Continuing with our quarterly theme: sexuality and coming out we’ll be exploring various kinds of sexual orientation for the month of May. For this week we’re looking at pansexual orientation, what it is, and how we can better understand and embrace our pansexual siblings.
What is Pansexuality?
As we open to the true diversity of human sexuality and gender expression we begin to discover how many ways we humans orient to each other sexually. It may well be that our sexual orientation is as varied as our fingerprints. So, definitions of pansexual orientation vary widely.
For the sake of clarity, I’m defining a pansexual as someone who is attracted physically, emotionally, or both to people of all genders. This includes cisgender, transgender, agender, and gender-fluid people. The word is derived from the Greek pan which means all.
Other Attraction Dynamics May Also Apply
In some cases, a person may be pansexual but more specifically attracted to specific kinds of people. For instance, a pansexual person could also be sapiosexual, which means that they are attracted to a person’s intellect or other capacities, but that attraction is not limited to any specific gender.
So, pansexual orientation may also be filtered for lack of a better word by other attraction dynamics. One of the reasons it can be difficult to understand what pansexuality is all about is its wonderful diversity.
Awakening to Pansexual Orientation
As a gay man I understand the inborn nature of sexual orientation. But, in a culture that is so heteronormative anyone who is not a cisgender straight person has a moment when they realize that they are different and sometimes another when they realize what that difference actually means.
As young people become more aware of the existence of our multiplicity of gender expressions this wakening is likely to happen younger. My guess would be at six or seven years old which is the typical age for people to recognize same-sex attraction in recent generations.
A young man I dated recently identified as bisexual when I met him. He had some attraction to transgender women but was primarily interested in cisgender folks. As he opened more to his own sexuality he eventually came out as pansexual to me. I had recognized his awakening and was thrilled to have earned his trust.
I, on the other hand, am attracted to men. I’ve also realized over the past number of years that my attraction extends to trans men. I still consider myself gay. At least that’s where I am now. I think it’s important to stay open to possibilities and self-discovery. Maybe at my root, I’m more pansexual than I think.
Attracted to Anyone Doesn’t Mean Attracted to Everyone.
One of the greatest misunderstandings we have about pansexual people is that they are attracted to everyone. While I’m sure there are some people who have very open attraction dynamics, most of us are attracted to a small subset of possible partners. The same is true for pansexual people.
I believe that attraction is based on physical and emotional chemistry. While pansexual people may have a wider variety of people they’d be attracted to, that chemical reaction is still important and it just doesn’t happen with everyone.
I’d like the gay men reading this to consider what it’s like when someone assumes you must be attracted to all men because you’re gay. It’s foolish. We all know better than to assume that about anyone else.
Of all orientations, the pansexual orientation may be the most flexible and in many ways, it feels to me like the most human. After all, if our attractions are more than just physical perhaps gender will eventually become irrelevant when it comes to choosing someone. For now, embracing and understanding the pansexual people in our lives is important for all of us.