What is Pansexuality?

I was recently justifiably criticized for failing to mention pansexuality in my previous post, the one about bisexuality. Well, maybe not so much justified in criticism for failing to mention it in that particular post, since in that one, it wasn't entirely relevant, due to the exact nature of the post, and the fact that it was dispelling the myth that everyone is bisexual. However, when I made an attempt to defend my lack of mentioning pansexualism, I claimed that I had mentioned it elsewhere on my site, then realized that, no, I hadn't. I was mistaken. So I'm going to attempt to rectify that here, as best I can. 

Pansexuality, is a relatively new orientation for most people to hear about. I think I only started hearing about it, maybe, a year or two ago. I recently saw an old post of mine on Facebook in which I was mocking the term, referring to it as sort of pretentious, or something, and accusing those who use it as just being "bisexual" but wanting to be special. I've come a long way since then. It turns out I was quite wrong and just didn't fully understand what pansexuality was. Perhaps you're in the same boat that I was, and that's why you're reading this. Maybe I'll be able to help you to understand it a little bit better. Or at least understand it about as well as I do. 

First, we'll start with bisexuality, which is pansexuality's closest cousin. Bisexuality is an attraction to both sexes. That seems pretty straight forward and simple. In my previous post, it was far more complex than that, but for the sake of this post, we'll keep it nice and basic, because, when we get into the discussion about pansexuality, it's going to be far more confusing. I may even confuse myself. 

To understand pansexuality, we have to differentiate between sex and gender. For some people the two terms are interchangeable, but by definition, they actually mean different things. Sex refers to your biology and is typically determined at birth by your sex organs. If you have a penis, testicles, scrotum, etc., you are considered to be male. If you have a vulva you're considered to be female. Then there are intersex people who are born with ambiguous genitalia, and placing them in the male or female column is far more difficult. Gender, however, refers to how you identify, be it male, female,  somewhere in between, both, or neither, and may, or may not reflect what your actual sex is. In the case of someone who is the sex of male but the gender of female you would have someone who is a transgender female, or a transwoman. Are you following, thus far? Her sex is currently male but her gender is female. Polite, decent, respectful people will refer to her as "she" and the woman that she is, and ignore what's between her legs (if we even know what's between her legs). If she were to get an operation to change her genitals, she would be transexual. Her sex would have transitioned, and not just her gender. Am I explaining this well enough? I don't know why I ask that, as if I'm going to get an immediate response. 

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The reason I bring up all of this sex vs gender talk, is that it plays a role in pansexuality. A bisexual person will find themselves attracted to both men and women, but pansexual people's attractions will be less influenced by a person's sex, or the genitalia involved. They're going to be more concerned with gender, or how someone identifies, or sometimes how they present themselves, be that masculine, feminine, or some other variant. 

Here's the part that used to confuse me: I used to think that a pansexual person would always be attracted to anyone, regardless of their gender or sex. So, they could be attracted to men, women, transmen, transwomen, bi-gender, genderfluid, genderqueer, intersex, etc., but that's not necessarily the case. I've heard of many self-identified pansexuals who were strictly attracted to masculine people, or feminine people. That is to say, they might be attracted to both cis-men (that's men who were born with male equipment and identify as men) and they'll be attracted to transmen. They're more concerned that these guys are dudes, and they don't care that some of these dudes might have vaginas. Similarly, a pansexual person could be attracted to feminine people, and they would be attracted to both cis-women, and transwomen. Others, however, are not bound to the confines of only being attracted to masculine or feminine and define themselves as being attracted to the individual, more than anything else.

The question I have, is: Are there terms for the various sub-orientations within pansexuality? I've looked up some terms, and the closest I can find are "androphilic" for an attraction toward masculinity, and "gynecophilic" for an attraction toward femininity. But I've never actually heard these applied as qualifiers to someone's self-identification as pansexual. 

Now, perhaps someone who is fully and truly pansexual might be attracted to all genders and sexes, and those who have more specific attractions will just have to clarify those specifics. I personally find the terms and "labels" interesting, but not everyone does, and for good reason. Some labels just don't apply well to people. Some folks are so complex in who they are, and who they're attracted to, that there are no simple terms to describe them. Or if there are terms, no one else knows what they mean, so their usage is rather pointless. 

To further complicate all of this is that there is also a sort of attraction which I don't know a whole lot about, so I'll just kind of mention it here and I'll have to study up on it. But this one, unlike pansexuality, as described above, which concentrates more on the gender, this concentrates more on the sex, or the genitals. So, they might be attracted to penis-having individuals, regardless of how they identify, gender-wise. Or they might be attracted to vagina-having individuals, regardless of how they identify and present themselves. This could just be another form of pansexualism, but I haven't been able to find much information on it. 

I hope this helped you to understand this somewhat. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, and I fully expect to have to come back here and occasionally update this and improve upon it as new information comes to me (which I already have).

I want to clarify that sexuality and gender are very complex and spread across an entire spectrum. We, here in the United States, and some other parts of the world, have lived in a very binary world, conditioned to see only males and females and heterosexuality. Later we learned about homosexuality, and bisexuality. And now we're learning that there is more to sexuality, and more to gender than what we had previously understood. Some folks will sort of poo-poo this notion, typically because they don't like change, or because they think people are trying to be "special little snowflakes." But really, people just want to be understood, and live their lives just like everyone else. No one wants special treatment, or special attention. We just don't want to be cast aside as freaks because someone doesn't understand us. As complicated as I made all of the above sound, it's far more complex than that, with varied terms, and nuances, and differing opinions, so I tried to keep it as basic as possible to at least give you a rudimentary understanding of it all. I do hope it helped. 

If you have feedback, or any questions, please comment below. Thank you.