“Pan-” is a Greek prefix meaning “all” or “every.”
Pansexuality is defined as potential sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of gender. Pansexuality can sometimes be defined as the capacity to love a person romantically irrespective of gender.
Pansexuality means different things to different people, and no one idea of pansexuality is definitive.
Some pansexual people assert that gender and sex are meaningless to them, while others say that gender and sex, although not a deciding factor, play an important role in their attraction to someone.
“Pansexual” as an identity is generally used by those who feel they are attracted to those outside the gender binary, or those who are attracted to the person, not the gender.
History of Pansexuality
The word “pansexual” was first coined by Sigmund Freud in the early-to-mid 1900’s, but with a very different meaning than how we now use the word. Freud defined pansexuality as how sexual energy and desire is the basis for all human interaction in life.
Our usage of the word pansexuality today most likely started gaining ground in the early-to-mid-1990’s, most likely due to the growing activism and awareness of genderqueer and non-binary people. Since then it has gained traction within the queer community.
Pansexuality and Bisexuality
One of the most common questions regarding pansexuality is “what is the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality?” An oft-cited (but false) answer is that pansexuality refers to sexual attraction to all genders, whereas bisexuality only encompasses men and women. This is a fairly dangerous way of thinking, and tends to increase biphobia within the queer community.
A more accurate definition for bisexuality would be: “sexual attraction to the same gender and other gender(s).” The prefix “bi-,” meaning “two,” in this case refers to same and different genders, as opposed to just two specific genders.
With this definition in mind, there is indeed a lot of overlap between bisexuality and pansexuality. They can mean the same thing, but they do not always mean the same thing. Here’s a helpful Venn Diagram from Pansexuality is Perfect, if you’re a more visual learner:
Ultimately, it is entirely up to the individual how they choose to identify. If you feel that pansexual describes you better than bisexual, or vice versa, no one can tell you otherwise.