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What is the difference between bi and pansexual ?

What is the difference between bi and pansexual ?

What is the difference between bi and pansexual ?

What seem like simple labels for sexual preference are anything but – and they even confuse many members of the LGBTQ community

The definitions

What is the difference between bi and pansexual? Bisexuality  is a broad term describing sexual and/or romantic attraction to two, more ,  or all genders. 

In fact, a bisexual person may be attracted to each gender differently and may also prefer one gender more than another.

Pansexuality  , on the other hand, refers to sexual and/ or romantic attraction to an individual regardless of gender. 

In this sense, pansexual people do not consider the sex assigned at birth or the gender of another person as an important factor in maintaining a relationship with that person.

Does this mean that pansexuality is more inclusive than bisexuality ?

Not quite.

What is the difference between bi and pansexual?

When queer activist and Younger star   Nico Tortorella is asked how he identified, he takes a deep breath before replying, “Well, that’s a loaded question.”

“In the [queer] movement right now, we tend to cling to specific words rather than the person,” the 29-year-old actor told  Rolling Stone  . “And in my fluidity, I’m really drawn to this idea that it doesn’t have to be a thing.”

Bisexuality, pansexuality, sexual fluidity, homosexuality and simply “not labeling” – all are different ways people identify to indicate that they are not exclusively attracted to men or women. The truth is, however, that there is confusion even among members of the LGBTQ community as to what these words mean, especially when it comes to bisexuality. In fact, the bisexual community doesn’t even agree on what it means to be bisexual. The term pansexual was born out of confusion and to create a definitive and more inclusive label. This has led to feuds among community members, who are upset that their bisexual identity is being replaced with another label.

The meaning of pansexual is clear: someone who is attracted – emotionally, physically, or both – to all genders. This includes cisgender, transgender, agegender, and gender non-conforming people. The prefix was chosen because it comes from the Greek root “pan”, which means “everything”. But this is obviously not the case. Two months ago, when Janelle Monáe came out as queer and pansexual in a Rolling Stone cover story   , searches for the word pansexual on  Merriam Webster  increased by 11,000%, and the term became the most searched word in the world. day.

The prefix “bi”, as we all know, means two. For this reason, many people, perhaps even the majority of people, believe that a bisexual person is only attracted to two genders: cisgender men and cisgender women. Members of the queer community who believe this is the definition of bisexual, believe that bisexuality perpetuates a gender binary. They don’t believe this includes transgender people and gender non-conforming people.

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Since “bi” means two, this is a reasonable belief.

However, many people who identify as bisexual, myself included, now use renowned bisexual activist Robyn Och’s definition of bisexuality, as stated on her website: or sexually – to people of more than one gender and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree. 

In this definition, the “bi” means two (or more) genders. Gabrielle Blonder, board member of the Bisexual Resource Center, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to provide support to the bisexual community and raise awareness about bisexuality and bisexual people”, explains, “I use it to mean ‘attracted to genres like mine and genres different from mine.

The majority of pansexual individuals do not believe in any of these definitions – and this is precisely why they prefer the term pansexual.

When the word “bisexual” caught on, starting with David Bowie when he claimed bisexuality in a  1976 Playboy interview  , we didn’t have a nuanced understanding of gender like we have today. Now that we have a better understanding, some bisexual people have updated the definition of bisexual to include all genders, while others have preferred to drop it, for a new word, which is frankly less confusing, given that pan actually means “all.”

Some pansexual people go even further. “There’s the argument that people use all the time, that bi is exclusive. It feeds into the gender binary,” says Tortella. “And I know for me personally, that’s not the case. A lot of people say bi is trans-exclusive, but trans isn’t a gender per se, it’s a descriptive word for how people express their gender.

That’s why 22-year-old Ethan Remillard, who came out as bisexual in his early teens, said bluntly, “I identify as bisexual because I like fucking guys and seducing girls. But I’m not advocating pansexuality because trans[gender] girls and boys are the same as their cis[gender] counterparts.

This is partly why people don’t like to identify with a sexual or gender identity label. Simply put, it’s confusing and to many the labels seem limiting. Additionally, understanding your own gender is inherent to your sexuality. If you’re not entirely sure whether you identify as male or female, then how can you accurately articulate your own sexuality ?

This contributes to the growing popularity of the salvaged word, “queer”.

“I use the term queer because I’m not sure about the specifics of my gender identity,” says Jill B., a 23-year-old artist. “So ‘ queer ‘ feels like a good umbrella as I grow and learn and figure out all the details.”

People are also quick to claim multiple sexual identity labels. “Early on in my coming out, bisexuals were a great fit…and gay people felt disconnected from who I was, a little academic and bullied with hate,” says Ryan Carey-Mahoney, 26, an LGBTQ activist . “Then as I grew a little more into myself, I found queer was none of that. It included many identities – bisexuality and others – and brought people together. It united in such a way that just saying “gay” to describe the community can seem divisive. »

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Now, Carey-Mahoney identifies with both labels. “They both fit me now like a glove, and believe me, honey, I wear them proudly.”

Interestingly, when Tortorella wishes to identify with sexual labels – as opposed to merely human – he actively changes his label depending on who he is talking to and what his intent is.

“If I’m talking to someone who’s more conservative and doesn’t believe in non-binary gender, then it’s easier to use the word bisexual, but if I’m talking to someone who is gender , queer theory and understands the spectrum, so I’m more comfortable with the word ‘pansexual’ or the word ‘fluid’. »

What is the difference between bi and pansexual ?

Fluid, in this case, which means that sexual attractions have the ability to change over time and can depend on different situations.

Tortella notes, however, that the word bisexual has a rich history and it would be nice to honor it.

“The B has been around much longer than the P in the acronym, and there’s something to be said for that,” he says. “There’s something to be said for standing up for mothers and fathers in the community who fought for [our rights to embrace a queer identity ].”

Tortella is not alone in his reasoning. “Personally, I like the historical aspect,” says BRC’s Blonder. “It’s the label under which we’ve fought for recognition for decades, and it’s the most well-known label. Language is not a static entity and words can change meaning over time. Just as October is no longer the eighth month of the year, I believe the term bisexual has evolved into a different meaning than it originally was.

For others, it’s less about the story and more about the arduous personal journey it took to finally claim a sexual label, only to be told their label is wrong, outdated, or transphobic — and by members of the same community that are supposed to embrace them no less.

“I’m proud to be bisexual,” says Daniel Saynt, founder of  NSFW  , a private club offering educational experiences in relationships, kink, and intimacy. “It’s taken me 30 years to get to this point and it sucks that now that I’m comfortable in my sexuality, I’m being told I’m not accepting enough because I don’t consider myself pansexual. Pansexuals shouldn’t attack bisexuals just because there’s a new, more inclusive term. We don’t attack gay people because they’re not attracted to women, and we shouldn’t attack a bisexual [person] just because they might not find a trans person attractive.

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Saynt is one of those people for whom bisexuality indeed means exclusively attracted to cisgender men and women. He embodies what many activists and bisexual individuals are fighting against.

“I’ve definitely met attractive, non-conforming trans people, but the feelings I have [for them] have never been sexual in nature,” Saynt continues. “It’s more of an appreciation of who they are, what they represent, and just a desire for them to find happiness, regardless of who they are.”

The question then becomes, is it transphobic not to be attracted to transgender and gender non-conforming people? If so, are members of the LGBTQ community holding on to a label that is potentially harmful to other members of the LGBTQ  community ?

“For a while, I felt compelled to cling to the bisexual label in a pseudo-noble effort to protect the identity of a perceived diaspora of individuals turning to the term pansexual,” says Jill B .. “At first, it seemed important to me to continue to defend bisexuality, as I had always done when members of the straight or gay communities tried to invalidate or exclude it. [I felt] like a captain sinking with his ship. Over time, that became less important than accurately describing the full spectrum of my sexuality.

Nonetheless, everyone I spoke to said there was room in the larger bi and pansexual communities for multiple labels to exist.

What is the difference between bi and pansexual ?

“I think there is room for everyone. We are all here. And it’s our right to claim whatever label we want. said Tortorella.

Bisexuality, for many, is also considered an umbrella term, including sexually fluid labels like pansexual. There has even been a push in the bisexual community to use the term bi+ to really emphasize that bisexuality is the broadest encompassing term.

Jill B., even though she has given up on the bi label, still believes there is room in the queer community for diversity in sexually fluid labels. “I hope the spark in the conversation about sexual fluidity will generally increase the visibility of those who don’t fully identify as straight or gay.”

Still, they aren’t convinced that having all of these labels will benefit the community in the long run. As Jill B. notes, “I don’t know if an increase in the number of labels will prove unifying or divisive for us.”

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