Bisexuality and Pansexuality

I know I posted something yesterday, but I had to write this. I don’t really understand why some people are confused by the difference between the terms bisexual and pansexual, but it seems that some are having a hard time to pin down the definitions. So I’d like to try and shed some light on the subject, though I may just be making it harder for some who already know the difference or those who don’t have a vast knowledge on queer identities.

Depending on whom you ask, each person will give you a different definition to the word bisexual. This is probably because the three most known sexualities are heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual, so bisexuality kind of becomes a catch-all term for anything that doesn’t fit into the other two categories. However, knowing what somebody means when they use the word can easily be solved by simply asking the person in question how they define bisexuality.

There is really no debate that pansexual means “sexual attraction towards all genders”. Bisexual, however, causes more confusion because of the prefix “bi-” which, as you probably know, literally means “two”.

This could basically be interpreted in the following ways:

– Sexual attraction towards the same gender as oneself and genders different to that of oneself

– Sexual attraction towards –only- men and women

– Sexual attraction towards two genders (these can be any two genders, not just man and woman)

Many people think the second one is absolute, and therefore is the difference between bisexual and pansexual, but that would exclude the other two options, which are also widely accepted and used by many bisexuals.

The first is easily confused with pansexual, since it is really also an attraction towards all genders, but I’d say the main difference in this case is the preference; preference for one term or the other and preference for one or more genders over others. Pansexuals, though they may enjoy having a sexual relationship with one gender more than another, usually don’t care much about their partner’s gender. Of course it is an important part of the person, but it isn’t a decisive factor when it comes to choosing a sexual partner. Bisexuals, however, tend to feel sexual attraction towards one gender more than others.

Let’s take as an example a lady, Jane, who happens to be bisexual and defines her sexuality according to the first interpretation. She may feel sexual attraction towards any gender, but usually tends to fall for other ladies 80% of the time. Craig, however, is pansexual, and may feel sexual attraction towards any gender, in equal percentages. Kyle also has no preference for a gender in particular, but still identifies as bisexual because she likes the word better.

The third interpretation also somehow causes lots of confusion due to the idea that “man and woman are the real two genders”, and therefore “all sexualities must include them to be valid”. I have no idea where this came from, but I’ve seen it mentioned, though not that bluntly, in many places where bisexuality/pansexuality are concerned.

Who cares what the difference is, you ask? Not making this difference is erasing the identity of any bisexual and pansexual who has a preference for one word or the other, as well as invalidating the genders of all those out of the binary that would not be included in the “bi” from bisexual in the second interpretation.

How do you define bisexuality and pansexuality?