Welcome to OutWrite’s “From the Archive” series! This series is designed to provide an opportunity to interact with our organization’s archives, assess the opinions and relevance of our past content, and bring that content into the present. In doing so, this series will applaud, critique, and put into conversation ideas of the past with present ideologies and dialogues. Overall, we at OutWrite hope this new series opens up conversations and helps us reconnect with the past while striving for a better future.
*The following article no longer serves to represent the thoughts of the organization today.*
OutWrite Fall 2013
Isn’t That Bisexual? | Queer Spaces
By Alejandra Rodriguez
We really just don’t give a flying fuck about what’s between your thighs, we just wanna cuddle with you and fuck you,” proclaimed theblutomato, a self-identified pansexual on Pansexual Confessions tumblr.
A person who identifies as pansexual is someone who has the ability to be attracted to others regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. It is an identity used to express the openness and fluidity to people of all genders. Although they are capable of attraction to [loving] with someone regardless of his or her their gender, this characteristic does not mean they like everyone.
As a result, pansexuality is commonly mistaken for bisexuality. However, as these pansexual-identified individuals stressed again mean and again, they are not the same thing. The prefix of bisexuality implies sexual, emotional, and physical attraction to two sexes [male or female], suggesting perhaps the existence of two “opposite” genders. However, there are plenty who identify as bisexual who are not committed to the perpetuation of this gender binary and would not eliminate other genders from the range of their attraction. Minimally, then, bisexuality suggests attraction to at least two genders, whereas pansexuality stresses attraction regardless of gender, purposefully disrupting notions of a male/female dichotomy.
Pansexuals often face frustration when coming out to other people because many do not understand what pansexuality means. Even when explained to them, they often continue to make false assumptions and ignorant comments about pansexuality. One anonymous pansexual-identified individual explained their frustration on the comments or questions they’ve received: “Am I the only one when I come out to people, they always ask me the question, ‘well does that mean if you find a dog with a nice personality you’ll go for it?’ Seriously, [it happens] all the fuckin’ time.”
It is evident that pansexuals do not appreciate the fact that people think that simply because they’re open to all identities they will experience attraction to everyone and even everything. That is why it’s important to know these differences.
Elizabeth (Lisa) Thorne, a teacher assistant for LGBTS M114 who identifies as gender-queer pansexual spoke about this struggle: “I don’t come out to people as pansexual as much just because bisexuality is already something people don’t understand and explaining pansexuality would just be more difficult to for people to understand.”
In fact, it is quite common for pansexuals to identify as bisexual simply because bisexuality is more commonly known and understood. Panfuckingsexualpanda confesses, “It’s sad to know that our sexual orientation is just one out of many that people never pay attention to or even know anything about.” An anonymous user added, “When people don’t understand what I mean by Pansexual, I just tell them to think of me as bisexual to save my breath.”
Because so many people are so unfamiliar with pansexuality, many are forced to identify as bisexual, which at least makes coming out to family and friends a bit more intelligible. In some ways, it’s like being forced to “dumb down” their sexual identity for the purpose of minimizing confusion and ignorance. After all, [educating] others about pansexuality and about minority sexualities in general can be a very exhausting process, especially when this burden is placed solely upon the shoulders of the one whose identity is in question. This results in the forcible erasure of their identity and its replacement with upon which is placed an identity that is more universally understood or known.
Another struggle that many pansexuals face is coming out to people and being faced with judgment or perceived as a “straight” person trying to pass as queer. Lyn-zmywife shared, “It really upsets me that even some people in the LGBT community think pansexuality is just a product of special snowflake syndrome and that it’s really just a ‘cooler name [for] being bi’. I mean shouldn’t they understand what it’s like to have a misunderstood and degraded sexuality and want to help other people going through the same thing? I think tearing each other down in this crucial time in the fight for equality is the last thing we should be doing.”
Furthermore, Thorne mentioned that it is possible that some people see identification with pansexuality as someone straight “trying to be queer,” especially if they are women who have dated cis-gendered men. Because this constitutes a heterosexual couple, some members of the queer community feel like as if they’re taking advantage of heterosexual privilege while still asserting a queer identity. As Thorne said, “It feels like it’s almost like you have to be dating or in a relationship with only someone of the same sex in order to be accepted into that queer space, kind of like you’re not gay enough when identifying as pansexual.”
Others feel unimportant because parents, friends, or even strangers don’t accept or acknowledge pansexuality; they simply assume the individual is sexually confused. An anonymous pansexual confessed, “When I tell or hint to my friends that I’m pansexual, they dismiss it like they don’t even really care. They are really accepting and don’t make a big deal out of [me identifying as pansexual], and I should be really grateful but for some reason it hurts that they won’t even acknowledge it.” Another anonymous pansexual disclosed, “Sometimes I feel really left out because I’m pan. I don’t know. I just don’t feel as important.”
Especially within the queer community, which purports to offer safe spaces to those under its umbrella, it is crucial to recognize the importance of all identities. To [be] met with discrimination and confusion in heterosexual communities and then to turn to queer spaces only to experience this same confusion and erasure can feel a lot like belonging nowhere.
The burden of education should never be forcibly or violently pressed upon those who identify with the sexuality in question. In the age of Google, there is less of a reason than ever to make ignorant, offensive claims about anyone’s identification, and all the more reason to be educated and allow no one’s ignorance simply to stand. Even in the face of uncertainty, polite questions [are always] better than uniformed assumptions.
As Thorne remarks, “I do sympathize because I know there are just so many terms and I know it’s hard to learn them all. I personally have had omnisexual explained to me in so many different ways and I feel like I still don’t really know what it means. And also you have to think about the fact that many people have different interpretations of those terms; what pansexuality means to me may not be what it means to someone else.”
In other words, not every person will have in depth knowledge regarding every sexual and gender identity that exists, but keeping an open mind and steering away from ignorant assumptions is certainly a good start. When there is mutual trust, respectful questions may be an important method to expand knowledge.
As [username] said, “When I got the chance to explain pansexuality to someone who was genuinely interested in it and wanted to expand their knowledge so they can pass it on, it was the most liberating, freeing, and exciting moment I’ve had in years. Someone who didn’t tell me I made it up, joke that I fuck pans, or ask if it included animals, I couldn’t stop smiling.”
As it turns out, being a human with feelings approaching another human with feelings may actually pave the way toward understanding and mutual respect. And violently questioning the legitimacy of a someone’s identity falls decidedly short.
*Commentary and analysis to come*