Pansexuality, or omnisexuality, is sexual attraction, sexual desire, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of all gender identities and biological sexes. Self-identified pansexuals may consider pansexuality a sexual orientation, and refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant in determining whether they will be sexually attracted to others. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines pansexuality as, "not limited or inhibited in sexual choice with regard to gender or activity".
The concept of pansexuality deliberately rejects the gender binary, the "notion of two genders and indeed of specific sexual orientations", as pansexual people are open to relationships with people who do not identify as strictly men or women.
The prefix pan- comes from an Ancient Greek term meaning "all" or "every". Omni- comes from a Latin term meaning "all". "Pansexual" is derived from the word "pansexualism," dated back to 1917, which is the view "that the sex instinct plays the primary part in all human activity, mental and physical". Credited to Sigmund Freud, it is a term of reproach leveled at early psychology, and is also defined as "the pervasion of all conduct and experience with sexual emotions".
The conceptualization of "pansexuality" as distinct from "pansexualism" contrasts with predominant prefixes attached to the -sexual and -gender roots. Traditional thought employs the prefixes hetero- (opposite), homo- (same), bi- (two) and trans- ('across'). A transgender identity opens up a gender continuum rather than a gender binary rubric, but does not discard or disregard the idea of gender altogether.
Compared with bisexuality and other sexual identities
A literal dictionary definition of bisexuality, due to the prefix bi-, is sexual or romantic attraction to two sexes (males and females), or to two genders (men and women). Pansexuality, however, composed with the prefix pan-, is the sexual attraction to people of all sexes and genders. Using these definitions, pansexuality is different in that it includes people who are intersex and/or fall outside the gender binary. Go Ask Alice! states that pansexuals can be attracted to cismen, ciswomen (meaning cisgender), "transmen, transwomen, intersex people, androgynous people, and everything else. It is generally considered a more inclusive term than bisexual". Volume 2 of Cavendish's Sex and Society, however, clarifies that "[a]lthough the term's literal meaning can be interpreted as 'attracted to everything,' people who identify as pansexual do not include paraphilias, such as bestiality, pedophilia, and necrophilia, in their definition" and that they "stress that the term pansexuality describes only consensual adult sexual behaviors".
The definition of pansexuality encourages the belief that it is the only category that covers individuals who do not cleanly fit into the categories of male/man or female/woman. However, bisexual-identified people may object to the notion that bisexuality means sexual attraction to only two genders, arguing that since bisexual is not simply about attraction to two sexes and encompasses gender as well, it can include attraction to more than two genders. The Bisexual Resource Center defines bisexuality as "an umbrella term for people who recognize and honor their potential for sexual and emotional attraction to more than one gender".
Gender is considered more complex, as it includes genetic, hormonal, social, and environmental factors, and there are gender identities that are wholly similar to each other. The term pansexuality is used interchangeably with bisexuality, and, similarly, people who identify as bisexual may "feel that gender, biological sex, and sexual orientation should not be a focal point in potential [romantic/sexual] relationships". In one study analyzing sexual identities, described as alternative terms for bisexual or bi-self labels, "[h]alf of all bisexual and bisexual-identified respondents also chose alternative self-labels such as queer, pansexual, pansensual, polyfidelitous, ambisexual, polysexual, or personalized identities such as 'byke' or 'biphilic'".
Polysexuality is similar to pansexuality in definition, meaning "encompassing more than one sexuality," but not necessarily encompassing all sexualities. This is distinct from polyamory, which means more than one intimate relationship at the same time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language – Fourth Edition. Retrieved February 9, 2007, from Dictionary.com website
- Hill, Marjorie J.; Jones, Billy E. (2002). Mental health issues in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. American Psychiatric Pub. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-58562-069-2. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- Marshall Cavendish, ed. (2010). Sex and Society 2. Marshall Cavendish. p. 593. ISBN 978-0-7614-7907-9. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
- Diamond, L., & Butterworth, M. (2008). Questioning gender and sexual identity: Dynamic links over time. Sex Roles. Published online March 29, 2008.
- "definition of pansexual from Oxford Dictionaries Online". Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
- Soble, Alan (2006). "Bisexuality". Sex from Plato to Paglia: a philosophical encyclopedia 1. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-313-32686-8. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- "''Online Etymology Dictionary''". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
- "Bi, gay, pansexual: What do I call myself?". Go Ask Alice!. December 12, 2003 (Last Updated/Reviewed on September 14, 2012). Retrieved October 3, 2012.
- The Free Dictionary http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pansexualism
- "GLAAD Media Reference Guide". Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Archived from the original on January 1, 2011. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
- "What is Bisexuality?". The Bisexual Index.
- "BRC Brochure 2010". http://www.biresource.net/. Bisexual Resource Council/Bisexual Resource Center. 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
- Firestein, Beth A. (2007). Becoming Visible: Counseling Bisexuals Across the Lifespan. Columbia University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-231-13724-9. Retrieved July 28, 2013.