Bisexuality vs. Pansexuality: What Is the Difference?

Updated on June 8, 2018
JenniferWilber profile image

Jennifer Wilber is a writer, teacher, and bisexual rights activist from Ohio.

A girl wearing a bi pride flag and a girl wearing a pan pride flag at a pride festival. Malmö, Sweden 6 August 2017
A girl wearing a bi pride flag and a girl wearing a pan pride flag at a pride festival. Malmö, Sweden 6 August 2017 | Source

Bisexual vs Pansexual: What is the Difference?

On the surface, bi- and pan- identified people may seem very similar. Both bi and pan people are attracted to people of more than one gender. These orientations are called “polysexual” orientations, as opposed to “monosexual” orientations, like gay or straight. All “polysexual” orientations are sometimes referred to as “bi+” within the LGBT+ community, indicating inclusiveness of all non-monosexual orientations.

The Bi Pride flag
The Bi Pride flag | Source

What is Bisexuality?

Bi people are attracted to their own gender and other gender(s). They may find certain characteristics of their own gender appealing, while also being attracted to other characteristics of other genders. For example, a bi woman may be attracted to certain feminine physical characteristics of women, but also be attracted to masculine characteristics of men. The most commonly agreed upon definition of bisexuality within the LGBT+ community comes from the prominent bisexual activist Robyn Ochs. Robyn Ochs describes bisexuality thus:

“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge in myself the potential to be attracted, romantically and/or sexually, to people of more than one sex, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

Bisexuals may be more attracted to one gender than another, or may find that they are attracted to different genders in different ways. This is okay. You are still bi even if you have a preference.

The Pan Pride flag
The Pan Pride flag | Source

What is Pansexuality?

Pan people experience a similar pattern of attraction as their bi counterparts, but are not necessarily attracted to specific masculine or feminine characteristics of potential partners. Instead, pan-identified individuals describe themselves as being attracted to the specific person, regardless of their gender. They commonly describe their pattern of attraction as being interested in “hearts, not parts.”

Pan people may also specifically indicate that they are interested in dating people who identify as trans and/or non-binary. Pan individuals are less concerned with what physical body parts a person has or how they express their gender, and are more interested in the overall person.

Pansexuals are not attracted to pans, despite this often-repeated joke.

Pride Parade featuring bi and pan people
Pride Parade featuring bi and pan people | Source

So, Are Bi People Transphobic?

No. It is a common misconception that the difference between bisexual and pansexual is that bi people are never attracted to trans-identified individuals, and that pan people are. Bi people may be attracted to trans and non-binary individuals, just as pan people are, because bi people are attracted to similar and different genders to themselves. A bi person would also tend to consider a trans man a man, and a trans woman a woman, as opposed to categorizing trans men and women into a separate “other” category. Bi and pan people may also both be attracted to non-binary individuals.

There are many trans and non-binary people who also identify as bi. Bi does not mean a person who is only attracted to cis-gender people, but rather, a person who is attracted to their own and other genders. Accusing bi-identified people of being inherently transphobic only hurts the overall LGBT+ community.

It doesn't matter if you or your partner identifies as bi or pan. Love is love.
It doesn't matter if you or your partner identifies as bi or pan. Love is love. | Source

I’m Still Confused. Am I Bi or Pan?

Which term you wish to use to describe your identity is up to you. If you feel like the description of “bi” fits you better, you can identify as bi. If you feel like the definition of “pan” is a better fit, you may wish to use that label instead. Some people prefer the term “bi” because is better understood than “pan” in mainstream culture. On the other hand, some people prefer “pan” because of the misconception that bi people are transphobic. Other people feel that both definitions fit them equally well, and may refer to themselves as both “bi” and “pan” and use the terms interchangeably.

Only you can decide how you will identify. Even if you use one term now, you can always switch to a different label later on if you find that you no longer identify with your original label for your orientation. Ultimately, you are the only one who can determine your orientation and identity.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Jennifer Wilber


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      4 months ago

      forgot to add but doubt it matters i’m sure every comment saying anything negative about this article is being rejected

      if you id as pan because you don’t wanna be confused as a transphobic bi how do you explain your sexuality to a person that doesnt know pan.

      As someone who believed the pan lie when I was younger I know the answer to this one.

      “It’s like being Bi but unlike them I would date trans people.”

      You’re not only passively contributing to the stereotype you’re doing it actively. You’re telling people who probably didn't even think that of bi people like that before that this is how bisexuality is defined. And if they already believed that stereotype you’re only confirming it.

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      How is pan a separate sexuality when it doesn’t change who you're attracted to just how. How is it considered separate from bisexuality when its just an enabler.

      And as a bi trans guy, how is it ok to id as pan because you don’t wanna be confused for a transphobic bi person. By iding specifically as pan for that reason you’re only further pushing the stereotype that bi people are transphobic. You’re saying I would id as bi but they’re transphobic. That’s like saying I would id as a lesbian but they’re stereotypes as terfs so I’m just gonna call myself (insert made up term).

      You’re not fighting the stereotype you’re only reinforcing it.

      I would Never trust a pan person with my trans status. Trans or Cis. Treating me (and in some cases themselves) like some freak only they’re capable of loving isn’t support or allyship.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)