The first time I heard the term pansexual was when I was around 15. A girl in my school came out as pansxual, in a post on facebook (I think) and she claimed it had been the hardest 5 days of her life.
I didn’t know what pansexual meant a friend described it as: you fall in love with who you fall in love with. To which I answered “Well isn’t that just everyone?” My friend then explained that it also meant you didn’t care what gender that person was. This made slightly more sense to me, but internally I still thought – ‘Well isn’t that just anyone, even people who think they are straight could change their mind if they fell in love with someone of the same gender.’ Externally I said; “Well that’s just being bisexual.”
I can forgive 15 year old me for this.
At 15 I had a limited understanding of gender, and of the fact that there are more than 2 genders. I also thought I was straight, I wanted to emulate bisexual girls and WANTED to be bisexual but felt I didn’t deserve the label. In hindsight I had a bit of a crush on certain girls but I remember asking myself what’s the furthest I WOULD ever go with a girl. I knew I would kiss girls, I already had, but I decided as the thought of an actual vagina didn’t turn me, I wasn’t attracted to girls and therefore I would never give a girl head, and didn’t deserve the title bisexual.
As you can imagine at 15 I had little experience (although it didn’t feel like it at the time) with the genitals of either sex. Penises were gross and didn’t turn me on either but I accepted this as “normal” and even though I wasn’t really that into penetration I thought that I was “wrong” in some way and I would grow to like it with time.
But at 22 I feel the same way. And I think perhaps it’s time that changed! The other day a video popped up on my newsfeed about pansexual pride and despite myself now defining as pansexual. I felt the same as I did at 15, that being pansexual isn’t a valid “queer” definition that pansexuals and by extension me don’t belong in the LGBT community.
I started defining as pansexual in the first year of university. I was suddenly in a much more liberal setting than I was used to and I met for the first time really, trans people, non-binary people, androgynous people, butch girls, femme girls, femme men, a whole variety of people of whom as I attempted to sort out who I was attracted to they didn’t sort neatly into categories. Throughout this I still only dated cis white males, I think because this was what I was used to, what I understood.
I was starting to understand the use for the term. I didn’t feel that I could claim to be bisexual, the furthest I ever went with a girl being kissing and still not being sure I wanted to be anywhere near a vagina. By this point though I had worked out that in fact I wasn’t sure I wanted to be anywhere near a penis either. The actual male genitals weren’t my thing.
Now I took me a while but I realised that it isn’t someone’s genitals I am attracted to. It’s the person, not in a “I need to get to know a person before I find them attractive” way. But in a I find a different thing on each person I’m attracted to that makes me attracted to them, it could be a physical trait or a character trait, or even an accent or mannerism.
This is why at 15 when I first heard the term pansexual I didn’t understand. I thought everyone felt this way! Sure normally I’m attracted to men, but also I can be attracted to women, or people who don’t define as either. And if I fell in love with someone, well then I don’t think it would matter. This realisation is quite freeing of the feeling I should be straight.
But I still felt the sexuality I have isn’t a valid “queer” definition. For me it is perhaps because I have never felt victimised because of it. I have never had to “come out” in my group of friends because I am blessed that they accept whatever I want to define as. I am primarily attracted to men, or to masculine features. (Or think I am. I’m still working this bit out)
I have never “come out” to my family. I have mentioned that I don’t care whether the person is a boy or a girl to my sister but that is as far as I have ever come.
But this is the problem with labels! They divide us, they make us worry if we truly fit into a category when in fact it doesn’t matter, somewhere along the road I have internalised this “in-validity” exactly what the video I saw on facebook was trying to combat. So I’m so glad that I saw the video and that one of my good friends shared it because I might have finally managed to accept my sexuality, something I never even thought was an issue before!
You can watch the full video below: