Sixty years ago, homosexuals couldn’t openly display their orientation or their relationships. In some parts of the world, the same is still sadly true. However, as more and more people, and each generation challenges gender norms and the traditional structure of couplehood and relationships, many people feel empowered to be exactly who they are. Though a positive revolution — and a much needed change — it can be confusing for some people to identify their sexuality. From lesbian and gay to transexual and bisexual, there are many ways to describe your attraction, but a recent trend is the term ‘pansexual’ and it has many scratching their heads. Totally normal, common and part of the major scale of desire, if you are curious about this term, here’s what you need to know.
So what is a pansexual?
Before you start thinking of panoramic photos or what you cook your eggs on in the morning, sexpert at Sssh.com, Coleen Singer says pansexuality may not be what you expect. As defined, she explains a pansexual is a person who can be emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually attracted to anyone, despite their gender identity, male, female or non-binary. If you want to get a little granular, consider the the prefix ‘pan’ which means ‘all’. Unlike other orientations that are mostly attracted to one sex over another, a pansexual can be into, well, anyone.
Signs You May Be a Pansexual
Considering pansexuality isn’t a label that many people use frequently, you may have trouble understanding your own identity. Don’t sweat — and don’t rush yourself. With two consenting parties, there is no ‘wrong’ way to love or to make love to another person. If you are relate to the definition of pansexuality, here are some key indicators you could be on the right track:
You already consider yourself bisexual.
If you were asked today about your orientation, would you label yourself as bisexual? Singer says it is a common misconception to confuse pansexuality with bisexuality, but there are some key indicators. Pansexual people are both sexually and romantically interested in people, regardless of gender or anatomy. This means they notice who a person is, how they carry themselves, how they feel toward them, long before the thought about ‘male’ or ‘female’ comes into play. For those who are bisexual, gender does contribute to how they view a person, right from the beginning. It may seem like a gray area, but take time to soul search the next time another person piques your interest. Do you think about their sex right away — or does it not come into play for you? If it’s the latter, you may be a pansexual.
Personality matters the most to you.
Sure, some people believe looks don’t matter and date as such. Others are willing to make compromises in some areas if a person overcompensate in another. For a pansexual, gender-directed appearance doesn’t play a role in dating as they make everything but looks a priority. As Singer explains, a pansexual focuses primarily on finding partners who have personalities they enjoy and company they would like to keep. While a pansexual shouldn’t be confused with asexual, the desire to rush into bed probably won’t be a trait of yours. How come? You need to connect on a mental and emotional way, and may not think about sex in the same bump-and-grind terms that other people do. In fact, Singer shares you would likely be the type of person who doesn’t rush into a one night stand, since hey, you are more focused on developing feelings as you get to know a person, without thinking of their genitalia.
As gender is not much of a factor in exploring your pan-sexuality, the main things to focus on is finding partners that have personalities you enjoy and, to some degree, how visually and sexually attractive they are to you.
Ways to Explore Pansexuality
Are you nodding along to our examples? If so, it may be interesting — and fulfilling — for you to explore pansexuality. While, sure, it will be somewhat about dating other people who identify in this realm, it’s much more of a soul-searching exercise as you approach another app or match. Here, some tips to guide your practice.
Consider someone’s dating history — as well as your own.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, something stronger or calmer, and do a deep dive into your past dating histories. If you’re old school or it helps to put pen to paper, write down who you dated, what you liked about him or her and be candid about what attracted you to past partners. You may be surprised to discover that your initial reactions to mates wasn’t purely determined by their gender. Looking at your track record is an effective way to identify patterns and preferences, as well as feel more comfortable in your orientation. Singer also says once you start sticking your big toe into pansexual dating, it can also be a way to research a person before you meet up with them. “If you’re not in the position to comfortably ask someone you are interested in about their orientation, look at their past relationships if at all possible. Note the variety of genders of people they’ve dated in the past and make an educated assessment,” she continues. “Although an educated guess is okay, don’t begin calling someone pansexual simply because you believe they are based on their pasts.”
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
And we mean to everyone: yourself, your parents if you are close and they are accepting, your best friends and even past lovers. For those pansexuals who feel like they need a little bit of extra guidance, having honest conversations with people you trust can be helpful, according to Singer. Because these people will support you unconditionally, they will share wisdom and perspective, as well as be the safe, listening ear you need. Another resource that you may have not tapped into is the larger LGBTQ community that generally speaking, is happy to assist someone who is confused about their sexuality. Singer suggests searching for someone who identifies as same-sex, transgender, non-binary, gender queer or any other orientation, through your network and meeting them for coffee or a drink. They may be able to help you navigate — and when all else fails, therapy is also an effective, healthy choice.
Take time to explore your emotional feelings.
Though you may feel pressure to adopt and celebrate your pansexuality, it’s okay to take your time as you get back into the singles scene. As Scene says, it can take time to figure out who you are and how you feel, making it essential to live in each moment and situation without adding labels or clarifications. As you swipe through eligibles or you mingle at a party, put yourself into the mindset of questioning: do I like romance? How about holding hands, cuddling and kissing? What type of person do I want to have an emotional, sensitive connection with? Does gender matter to me in this sense? How does gender play a role in your interest — if you have any? Does imagining a man, woman, or nonbinary person change your feelings?
Don’t worry if it feels unnatural at first. Over time, you’ll start to notice your habits and have a firmer grasp on your level of mental and heart-felt attraction.
And don’t be afraid to respond to sexual desires.
Depending on your childhood or what your larger society told you growing up, feeling liberated to give into sexual desires may not be part of your vocabulary. Even in open-minded households that don’t judge any action, people are often their own worst critic, and may be hesitant to identify what they feel or how they are responding to urges or attraction. Singer suggests giving yourself the time and space to think about what turns you on. Some questions to consider are: Do you get excited when someone gets undressed? Do you fantasize about sex with certain types of people — or does it matter? Is it more about a specific person? What type of person would you want to share your bed with? Does anything make you uncomfortable?
Porn can also be an effective way to test your pansexuality and see what, well, rows your boat. Just remember: there is no single, straight line to sexuality and everyone has preferences, so tread kindly and try not to worry.
Do you believe you’re a pansexual? Tell us about your experience in the comments.