Both forms of sexual identity involve being attracted to people of all genders, but they differ when it comes to having individual preference.
When figuring out something as complex as sexuality, it might seem like there are more labels than there are in your local supermarket. You may also feel that it’s difficult to find just one that 100 percent fits you, which is totally fine, by the way.
Two of the identities that people might need more clarity on are “omnisexual” and “pansexual.”
At first glance, they may seem the same. You can define pansexuality as having a romantic, emotional, or sexual attraction to people, regardless of their genders. But omnisexuality can involve having a romantic, emotional, or sexual attraction to people of all genders. The distinction is slight, but it’s there.
Don’t worry if you didn’t spot it right away, though. We’ll explain their similarities, differences, and what they both mean in the context of relationships.
OK, before we delve into the specifics of pansexuality and omnisexuality, we need to discuss the concept of gender blindness. Try not to skip: This is what’s going to help you work out the differences!
You might’ve heard the term “gender blindness” used in a negative sense. Like “color blind” in terms of race, some people may use it as a refusal to acknowledge that some groups experience oppression or privilege because of their genders.
Some pansexuals call themselves “gender blind” in a neutral way, meaning that a person’s sex or gender doesn’t factor into their attraction for them. They can be attracted to someone whether they’re male, female, trans, intersex, nonbinary, etc. So, they use “gender blind” in the nonexclusionary sense, in that gender simply isn’t an issue.
However, other pansexuals might be uncomfortable with the term, feeling that it may invalidate someone’s identity, especially trans people who may have gone through a lot of hard work to be recognized as their genders. These pansexuals may prefer to say that they have no gender preference.
Whether you use the term “gender blindness” or not, and it’s good to be aware that some people aren’t comfy with it, you get the gist — it’s about not limiting your attractions by gender.
The prefix, “pan” means all, every, whole, and all-inclusive. The “pan” in pansexual means you’re attracted to someone without consideration for their gender, aka, you’re gender blind or have no gender preference. This doesn’t mean you’re invalidating someone’s gender in any way — but it just isn’t a factor in your level of attraction to them.
“Pansexual” is a relatively young term that didn’t really get used a whole lot until the mid-2010s, when it was put under the bisexual umbrella. But now, pansexuals proudly walk on their own, represented by a pink, yellow, and blue flag, which stands for attraction to all identities.
Sometimes, people can easily misinterpret pansexuality, which can create negative stereotypes and discourage people from owning their sexualities. Some mistakenly believe that the “all” part of the distinction means that pansexuals are up for getting down with anyone, all the time — and that simply isn’t true.
Others see pansexuality as an open invitation for sexual activity, and that it lessens any need for consent — nope, nope, a thousand times nope. Just like all forms of sexuality, pansexuality is a specific form of openness that the individual wholly owns and manages, not anyone else.
Want to show your pansexual pride? May 24 is Pansexual Visibility Day, with National Pansexual Pride Day on December 8.
The prefix “omni” means all, everywhere, or all-encompassing. Similar to “pansexual,” “omnisexual” means you can have an attraction to all genders — except, in this case, you do consider sex and gender to a certain extent, aka, you’re not gender blind.
If you’re omnisexual, you might have a slight gender preference when it comes to attraction, but not a specific gender requirement. So, the gender of the person you’re attracted to matters, but it’s not a determining factor.
“Omnisexual” is another fairly new term, which a lot of people might not be super familiar with, and that can lead to its own problems. For instance, both pansexuals and omnisexuals often might have to put up with the perception of being hypersexual and all the issues that come with that, such as erasure among others.
Because “omnisexual” isn’t yet a universally familiar term, people who do identify as such are often labelled as the more-familiar “bisexual” or “pansexual” instead, which can be hurtful.
But as time goes on, more and more people have access to the education to help them develop awareness of what the term means. There’s also an omnisexual flag, which has stripes of pink, blue-purple, and black. People recognize Omnisexual Awareness Day on March 21, and Omnisexual and Omniromantic Pride and Visibility Day is on June 6.
If you’re looking to find which identity is most true for yourself between omnisexual and pansexual, the main similarity can be straightforward: Both groups can be attracted to anyone of any gender, whether it’s in a romantic, emotional, or sexual way.
The key difference is the consideration of gender — pansexuals don’t consider it, omnisexuals do.
If it’s still a little tricky to distinguish in your head, imagine one person saying, “I love hot drinks!”, and another person saying, “I love tea, and coffee, and hot chocolate, and…” It’s not a perfect comparison, but it might help you grasp the difference a little more clearly.
And remember, everyone’s understanding of their own sexuality is just that: their own. You can define yourself however you choose, or not at all. Having a clear understanding of your feelings based on your experiences is what matters.
So, you might have a better inkling now of whether pansexuality or omnisexuality fits you better — that’s awesome! If you’re already in a relationship, or planning to be in one sometime, it’s also a good moment to think about how you’re going to be clear with them going forward.
The first thing to remember is that you don’t have to tell anyone that you’re pansexual or omnisexual if you don’t want to — you don’t owe that to anyone. But if your partner(s) is completely in the dark, or isn’t super knowledgeable about different sexualities, it can cause some issues.
Not communicating your sexual identity or preferences may cause you to become tense or unsure around your partner, which may cause them to become uncomfortable as a result. And that’s not a good foundation for any relationship.
If you do want to tell them about your sexuality, reassure them that you’re being open and honest with them because you want a stronger relationship. Explain what pansexuality or omnisexuality is, and work to clarify any misconceptions or defuse any stereotypes.
There’s no guarantee that your partner(s) will be receptive, or respond in a way that you like, but that’s on them. Being authentic and honest with yourself and with the person you care about is the priority. Care promotes authenticity, and authenticity should encourage better care.
If you don’t identify as either omnisexual or pansexual, it’s always a good thing to know what supportive language you can use. And if you’re an ally, advocate, or someone whose loved one just came out, it’s even more important!
First thing to remember is to avoid presuming anything about anyone. If someone tells you that they’re omnisexual, don’t reply with “but isn’t that just bisexual/pansexual?”. And the same goes for pansexuals — sexual identities are deeply personal, and it’s for each individual to decide which fits them best.
It’s important to avoid making jokes about being hypersexual. And for the love of pizza, almost every pansexual heard the “does this mean you’re attracted to frying pans?” joke a million times already.
Remember that being attracted to all genders doesn’t necessarily mean that a person wants to be in polyamorous relationships. Some might be in them, others might not be, same as anyone else.
As with anyone, it’s important to know pronouns, especially with pansexuals — some people will be “he/him” or “she/her,” but with gender being less of a concern, others may choose to be “they,” “ze,” or “xe.” It’s much better to ask than to keep getting it wrong.
Above all, simply respect and accept. If someone trusts you enough to share their sexual identity with you, that’s a big deal.
Although it can initially be tricky to work out the difference between pansexuality and omnisexuality, they’re both completely individual and valid forms of sexual identity, with their own acknowledgments. Gone are the days when both were simply thrown under the label “bisexual“.
What it comes down to is that omnisexuals tend to notice a potential partner’s gender more than pansexuals do. Other than that, pansexuality and omnisexuality share a love and attraction that isn’t limited by gender. Both can be truly inclusive.
Be true to yourself, and support others in their own journeys — after all, isn’t that what love is all about?