What Does 'Pansexual' Mean?

The Voice judge and outspoken singer Miley Cyrus recently revealed to Variety that instead of considering herself ‘bisexual’, she identifies as ‘pansexual’, explaining in the interview: ‘My whole life, I didn’t understand my own gender and my own sexuality. I always hated the word “bisexual,” because that’s even putting me in a box. I don’t ever think about someone being a boy or someone being a girl.’

So what exactly does ‘pansexual’ mean?

For starters, let’s break the word down: ‘pan’ comes from Greek, meaning ‘all’. Pansexual offers a more gender-fluid idea of sexuality: whether you relate to being male or female, or see others as male or female, isn’t as important as it is for terming yourself ‘straight’, ‘gay’ or ‘bi’.

As Cyrus explained to Variety: ‘I went to the LGBTQ centre in LA, and I started hearing these stories. I saw one human in particular who didn’t identify as male or female. Looking at them, they were both: beautiful and sexy and tough but vulnerable and feminine but masculine. And I related to that person more than I related to anyone in my life…. Even though I may seem very different, people may not see me as neutral as I feel. But I feel very neutral. I think that was the first gender-neutral person I’d ever met. Once I understood my gender more, which was unassigned, then I understood my sexuality more. I was like, “Oh – that’s why I don’t feel straight and I don’t feel gay. It’s because I’m not”.’

The bottom line: ‘pansexual’ is opening up ideas of sexuality to even more people, so if you don’t identify with a specific gender or are still trying to understand how you ‘fit’ into the buzz words surrounding sex and relationships, the idea of being pan can offer some freedom. It also serves to remind us that sexuality is never a one-size-fits-all kinda thing, and that finding your own bliss – and being happy with who you are – are key.

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