“Pansexual” may have shot up to Merriam Webster’s most searched term of the day recently when singer Janelle Monae came out, but there’s still a lot of confusion about the sexual orientation. (FYI: The dictionary defines the word as “of, relating to, or characterized by sexual desire or attraction that is not limited to people of a particular gender identity or sexual orientation.”)
We asked people who identify as pansexual to share some things they wish others knew about this lesser-known way of identifying. See what they had to say below.
1. No, we’re not just bisexual or going through a phase.
“Some people think pansexuality is nothing more than a transitional phase ― or that pansexuals simply don’t know what they want. They assume pansexuals are testing the waters and finding out if they’re actually just gay or straight or bisexual. Some people look at our romantic histories and make assumptions; I’ve always found it quite odd because if someone were to say that they’re straight, not a single soul would ask, ‘Are you sure you’re not bisexual or even pansexual maybe? You’ve only dated people of the same sex as you at this point ― maybe you just haven’t found the right one yet.’ They’ll say things along the lines of, ‘Well aren’t you dating your first boyfriend? That counts as straight if you ask me,’ or ‘So you like boys and girls? Isn’t that pretty much bisexuality?’” ― Henson Popa
2. Being pansexual doesn’t mean you’re attracted to everyone, all the time.
“When people ask if I’m attracted to everyone, I always turn this question back to the askee ― which, in my experience, are usually straight men: ‘Are you attracted to every woman you see?’ The misconception that pan people think everyone is attractive or that they want to sleep with everyone is just downright untrue. Gender or gender identity may not be factors that determine who we find attractive, but we’re human beings, too; we have preferences, types and kinks just as varied as the other sexual orientations. There’s just more fish in the sea for us.” ― Lee Monster
3. Pansexuals are into monogamous relationships, too.
“Much like bisexuality, I feel like it’s a common misconception that pansexual folks are incapable of being faithful or participating in monogamous relationships. That’s totally false. We are just as capable of being monogamous as straight couples, gay couples and queer couples in general.” ―Hannah Smith
4. Pansexuals and bisexuals can coexist.
“I hear a lot of people talk about how pan and bi are somehow at odds or opposed to each other. It’s simply not true. When it comes down to it, I think pan and bi are essentially similar things: ‘Two sides of the same coin,’ to use a tired adage. I personally resonate more with ‘pan’ than ‘bi’ because gender is very low on the list of things I care about when building any kind of relationship with someone. I am much more interested in the person as a whole ― their own identity, their belief system, their hobbies and interests, and yes, at some point, their gender as well.” ― Derick Bailey
5. Stop assuming we’re interested in a threesome or orgy.
“What I’m into is none of anyone’s business, really, except my partner and myself. If you know my sexual orientation, that doesn’t mean I will automatically jump at the chance to join you and your partner for a bang when you proposition me. Threesomes or orgies in whatever gender configuration aren’t exclusively liked by pan or bi people.” ― Lee Monster
6. You’re never too old to come out as pan.
“I’m 39 years old, and it wasn’t until January of 2018 that I came out to anyone. Sure, I’ve known for approximately three years. And yes, when I look back on my life I can see a few hints and some very direct evidence of my truth in being pan. But my identity did not truly start to take shape until six months ago when I first came out. The point is, you’re not too old. It’s not too late. Maybe you see younger people with such strong conviction of who they are and you wish you had been that brave (that’s certainly been me, looking at the LGBTQ+ community). But your story is not over. If you want your story to change and your truth to be known, then it’s not too late for you.” ― Derick Bailey
7. Pansexuals are respectful toward gender identities.
“This is an insensitive stereotype. There’s a saying about pansexuality that goes ‘hearts not parts!’ that I find incredibly dismissive. While pansexuality is attraction to all genders, or in my case attraction regardless of gender, it doesn’t mean that a pansexual person doesn’t care about their partner’s gender. Gender is an important part of people’s lives, whether they’re cisgender or transgender or non-binary or agender. Gender is something I respect and acknowledge, not ignore and dismiss.” ― Coryl Reef
8. Not acknowledging that pansexuality is an orientation makes it harder for people to live their most authentic lives.
“I personally haven’t come out until recently partially because I’ve seen people disregarding pansexuality as an orientation, which is extremely harmful for pansexual people who are still struggling with coming to terms with their identity. Unfortunately, I feel like pansexuals are more inclined to remain in the dark about their sexuality for fear that their attraction to other people isn’t valid or that they simply won’t be accepted. Currently, it seems as if pansexuality is a great big gray area for people who aren’t involved in LGBTQ affairs.” ― Henson Popa
9. We’re not rigid in our definition of pansexuality.
“I feel like the definition of pansexuality sort of varies depending on how the person identifying self-describes, but for me, it’s simply attraction regardless of gender. If I like you, I like you.” ― Hannah Smith
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
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