bisexual: sexually attracted to both men and women.
pansexual: not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.
Lorelei’s reply was pretty spot-on, I think (“bisexual” is an older word from before the concept of a non-binary gender existence was common plus it might be better shorthand than “pansexual” before you get to know someone if all you really want to do is say you aren’t straight). You can go read the whole thing. It’s good.
The part that made me curious was this:
Pansexual opens up bisexuality to include transgender people, intersex people, and like you said – people that don’t necessarily gender themselves. In other words, someone who is pansexual is more or less bisexual, but someone who is bisexual is not necessarily pansexual.
I’ve thought a lot about this in the past (more or less the first time I found out Buck Angel was a kind of person in the world, whenever that was). When I say I’m bisexual, I might really mean I’m pansexual as it’s defined above because I’d very happily have sex with both trans men and trans woman. Either someone presenting very masculinely but with a pussy or someone presenting very femininely (and maybe with breasts) yet with a cock1. Sure. I’m game. I like all those things and I don’t really think changing up the how they’re combined would be a bad thing at all. In fact, I’m sure I could even hook up with a non-gendered person. Probably. Well…probably.
This snuggles up to something else I’ve been pondering since I found it the other day. A few months ago, someone posted to imgur a set of charts that supposedly breaks down active FetLife users. Three charts in particular caught my eye.
First, the sexual orientation reported by all the active users:
Wow, I thought, look at all those bisexuals! Plus all the others I’d probably lump in with bisexuals (and then get scolded for doing so if they knew I was doing it). How awesome, I thought. My people!
Then I saw this. Sexual identity reported by just the men:
Fucking hell. Really, guys? Sixty-seven percent straight!? Can we believe this? Is it really true that out of all those thousands of kinky people (57% identified as male), so many of the guys are dead-on Kinsey zeros?
Of course, this is how people are choosing to identify. That’s not necessarily how they are. I suppose if you’re a guy and you’re married or in an LTR with a woman and you don’t have a lot of interest in men sexually and no ability to pursue any anyway, then you’re straight. I also think there are a lot of straight men who have fucked around with guys, especially in their youth. I know because I was one of the guys they fucked around with. More than a handful of current men who, when they were boys, seems to enjoy my naked company and seem to all the world as straight (and at least one I can think of off the top of my head who’s made borderline homophobic jokes on Facebook).
My personal opinion based on my own experiences with men who identify all over the place is that they actually are all over the spectrum. How we identify has less to do with how we are and more to do with how we want to be perceived. Men are not given bonus points in our culture for calling themselves anything outside “straight” and, it seems, will only do so for specific reasons. Same goes for men who call themselves gay. They might have a tiny or more consequential yet still minority part of them drawn to women, but they get no bonus points for ever letting that show.
Of course, I’m talking about men here because that’s what I know best. Women actually are somewhat rewarded for not identifying as totally straight in our culture. The men like it, for one, but it’s also more accepted. This is shown by how they break out on FetLife:
Who knows. Maybe all those guys really are super-duper straight and I’m full of shit. Maybe women just are more fluid sexually. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. I think a lot of guys aren’t perfectly K-0 but say they are anyway. Perhaps they confuse what they are doing with what they are? “I’m with a woman so I’m straight.” That would help explain why bisexuals are often called “formerly” bisexual with they settle down with someone of either gender. Who we fuck isn’t what we are, right? But maybe it’s a more prevalent perspective with men.
It’s also possible this is a generational thing. People my age were pushed to go straight or gay and neither side seemed to think something in between was valid. That seems to be changing with younger people. They’re inventing all kinds of interesting variations on the theme. And good for them. Bi, pan, flex. To me, they’re all essentially the same. But what they aren’t is fitting into anyone else’s conception of what’s “normal.” I’ll count that as a good thing.
1 And let’s not get started on the fact that other cultures have archetypes of feminine men in them like the Japanese.