What Is Pansexuality?

Written by Leigh Weingus
Leigh Weingus is a New York City based freelance journalist writing about health, wellness, feminism, entertainment, personal finance, and more. She received her bachelor’s in English and Communication from the University of California, Davis.

Photo by Michela Ravasio

Where people were once encouraged to identify as either gay or straight, as awareness around sexual fluidity grows, many people are finding that they don't fit squarely into one box or the other. One study published earlier this year found that millennials are the most gender and sexually fluid generation ever, and a study that came out in November found that between 5 and 10 percent of millennial men identify as "mostly straight," meaning they're mostly attracted to the opposite sex—but occasionally they fall for someone of the same gender.

Long story short, sexuality isn't nearly as black and white as researchers once thought it was. And while some sexually fluid people may opt out of identifying with a label at all, embracing pansexuality as a label may be the exception to the rule. Broadening its spectrum to include attraction not only to males and females but transgender, androgynous, and gender-fluid people, pansexuality encompasses the true spirit of You.We.All, as it's arguably the most inclusive label of them all.

Open love as an addition.

Fitness instructor Bethany C. Meyers is in an open relationship with her longtime love, actor Nico Tortorella. She also proudly identifies as sexually fluid and pansexual, and she's found that people often feel threatened by her sexual identity. "So often we are told that love exists in a box. A man and a woman kind of love. Singular love. White picket fence love," she explains. "But my heart is capable of so much more, so I can’t understand limiting my expression. Most people are scared of pansexuality because it feels like they may be easily replaced. I don’t think of it that way. To me, open love is an addition, not a subtraction."

Psychotherapist Nathalie Theodore adds that in her professional experience, pansexuality is the most liberating label for her clients. "I think people often struggle with their sexual identity when they don't fit neatly into a particular box," she says. "The idea of pansexuality can be quite liberating because it's less limiting than other labels, insofar as it accounts for the idea that people can be attracted to anyone, regardless of gender."

How to deal with people who criticize pansexuality.

Theodore adds that while she believes pansexuality is one of the most important terms out there—mainly because it goes beyond the concept of the gender binary and recognizes that there is a spectrum that isn't limited to just male and female and will ultimately lead to greater acceptance—many people are quick to attack it. "People often criticize because they are unaware, misinformed, or perhaps projecting issues they have with their own sexuality," she explains. "If the person you're dealing with is open to learning more about you, use this as an opportunity to teach them. If you're dealing with someone who is closed-minded, you may have to shut down the conversation by simply walking away or setting some boundaries regarding how this person can talk to you."

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