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“My child just told me they were Pansexual, what does this mean?”

Unless you are caught up on pop-culture facts such as Miley Cyrus stating that she was Pansexual or are familiar with the terminology in todays world of dating, relationships and love, Pansexuality can throw any parent of teenagers off guard.

You may be used to the straight, gay, bisexual, lesbian an transgender labels which, depending on your culture, can seem more typical these days. Most research in the field of human sexuality explains that sexual identity and attraction can be fluid for many individuals. This “one size does not fit all” leads us hopefully to a more compassionate understanding of relationship dynamics.

When trying to define Pansexuality, consider the idea that gender in today’s culture is also a major topic of conversation. This has lead to individuals owning their own person definition of how they want to be identified. Remember, gender identity and sexual attraction do not go hand in hand. One can identify as a male, female, gender neutral, gender queer or other personal identification possibilities. They can be attracted sexually to someone who is the opposite gender of who they define themselves as, the same or in the case of Pansexual, not define or care about the gender identification of the person they are attracted to.

In other words, this isn’t limited by gender (internal awareness of a gender role or identity) or sex (anatomy of one’s reproductive system).  One of the biggest misconceptions is that Pansexual individuals must want to have sexual relationships with everyone and anyone and could become very promiscuous.   In the end, it means that this person chooses to identify the traits and characteristics of the other individual they are attracted to, without gender identity being a limitation.

According to clinical sexologist and marriage and family therapist Dr. Kat Van Kirk, who works with teen clients and the LGBTQ community. “Pansexual teens sometimes struggle to find a community to identify with and get support from,” she says. “Even within some LGBTQ organizations,” she continues, “there is a misunderstanding of what pansexuality is. Therefore these teens may experience exclusion and isolation. The lack of understanding of what pansexuality is leads to more damaging misconceptions like the misunderstanding that pansexuals are turned on by all things sexual, including fetishes, animals, and non-consensual acts. Some people even confuse pansexuality with a person not identifying with any gender, despite many pansexuals identifying as strictly male or female as well as non-gender normative.

When one is uninformed, gender, sex, and sexuality are oftentimes confused, but here’s the difference: sex refers to male or female anatomy, gender is how you personally express (or don’t express) masculinity and femininity, and sexuality is who you are attracted to.

If you are looking for a safe space to have a therapeutic conversation on this topic, reach out to us at (954) 324-3677.

Adapted from Teen Vogue article by


Jason Wasser, LMFT is a Florida Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Addictions Professional and a Certified Neuro Emotional Technique Practitioner. He runs a full service Family Therapy practice in South Florida.

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