3 2018 at 9:55 pm
Please define your terms. This discussion board is turning into an argument board because people are not defining the terms they are using.

"Gay" means the equipment in your pants does not (traditionally speaking) match the equipment in your head.

"Trans" Does it refer to someone who transitioned or desires to, or to someone with ambiguous genitalia?

"Bi" means you are not particular about what's in your partner's pants? Or does it mean you are not particular about the gender they present as?

WTH is "pansexual", then?? You are attracted to people who are not "attractive"?? I have a degree in technical communication and this article cleared up nothing for me. :/ I'll try rereading it when I am less tired.

Thank you for trying though :)
Savannah
says:
September, 10 2016 at 8:55 pm
I read this because i am currently struggling with my sexuality. for a while, I've been bouncing from straight, to bi, to pan. I wasnt sure. Thank you for writing this, it really helped me understand that i am pansexual, not bi.
Anna
says:
September, 10 2016 at 5:39 am
I personally really firmly disagree with the term "pansexual", as a bisexual. To me, bisexuality has always meant "no matter with which sex you were born, I can be attracted to you". In no way did bisexual ever mean to me "I am attracted to two specific gender identities". It was never about gender, it's about sex, and there are two sexes - two, bi. Pansexuality is now suggesting that somehow everyone else excludes people with non-binary genders. As if you cannot be a woman who likes men, and be attracted to a transgender man, even though that person identifies as a man, it has to make you pansexual. I never excluded transgender people from my bisexual preference and I am not going to change the term that I have always identified with just because someone has decided that bisexuality cannot include non-binary gender identities.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Googleista
says:
July, 3 2018 at 9:35 pm
Google: "ambiguous genitalia"
Katie
says:
September, 5 2016 at 1:09 pm
There are only two genders; male and female. If someone is trans, they are that gender. If someone is genderfluid than they are both gender. If someone is agender, they are neither gender. I'm sorry if this makes me sound naive, but that's what I believe. So you're whole argument on how they are different doesn't really work.
Michelle Bross
says:
August, 26 2016 at 8:38 am
Vanessa,

Thank you for clarifying these terms for me a little more. I identify as a bisexual but I could also identify with the pansexual. It's all very confusing. I personally don't care for labels so I prefer not to label myself to either categories. Love is love no matter what or who you identify with. Great post. The purpose of a blog is to get people to think. Your purpose has been achieved. I thought you were very friendly and open. Some people get offended over everything. It must be stressful to live like that.
Mariah
says:
August, 11 2016 at 7:17 pm
Bruh, I thought I was Bi for like two months now, but today I was like, what is the difference between Pansexuals and Bi? so I searched it up, and then the article said that Pans don't care if your trans, or gender neutral and I was like...well damn. Because I have been crushing on a gender neutral person, and I saw a couple of Trans people online and my immediate thought was 'i'd date them!' so maybe i'm pan? *shrugs* i honestly don't know.
Ka'iulani
says:
June, 22 2016 at 8:58 pm
I always said I was Bi until I had a crush on a transgender boy. After that point, my friends began saying I associate more with pan than bi. However, I still consider myself as bi because whether they're transgender or not, they still associate with one gender or the other. So I was just wanting an opinion on still considering myself as bi. Alike what you said, I hate labels. But at Pride this past weekend because of my friends saying I'm more pan that bi, I was pressured into buying a pan colored flag. I now regret it because I wanted the bi colors. I know it's a stupid thing to be commenting about and I shouldn't worry about what others think, but is it term-wise wrong to call myself bi instead of pan?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

kate
says:
June, 16 2018 at 8:25 am
I know your comment (which is not stupid) is old, and I hope you've come to your own conclusion by now, but just in case: don't let your friends label you. If you don't like labels, it's ok to not use them. Just be whoever you are and don't worry about all that stuff or get fixated on it. Take it from me, I'm an old-ish queer and it's not worth it to get hung up on all that stuff. I very rarely even discuss my sexuality with anyone because who cares unless we are going to be sexual partners? Most of the time, things just happen organically and there's no reason to talk about it at all. Bisexual people can be attracted to transgender people. When I identified as bi, I was! The only reason I decided to change terms is that I discovered I'm attracted to genderfluid and genderqueer people as well (and am genderfluid myself). No matter which terminology you use to describe yourself, it's not going to be wrong and it might change over time. Either way, as long as you feel comfortable with who you are, you're doing great.
Krista
says:
June, 26 2018 at 12:31 am
"No matter which terminology you use to describe yourself, it's not going to be wrong and it might change over time. Either way, as long as you feel comfortable with who you are, you're doing great."

This is brilliant and I needed to read that. It really resonates with me as I wonder how to sign up for online dating if I don't know "what" to call myself. :) Thank you so much!
Anon
says:
May, 5 2016 at 2:22 pm
But it doesn't necessarily make sense I mean there really only is two genders even if ur trans ur merely claiming to be of the opposite gender u were assigned at birth and either gender still fits into the binary ergo still only upholding the existence of only two genders so I don't really see any difference between bi and pan. Bi usually implies a lack of bias towards either gender which trans still fall under I've never seen trans as their own gender merely humans ascribing to the gender opposite of that assigned at birth.
Mads
says:
May, 5 2016 at 7:10 am
I think I may be bisexual but the problem is, is that i also feel attracted to transgender, gender queer, ect. the problem with me being pansexual is that i dont ever wish to practice certain things that fall under pansexual, such as pedophilia, and necrophilia. im just so confused!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Austin
says:
May, 28 2018 at 7:41 am
The purple stripe on the bisexual flag means attraction to no genders if you're curious. I hope you found this reply useful!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

kate
says:
June, 16 2018 at 8:17 am
I used to identify as bi, but I always felt that I was attracted to people who identify as men, as well as people who identify as women, as well as people who identify as nonbinary. I think both terms communicate this adequately. I have friends who identify as bisexual, but they are attracted to men, women, and transgender people, and I think it's up to them to decide what terminology they want to use to identify. Over time I realized that the term pansexuality more closely resembles my own identity, but to me the differences are very subtle, mostly a matter of one term being a more accurate (to me) description of what it's like (for me) to exist in the world. If I wanted to identify myself to someone outside of the LGBTQ community I'd probably use the term bisexual to avoid having to explain what pansexual means to someone who has little or no context.

In any case, pansexual does not mean a person is a pedophile or necrophiliac. It doesn't include any paraphilia (things like pedophilia, necrophilia, ibestiality, etc.). Pansexuality is just another way to talk about consensual adult sexual behaviors. All in this case means all gender identities, not ALL sexual attractions.
nicole
says:
June, 25 2018 at 5:10 pm
Transgender people aren't their own gender. Straight men and women can still be attracted to trans women and men and still be straight. Bisexuality is commonly defined now as "attraction to the same and other genders" and can still include nonbinary people, and always includes transgender people.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Bassplayer85
says:
July, 7 2018 at 8:39 am
Children can't consent, that's rape or molestation, I don't think that applies... to pansexuality. Necrophilia, not to be a wise ass, but, they can they take their lover out on a date, meet their family and friends?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Leanne
says:
August, 8 2018 at 3:14 pm
What? Paedophilia and necrophilia?! What is wrong with you?! Pansexuality does not cover or condone either of these things! I don't know where you're getting your info from but it's disturbing, insulting and incorrect. Pansexuality grows from a firm base of consent. If a partner can't consent a pansexual individual would not have relations with them.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Lizey Raylor
says:
October, 1 2018 at 4:59 pm
I’m still a little confused about the differences between Bisexual and Panasexual but one thing I know for sure is that panasexual are not pedophildes. I thing no you need to recheck the definition of that word, not to be rude or anything but saying stuff like that is going to make some people hate you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hayleigh
says:
October, 31 2018 at 3:22 pm
I myself am panseuxal... I am not attracted or do I ever wish to be involved in pedophilia... to be pansexual you do not have to be involved in everything... it just means you like people of them not their SEX... or GENDER... Yes, they are different. If you want to talk more add me on Wattpad @HayHayJane

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Lynn
says:
January, 11 2019 at 6:21 pm
I was not aware that pansexual identifies pedophilia and necrophilia behavior. So, these persons dont identify age or breathing versus non as part of their community? Please do not accept my inquiry as insult. I ask as a person who has openly supported all orientations and honestly just people in general versus seeing an orientation and was not aware of this. thank you for your post
Judi
says:
April, 27 2016 at 8:17 am
My problem is all the constant labeling. I think too many young people are trying to find something to identify themselves with, and there will be more labeling because of it. Face it, we are all people, persons, and will continue to be whoever we are. Labels are good on food, and for cloths sizes, washing instructions, but I don't think we need labels to be who we are. We are people, and we should be accepted without question, or looking for more labels.
I was a child, a person. I grew up, still a person. I have been a wife, mother, grand, and great grandmother, and I am still and always have been a person, or human being. I am proud to be who I am, and have been, but I didn't run around trying to find another name to put on it, even though sooner or later someone will. Society has already labeled me heterosexual, and maybe I am, but I never needed the world to put that label on me. Even when I see that old person in the mirror, I know that child I was, when I was born, is still in there. I am many things, even old, but I don't care to be labeled old either.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Arabella
says:
July, 2 2018 at 10:42 am
I would really like to thank you for this comment. I am 23 and currently trying to unravel my own sexuality and the one thing that stresses me out the most is what to CALL myself when people ask about my sexually orientation. Why can’t I just be a normal person that happens to also like women? Why is there so much pressure put on the labels?
Strange World
says:
July, 3 2018 at 9:26 pm
Maybe they are trying to be polite. Or get to know you better. Do people really pester you about it that much?
Bassplayer85
says:
July, 7 2018 at 8:27 am
You ARE normal, don't let anyone make you feel less than normal. Your normal, vital, loved, talented, gifted, a d do much more, so just be YOU, I don't know you, but you are great! Oh, and if some people don't like it, tell them to be gone, before someone drops a house on them too, ( from the Wizard of Oz )

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Maddog
says:
August, 6 2018 at 12:58 pm
Thank you so much for this comment. You are so wise. We should all be free to live our lives free of the labels.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Lynn
says:
January, 11 2019 at 6:15 pm
I have been reading g this thread for a while tonight. I have a daughter who had come out as bisexual. And, as I thought when she spoke and now as I read your post: she came out as a "label" This poor girl, just trying to explain this part of herself as any other must use an excepted and defined term to simply to me, say, hey mom, Im...me and... that's all I see it as. Labels make some people feel better because whatever it is they are living with finds unity. Labels for others are suffocating and unfamiliar because they are limiting. They include XYZ, exclude ABC and then what? Labels are simply that. If we think of them in most familiar ways- papers or stickers on shit that ultimately we look at, RIP off and modify to our own need, soooo, uh yeah people. Labels are there for people who have no sense of understanding without written outline. Once they have that outline, they go and change add and interpret as they do. Hello! Yea, that's life so, people are just people who like love or lost after other people. The end.
Maybe I'm unity hopeful, or delusional or...whatever label someone wants to give me, but that's ok. Even the judgemental can find me out there tolerating your ignorance and willing to listen and help others as well as myself understand as much as possible
Nat
says:
April, 22 2016 at 2:58 pm
Trying to convince my stepdad the difference is a hard task but I'm getting there xxx
Aaris
says:
April, 20 2016 at 4:59 am
The fact that the definition of bisexuality says 'bisexuals are attracted to both men and women' does not imply that there are only two genders. It refers to sexes, not genders. That's why it's called biSEXuality and not biGENDERuality.
Kya
says:
February, 18 2016 at 2:54 am
Bisexual is OK, and Pansexual is OK. I think no matter you are bisexual or pansexual, all of us are the same, don't it? Someone may refuse to be friends with us, but I don't care about! After all, we should learn to live alone, nobody will be with you all the time. But we can find many friends by some bisexual dating sites, such as http://www.datingbisexual.net, which are just like a big bisexual family.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Don't Shoot Me
says:
July, 3 2018 at 9:22 pm
Can't resist.... A "big bisexual family" dating site..... would be incest. Any takers? JK

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