Queeries: Question 1

Gender and Sexuality Minorities Affinity Group
Welcome to Queeries, the Gender and Sexuality Minorities Affinity Group’s (GSM) public question-answering forum. If you have a question you’d like to ask the members of GSM regarding queer life, terminology, or anything else, we’d love to answer it. 
Queery #1: “I’m a little confused about sexual orientations. What’s the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality? Are they both just attracted to everybody?”
The short answer is that bisexuality and pansexuality are not the same, but there is no clear-cut definition of either word—that comes down to personal definition. If you’re curious about a specific bi/pan friend, just ask them. 
But if you feel like reading, it gets a little complicated. The differences between bisexuality and pansexuality are heavily debated by folks both within and outside of the queer community. GSM defines pansexuality as an attraction that isn’t confined by someone’s biological sex or gender identity and lacks a preference for any specific gender. Pan people aren’t literally attracted to every person, but they’re capable of feeling attraction for anyone, regardless of gender. We define bisexuality as an attraction towards two genders on the gender spectrum. This is often interpreted in a binary (attraction to men and women), but it can also apply to gender(s) outside of the gender binary. Attraction to multiple genders doesn’t necessarily indicate an even split of attraction—a bi person who’s attracted to one gender 90% of the time and another gender only 10% of the time is still bi. Also, bisexuality is sometimes used as an umbrella term for sexualities that describe attraction to more than one gender, which would make pansexuality a sub-category of bisexuality. Here’s where things get complicated: some bi folks interpret the “bi” part of bisexual as an attraction to people of their gender and people not of their gender, which covers attraction towards any/all gender identities. This definition starts to intersect with our definition of pansexuality. Some people whose attraction might fall closer to the definition of pan might identify as bi instead because it’s more widely recognized. The most important thing to remember is that different folks will have different personal definitions of these words, and they’re all valid. If you have a bi/pan friend and you have questions, just ask them. 
GSM encourages members of our community to ask us any questions/queeries they have about the queer community or even questions they have about their own gender and/or sexuality. If you want to submit a queery to Queeries, you can either write it on a slip of paper and leave it in Haley Goldenberg or Nick Pranger’s mailbox, submit it via email to [email protected], or through the Contacts section on The Forum website. We’ll answer them together next time we have a meeting. We meet in room 433 during Affinity block on Day 3. Our meetings are always open, so come visit if you’re interested.
Yours queerly,