Bisexual vs. Pansexual

When I was 15, I came out as bisexual, because I liked boys and girls.

A few months later, my friend confided in me that she thought she might be bisexual too, because she’d found herself unexpectedly crushing on another girl at summer camp.

We did some research online together, excitedly chattering about sapphic infatuations all the while – and as we learned more and more, my friend said to me, “I think I might be pansexual, not bisexual.” I asked her why and she said, “Because I’m attracted to people regardless of whether they’re male or female.”

This felt strange to me then, and it still feels strange to me now when I hear this argument from other people. Being bisexual doesn’t mean I’m attracted to dicks and pussies – it means I’m attracted to people, people of either sex, but people nonetheless.

It’s been suggested to me many times that perhaps pansexual would be a better label for me, since I’m often attracted to people who don’t conform to the gender binary – mainly, boyish girls or genderqueer female-bodied folks. The term “pansexual” was essentially invented to describe people whose attractions don’t fit within the clean-cut gender binary of male/female – and yeah, that’s me.

But the more I think about it, the more I feel that bisexual is a suitable label for me – because I’m attracted to people within a binary. It’s just not the traditional gender binary. I’m attracted to cis men and gender-fucking female-bodied people. There are occasional exceptions, but those are the two major groups I find myself drawn to, romantically and sexually.

The prefix “pan” means “all” or “every,” and that just doesn’t apply to me. I don’t seem to have the capacity to be attracted to people of every gender identification; only a few.

From time to time, I toy with the label “androsexual,” since masculine energy is really what gets me hot, regardless of what type of body it’s emanating from. But that’s not as recognizable a term as bisexual. I don’t always relish having to explain my attraction patterns to heteronormative folks, because they’re prone to asking questions like, “If you’re attracted to butchy women, why not just date men? Isn’t it basically the same thing?” (Oy vey.)

How do you feel about terms like bisexual and pansexual? Do you identify with one, neither, or both? How do the people in your social circles use these terms?

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  • Spangle

    Old post, but I’d like to point out that bisexual was not originally meant to mean two genders. It started out as a quite problematic psychological term, but what it boils down to is that the “bi” refers to “homo” and “hetero,” not man and woman. I identify as bisexual because I am attracted to people who are the same gender as me, and people who are a different gender. I experience attraction towards people of different genders in different ways, so I do not consider myself pansexual, since gender does play a part in my attraction. It’s just not a limiting factor in and of itself.