On May 24th we explore and talk about pansexuality as part of the annual Pansexual Awareness Day. For a long time, it’s felt that the term has not been spoken of and even now it may be misinterpreted, or the language used to explain what it means can float around the subject.
Matt & Ruth got together over Zoom this weekend to share their experiences identifying as pansexual and some of the common issues they face.
So what is Pansexuality?
It is a sexual orientation where someone may be attracted to other people based on factors such as looks, personality or having an emotional connection, regardless of their sex or gender identity.
I could be attracted to anyone as an individual, I’m someone that believes in at first sight. I need that emotional connection with someone but the gender aspect really doesn’t matter for me.
I don’t necessarily have a certain type of person I’d be attracted to; I think it’s something that for many they build up a picture in their mind of their ‘ideal fit’, that’s just not something I feel is possible until I find an attraction in someone in a particular way.
As people grow to understand themselves as an individual, there can often be very little knowledge or understanding of pansexuality or other sexual orientations beyond lesbian, gay and bisexual. However, as they went through that journey to explore their sexual orientation, Matt & Ruth felt their minds ‘click’ when learning about pansexuality.
I bounced a lot in my late-teens between gay and bisexual and could never quite gather in my head what my true identity was. That carried through till I was about 20, when someone explained pansexuality over a coffee, and I felt it really resonated.
One of the key difficulties is the lack of awareness and understanding of Pansexuality, even when explained to others.
Ruth: “My sister didn’t get it for a really long time, and those conversations happened about six years ago.”
Matt: “I think it was difficult trying to maintain good relationships with people whilst opening up about your sexuality; it was challenging.”
Ruth: “Even from some people who are bisexual, they struggle to understand how it’s different from their identity as well.”
Matt: “I’ve come across that ‘so it’s basically bi then’ response quite a few times, so trying to emphasise the differences can still lead to confusion.”
Ruth: “I think it’s something I don’t feel the need to always explain to people – if you face barriers early on in those conversations, you can keep trying but there will also be times when you just need to think ‘if they don’t understand now, they are never going to.’”
Matt: “I think one of the other challenges is people’s lack of acceptance towards there being more to gender or sex than purely male and female – so once you mention things like non-binary it becomes a ‘tuning out’ issue.”
One of the other concerns is if you have a partner, do you need to talk to them about your sexual orientation and will they understand pansexuality?
I don’t think myself and my partner really ever spoke about it until about 7 years ago, and he was absolutely understanding of it – we knew each other well enough by that point that the trust in the relationship was strong and healthy.
I would agree that having that conversation would be much more relaxed in passing or as casual, rather than the harrowing ‘coming out’ chat. The worry for me would be a potential partner not being so understanding.
So in 2021, when it comes to supporting someone who is pansexual, what can you do to be an ally?
- Recognise that pansexuality can seem complex and almost tears apart the ‘rule book’ on romance and relationships
- Ask someone who is pansexual anything you don’t quite understand – it’s okay!
- If it’s a term you use in passing and it’s new to someone else, take the time to explain it and help break down the barriers such as it being different from bisexuality and regardless of gender
- If someone mocks pansexuality or other sexual orientations for certain reasons – question them, challenge them, call them out if you have to
- Share this article, particularly if you are unsure on anything, or read up on some more around pansexuality and other sexual orientations
As individuals, we carry a range of different identities and characteristics, and some of us happen to be pansexual.