What does it mean to be pansexual?

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, singer Janelle Monáe came out as pansexual. Monáe, who is typically a very private person, has not explicitly spoken about her sexuality in the past (though she has made hints about it in her music — her new song “Pynk” celebrates queer womanhood). Monáe’s statement about being pansexual, however, has left many fans confused as they wonder: What does it mean to be pansexual?

People sometimes associate pansexuality with bisexuality although the two are different. Monáe herself said that she had first identified as bisexual before realizing that she is, in fact, pansexual.

Sexologist Dr. Carlen Costa told Cosmopolitan that pansexuality is "the sexual, romantic, emotional, physical, or spiritual attraction to people, regardless of their specific gender identity or sexual expression. Pansexuality is about recognizing that as a people, we have evolved, thus the language of love and relationships has also had to evolve and become increasingly inclusive."


In basic terms, pansexuality means that you can be attracted to men or women. What sets it apart from bisexuality, however, is that it also means you can be attracted to non-binary gender identities. In other words, pansexuality is being attracted to anyone, regardless of how they identify. Someone who is pansexual might be attracted to a man, a woman, a transgender person, a person who does not identify with gender at all, or yes, a heterosexual person. It means you don’t think about gender when considering a romantic partner.

It’s about rejecting the gender binary and embracing the idea that gender is a social construct.

Not surprisingly, there are many misconceptions about pansexuality. One is that someone who is pansexual is attracted to anything, not just people. That’s not true. Another misconception is that pansexuals are attracted to literally everyone. Not true either. Stop Homophobia explains, “This doesn’t mean they like everyone, and some pansexuals do have physical preferences. The identity is used merely to express the openness and fluidity to people of all genders.” false

Monáe is not the first celebrity to come out as pansexual. A few years ago, Miley Cyrus came out as pansexual, stating that bisexuality felt too limited to her. Jazz Jennings, trans activist and star of I Am Jazz, has said, “Being pansexual basically means to me that you are attracted to anyone, no matter their sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, everything. There [are] no limits. I’ll date anyone. It’s more that I love someone for their soul.”