Derived from the Greek prefix pan, meaning ‘all’, pansexual is defined by attraction that is not limited to or characterised by gender identity, sexual orientation or biological sex. A pansexual could be romantically and/or sexually attracted to someone who is male, female, transgender, intersex, agendered/genderqueer or any other gender, and wouldn’t be attracted to them because of their gender/identity but their personality.
The main difference between bisexuality and pansexuality is that the former is perceived as accepting the gender binary – that there are two genders, male and female – while the latter recognises gender as a spectrum and signals an openness to gender fluidity. That said, many in the bisexual community define bisexuality as a fluid identity as well and reject binary principles. The fine lines between the terms and their meanings often prove to be fluid as well and subject to personal interpretation.
Origin & History
The first known use of the word was in 1926, traced back to Sigmund Freud, who defined it as ‘the pervasion of all conduct and experience with sexual emotions’, propagating the view that most human behaviour and interaction was product of sexual instincts. The term since evolved and started gaining traction in the 1990s in relation to growing activism and awareness of non-binary and genderqueer identities. The internet presence of the term, according to Google Trends, began in 2007, following shortly after ‘genderqueer’.
In Pop Culture
The term became one of the most searched on Google since Miley Cyrus identified herself in a 2015 interview as pansexual. Other openly pansexual public figures include Joe Lycett, Jazz Jennings, Angel Haze, Laci Green and, notably, one of Texas’ State Representatives Mary Gonzalez, the only openly pansexual elected US official. More recently, the film adaptation of Marvel’s Deadpool featured a pansexual superhero. According to some critics however, the one character in movie history who ‘truly lived the pansexual dream without compromise’ was Bugs Bunny.