What Pansexual People Want to Clarify About Their Identity

May 26th 2017

Katelyn Harrop

As public understanding of the gender and sexuality spectrums continue to expand, identities such as pansexuality are allowing people to identify their attraction and affection outside the confines of the gender binary.

Pansexuality identity broadly encompasses a physical, spiritual, or sexual attraction not dictated or inhibited by gender. Literally based on the Greek prefix for “everything” or “all,” pansexuality includes attraction to any or all genders. This can include both men and women who are cisgender — those whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. It can also include transgender people, and other non-binary identities including gender fluid, and agender people.

Although the term “pansexual” has been used within LGBTQ+ communities for years, pansexuality is widely underrepresented in mainstream culture. Little data exists regarding pansexual identity, and while the term has begun to emerge in some mainstream media, pansexuality still remains outside of most public conversations about sexual identity.

“The standard and the understanding of gender is so focused on the idea that there are only two genders, that our understanding of sexuality stems from that very construct,” Senior Training and Education Manager at the Trevor Project Chris Bright told ATTN:. “So it’s very difficult for people to think about sexual attraction outside of the gender binary, when they don’t really know that there even is anything outside of the binary.”

To gain a better understanding of the misinterpretation of pansexuality, ATTN: asked pansexual people to explain their identity and concerns, in their own words.

Maayan Voss de Bettancourt is an opera singer living in New York City.

Voss de Battancourt believes the full gender spectrum requires greater attention in conversations surrounding sexuality and sexual identity.

“There aren’t really any misrepresentations because there isn’t any representation,” Voss de Battancourt told ATTN:. “It’s funny being told you don’t exist… People just think it’s a phase or people think you’re just indecisive… which is not the case. I’m decisively pan.”

Paige Euphoria DeWald identifies as genderfluid and pansexual.

Dewald finds that people often assume pansexuality to be a form of bisexuality, instead of its own valid identity.

“(Pansexual people) are often considered unicorns. Other times I hear that they fall in love with everyone and sleep with everyone as well — that they are greedy and can never maintain a relationship,” Dewald told ATTN:, when asked to name some of the major misconceptions surrounding pansexuality. “People believe that they don't have standards like everyone else — or preferences. Just because we are not limited to the choice doesn't mean we can't have preferences.”

Koda Calma is a 17-year-old trans guy living in Pittsburgh.

Calma finds that people often dismiss the existence of pansexuality all-together.

Coda Kalma

“This... is probably due to the lack of education the general public has about sexual orientations other than heterosexual,” Calma told ATTN:. “Just because you aren't familiar with something, that doesn't mean it is imaginary. Pansexual people are real and want to be validated just like any other human being.”

Natalya Cowilich, 23, works in mental health services in Ithaca, New York.

She identifies as pansexual, and finds that misunderstandings surrounding pansexuality are connected to a greater lack of understanding around non-binary genders.

“My biggest concern is the unreality that comes with explaining myself to others. There are a decent amount of people in the world who can't or won't understand that it isn't just men and women out there,” Cowilich told ATTN:. “Many people can't understand a person who is attracted to this diversity. Also, many people think that "pan," since it's Latin root is ‘all,’ means we just love everyone in the world and don't understand many of us have monogamous relationships with significant others.”

Archer Curry is a trans guy from Chicago who identifies primarily as queer, as well as polyamorous and pansexual.



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“I like the fact that it is so open. I like the fact that it doesn’t really try to classify who falls under that umbrella of who I might be attracted to,” Curry told ATTN:. “It’s freeing because… it removes built-in structures in my head… and that turns it into something that is more focused on the individual relationship and on whether or not that is a possibility.”

Bright says a comprehensive approach to gender is the first step in creating awareness and understanding around pansexuality and other identities that may exist outside of the gender binary.

“It requires us to have a bit of a broad understanding and a bit of an open mind when it comes to embracing the way that we express sexuality, and the way that we express gender,” Bright told ATTN:.  “Slowly, there are changes coming in regards to media representation and even legislation around the country, but it’s not where it needs to be by any stretch of the imagination.”

  • Correction:May 30, 2017This story was updated to clarify comments given to ATTN: by Maayan Voss de Bettancourt.
This story was first published May 26th 2017.