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The pangs of pansexuality

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MARCH 22, 2018

“Pansexuality? Doesn’t that mean that you want to fuck a pan?”

When my friend said this to me, I felt alarmed and dehumanized. They demanded that I label myself as bisexual because to them, pansexual meant desiring to sleep with obscure objects and even animals.

This is why I stray away from the topic of my sexuality. And yet, ironically, I find myself writing a column on it.

Despite popular opinion, the “pan-” in front of “pansexual” actually refers to “all” — meaning all genders. So no, I do not want to have sex with your kitchen utensils (or other random inanimate objects, for that matter), but I won’t kink shame you.

Too often when I tell people that I’m pansexual, they make myriad assumptions about what that means. When they find out that I’m also polyamorous, the toxic assumptions about pansexuality become heightened.

So let me define it clearly for you: Pansexuality refers to the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction toward people regardless of their biological sex or gender identity.

While I hate the idea of having to label my sexuality, pansexuality aligns closest to how I feel. For me, it’s a direct rejection of the notion of a sex and gender binary.

You may be asking yourself, like many have asked me in the past, “Why don’t you just call yourself bisexual?”

Well, by definition “bi-” means two, meaning attraction to two genders in regard to sexuality. For me, pansexual is a more inclusive label. Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I am not saying that all bisexuals perpetuate the gender binary and are not attracted to non-binary folks. Everyone’s identity is their own personal decision and should be respected, just like mine.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case — especially when people constantly assume that pansexuality means I’m confused and can’t make up my mind.

While I am indecisive about a lot of things, like my constantly changing hair color, what I am not indecisive about is who I am attracted to. I am attracted to the person as an individual, and that has nothing to do with their biological sex or gender identity.

A few years back, a professor at my community college invalidated the existence of pansexuality, stating that it just seemed like “a phase, a trend to be cool that people will eventually grow out of.”

Similarly, when a friend of mine found out that I was in a relationship with a man, they assumed that I was no longer pansexual and had now “become” straight.

But a current relationship doesn’t define my identity and attraction. I could be married to a man and still identify as pansexual because I am attracted to all genders. Identity doesn’t change because you enter a relationship with someone of a specific gender (unless you want it to).

Some people have preferences, some people don’t. Some people are more attracted to men, some people aren’t. My sexuality and preference have changed, constantly being shaped by my experiences. I view sexuality and attraction as being fluid and dynamic, not stagnant.

Perhaps even more absurd is the insinuation that because I’m pansexual, I’m more likely to cheat on my partner.

For example, one night I was at a bar with a friend and we were having a conversation about sexuality. Suddenly, she told me that all of her friends who were pansexual “cheated on their partners” and tended to be “more promiscuous” than straight people.

My identity has no relationship to cheating on a partner (or partners). Just because I technically have a wider “pool of people” to pick from doesn’t mean I am even attracted to them or would cheat. I believe in ethical nonmonogamy, and that relates to my identity of being poly, not pansexual.

These misconceptions run rampant not only from straight cisgender folks — I’ve received such comments from members within the LGBTQ+ community. From queer folks, there’s this invalidating notion that pansexual folks aren’t “queer enough,” and for straight folks, we’re too queer to be straight. So where do we belong?

Language is constantly growing and new terminology is emerging. But while the term may be new, the idea behind it is not. People have always existed before the label — the label gives meaning to understanding and representation.

So if you’re pansexual, you are queer enough. You deserve space and respect in this world.

You are valid.

Kaitlyn Hodge writes the Thursday blog on queer issues. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @kaitlynhodge.

MARCH 22, 2018