The concept of pansexuality tends to confuse people. “Who wants to make out with frying pans?” someone inevitably quips, and I shake my head and explain that I am not in fact attracted to kitchen utensils, but to people of all genders. Yes, I said all.
I’ve found all kinds of people attractive for as long as I can remember. I assumed most people ended up in hetero pairs because it was the only place babies came from, and that most people wanted babies, I thought. But by fourth grade, when my friends asked me who my crush was, and my answer of “I’m not telling you” was met with “Why not say who he is?” I realized that I might not be so hetero after all.
As a nine-year-old who was seen and treated as a girl, I was only supposed to like boys, but that seemed silly when girls were just as cute and attractive to me. I didn’t know anyone who was nonbinary, but once I did, I realized that I could be attracted to them, too.
When it comes to attraction, it’s not that I “don’t see gender,” because a person’s gender is a huge part of their identity and should never be erased. Instead, I see gender as a characteristic, something to be appreciated like hair colour or glasses. While I might have preferences, no particular option would be a dealbreaker.
I fit the standard accepted image of pansexuality pretty well, since I’m attracted to all genders pretty equally. However, sexuality and attraction don’t need to be an evenly sliced pie—everyone feels attraction differently.
For example, someone who is generally attracted to men and only attracted to a few women and/or nonbinary people is just as pansexual as someone who is equally attracted to men, women, and nonbinary people.
If this sounds a lot like bisexuality, you’re right. The two terms are similar, since bisexuality is attraction to two or more genders (or attraction to people of genders similar to and different from your own). Everyone’s relationship with labels is different, and some people may strongly identify as only bisexual or pansexual, while others like myself will identify as both or either. Pansexuals called “basically straight” or “basically gay” sometimes have to hide their identity unless they’re among close friends to avoid harassment. Respect their identities, and don’t go around assigning labels. Identity policing isn’t cool.
So, you might be asking yourself, do these words describe me? Think about all the people you’ve ever been attracted to. Are they all the same gender? If so, you’re most likely gay or straight. If not, call yourself pansexual or bisexual if you want to. If you experienced attraction, it counts. Anyone who says that somebody is “not really pan” or “not really bi” for their relationship history or their preferences is going to have to deal with this pansexual’s big, heavy frying pan.
I said I didn’t kiss them; I never said I wouldn’t swing one.
For more information, including terms and definitions, community support, and resources, check out uvicpride.ca or the pansexual tag on Tumblr.