Last week, I tackled the topic of Genderqueer in an attempt to bring to the table less visible identities under the queer and trans* umbrellas.
This week, we’re gonna meet Pansexual Pony aka, my girlfriend.
Josie told me she was pansexual before we started dating, but I kind of brushed it off as “oh that thing where you’re attracted to personality”. I never gave it much thought, until I began to realise that me in my lesbian identity, and her in her pansexual identity were separate, and couldn’t really be consolidated under the word ‘gay’.
I decided to get some questions together for Josie to answer, in the hopes of shedding some light on the often misunderstood or overlooked sexual identity.
Give me a personal definition of pansexuality and how you relate to the term.
I think of myself of being somewhat ‘gender-blind’ when it comes to attraction and love. I believe I am capable of feeling romantic feelings towards people of all gender identities, and all biological sexes. I have always had difficulties answering that ever awkward ‘so, what are you?’ question, as since I was fourteen I never felt as if I fitted in to the realms of bisexuality or homosexuality 100%. I’ve always felt as though the gender of a person I am attracted to or have romantic feelings for becomes somewhat irrelevant to me, it’s never really bothered me.
Often, bisexuality and pansexuality are confused. How are they different?
Bisexuality, ‘bi’ implies two – male, female. To me the term bisexual tends to exclude those different gender identities within the gender spectrum. It is still somewhat conforming to gender binary, which I can’t get on board with. I did identify with the term bisexual for a little while but it never felt completely right.
What does it mean having a girlfriend who identifies as a lesbian – are there clashes there? Are their aspects of her world that you don’t feel fit with you? Explain some of these things.
Most of the time when dating people who identify as a lesbian, being their partner, I automatically get given that label too. I don’t get offended or upset when people assume that I am a lesbian, I just correct them, but often I get a confused reaction to the word pansexual, as many people are not aware of this term. When people talk about me and my girlfriend as a ‘lesbian couple’, that does get to me a bit, as I do not feel as if a label for our relationship needs to be given to us.
What are some common misconceptions about pansexuality?
That people who are pansexual are ‘just being greedy’ or ‘promiscuous’ or ‘are just gay but can’t make up their minds/are in denial.’ I have had all of these things assumed of me before many times!
What are some things that pansexual ally’s can do to help spread awareness?
Getting through to people that pansexuality isn’t about being greedy, confused or in denial! It’s always a bummer hearing those types of things, but with more people understanding, and more people clarifying the meaning of pansexuality (along with other sexual orientations!), I’m sure that would provide some great support.
Where did you find support and information for your identity?
That beautiful thing called the World Wide Web! When I was younger and first started dating people, I did a lot of researching around different sexualities, because I was struggling to find somewhere for me to fit in.
What was your coming out experience like, and what tips would you give others who identify as pansexual?
My ‘coming out’ experience wasn’t exactly a big scene or anything. Remember being about 15 and having a girlfriend at the time, and I was sitting with my parents on either side of me and I had my laptop on the table, so I literally just opened up a word document and wrote something along the lines of ‘I’m dating a girl.’ (Original, right?) They were totally cool with it, and have been ever since! It took me a while to come out to a lot of my friends, as being in high school and having a very different mentality about it proved a bit scary. I’d say that with coming out as any sexual orientation, make sure you have someone you can go to – a friend or trusted family member, or even a great source of support like Rainbow Youth to go to if you ever feel lost or upset. A great support system can be a life changer.
What have been some challenges, and what have you learnt since you recognized your pansexual identity?
The only real challenge I have faced is actually explaining the meaning of pansexuality. Lots of people I have discussed it with aren’t aware of issues like gender and gender binary, so trying to explain the different between pansexuality and bisexuality has always proven difficult!
After our interview, she sent me a link to this, which kind of clears things up while addressing the HUGE elephant in the room – the classic, “oh so you’re attracted to pans?” joke.