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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Identity » Pansexual vs. Bisexual

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Author Topic: Pansexual vs. Bisexual
EasyAPlus
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Just a quick question, what's the difference between Pansexuality and Bisexuality?
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Heather
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Mostly, I really think it's about personal preference. And about the fact that pansexual is a much newer term, so a lot of people -- I find myself in this spot often, even though I prefer queer, myself, since it's been around -- who realized they were attracted to people of more than one gender decades ago, including people who aren't only men or women, may still use it because they always did even if pansexual might describe them better now.

Bisexual can mean that someone is potentially attracted to both women and men OR it can mean that someone is potentially attracted to people of more than one gender, and thus, potentially any gender.

Pansexual much more clearly and expressly means the latter: that a person is potentially attracted to people of any gender or gender expression.

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EasyAPlus
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Alright, that makes things clearer, thanks [Smile] There's just so much overlap in human sexuality, and though I've always felt like sexuality is *so* diverse that you can't put labels on everything, I'm still curious as to what those labels mean.
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Heather
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I hear you.

Too, what a given word or term means isn't set in stone, and doesn't always mean the same thing to everyone. [Smile]

Ultimately, I think of terms for sexual identities like I think about learning someone's name. Knowing their name is just a start to knowing and understanding them, not a finish. I think of these terms the same way: as just a very broad overview of a person's sexual identity, or a place to start to get to understand them (or ourselves) in this regard.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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EasyAPlus
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Exactly! As for myself, I define my sexuality as straight, heterosexual, but there are so many other layers. I mean, I'm physically attracted to men but I still know that there are some very hot women out there and I'm not afraid to say it, as well as many other things. You have blanket terms for sexuality, but each person is so unique and diverse.
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Molias
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One thing I want to add to this is that I first encountered a lot of people identifying as pansexual when I started to make friends in the genderqueer/nonbinary trans community. I was having a lot of conversations with friends who were saying "well, what would a 'same-sex' or even 'opposite-sex' relationship look like for me, if I'm not identifying as a man or woman?" Some of these folks had at one point identified as bisexual but felt like as their identities shifted, they felt more comfortable using a term that they felt was more explicitly inclusive of trans bodies and identities.

Now, I don't actually think "bisexual" as a label is particularly exclusive - I know and have dated some folks who really prefer "bisexual" over "pansexual" or "queer" and who are attracted to a wide spectrum of gender identities and expressions. But I can certainly understand the appeal of a label that is newer and feels more targeted towards gender-variant folks.

Like you said, identity labels like this can be helpful, but they're often not the best way to understand the whole of a particular person's sexuality.

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IntersectionalFeminist
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I would add that labels should always be the beginning of the conversation. No label or group of labels can accurately describe anyone. On the other hand, labels can help us connect with people of like minds.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Thought I'd throw in my 2 cents: The difference between pansexual and bisexual (for me and based upon my experiences) is who will know what I am talking about. In my daily life, I am not sure there is anyone who would have any idea what I was talking about if I refered to myself as pansexual (I self identified this way inside my head for a while, but don't feel the term is a very good fit anymore. Nevertheless I would much rather be presumed pansexual than straight). In cicles like Scarleteen, I would be understood very easily and anyone who didn't know what I meant probably would react a whole lot differently than someone in my daily life. (Here I imagine most people would say something like: "pansexual" I've never heard that term before, what does it mean for you? In my daily life, most people would say something about me being attracted to pots and pans.)

Bisexual, on the otherhand, is a term I would expect most anyone to know. Pretty much if I was talking to someone about my sexuality, I cant imagine how we would get onto the subject without them having some very basic knowledge of common terms. Because bisexual is a well known term, I can say it and move on, rather than being forced to explain that yes, that term really is a thing. I don't like how bisexual implies only two, because I am potentially attracted to people of all genders. But, for me, when explaining to others it seems a good compromise for the sake of being understood. (These people who don't know of the term pansexual to whom I might explain my sexuality, are generally not people who are aware that gender is not binary, anyways and it is annoying to have to explain this as well if I am not in a mood to do so). In my public life, I I.D. as bisexual or more often "bi", in my heart and to those whom I think might understand, I I.D. as queer.

Queer, to me, means not of the binary. My sexuality is not binary (gay/straight) and while I identify as female and woman, I do not feel comfortable in a gender binary. Given that I am still figuring out my relationship with gender, queer feels good because it says nothing about my gender. Queer is another term which would require explaining, but for me, it feels right. I don't have much coming out left to do - the people who don't know haven't asked and I haven't felt the need to tell them. When I enter university, I plan to simply be out rather than coming out (we'll see how this goes, I won't make my sexuality a secret but I anticipate some people simply won't get it). I am out to everyone as bisexual and this feels okay. It is true for me: I am bisexual. If I were a test and my sexuality was a multiple choice question in which one must select the best answer, the best one word answer is queer, but bisexual is also one of the choices and it is also right.

So really, as others have said, it all depends. Bisexual and pansexual are used to represent the same ideas and they are used to represent those that are vastly different from each other. It all comes down to personal preference.

[ 03-19-2013, 03:34 PM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]

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Molias
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Queer feels good because it says nothing about my gender.

Moonlight, that's a really good point! I think this is one of the reasons I feel most comfortable identifying as queer.

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That Strange CT child
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Wait if someone is attracted to both sexes AND feels like both sexes (obviously not at the same time) does that make them pansexual??

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It is my hope that what i ask here is answered for me and anyone else afraid to ask the same question :)

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Molias
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I think someone identifying as pansexual is really the only thing that makes them that way. In the situation you describe the only way to know how that person felt about their sexual orientation would be to ask.

Also: "obviously not at the same time" isn't a given, actually! There are plenty of people who identify as more than one sex or gender, or a mix of genders, at the same time.

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That Strange CT child
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Coolio [Smile]
Cause im a guy but sometimes i feel like a girl and act very feminine sometimes

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It is my hope that what i ask here is answered for me and anyone else afraid to ask the same question :)

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