Over the last few years, a number celebrities have publicly come out as pansexual, including Miley Cyrus, Courtney Act and Janelle Monáe. Most recently, Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie came out as pan, telling PAPER magazine: “I just like good people, if your heart's in the right place. I'm definitely attracted to men. It's just people that I am attracted to … I guess this is me coming out as pansexual.”
But it turns out many people don’t know what pansexuality is or how it is differentiated among the LGBTQ+ spectrum — even after Monáe publicly came out, the term “pansexuality” saw a 11,000 percent increase on Merriam-Webster’s website, making it the most-searched term the day.
So what is pansexuality? According to GLAAD, pansexuality refers to someone who is “attracted to all genders and sexes, or regardless gender and sex, and who identifies as pan.” The organization also makes it clear that pansexuality falls under the Bisexual+ Umbrella, which also features different sexualities and preferences, like omnisexual, polysexual and queer.
Pansexuality has much to do with the rejection a gender binary to begin with. As Miley Cyrus told OUT magazine in a 2015 interview, pansexuality in and itself can take gender out the equation. “I don’t relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy, and I think that’s what I had to understand: Being a girl isn’t what I hate, it’s the box that I get put into.”
But pansexuality is different than bisexuality — bisexuality is a more general term, according to GLAAD, that can refer to someone who is attracted to more than one gender or sex, while pansexuality typically would apply to someone who is attracted to any or all genders and sexes.
The more important takeaway from these definitions is that both these are terms that people have to be able to identify with. Even if someone’s sexuality more specifically falls under the definition bisexual, they should still identify as panseuxal if that is the sexuality they most relate to.