Over the last few years, a number of celebrities have publicly come out as pansexual, including Miley Cyrus, Courtney Act and Janelle Monae, and Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie.
Most recently, Demi Lovato came out as pan, telling Joe Rogan: “I’m so fluid now — and a part of the reason why I am so fluid is because I was super closeted off.”
But it turns out many people don’t know what pansexuality is or how it is differentiated among the LGBTQ+ spectrum — even after Monae publicly came out in 2018, the term “pansexuality” saw a 11,000 percent increase on Merriam-Webster’s website, making it the most-searched term of the day.
So what is pansexuality? According to GLAAD, pansexuality refers to someone who is “attracted to all genders and sexes, or regardless of 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 of a gender binary to begin with. As Miley Cyrus told OUT magazine in a 2015 interview, pansexuality in and of itself can take gender out of 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 of these are terms that people have to be able to identify with. Even if someone’s sexuality more specifically falls under the definition of bisexual, they should still identify as panseuxal if that is the sexuality they most relate to.
This article has been updated.