Today's blog post comes from forum member ForgottenSoul2015, who recently created a special space in the forums to answer questions on pansexuality. We were so inspired by her approach and the positive response, we asked her to share her mythbusing message with the wider ReachOut community. Read on and feel free to add your thoughts to the forum thread.
There are three main questions I get from people when I tell them I am pansexual. Most of them are rooted in myths and misunderstandings about what pansexuality is and what pansexuals are like. To help clear up the confusion, and help some of you avoid awkward future conversations, I am going to attempt to debunk some of the misconceptions and answer some common questions.
I suppose a good place to start is by simply defining pansexuality. Pansexuality is sexual attraction, sexual desire, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of any sex or gender identity (https://thecenter.wsu.edu/resources/pansexuality/). Unfortunately, some people do not quite grasp or accept this ideology. I have heard so many ridiculous notions and questions and I think that it is time for someone to set the record straight.
I am going to talk about each of the questions I commonly get and explain what each gets wrong about pansexuality. The first two are quite ridiculous but the last one is a legitimate question that I get constantly. I want to make sure these questions have to be asked less frequently and I want people to take pansexuality more seriously.
1. “So, you have sex with pans?” Yes, this is the first question most people ask me. My response to this is typically, “Oh, yes! My favorite is Sunbeam.” As you can see, this is completely ridiculous. We certainly do not have sex with pans. This is a playful question and it’s easy to brush off. However, it can still be a painful reminder that not everyone sees my sexuality as legitimate. Just because they haven’t heard the term before, some people resort to dismissive humor.
2. “So, you have sex with animals?” This second question generally happens after I explain my sexuality to someone, “Well, it’s possible for me to be attracted to pretty much anyone.” Of course, I automatically announce how ridiculous it is and how ignorant they are and expand my definition to include, “I’m attracted to humans.” However, the damage is already done and I have to suppress my anger. It’s so offensive and hurtful to hear people assume that we are sexual deviants. Once again, this seems to come from a lack of understanding and/or a willingness to understand us as fellow human beings just seeking out fulfilling relationships in the world. Please, I beg you, NEVER ask a pansexual this. Although we may not show it, every time we’re asked a question like this, it chips away a little piece of our hearts.
3. “So, you’re bisexual?” This is the third and most understandable question people ask me. That’s why I want to stress that pansexuality is NOT the same thing as bisexuality. The prefix “bi” is defined as two. The prefix “pan” means all. Bisexuals, by definition, have an attraction to male and females only. Pansexuals, by definition, have an attraction to all genders including transgender, cis female (or biologically and mentally female), cis male (or biologically and mentally male), gender fluid (where some days you are feminine and other days you masculine), etc. So, as you can see, pansexuality is very different.
If someone comes out to you as pansexual, just remember to be respectful. If you have genuine questions, it’s okay to ask them. Some questions that would be okay to ask are:
1. "Can you tell me more about your sexuality?" We know that not everyone has heard of our sexuality and we are generally happy to explain it. If you still don’t understand, there are plenty of resources online that can help explain even more. One good starting point is BiNet USA, an umbrella organization for bisexual, pansexual, fluid and other people who feel “somewhere in between.”
2. " How is pansexuality different from bisexuality?" We get that it’s sometimes hard to grasp our sexuality. The reason why this way of asking is so much better is because you aren’t assuming anything. This question sounds inquisitive where the previous way sounds harsh and full of negative assumptions.
3. "How do you describe your sexuality? Do you have a type?" These questions are good to ask once you’re more comfortable with someone, especially if you are romantically interested in the person. While pansexuals have the capability to be attracted to anyone, that doesn’t mean we don’t have preferences that are specific to us. Just make sure to be respectful with the answer and don’t compare their response to other sexualities. For example, if a male responds, “I prefer males, but I’m also attracted to other genders,” don’t respond with, “So… you’re gay?” Just because we have a preference towards a certain gender doesn’t mean our sexuality changes!
While pansexuality is not accepted by everyone, there are so many people out there that do accept it. If you think you may be pansexual, there are many support groups on Facebook that are full of people willing to help you through the transition. All you have to do is put “Pansexuality” in the search bar and it will open a whole new world of supporting, loving people. One of my favorites is the group Pansexual Pride. If you join the ReachOut Forums and post your questions or concerns there, there are also members and staff members who are happy to answer any more questions that you may have. There are people who want to help you but you have to reach out to them and tell them what is happening.