Pansexuality is defined variously as attraction directed to all genders, or regardless of gender. Pansexuals aren't attracted to everyone. While pansexuals don't view gender as a reason to find someone unattractive, they still have standards and might not find a person attractive for other reasons. Some pansexuals might even have a preference for some genders over others.
Some pansexuals might be attracted to people on the basis of some quality that is not gender and has nothing to do with gender, such as intelligence, personality, mannerisms, interests, and so forth.
History and usage
The prefix pan comes from the Greek παν (pan), meaning "all".
- The word may have originated with critics of the psychologist Sigmund Freud, who coined pansexualism to denote "the view that the sex instinct plays the primary part in all human activity, mental and physical".
- In the late 1970s and up to the 1990s, the term seems to have become a synonym for "androgynous" or "bisexual", and is used often in a derisive or dismissive tone.
Tell these innocents that entrepreneurs of pansexuality are exploiting the curious mass obsession with a media dead baby, ask them to define that obsession, and their young brows furrow.
- Later uses, many of which come from around the 1990s, use pansexual as meaning "accepting of and/or open to all genders, sexes, and sexualities", and is particularly common in publications from the BDSM community. From the article Why "Pan" Sexual? from the 4th issue of the National Leather Association International newsletter:
The word pan from pansexual, in this context, comes from the Greek 'pan' which meant all, and according to Webster's finest, means to combine. Interestingly, other meanings of pan include: Pan the god of (sheep) flocks, and pan used colloquially, is to criticize unfavorably. Yet another colloquial meaning of pan, is as in pan out, which means to turn out favorably....The South Florida munch, which only had heterosexual members, has begun to have, and actively seeks a very pansexual mix.
- A talk presented by Peter Boom at the 6th Congress of Sexology in Limassol, Cyprus, defined a pansexual as "a complete sexual person"—explicitly including all forms of sexual orientation and practice.
- An article from The Guardian, The pansexual revolution, from 2002 as well, defines pansexuality in much the same way as we do now: "simply looking for love wherever they find it".
- The final step in the evolution of pansexuality was brought on by Internet communities, which united LGBT+ and queer communities after the destruction caused by the AIDS crisis. An increase in use of the term pansexual followed a collision of ideas concerning the meaning of bisexuality—some defined it as "attracted to more than one gender", and some defined it as "attracted to men and women". This encouraged a schism in which the two definitions split into two separate communities. Here is an explanation of this.
- The current usage is limited to "attraction to all genders". It is not necessary to fit any of the definitions or connotations the word had in the past in order to be pansexual.
- Pansexuality does not include or connote polyamory, kink/BDSM, promiscuity, hypersexuality, objectum sexuality/objectophilia, etc., although individual pansexuals might also fall under these descriptions.
- It is also not inclusive of pedophilia, zoophilia, rape, or sexual abuse, and pansexual communities will not be accepting of abusive or non-consensual behaviours.
Community and society
The first proposals for pansexual symbols go back to a post on the Wikipedia talk page for the Pansexuality article. Wikipedia user Rosemarius left a message concerning their own idea for a pansexual symbol (left, above), derived "from the traditional symbols of male and female, combined together, and by the letter P, which can stand for Pansexual and/or Pride". This symbol is still in use today.
They also proposed "some kind of pansexual flag", which consists of a rainbow flag with the P symbol in the middle of it (right, above).
On 15 February, 2008, in the i_am_pansexual LiveJournal community, user frickinmuck proposed symbols (left, below) that played on the circle-cross-and-arrow motif of common gender and sexuality symbols, but using another circle instead of an arrow or a cross:
I started out by working on one based on the various other lgbt symbols, but I just found that all the arrows and crosses and stuff (to me) don't resonate with me, because they are so rooted in the gender binary. this symbol is a continuation on that theme, while speaking against the binary (or, so I hope)
The same user created a pansexual flag (right, below), just four days later (on 19 February, 2008). The circle "represents the encompassing of all genders/sexual orientations, rather than just the cross/arrow symbols that (to me) represent the gender binary."
Nowadays, the official flag of the pansexual community is the one designed by Tumblr user @justjasper, at the top of this page. She described the symbolism on the @pansexualflag blog, on 11 August, 2010, the earliest record of this flag still on the internet:
I chose pink, yellow and blue as pan colours because pink and blue have come to be accepted to represent binary gender (pink for the female spectrum, blue for the male spectrum), while yellow is a bright colour, that symbolises life and happiness in many cultures, and is neglected by most queer-representing flags. Yellow makes it stand out from the bisexual colours, representing non-binary attraction, while the similar use of pink/blue (in a different shade) acknowledges the similarity of having attraction fall into the binary.
Identity and representation
There are remarkably few ways in which a pansexual may express an affiliation with their community, and, similarly, very little in the way of representation. Often compared with and grouped with asexuality on this point, it is generally true that pansexuals have less opportunities to see themselves reflected in society and media than even asexuals, who may choose to use a black ring or purple plaid to portray identity with the asexual community. Pansexuality has almost nothing of the sort; puns on the word pan are common, making a frying pan (or bread, in Spanish-speaking circles) an unofficial, jocular mascot (again, in much the same way as asexuals play on the word ace). Another common identifier is the phrase "hearts not parts", which has received criticism from within and without the pansexual community. With no explicitly pansexuality-focused organizations or communities, the most representation these people will see even at LGBT+ venues and functions will probably be a display of their pride flag.
There are a few culturally relevant people who openly identify as pansexual, including:
- Mary González, a Texas State Representative, the first and currently only openly pansexual elected official in the United States.