Common misconceptions around an oft-overlooked sexual orientation
I started out identifying as bisexual in high school, because that was the terminology I had access to. At the time though, it was “trendy” for girls to like girls so it made it hard for me to be taken seriously. I later started identifying as pansexual, and people took that as me trying to “other” myself to make myself even more unique and special from the bi community and the general population.
People think I am being too sensitive, too politically correct, for insisting that I am pan and not bi. Many of my friends who also identify as pansexual want to keep their sexuality on the down low, or will just say they are bi because they are scared of being perceived as “trying too hard” or being too sensitive. This was especially hard when coming out to my parents/grandparents/any older people because they (barely) recognize what bisexuality is, so to identify as this DIFFERENT but similar thing, I’ve heard a lot of people tell me to just identify as bi. And I have!
I still to this day will tell new people that I’m bi because it is exhausting to have to constantly differentiate between the two, and it is not my job to educate everyone on the diversity of sexuality. But at the same time, I feel terrible doing this because if I identify as bi, I’m erasing my pansexual identity and there is enough bi/pan erasure in the world as it is!
I never feel gay enough, and I definitely never feel straight enough. What I feel like a lot of people find surprising is that I have felt as unsupported by the LGBTQ+ community as I do in the heterosexual community. I definitely am not straight, so obviously I searched for solace in the LGBTQ+ community, the people who (you would think) would understand.
Photo: Provided by Hayley Wallace.
Erasure occurs within the gay community too, and I do a lot of reminding to people that there are other letters of importance besides the L and the G. As a cis femme woman, I have been told I’m too “straight passing,” that I don’t understand the struggle of being gay because I can have heterosexual relationships, that I get a “free pass,” that’s it’s “just a phase” and I just haven’t decided if i’m gay or straight yet.
These are things I’ve heard in spaces that are meant to be safe, but there is definitely a hierarchy in the LGBTQ+ community that pansexual people don’t fit into.
People think being pansexual means we are attracted to literally everyone. Anyone with logic would know that this is ridiculous. I have been called greedy and more likely to cheat. In most of my intimate relationships, my significant other has expressed concern for me cheating because I have “more options,” but being polysexual does not equal polyamory. Pansexual people can have successful monogamous relationships if they want them and should be able to do so without having their integrity questioned.
I have also been called desperate, in the sense that I couldn’t get boys/girls/whomever, so I decided to open up my options, which further perpetuates the idea that pan people are greedy. If whoever I’m with thinks I’m going to leave them for a person of a different gender, often I feel like it is my fault for possibly putting that insecurity into their head. The more this becomes my lived experience, the more I realize that representation matters because they have a pre-conceived notion of a pansexual person that is incorrect and they are looking at my identifier, not me as a person.
I, and a lot of other pan folks are constantly having to come out. Coming out is a very serious form of emotional labour, and the act of constantly having to reaffirm your sexuality to others (and yourself) can have drastic effects on your mental health. Whoever I am seeing, that is how I reflect to the world, so I have to remind my friends and family that no, I still like all genders and that doesn’t go away just because right now I am seeing a cis male (or whoever.)
I feel like I’m shoving my sexuality down people’s throats by always talking about it, but it is an integral part of who I am as a person and that needs to be seen as valid. With other people consistently questioning my intentions, it makes me question myself as well.
I’ve had nights where I break down, where I think, am I really this way? Maybe I am just searching for attention? Maybe it would be better if I were just straight or just gay, instead of feeling like I’m in limbo, in LGBTQ+ purgatory.
At the end of the day, I love who I am, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t question everything sometimes. I have learned that to find peace, I had to plant myself in what I know to be true and not let anyone uproot me.