I recently told my daughter something very personal, a fact that I’ve struggled with my entire life. And given that little-miss-seven-year-old can’t keep anything to herself, it’s high time I told the world.
Pansexual? What is that?, I hear you ask. Believe me, you wouldn’t be the first. My oversized and criminally underused Oxford Dictionary defines it as:
“Not limited or inhibited in sexual choice with regard to gender or activity.”
The online Merriam-Webster has a more thorough definition:
“Of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction that is not limited to people of a particular gender identity or sexual orientation. Also: not solely homosexual or heterosexual.”
So I am not gay and I am not straight. When I tell people this, they ask why I don’t just identify as bisexual. This is where it gets a little more complicated, but not too difficult to explain.
Bisexual and pansexual both use a modifier, bi- and pan- respectively; bi- literally means ‘two’ and pan- is defined as ‘all-inclusive’.
It’s worth noting that all LGBTQIA+ people use their own definitions, and that’s okay. For example, some bisexuals define their sexuality as being attracted to “two genders”: their own and all others. This is entirely valid, as are all other definitions — as long as it’s your own.
For me, being pansexual means I’ve never felt straight, gay or bisexual. The word nerd I am can’t help but shake the modifiers. For me, the L, G and B refer to being attracted to someone based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, something that I don’t really think about. While I’m not ‘blind’ to these things, they don’t really come into consideration when I’m attracted to someone — it’s just an attraction. I just like people.
Or, to use my favourite pansexual metaphor (from the wonderful David of Schitt’s Creek, another pan honey):
“I like the wine and not the label”.
‘Coming out’, as I’ve discovered, is a deeply personal experience. You need to find the healthiest way of doing it for you and you alone.
Here’s how I approached it, in order:
- I told my friends as I saw them.
- I told people I dated.
- I told my work colleagues.
- I told some family.
- I told the world.
While it’s interesting that I told some family almost last, it’s not at all surprising. You want to make your family proud, but there’s something about being a member of an extensively oppressed community that brings with it a level of hesitation and trepidation. The anxiety — at times — was too much to bear. Telling my family was future Richard’s problem.
The future is now.
The above five steps have occured over the last year and a half, since my ‘straight’ marriage ended. My sexuality isn’t at all why it ended — after 18 months of reflection, I’ve decided that there wasn’t a single reason that caused it to fail — but understanding my sexuality has been very important and could only have happened as a singleton. So the separation, while it’s been painful, has also been a blessing.
It means I’ve come to understand who I am and what that means. I am a father and I am a son. I am a friend and work colleague. I am a nerd and that funny guy who isn’t afraid to be a little weird.
I am still exactly who I have always been, but just with a greater understanding of who I am, and the freedom to live it.
Happy Pride Month, you fabulous people.
PS — There are actually quite a few pansexuals in pop culture. Take a look: