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Omnisexual vs. Pansexual: decoding the distinctions and finding your perfect fit

Robyn Exton

May 17, 2023

Omnisexual vs. Pansexual: decoding the distinctions and finding your perfect fit

Welcome, sweetie! If you’ve found your way to this article, chances are you’re exploring your sexuality and figuring out where you fit on the rainbow flag. Well, you’ve come to the right place! We will dive into the world of omnisexual and pansexual identities and help you understand the differences between the two. And yes! They are different. Allow us to explain.

What can we name as omnisexual?

Source: Health

Omnisexuality, from the Latin word “omnis,” meaning “all” or “every,” means attraction to all genders, with no exceptions. Think of it like having an all-access pass to the love party, not letting any labels hold you back. 

In short, an omnisexual is a person who is attracted to people of all genders, including everyone on the gender spectrum.

And what does pansexual mean?

Can we describe pansexual in just a sentence? Well, someone is attracted to people regardless of their gender identity, gender expression, or biological sex.

Source: Minus18

On a similar note, Pansexuality, derived from the Greek word “pan,” meaning “all” or “everything,” means being attracted to people based mainly on who they are as a person, without noticing their gender. It’s like having a sixth sense – you just know when someone is a match, no matter their identity.

Why is it important to know the difference?

Mainly so that you’re comfortable with your sexual identity! Even if they sound similar in their meanings, by recognizing and celebrating the diversity of sexual identities, we can break down the barriers that limit our understanding and acceptance of one another. 

What you consider a small difference could mean the world to somebody else, so be compassionate and find the word that fits like a perfect puzzle piece for you.

And actually, both terms have some myths and misconceptions in common, you know, haters being haters and saying that it’s just a phase or the same thing as bisexuality. Some might call you “confused” or “greedy,” but you gotta remember that whatever people say, only you know who you are and how you feel, and those that support you on this journey are the ones that matter.

What’s the history behind omnisexuality and pansexuality?

Both sexualities have always existed, but there hasn’t always been a spotlight on them for us to learn and understand them better; many important conversations about omnisexuality and pansexuality are as recent as the 2010s! So here’s a little guide on where we were and are now.

Omnisexuality’s past and present

Omnisexuality as a concept has been around since the 1950s! Even if we don’t hear of it as much nowadays, it was first coined by poet Lawrence Lipton in his book “The Holy Barbarians.” Actually, James Dean’s friends referred to him as omnisexual after his passing, so it was definitely a thing!

Source: Esquire

Though it’s not so often that we hear it in media, omnisexuality is very present! We just have to pay attention. Like our fellow Whovians out there should know that Captain Jack Harness from Doctor Who (2015-ongoing) / Torchwood (20126) is canonically omnisexual, or some great news for Trekkies is that Elim Garak from Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) and the Borg Queen were written that way too.

Nowadays, we see it more and more both on social media and irl within our amazing queer friend groups, and they can flaunt their pride with a beautiful omni flag designed by Tumblr user @pastelmemer back in 2015,  showcasing their love for all people in the shades of light pink, pink, black, blue, and light blue.

A pan-tastic timeline

‘Pansexual’ is a term we tend to see more of lately, with hyper-talented singers like Janelle Monáe and Brendon Urie speaking on their pan pride, and kid’s cartoons having canon pan characters like Ally from Amphibia (2019-2022) and Lord Boxman from OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes (2017–2019).

Source: Time

But it took a pretty long way to get to the mainstream conversations. The concept of pansexuality has been around for a long time, way back to the 1920s and 1930s in the US. In those days, reports emerged of people who, “loved beyond labels and boundaries,” especially in vibrant communities like Harlem and Chicago.

As time passed, the term continued to evolve and find its place in the queer and kink scenes of the 80s and 90s. It became more about being open to a wide array of sexual experiences rather than being defined by one’s gender or sexual orientation. Alice Cooper described pansexuality in 1974 as “an end to restrictions” and the ability to “relate sexually to any human being.”

Fast forward to the early 2000s, and the internet was already changing the game, and by 2004, online searches for the term ‘pansexual’ started to skyrocket. The internet allowed people to discover more about their sexual identity and expand their communities beyond geographical boundaries. As the community grew, so did their sense of pride. In 2010, the pansexual flag debuted online with its bright magenta, yellow and cyan hues. 

Triple showdown: bi vs. pan vs. omni

If you’ve been an active member of the LGBTQIA+ community for a while and have had access to the internet in the past 15 years, you might have heard about the discourse between pansexuality and bisexuality, with some people invalidating the other, calling them transphobic.
Of course, this is not the case for either; you see, bisexuality can be defined as attraction to more than one gender or attraction to the same gender and others. It doesn’t mean only liking men and women, as some might think; non-binary and gender non-conforming folks are also included here, but bi people do tend to have a preference, and that’s totally okay!

Source: Stonewall
Now, when we add omni to the mix, some people might be confused by the similarities in all three sexualities, and even if the differences seem slight, they are relevant because they are what make you, well, you!
To sum it all up, each is attracted to:

  • Bi = more than one gender, but not all. 
  • Pan = regardless of gender.
  • Omni = all genders.

Also, calling it a showdown was only to make it seem cool. Remember, we are all part of this wonderful queer family, and we are not here to compete about the “real” label because — you guessed it, all of them are real!

Be unapologetically you!

What we can take from all of this is that even if we do not decide who were attracted to, we have the power to pick a term that expresses our sexuality perfectly, or close to perfect, at least! After all, the spectrum of attraction can be so vast and unique, that maybe we can’t even put it into words (and that’s okay too).

Source: Futurity

Our sexuality can also intersect with other aspects of our precious selves, like our culture, our gender, and even our race. How, you ask? Let’s say someone is omnisexual, but that term doesn’t have a direct translation in their country, or many people there don’t know it. 

They can always try to educate their peers, but they might also feel comfortable enough to refer to themselves as pansexual or even use an umbrella term like queer. That doesn’t erase their omnisexuality, or how they feel, they are just influenced by their cultural context.

This can be especially the case for BIPOC folks, with indigenous cultures and some countries going beyond Western definitions of gender and sexuality, so maybe using terms like these doesn’t make as much sense since they originated with white-centered ideas in mind.

So choose either omnisexual or pansexual based on your personal experience only! That label is for you to understand yourself better and maybe to find an awesome group of folks who might understand your experience navigating the dating world as someone who loves as much as you do.

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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