Pansexual: What does it mean and how is it different from being bisexual?

Mae Whitman is among the famous faces to have said that they identify as pansexual

Sabrina Barr,Olivia Petter
Tuesday 17 August 2021 09:54 BST
Mae Whitman will not be given the chance to reprise her role in the 1996 film
Mae Whitman will not be given the chance to reprise her role in the 1996 film (Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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Mae Whitman has revealed she identifies as pansexual, as she shared her appreciation for a Disney Channel show in which she voices a character.

The Good Girls actor wrote in a tweet: “Just taking a moment to say I am SO proud to be even a small part of a show like The Owl House. Being pansexual myself, I wish I had such incredible characters like Amity and Lutz in my life when I was growing up.

“Queer representation is sososo important,” she added, with a smiley. “Keep it up world!”

She said in an additional tweet: “I know people might be unfamiliar with what pansexual means; for me it means I know I can fall in love with people of all genders.

“This is the word that fits me best and I’m proud and happy to be part of the Bi+ community.”

So what exactly is pansexuality? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is pansexuality?

In Greek, “pan” translates to “all” and therefore, the term “pansexual” can be understood as a sexual identity used to describe being attracted to people of all genders, beyond male-female parameters.

This can include those who identify as transgender, non-binary, intersex and more.

When did the term become more widely used?

The term pansexual has been around for quite some time.

However, Google trends shows that the search term peaked in August 2015 after Miley Cyrus came out as pansexual in an interview with Elle UK.

How does it differ from bisexuality?

The terminology: bi meaning “two” and pan meaning “all”, suggests a clear difference between people who are attracted to two genders and those who are attracted to people of all gender identities.

In actual fact, bisexuality is applied to mean different things by different people. To some, bisexuality means to be sexually attracted to both men and women. But others see bisexuality as simply a way of describing those who are not exclusively sexually attracted to one specific gender, seeing it used interchangeably with the term pansexual.

Which celebrities identify as pansexual?

In addition to Mae Whitman, Cara Delevingne, Bella Thorne, Miley Cyrus and Janelle Monáe, other celebrities who have described themselves as “pansexual” include singer Angel Haze, Christine and the Queens’ Héloïse Letissier and Kristen Stewart, who told Nylon that she does not conform to binary labels when it comes to defining sexuality.

“I think in three or four years, there are going to be a whole lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you’re gay or straight,” the actor said. “It’s like, just do your thing.”

“It’s great to see celebrities being open about their pansexual identities,” said Laurence Webb of the LGBT foundation.

“We know that LGBT visibility has an effect on confidence and wellbeing in LGBT communities, and LGBT people of colour are especially underrepresented in mainstream culture,” he told The Independent.

“It sends a message to everyone that says we can be proud of who we are.”

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