The Difference Between Being Pansexual vs Bisexual

Last Updated 11.05.2022
12 min read

The differences between being bisexual vs. pansexual are plenty and there are so many ways to express one's sexual orientation and the people they are attracted to. As more and more people identify as members of the LGBTQ community, knowing the differences between such terms can be important in understanding yourself and others better.

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If you are interested in knowing what it means to be bisexual or pansexual, you are probably trying to better understand yourself or someone dear to you. In order to help you with that goal, here are some important things you should know about the terms bisexual and pansexual.

What Does it Mean to be Pansexual?

Oftentimes referred to as "pan", pansexuality is a type of sexual identity tied to an attraction to all genders. Pansexual people show interest in people regardless of gender. In other words, they might form feelings for people of any gender across the gender spectrum. This does not limit their attraction to a certain gender and there is a possibility that they will be attracted to a specific gender more than others.

The word "pan" in pansexual means "all" and this comes to show that their affection for a person is not limited to or defined by their gender identity. However, there can always be slight differences when it comes to different individuals, and not every pansexual person will have the same experiences.

It is completely normal and expected for people to have different likes and dislikes which might be tied to certain characteristics people have, which oftentimes are also tied to certain gender norms. This, once again, has nothing to do with a person's gender identity, and therefore a pansexual individual is usually attracted to people and their personalities, despite their gender, without that necessarily making them gender blind. That's what being pansexual means when you put things into perspective.

If you're looking for more information on being pansexual or are looking for info on pansexual dating, you can read more about pansexuality here.

What Does it Mean to be Bisexual?

"For me, the bi in bisexual refers to the potential for attraction to people with genders similar to and different from my own" - Robyn Ochs

Bisexuality is a sexual orientation that is oftentimes used by people to explain they are attracted to both men and women. This used to be a term used broadly in the past years, and nowadays bisexuality is becoming a much broader and more inclusive term in order to cater to everybody's needs.

The word bisexual used to be defined as "an attraction to both men and women" since the prefix "bi" means two. This led many people to believe that a bisexual person would be attracted to only two genders: those being cisgender men and women. This caused a problem in the community as many thought that this promoted a belief of a gender binary that wasn't very inclusive of transgender and nonbinary people. While we can look at peer reviewed studies all day long, what bisexual means will depend on your own experiences.

Now, the bisexual movement is related more to a sexual or romantic attraction to people of a person's own gender identity as well as other gender identities. This explanation didn't cover every bisexual person and their experiences, especially when it refers to non-binary folks. Bisexual activists such as Robyn Och contributed to this definition of the word bisexual greatly and the relief of a gender binary being connected to it.

In other words, a bisexual individual can develop a physical, romantic, or sexual attraction to people of more than one gender. This is a great improvement on the term as it is a lot more inclusive. Therefore, bisexual individuals can experience sexual or romantic attraction to two or more genders, including people of their own gender.

This is especially important as it comes to support the fact that there are not only two genders and therefore bisexual people are not just attracted to men and women, as the idea of there only being two sexes or a gender binary is too simplistic. This also allows for transgender and non-binary people to feel included and heard when it comes to their own sexuality, as they can express being bisexual through this explanation of the term. It's what being bisexual means at the end of the day.

If you're interested in learning more about being bisexual or are interested in dating someone who's bisexual, you can read more about bisexuality here.

What is the Main Difference Between the Two?

When it comes to the main difference between bisexuality and pansexuality, there is indeed a distinct difference between the two sexual orientations that can play an important role in how someone expresses themselves and show the two terms are not exactly the same thing.

Pansexual people are attracted to all genders, while bisexual people are attracted to two or more genders. This shows that while bisexual people might be romantically attracted to multiple genders, they are not attracted to all gender identities.

Pansexuality and bisexuality have nothing to do with an individual's gender expression. They just come to show the people they are sexually, emotionally, or romantically attracted to. Bisexual people can be attracted to people of the same gender as well as people of other genders, or otherwise phrased, they can be attracted to people of more than two genders.

On the other hand, pansexual people are attracted to people of all genders. The difference might be slight, but it just comes to show that the pansexual community differs from the bisexual community in this regard.

The most important thing is for each person to use the word bisexual or the word pansexual to better describe their romantic attraction to other people. This can help them find the right label to express themselves and as a result, understand themselves better too.

Bisexuality and pansexuality help a person understand the identity they better relate to and allow them to become more actively involved in their communities and explore their emotional attraction to other people.

Common Misconceptions About the Two

Something that is very important to emphasize, as it shows how inclusive the bisexual community is of non-binary individuals, something that wasn't clear in the past. Non-binary people can be bisexual and bisexual people can be attracted to non-binary people.

Pansexual communities and pansexual folks have in the past accused bisexual individuals of being transphobic as people tend to assume that bi people can only be attracted to men and women. This is based on the notion mentioned previously, about bisexuality having to do with a certain gender binary.

This comes to show that neither of these terms indicates that the people who identify with them need to be exclusively attracted to men and women. Of course, there might be a lot of bisexual people who will be attracted only to two genders, but this simply isn't the case for everyone.

A sexual identity label can mean something for one person and something different for another. This is exactly why the bisexual umbrella idea exists, which allows people to be attracted to people of multiple gender identities.

Another common misconception is that, while pansexual people are attracted to others regardless of gender, they are not obligated to have experiences with every gender or view every single person as a potential partner. Not everyone will be sexually attracted to everyone and that is alright.

This is sadly deeply rooted in the belief that many heterosexual male individuals follow, where they believe that every queer person is sexually attracted to them, regardless of their actual sexual orientation.

Different Ways You can be Attracted to Different Genders

Another misconception that should be mentioned, is that mixed or cross-orientation is another valid point that people assume is not tied to someone's sexual orientation. While you might be sexually attracted to your partner's gender, at the same time, you might experience romantic attraction to another gender.

There are many different romantic orientations that can help better explain this and help people understand that pansexuality and bisexuality are more sexual choices when it comes to partners, while the same people can be romantically attracted to many more genders. Some of these include the following:

  • Biromantic

You can be romantically attracted to people of two or more genders

  • Panromantic

You can be romantically attracted to people of all genders

  • Aromantic

You do not experience romantic attraction for anyone, or you experience it to a very low degree.

  • Polyromantic

You can be romantically interested in people of many but not all genders

"I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree." - Robyn Ochs

This comes to show that the way we define bisexuality and pansexuality can vary for each person and there are no right or wrong words relating to a person's experience. Everyone has their own right to their sexuality and sexual choice and whether they experience sexual or romantic attraction to all genders or not is up to them to decide.

Is it Okay to be Attracted to One Gender More Than Another?

Lastly, it is important to consider that you can experience attraction to people regardless of gender and at different levels. As mentioned previously, pansexual people can be attracted to people of all genders while bisexual people can be attracted to people of more than one gender, including their own.

Something that troubles a lot of people in the LGBTQ community, especially the bisexual community is that others will discredit their sexual orientation when they only seem to be dating people of one certain gender identity. Someone's gender means a lot to that individual, whether they're nonbinary people, gender fluid, or identify as bisexual and pansexual on their own terms.

The important thing to remember is that even if a person tends to date people of one gender more than others, their bisexuality or pansexuality is still valid. People oftentimes assume that bisexual individuals can only like men and women. It is their own right to date the people that make them happy, and sometimes, these people might be of a different gender than who they usually date.

The bisexual community and many bisexual activists have fought hard to change this standard and nowadays the term bisexual is used as an umbrella term, which allows for more inclusivity, especially when it comes to non-binary people. Bisexuality refers to all genders and each person should be free to choose to who they feel attracted.

Also, being attracted to more than one gender does not mean that this needs to take place at the same time and to the same level in order for these feelings to be viewed as legitimate. Sometimes, you will end up being sexually attracted to someone more than someone else, or you might feel romantic attraction for someone without wanting to move the relationship to a sexual level.

This is also absolutely valid and should not be viewed as something wrong. Pansexual and bisexual people should have the right to be attracted to people at their own pace. You can certainly not force sexual attraction on anyone and it is completely normal to go through periods where you only feel attracted to people of one gender. This does not take away their bisexual label or sexuality and should not be considered a problem by other people in the community.

Defining Your Own Sexuality is a Personal Matter

At the end of the day, who you are attracted to is your own personal business and nobody should be able to tell you what's wrong and what's right in how you feel. Reading about bisexuality and pansexuality and educating those that care about you will help you live a happier life with more accepting folks in your circle.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to a person's sexual orientation and whether you identify as bisexual or pansexual, the most important thing is for you to be happy! When you experience healthy attraction to all genders and understand your own sexuality, and put in the effort to understand the sexuality of others, it's the only thing that matters when all is said and done.

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