Bisexuality and pansexuality is the sexual attraction to multiple genders, unlike that of homosexuality or heterosexuality. They are very similar in their meanings, as the Latin prefix “pan-” refers to “all,” and “bi-” refers to “both.” Both identities mean that the individual is attracted to more than one sex. However, they are separate identities. These are only two of a long list of potential identities, but they are of the most commonly used.
Likewise, for biromanticism and panromanticism, the identities mean that the individual is romantically attracted to more than one sex. Though it is common for people to have the same identity for their sexual and romantic attraction, it is not always so, especially among the asexual and aromantic communities. For more information, see our page on an introduction to asexual and aromantic spectrum identities.
For someone who identifies as bi or pan, they are attracted to multiple genders. This can have very different meanings for any individual with this identity. It may mean that they are equally attracted to all genders, or that they are more attracted to one gender over others. A common misconception is that they are either heterosexual or homosexual based on who they are dating, however, they do not stop being bi or pan upon entering a relationship with an individual with the same or other sex, nor do they need to prove their identity by entering a relationship with a member of a certain community.
There is much discussion among the community as to the choice between which prefix a person identifies with. As the knowledge of nonbinary gender identities becomes more popular within the SOGIE community, there is a push back against using “bi-” as a prefix, as it is exclusionary to nonbinary folk. However, many bisexual and biromantic individuals have chosen to continue using this identity, as to them “bi-” stands for “both same gender and other genders,” or “two or more genders,” both meanings being inclusive to nonbinary gender identities. It is important to note that this term was created long ago, in the late 1800’s. Many bisexual/biromantic individuals had to actively chose this identity, so denying it on the basis of trying to support nonbinary identities can be harmful. Identities are a very personal choice, and often strongly linked to someone’s sense of self.