While the breadth of inclusivity and the depiction of diversity in media has improved, many would agree things are far from perfect. Several sizable groups of humanity are still vastly underrepresented. Genderfluid characters and pansexual characters in fiction are a rarity. They are sorely missing from all types of popular media, and even when they are included, it can often feel like queerbaiting or an afterthought as opposed to a calculated character decision.
LGBTQ+ representation in media has moved forward leaps and bounds, but most characters fall into the neat boxes of gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Pansexuality is a distinct identity that is often misunderstood, and while genderfluid celebrities and famous bisexual people have helped dispel the notion that the two sexualities are interchangeable terms, more mainstream representation would probably assist in eradicating misrepresentation.
Many struggle to understand the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality. GLAAD defines bisexuality as "being attracted to more than one gender," whereas pansexual means "being attracted to all gender identities, or attracted to people regardless of gender." Put simply, pansexual people don’t consider their partner’s, or partners’, biological sex or gender identity as important factors in determining their sexual attraction. It isn’t about being attracted to boys or girls or boys and girls; it's about fluidity, non-binary sexuality, and being open to – or outright preferring – trans, genderfluid, or genderqueer partners.
- Photo: Deadpool / 20th Century Fox
Many Deadpool fans are completely unaware of the fact that in both comic book and movie canon, Wade Wilson is pansexual. Co-creator Fabian Nicieza denied the label on Twitter, tweeting, “I’ve been dogged with the DP sexuality questions for YEARS. It is a bit tiring. He is NO sex and ALL sexes. He is yours and everyone else’s.”
However, Nicieza may not realize his description of Deadpool jives pretty well with the modern understanding of pansexuality, as he says, “He can be gay one minute, hetero the next, etc. ALL ARE VALID.” In any case, it’s clear everyone considers fluidity to be a part of the character.
Of course, Deadpool hasn’t actually had a non-heterosexual experience in either the comics or his two films, and thus it is questionable how much pansexual representation he actually portrays. His pansexuality doesn’t seem to go much beyond frequent flirtation with Spider-Man and Colossus, despite Ryan Reynolds saying he's open to going further on the big screen.
The internet went nuts when the news hit that Donald Glover portrayed Lando Calrissian as pansexual in 2018's Solo. Screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan confirmed it in a HuffPost interview, stating that, “There’s a fluidity to Donald and Billy Dee’s [portrayal of Lando’s] sexuality.”
Glover himself, on the other hand, had a much simpler explanation, asking, “How can you not be pansexual in space?” He continued, “There’s so many things to have sex with. I didn’t think that was that weird. He’s coming on to everybody. It just didn’t seem that weird to me because I feel like if you’re in space, it’s kind of like the door’s open... this thing is literally a blob. Like, ‘Are you a man or a woman?’ Who cares?”
Once again, however, Lando’s pansexuality never seems to progress beyond some light flirtation with Han and a droid. Even Kasdan lamented the lack of explicit representation, saying, “I would have loved to have gotten a more explicitly LGBT character into this movie. I think it’s time, certainly.”
Loki Laufeyson is arguably one of Marvel’s best villains, but his pansexuality goes back way further than comic book canon. Loki is a figure of Norse mythology, and has traditionally been portrayed as a shapeshifter who is comfortable in both male and female form. Most writers interpret this as an ancient description of pansexuality, including Mackenzi Lee, who is penning Marvel's three-book historical fiction series. The author took to Twitter to announce she is planning on writing Loki as queer in the first historical installment, due in 2019.
“Loki is a canonically pansexual and gender-fluid character. So,” Lee said on the social media platform.
Like many villains, Loki is rarely depicted engaging in legitimate romance of any kind, and most of that limited fare has been of the heterosexual variety. Thus far, Loki has largely been pansexual by reputation only, but with writers like Lee, Loki may offer better representation soon.
- Photo: Game of Thrones/HBO
HBO’s Game of Thrones is notorious for its willingness to portray all manner of sexual pairings, and one of its most popular characters, Oberyn Martell, is unabashedly pansexual. In fact, one of the Red Viper’s earliest scenes sees him loudly declare – and then physically demonstrate – his sexual fluidity.
Actor Pedro Pascal thinks pansexuality is a natural fit for the character of Oberyn, explaining:
To have a gender preference doesn’t even make sense to Oberyn Martell. It’s his logic, and the way he lives his life without compromises. He doesn’t understand why anyone would limit experience in his or her life – especially if it’s the experience of pleasure: the pleasure of beating somebody in battle, of bedding somebody – anybody – who’s just beautiful, tasting the best wine, eating the best food, and f*cking the best people.