Understanding what it means to be pansexual

This can help if: 

  • you want to understand what ‘pansexuality’ means

  • you’re unsure of which label suits your sexual identity

  • you want to know the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality

  • you want to know how to connect with the pansexual community.

Image of a woman in a large crowd at a Pride parade. She is wearing a striped rainbow shirt and holding the pansexual flag up behind her. The flag features three colours in a row: pink on top, yellow in the middle, and blue on the bottom.

What does ‘pansexual’ mean?

Pansexuality is commonly defined as being sexually attracted to all genders, or being attracted to people regardless of their gender. 

For some pansexual people, gender isn’t a factor at all. Others may have a preference but still feel attracted to all genders. Sexual identity is a very personal thing that can shift to suit your needs and desires. Being pansexual can look like many different things, so explore whatever definition feels most comfortable for you. 

I’ve always felt more drawn to the pansexual label because I’m attracted to people’s personalities first. It doesn’t matter what gender they are, or how they choose to present themselves.

Mon, 26

Are pansexuals part of the LGBTQIA+ community?

Yes! Pansexuality is one of the many diverse identities under the queer umbrella. Just because the ‘P’ isn’t in the LGBTQIA+ acronym, it doesn’t mean that pansexuality is less valid or less important than other queer identities. 

Can I be pansexual and asexual?

Pansexuality is a label that’s inclusive of sexual attraction, so if you're someone who feels no sexual attraction then it might not be quite right for you. However, asexuality is a spectrum, and you can absolutely feel attracted to all genders (or feel attraction regardless of gender) as an asexual person. 

Your attraction may be purely romantic (panromantic), or you may only feel sexual attraction after you’ve formed a strong emotional connection (pan-demisexual). Take time to explore the many different sexual identities to discover which you connect with. 

What’s the difference between ‘pansexual’ and ‘bisexual’?

Bisexuality’ refers to being attracted to two or more genders. In the past, some people assumed that the term meant being attracted to both men and women, but not to anyone who identifies as trans, gender diverse or non-binary (TGDNB). But this isn’t true! Bisexual people can and do feel attraction to people across the whole gender spectrum, and identifying as bisexual doesn’t mean you can’t feel attracted to TGDNB people. 

'Embracing my bisexuality has been a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. The realisation that bisexuality isn't confined to a rigid male and female sexual orientation but, rather, embraces attraction to more than male and female genders was liberating.' - Cooper, 25

Image of two young men sitting outside. They are both smiling as they look down at one of their phones. Their legs are intertwined, and one man has his hand rested on the others knee.

Because of these assumptions, there is a lot of confusion around the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality. The core difference is that ‘bisexual’ means two or more, whereas ‘pansexual’ means all. So, a bisexual person might be attracted to women and non-binary people, but not to men – or to any number of genders, but not to all. 

Some people don’t see a huge difference between the two labels, and feel comfortable identifying as both. Others may feel really strongly about identifying as one or the other. 

'I’m bisexual. I used to be attracted to only women and men. But over time I’ve discovered I’m attracted to people for who they are, rather than attracted to specific genders. I could fit the pansexual label, but I still identify as bisexual as it's where my queer connection started and it resonates with me more. The choice is yours. Your queerness doesn't have to stay set in stone!' - Mimi, 27

The best part is: it’s your choice. You get to represent your sexuality in whatever way works for you. If people try to invalidate your sexuality, you can stand strong and proud knowing that your preferred label works for you at this time. 

Are there similarities between pansexuality and bisexuality?

Yes! There’s plenty of similarities between being pan and being bi. Despite there being a bit of confusion (and sometimes tension) between the pansexual and bisexual communities, they actually face many similar challenges.

If you’re still a little confused about which suits your experience, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to stick to a label your whole life.

I spent so much of my youth trying to figure out who I was… in order to put a label on myself… I think everyone should love who they want and not be afraid of conforming to a label. Just love!

Imogen, 20

As you grow and change, so do your preferences, interests and desires. These unique journeys and identities are part of making the queer community so beautifully diverse and inclusive!

How can I connect with the pansexual community?

There are plenty of ways to connect with other pansexual people and to share your pan pride.

Research pansexual history, explore queer art and attend events

Learning about your community's history is a great way to feel connected to others. You can follow creators like RainbowHistoryClass or spend some time scrolling through Queering The Map to read about queer experiences from all over the world.

Rudy, the creator of @RainbowHistoryClass, says that learning the history of their community helped them feel less alone. ‘One of the most outstanding things that Rainbow History Class has taught me isn’t that people like me have existed forever; it’s that people just like me exist everywhere, right now.’

Engaging in queer art and attending events can help you deepen your connection to your identity and community. Try these ideas:

Image of a young woman at a pride parade. She is holding a sign above her head. The word QUEER is visible on the sign, and has been coloured in with colours of the pride flag rainbow.

Seek support from pansexual-friendly services

Sometimes it can be tough to find and connect with your community, especially if you live rurally or in an unsupportive household. There are a number of services and organisations that can help you to feel more connected and less alone. 

Check out this list of LGBTQIA+ support services. You can also find a list of culturally diverse LGBTQIA+ support services here.

If you’re keen to chat about your sexuality with others, visit the ReachOut Online Community Sexuality space. If you’re over 18 and want some one-on-one support, you can book in for a PeerChat session to speak with a peer worker.

Some names have been changed to protect people's identities.

What can I do now?

  • If you need to speak with someone right now, give QLife a call on 1800 184 527, or use their webchat service. They can help you work through what you’re feeling, and to better understand your sexuality and experiences.

  • Learn where to find LGBTQIA+ support services.