What does it mean to identify as pansexual or panromantic?

On the occasion of International Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness and Visibility Day, we take a closer look at what it means to identify as pansexual or panromantic.

Pansexual stock image.
Image: Tim Samuel

May 24 is International Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness and Visibility Day, but what exactly does it mean to be pansexual or panromantic? 

The word ‘pansexual’ derives from the Greek prefix ‘pan’, meaning all. However, this doesn’t mean that pan people are automatically attracted to all people, just that their attraction is not limited by sex or gender identity. 

Academic and clinical psychologist Dr James Morandini, whose work focuses on LGBTQ+ mental health, defines pansexual as follows: “Pansexual is often conceptualized as a label that denotes sexual or romantic attraction to people regardless of their gender expression (masculinity or femininity), gender identity, or biological sex.”

Often, pansexual people describe it as being “blind to gender” when it comes to attraction, be it sexually or romantically.


“Pansexuality offers teenagers an opportunity not to rule out anyone solely because of their sex or gender. It explodes traditional categorical identities, such as straight, bisexual, and gay,” Dr Ritch C. Savin-Willians writes

“The reality is that we actually know little about pansexuals and pansexuality,” Dr Savin-Williams states.

“For example, we don’t even know the prevalence of pansexuals, largely because ‘pansexual’ is seldom offered as an option in research studies. We also don’t know pansexuals’ developmental milestones, sexual and romantic histories, personality characteristics, variations among sociodemographic variables such as race/ethnicity or social class, or even societal attitudes and beliefs about pansexuals.”

He continues, “This is unfortunate because pansexuality is a real thing with repercussions and importance among millennial youth who are searching for identities that adequately reflect where they are with their internal sexual and romantic compass.”

In research that is available, it has been reported that up to five times more women than men identified as pansexual. Additionally, younger people are more likely to identify as pansexual, as well as people that are not cisgender.

Outside of academic settings, pansexuality is often disregarded. Many pansexual people report feeling erased and misunderstood. A lot of the time, pansexuality isn’t taken seriously or is dismissed as an invented identity or casually conflated with bisexuality. 

Amidst the long-standing debate about the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality, it can seem tricky to distinguish between the two labels.

The most commonly cited difference is that sex and gender identity may play more of a role in bisexuals’ attraction than in pansexuals’. Depending on the person, this might or might not be true. 

More generally, bisexuality is often described as the attraction to two or more genders as opposed to pansexuality being the attraction to all genders or attraction regardless of gender. 

International Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness and Visibility Day is supposed to bring attention to these issues and make the labels pansexual and panromantic a little bit more present in our everyday lives. 

Additionally, it is also there to celebrate all people that identify as pan, so don’t forget to give your pansexual friends a hug today and tell them how awesome they are!

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