Pansexuality: What Does It Mean and How Is It Different from Being Bisexual?

Take That’s Howard Donald has revelead that he is “open-minded” about his sexuality and concluded that he “should” be pansexual.

The singer was speaking to fans in an Instagram Live video and explained that he is attracted to both men and women.

His comments follow those of singer Janelle Monáe, who also revealed that she identifies as “pansexual” in a candid Rolling Stone interview.

After previously identifying as bisexual, the “Make Me Feel” singer explained she read into pansexuality and realised: “‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too’. I’m open to learning more about who I am”.

Miley Cyrus has also spoken out about embracing non-binary sexual preferences in the past. But what does pansexuality mean exactly? And how does it differ from bisexuality?

What is pansexuality?
In Greek, “pan” translates to “all” and therefore, the term “pansexual” can be understood as a sexual identity used to describe being attracted to people of all genders, beyond male-female parameters.

This can include those who identify as transgender, non-binary, intersex and more.

When did the term become popular?
The term pansexual has been around for quite some time, however, Google trends shows that the search term peaked in August 2015 after Miley Cyrus came out as pansexual in an interview with Elle UK.

The pop star’s vindication of the term thrust it into the pop culture zeitgeist, prompting fans to praise the singer for using her public platform to champion liberal ideologies.

How does it differ from bisexuality?
The terminology: bi meaning “two” and pan meaning “all”, suggests a clear difference between people who are attracted to two genders and those who are attracted to people of all gender identities.

In actual fact, bisexuality is applied to mean different things by different people. To some, bisexuality means to be sexually attracted to both men and women. But others see bisexuality as simply a way of describing those we are not exclusively sexually attracted to one specific gender, seeing it used interchangeably with the term pansexual.

“Both identities are valid,” explains The F-Word editor, Joanna Whitehead, “although more people tend to be familiar with the concept of bisexuality.” However, thanks to Monáe that could be about to change.

“Identity is important,” she tells The Independent, adding that it’s crucial that those identifying as bisexual work to eradicate the stigma attached to it, something Whitehead spoke about on an episode of The Independent‘s lifestyle podcast, Millennial Love.

Which celebrities identify as pansexual?
In addition to Donald, Cyrus and Monáe, other celebrities who have described themselves as “pansexual” include singer Angel Haze, Christine and the Queens’ Héloïse Letissier and Kristen Stewart, who told Nylon that she does not conform to binary labels when it comes to defining sexuality:

“I think in three or four years, there are going to be a whole lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you’re gay or straight,” she said. “It’s like, just do your thing.”

“It’s great to see celebrities being open about their pansexual identities,” said Laurence Webb of the LGBT foundation.

“We know that LGBT visibility has an effect on confidence and wellbeing in LGBT communities, and LGBT people of colour are especially underrepresented in mainstream culture,” he told The Independent, “so Monáe coming out is a significant moment for many LGBT people of colour as well as for all those who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It sends a message to everyone that says we can be proud of who we are.”