What does pansexual mean?

Miley Cyrus is pansexual.

Deadpool is pansexual.

Zac Goldsmith is – okay, no, the former London mayoral candidate is not pansexual.

In fact, his embarrassing stumble during the run-up to last year’s election, when he said he was pansexual for London, is a perfect example of why it’s important to know what this term means.

So what does pansexual actually mean?

It’s a relatively new term, and like all new terminology around sex, it’s got many people confused.

But since two percent of young Americans now identify as pansexual – with that figure likely to increase as people learn more about sexualities – you might as well find out.

When Miley came out as pansexual in 2015, it was after it was widely reported that she was bisexual.

She was keen to make a distinction between the two sexualities, but why? Surely if you’re attracted to men and women, that makes you bi, right?

No. Or at least, not definitely.

After all, there’s more than just men and women in the world, and looking at gender as a binary is flawed.

Many people exist at other places throughout the spectrum, with some defining themselves as non-binary, genderqueer, bigender, genderless, androgyne and other terms.

Let’s break it down. ‘Pan’ comes from the Greek for all.

So pansexual means that you are capable of being attracted to any and all genders.

What makes it different to bisexuality is the acceptance that people exist outside the gender binary.

For some pansexual people, this involves being gender-blind – that is, unaware or uninterested in what a potential sexual partner’s gender is.

The term is broadly seen as more inclusive than bisexuality, but there’s still some controversy over that notion.

And it is absolutely the case that many people who identify as bisexual define it as being attracted to their own gender and other genders.

This creates some overlap between those who recognise the gender spectrum but still identify as bisexual.

Safe to say, though: if someone tells you they’re pansexual, that means gender does not matter to them in terms of who they want to have sex with.

“Hearts, not parts,” as the pansexual saying goes.

And as with all sexualities, just be happy for them.