Bisexuality, pansexuality and omnisexuality are 3 commonly known sexual orientations that describe an attraction to more than one gender. There are also several other multi-gender orientations, like multisexuality and plurisexuality, which are sometimes used as umbrella terms, along with bisexuality and polysexuality. Like all orientations, attractions can be sexual, romantic, or emotional.
While there is overlap, these orientations can generally be defined as:
Let’s look at the three most common multi-gender orientations more closely.
Bisexuality is an umbrella term for a wide range of identities, orientations, and attractions to more than one gender. Some people refer to this umbrella as bi+. The "+" sign means there are many identities under the bisexuality umbrella, including bi/bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, non-monosexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, omnisexual, polysexual, and a variety of other identities.
Over the years, bisexuality has expanded in meaning. Initially, it was used to describe an attraction towards women and men. Although the word “bi” means two, bisexuality has grown to encompass two or more genders and includes a whole spectrum of gender identities outside of the female/male binary.
Someone who identifies as bi/bisexual is usually attracted to their own gender and another gender, or genders. The specific genders someone is attracted to can vary from person to person, and the degree of attraction may be different for each gender. Likewise, the levels of attraction for each gender can shift over time. Like all sexual identities and orientations, how someone defines their bisexuality is unique to them.
Pansexuality is a sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction towards people of all genders. Attraction isn’t limited by gender and includes a broad spectrum of gender identities. Sometimes pansexuality is described as an attraction without labels since it rejects gender binaries of woman/man and trans/cis, and includes genders like genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, and agender. Some people might use the term “gender-blind” to describe their pansexuality since it is usually the person – not the gender of the person – that they are attracted to. Remember, someone’s definition and understanding of their pansexuality is unique to them.
Like pansexuality, omnisexuality is a sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction towards people of all genders. Although "pansexual" and "omnisexual" are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the two. People who identify as pansexual are generally attracted to people regardless of their gender, meaning that gender isn’t a focus or priority when it comes to attraction. For people who identify as omnisexual, gender might still be a contributing factor. For example, some people who identify as omnisexual might experience different attractions towards different genders, and some might even have a gender preference. In other words, attraction isn’t limited by gender, but the gender of the person matters.
While there are overlaps between bisexuality, pansexuality and omnisexuality, the word pan means “all”, while bisexuality is an attraction to two or more genders. Unlike pansexuality and omnisexuality, bisexuality doesn't necessarily include ALL genders. Although some people may identify as both bisexual and pansexual – or bisexual and omnisexual – others may prefer one over the other. How someone identifies is totally up to them.
Whether you identify as bisexual, pansexual, or omnisexual, how you identify is up to you. It's important to respect and acknowledge how each person defines and understands their own sexual orientation, gender identity/identities, and attractions.