I’ve been waiting for a burst of inspiration on the best way to approach this post. When I wrote my #Finding Fearless article on my pansexuality I briefly touched on the definition, but there were so many small points I wanted to mention that didn’t seem to fit in that story. So, I figured in honor of #Fearless’s first Pride Week, I’d go ahead and elaborate a little more on the points I didn’t get to mention before.
Some of these points, while aimed specifically at pansexuality (because there’s not a lot out there in the ways of information) can be applicable to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community.
Disclaimer: All information that I put into this article is either based on research I have done, or my own personal experiences. All I can do is talk from that perspective, so please leave me a comment if you feel that I got something wrong, or you would like to help explain something better that I did!
What is pansexuality? Pansexuality (also known as omnisexuality) literally means an attraction to all genders. Many pansexuals may tell you that they are gender blind, meaning that gender does not play a role in their ability to start a relationship. When I say I’m pansexual, I mean I’m gender blind. When I fall for someone, their gender and what they identify as has no bearing on my ability to maintain a relationship; their heart, soul and being do. Your personality plays a bigger role, to me, than your gender or sexuality.
I’ve liked a gay guy (to be fair, I didn’t realize he was gay until he told me, but I still really liked him even after he told me), straight girls, and everything in between. Most of those crushes didn’t go very far, but my attraction knew no bounds. I’m currently in a wonderful relationship with a wonderful man, but him being a man is not why I love him. I love him because he is amazing and he makes me feel loved, appreciated and so darn happy. His gender and identity have nothing to do with it, and that realization was how I discovered my pansexuality.
How is pansexuality different than bisexuality? Bisexuality is the sexual attraction to two or more genders; it can also be defined as the attraction to the opposite gender and another one that isn’t necessarily the same gender. However, to me, the biggest distinction is that bisexuals typically have very specific gender preferences, whereas pansexuals typically don’t. This isn’t always the case, but in most of my discussions with other pans and bisexuals, that seems to be the biggest difference.
Can bisexuality and pansexuality be used interchangeably? I guess that depends on who you ask. Some people will tell you that saying they are bisexual is easier than pansexual, because people understand bisexuality far easier than pansexuality. They also might tell you they will identify as bisexual (instead of pan) because there is a bigger support system and a better wealth of knowledge out there on bisexuality. Then, there are people who say that all pans are actually bi because pansexuality lives under the bisexual umbrella, and that using them as the same sexual orientation is fine. My personal take on this is that panseuxality and bisexuality are quite different, and it’s not something I would use in place of the other.
If pansexuals are gender blind and prefer personality, doesn’t that actually make them demisexual? No! Demisexuals require a deep, emotional bond to become sexually attracted to someone. This means that demisexuals usually will not be sexually active in a relationship if they don’t feel they have the right connection. Pansexuals, while they don’t focus on gender and focus more heavily on personality, don’t usually require a strong emotional connection to start a sexual relationship and while it could be different for any one, I personally had no problems feeling sexually attracted to people without a strong emotional bond.
I think I’m pansexual but I don’t know because I’ve only dated people of the opposite gender. Do I have to date every gender to call myself pan? Absolutely not! Trust how you feel, because who you date has no bearing on how you identify. I’ve only ever dated men (and messed around with one women) but I know I’m pansexual. How? Because who I am is undeniable, I just had to accept it. Don’t let someone ever tell you that being pan, bi, ace, etc. is something defined by what you have or haven’t done. If you know in your heart that you are pan, trust that feeling.
I’m dating someone who is pansexual. Are they more likely to cheat? The short answer is no – pansexuality doesn’t impact your partners loyalty levels. Of course, I can’t speak for your significant other, but pansexuals are no more likely to cheat than anyone else. Just because we could fall for anyone, doesn’t mean we can or will, or that our attraction will be reciprocated. My advice is, trust your partner, and if they cheat it’s not because they’re pansexual or otherwise, it’s because they are a terrible human being and you deserve better. Okay, that’s not a fair assumption to make because I don’t know them, but don’t cheat it’s not nice!
I want to come out as pansexual, any suggestions on how to do that? There are two things you should consider before coming out, whether that’s as pansexual or otherwise:
- Your personal safety
- Your personal comfort level
If you don’t feel like you will be safe by coming out (for example: you could get thrown out, hurt, or bullied because of it), please make sure you have a plan in place to keep you safe. If you feel like not coming out will be more detrimental than coming out, just be sure you have the right plan of action set up in the case of a fall out. Have a friend or supportive family member aware that you’re doing this and that you may need them once it’s done, or, if at all possible, wait until you are about to start life on your own. Your safety should be a top priority, and coming out to those who may not understand could be more emotionally taxing than waiting for the right and safest moment.
You also should consider how comfortable you are with your sexuality before you come out. Be prepared that people may not understand, or that strangers, despite have an extremely supportive group of friends (and hopefully family), may still be cruel to you. But, in my experience, if you are confident and proud of who you are, it doesn’t entirely matter what those people say. Coming out, for me, was more of a decree of personal acceptance. I was announcing that I had finally accepted a part of myself that had been with me since high school, and I honestly didn’t care what anyone had to say about it. If I lost a friend, they weren’t my friend to begin with. If my family members ridiculed me, I know that I can handle that because I’m confident and happy with who I am.
My suggestion is, if you want to come out but aren’t sure how it will be received, find a couple safe friends or a LGBTQ+ community on Facebook to come out to first. Test the waters, get used to saying that you are pansexual (or bisexual, or gay, or ace, or anything of the sorts). Get confident in your ability to mange the nerves that come from opening up about it the first time. Even saying it to a group of people who just get you can be nerve wracking, not because of the fear they won’t accept you, but because it’s the first time you’ve proclaimed something you’ve felt inside to the world. That’s pretty terrifying, but it gets easier the more you say it and the more you are positively received.
Also, this is just a good thing to keep in mind: understand who you are and what your sexuality is. Make sure you prepare for people to ask you questions about what pansexuality is. You can’t change how they view it overnight or ever help them truly understand if they refuse to open their minds, but if you can prepare for questions it’ll help you and them in the long run. Again, confidence is key here – and if you are confident in yourself and how you feel, it’ll show them this is something more than just a “phase” (ugh, I hate that).
So be safe, be smart, and be brave are my biggest tips. If you ever need a safe person to come out to, we at #Fearless are hear to listen to you and support you!
Do I have to label myself? Why can’t we just accept who we are without the extra baggage? You absolutely don’t have to label yourself, and many people feel that same way! Just feel how you feel, and don’t stress about figuring out the label if you don’t want to. For me, having a label meant I could appropriately understand and accept a part of me that I hadn’t been able to understand for so long. But, the label itself doesn’t really change how I feel, it just allowed me to find out more information and reach out to people who are also pansexual.
I’m in a committed relationship and/or older, but I just realized how I feel is pansexuality. Is it worth coming out? That has to be your decision, but the same rules apply here as they do if you are coming out earlier on or as a single person. Be smart, be safe and weigh whether or not you feel that coming out is going to help you be a better version of yourself. Realizing your pansexual late in life (or even well past the days of being able to explore it) sometimes feels strange. You are coming into a part of you that, while there likely most of your life, has finally burst from behind the seams. You’re officially navigating this self discovery process in a much more overwhelming way than if you started discovering it younger or before you were in a committed relationship. In the end, you have to be happy, and if you can accept who you are without coming out, you don’t have to. If you think that being open and honest, as well as labeling your sexuality, is going to be beneficial to you and your relationship, so be it! Your decision has to be weighed on how safe you feel and what you feel will make you happiest, and I can’t decide that for you!
I hope that this has been helpful to you in understanding more about panseuxality, or just commonly asked questions in general. Being pansexual is still something I’m navigating, but I love being open and sharing this information to help others. Got a question you want to ask that we left out here? Leave it in the comments!
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Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.