Differences Between Bisexual and Pansexual

There are many differences between being bisexual and being pansexual. Here, we'll tell you about them, but you must bear in mind that every expression at a socio-affective level is just as valid.
Differences Between Bisexual and Pansexual
Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador

Written and verified by el biólogo Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador.

Last update: 29 August, 2023

Sex, gender, and gender identity are increasingly debated concepts in mainstream society. When we recognize that the term gender is a social construct and more of a spectrum than a binary entity (boy/girl), a range of options and expressions opens up on both an emotional and sexual level. Do you want to know the differences between being bisexual and pansexual?

Learning the distinctions between the two terms is interesting, but remember that nothing mentioned here has to define an individual in the long term. Sexuality and gender are fluid and changing concepts over time, so a person may have certain sexual predilections at one point in their life and be more attracted to others later. In the world of identity, labels are unnecessary.

Sex, gender, and gender identity

Before commenting on the differences between bisexual and pansexual, we find it very important to explore concepts such as sex, gender, and gender identity. This is very important, as we’ll deal with them later in this article. Keep reading!


According to the Oxford Dictionary, from a biological point of view, sex is “the state of being male or female.” This trait determines the mere reproductive function of organisms and is present in all animals and plants that carry out a type of sexual reproduction.

The sex assigned at birth depends mostly on the chromosomal status of each somatic cell in the body. Boys have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome in their sexual pair, while the karyotype for girls is XX. As indicated by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), many other animals have similar systems (such as ZW or X0).

Chromosome determination defines sex, but hormonal concentrations, genital arrangement, and many other things are also taken into account to create the image of a “boy” or a “girl” from a biological point of view. For example, people who don’t have sex organs adjusted to a preconceived idea are considered intersex (despite having an XX or XY karyotype).

Sex is a very informative concept in nature, but it makes less and less sense in human culture. It fails to describe intermediate sex organs, hormone levels outside the norm, and many other traits that fall outside the binary spectrum. From a social point of view, genitals no longer define an individual.


At this point, it’s crucial to be clear that gender and sex aren’t the same. The Royal Spanish Language Academy (RAE) defines it as “a group to which human beings of each sex belong, understood from a sociocultural point of view rather than an exclusively biological one.” In other words, gender is a social construct.

This is usually conceived as a binary concept, that is, if you’re a boy or a girl. This cataloging goes far beyond genitals, as it includes norms, roles, social guidelines, and, in general, what’s expected of an individual that belongs to one gender or another. As the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates, gender has been a hierarchical construct that has led to much inequality.

The binary view of gender is a conflicting interpretation, as it modulates the expectations based solely on the presence or absence of certain genitalia. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, many people present genders that aren’t classified as boy or girl (for example genderqueer, agender, or bigender), and a binary system excludes them all.

Gender is still considered to be binary in many social groups, but it’s best to fight against this preconception and understand that it’s more of a spectrum than a red or green traffic light (boy vs. girl).

Gender identity

Four young adults making a toast.
Understanding the meaning of gender identity allows us to be more inclusive when any of us decide to identify with a parameter other than the conventional.

We close this terminological review with gender identity, a term that encompasses everything that defines the individual and how they express themselves to others. Dress, outward appearance, behaviors, and preferences are just some of the ways to express gender identity.

A certain part of the population feels like a “man” or a “woman”. However, many people are masculine women, feminine men, or simply don’t feel represented by any previous establishment. The latter can decide to be defined as intergender (genderqueer), gender variable, and gender fluid, among many other terms.

People with an identity equal to their biological sex are called cisgender. Those in which sex and gender identity differ are transgender.

The differences between being bisexual and pansexual

Now that we’ve explored all these terms, we’re ready to see the essential differences between being bisexual and pansexual. Keep in mind that we’re going to assume that gender isn’t binary from now on. Without this distinction, comparisons would be impossible, as pansexuality is largely based on this premise. Keep reading.

1. The definitions of both terms differ

From a strictly terminological point of view, bisexual people are those who are attracted to both men and women. This word has a certain binary implication, as the prefix bi indicates that the individual only recognizes two possible sources of attraction, that is, the male and the female sex.

On the other hand, pansexuality is a term that encompasses all non-binary gender identities recognized today. Pansexuals are attracted to all types of human beings, regardless of their sex (chromosomal load), gender (construct), and gender identity. It’s identified as a sexual identity other than bisexuality but is sometimes used interchangeably.

For example, United Nations documents highlight that some bisexual people call themselves pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual, fluid, or queer to show that their attraction goes beyond the male or female genitalia. In any case, the term pansexual is the most appropriate as long as the attraction escapes binary conceptions.

This distinction is still debated, as many bisexual people are attracted to people beyond the biological sexes.

Keep reading: Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

2. Pansexuality goes beyond gender

Bisexuality refers to binary attraction within the typical spectrum (heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual). However, this doesn’t mean that a bisexual person likes men and women equally. There are individual preferences and, furthermore, over time these can veer towards one extreme or another.

Pansexuality isn’t within a normative spectrum, as an individual who defines themself as such can be attracted to people who are neither men nor women (in addition to those who are). For this reason, this term systematically rejects the binary conception of gender and recognizes that there’s a wide spectrum between the eminently masculine and the feminine.

In addition, many pansexual people are also considered gender-blind, that is, biological sex and gender don’t play a role in determining attraction for them. This terminological umbrella includes cisgender people, transgender people, and those outside the binary gender.

In any case, it’s important to make a vital distinction: Pansexuality doesn’t encompass paraphilias, zoophilia, necrophilia, or pedophilia. It only includes consensual behaviors and attractions between individuals aware of their status and sexuality, always within the framework of legality and ethics.

One of the clearest differences between bisexuality and pansexuality is that the latter rejects the binary conception of gender.

3. Attraction in the world of pansexuality is much broader

A bisexual person may recognize that gender is non-binary, but it’s eminently understood that they’re attracted to men and women and not that they also include transsexual people in their predilections. However, being attracted to bisexual men and women and trans women doesn’t automatically make them pansexual.

Pansexuality is much broader and goes beyond the genitals. So, there’s usually no clear distinction between “I like X or Y”. A pansexual person may be attracted to individuals who feel comfortable defining themselves (or not) using the following terms:

  • Aggender: Those people who don’t feel comfortable categorizing themselves in a pre-established gender. They don’t use singular pronouns based on a construct, so they usually refer to themselves as they or them in English.
  • Bigender: Those people who identify with the two typically binary genders (or others on the spectrum) simultaneously. Some bigender people are androgynous, but this isn’t true in all cases.
  • Demigender: This term refers to people who mostly define themselves with one gender, but who also have specific traits of another. It’s also possible that your sexual manifestation is partially of one gender (male or female) and partially agender.
  • Pangender: This term encompasses people who have multiple identities corresponding to various genders.
  • Fluid gender: Those people who identify more with one gender than with another at one point and then this varies. In this case, gender is conceived as a changing flow over time.

Pansexual people can be attracted to all the human beings included in the spectrum that we just mentioned. In any case, this doesn’t mean that all human beings are equally attracted to them, as there are always individual preferences and the predilection/attraction can vary over time.

4. Bisexuality seems to be more common than pansexuality

Two women walking on the beach, looking at one another, and smiling.
Some evidence suggests that many more people identify as bisexual than pansexual, although this may be related to the complexity of the latter term.

Talking about figures on these issues is simply anecdotal, as they don’t reflect in any case that one sexual choice is more valid than another. However, one of the clearest differences between bisexual and pansexual lies in the extension of each of the terms among the population. After all, bisexuality is much more widespread.

General sources estimate that the prevalence of bisexuality ranges from 0.7% to 8%. Other statistics show that 5.5% of cis women are bisexual, while the percentage of cis men is 2%. Much can be speculated on the reasons for this difference, but preset gender roles are likely to have something to do with it.

On the other hand, it’s estimated that 2% of young people between 18 and 36 years old consider themselves pansexual, while in larger age groups, the figure drops to 1%. Whether by construct, biological preferences, or a host of factors, pansexuality seems somewhat less common than bisexuality.

Bisexuality appears to be more common than pansexuality, although social biases may have a lot to do with this trend.

Differences between bisexual and pansexual: Two respectable manifestations

All sexual preferences are equally valid despite their distinctions and the ideological clashes that they generate in activist groups.

As much as the term bisexual seems somewhat less inclusive than pansexual, many people feel comfortable using it to refer to themselves, and this isn’t up for debate. Each person chooses the denominatives with which they feel most comfortable and, as long as they don’t exclude other people or incite hatred, they’re all equally valid.

It’s also important to point out that being bisexual or pansexual doesn’t indicate that a person is attracted to all human beings. We all have preferences at an individual level and, in addition, affective predilections can fluctuate throughout our lives. Identity must be a means of expression, not an airtight and invariable label.

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