Storify: What's the Difference Between Bisexuality and Pansexuality?

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

My previous storify on being a bisexual nonbinary transgender person resulted in a lot of people asking for a summary explanation on what, precisely is the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality. The answer is complicated, but I've tried to be concise.

I'm going to do a fresh thread on Bisexuality, Pansexuality, and Transgender for us to all link to next week when this happens again. In general*,

Bisexuality: sexual attraction to more than one gender.
Pansexuality: sexual attraction to all or most genders.

(*The definitions are more complicated and include caveats like "capability for" and vary from person to person and org to org, but Twitter character limits are a thing and I wanted them to fit in the same tweet for this thread. More nuance will follow at the end.)

So now you, a cis person, are perhaps confused because you thought there were three genders: Man, Woman, and Trans. But that is wrong!

IF there were only three genders (Man, Woman, and Trans) and IF Man and Woman were hardcoded to bisexuality, THEN we would have:

Bisexual: Man + Woman (+ maybe Trans)
Pansexual: Man + Woman + Trans

"Well, what's the difference?" a cis person cries. I will tell you. The "difference" lies in the premise being wrong. There are not only three genders, and transness doesn't shake out that way.

Here are some genders:
- man
- woman
- demigirl
- maverique
- bigender
- boyflux
- ceterogender
- proxvir

Here's a link to a big list of dozens of genders! Hundreds! You, a cis person, peer at that list and frown. "Okay, but that's... Man + Woman + Trans, yes?" Nope!

When you were born, your parents and doctor gave you a gender assignment. IF that assignment matches your gender, you're cis. If not: trans. If your parents and doctor had raised you as Proxvir gender and you grew up to be Man, you'd be trans! *mind blown gif* "Trans" and "Cis" are modifiers not of your gender but of whether you were assigned that gender at birth.

So let's look at that gender list again.
- (cis / trans) man
- (cis / trans) woman
- (cis / trans) demigirl
- (cis / trans) maverique

So now let's look at sexuality again.

Bisexuality: Two or more genders.
Pansexuality: All or most genders.

Y'all ever play MadLibs as kids?

Bisexuality: [gender] + [gender] (+ [gender] optionally repeatable)
Pansexuality: All or most genders.

Discard the idea that bisexuality is hardcoded to include Man and Woman, by the way, because that ain't true AT ALL.

So we can fill in a theoretical bisexual:

Bisexuality: [Woman] + [Demigirl]
Pansexuality: All or most genders.

You see the difference now? You cannot understand bisexuality and pansexuality and the difference if you cannot understand these basic foundations:

1. There are more genders in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

2. Transness isn't a gender separate from Man and Woman. "Cis" / "Trans" mark whether your gender matches the one society gave you at birth.

3. Bisexuality isn't hardcoded to include Man and Woman by default. MANY bisexual folks aren't attracted to one or either of those genders.

This understanding of gender and transness is important, because it expands to sexualities beyond bi and pan. Trans women are women and are included in lesbianism. Trans men are men and are included in gayness. Straight trans people are straight.

People often get a little confused on this point because our society tries its best to conflate Genitals and Gender when they don't conflate. My genitals have no bearing on my gender (demigirl). Now, a person who is attracted to demigirls might not want to touch MY genitals, fine. Just because you're attracted to some people in a gender doesn't mean (a) you're attracted to all of them, or (b) you want to sex all them. You can be attracted to women without wanting to sex your sister, yes?

So don't assume bi and pan people are attracted to EVERYONE. Similarly, bisexual and pansexual people can BOTH have hard limits on sets of genitals they don't want to touch. There's this wrong idea that:

Bisexuality: Penis and vagina, yay!
Pansexuality: Penis and vagina, yay!
"I don't see a difference!"

Because, again, genitals aren't gender. So the problem isn't that bi and pan look alike, it's that your starting premise was wrong. Here are two totally valid hypothetical bisexual and pansexual combinations:

Bisexual: "I'm attracted to Women and Maveriques. All genitals welcome."
Pansexual: "I'm attracted to all genders. No vaginas, please."

This makes sense because:

1. Gender is not Genitals.
2. Attraction to a gender tells you NOTHING about their genital preferences.

I hope this clears up why Bisexuality and Pansexuality are not the same thing and why neither is inherently more trans-inclusive than the other. There are transphobic bisexual people and transphobic pansexual people, but the sexualities do not definitionally exclude trans people.

When people wrongly claim that bisexuality does definitionally exclude trans people, I hear transphobia under that claim. So please stop. I know the "intention" is to defend trans people from Mean Bisexuals, but it hurts us by claiming we're a separate third gender. We're not.

A few addendum notes, because I promised more nuance on the definitions of bisexuality and pansexuality. Some bisexual people define their bisexuality as "attraction to my gender and every other". I am uncomfortable with that definition myself. Like, it's fine to have that as a personal definition, but recognize that can be used to "flatten" gender down and remove nuance. A lot of bisexuals AREN'T attracted to "same + other", and they can be erased when that definition is bandied about carelessly.

Second addendum: Some pansexuals define their attraction as being "to everyone regardless of gender". As a trans folk, I'm wary of that one. My gender is important to me. I'm not interested in a relationship w/someone who "doesn't SEE gender" or likes me "regardless of" my gender. People can define their sexuality however they feel comfortable, but I wouldn't throw that one around as the "standard" definition for pan.

I'm going to wrap here and storify this.


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