In order for Pansexuality to make sense, one must understand the difference between sex and gender. Sex can be male, female, or intersex. Intersex individuals have primary and secondary sex characteristics that don’t quite match male or female. Contrary to popular belief, gender identity and sex are not always the same. Someone’s gender identity can be male, female, or nonbinary. People who are nonbinary don’t identify with the gender labels of male or female. Intersex individuals should not be confused with nonbinary individuals. Intersex people might identify with the gender labels of male, female, or nonbinary, depending on their preference.
Pansexuality is the potential to be attracted to any person, regardless of gender identity or sex. Pansexuality is often confused with bisexuality, so I would like to explain the difference. Bisexuality is the potential to be attracted to more than one gender and or sex, but not always all of them. Some people who call themselves bisexual are attracted to all sexes and genders, the same as pansexual; however, they identify more with the label bisexual more than pansexual. I personally identify as pansexual. I used to identify with bisexuality before I knew that pansexuality was a label that existed. I just felt like it fit better, even though I do have to explain to most people what it means.
As a pansexual, I tend to prefer those who are more traditionally masculine. However, this doesn’t mean that I am heterosexual. I am still attracted to those who identify as women and non-binary people, meaning someone who doesn’t identify as male or female. Someone who is strictly heterosexual would not be attracted to non-binaries. Having a preference for a certain gender expression or sex does not affect sexual identity. Pan and bi people who have a preference for a certain sex or gender expression are whichever label they choose to go by.
One of my least favourite phrases to hear about my sexuality is “You’re just being greedy.” You know, as if I actually had a choice in determining the people I am attracted to. As if being attracted to more than one gender is unacceptable and selfish. Another stereotype is the pansexual slut. I don’t see why it matters so much if someone is sexually active. As long as they’re being safe and smart about it, that sort of thing doesn’t matter. Despite the irony of both the stereotype and the last name of valentine, I have never actually dated someone or had sex.
I believe that being queer has changed the lens with which I look at the world. It contextualizes media and interactions with other people in a different way. It’s almost always heterosexual couples on TV, movies, and advertisements. The gay people get killed off early, are a joke or just fade out of existence as if they were never there in the first place. Celebrities who identify as queer get their true identity erased by the media. Pansexual people seem to be absent from almost all forms of media, as if my identity doesn’t exist. Can you list a game, movie, or TV show that’s not indie and has a pansexual character off the top of your head?
That might sound dramatic to some, but, think about how it would feel to not have anyone quite like you. To not have any role models just like you. To have no one who sees quite like you do. To not be able to see that there is a future for someone like you. It’s easy to feel alone in a world where media is everywhere and doesn’t have a lot of you in it.
Of course, I can look through the lens of a white woman, but just how many women characters are presented in a balanced and unbiased way in media, regardless of race. How many gay or queer characters are presented in a fair light? Of course, proper representations exist, but there aren’t very many, especially in mass media. Things are slowly changing and getting better, but we still have a long way to go.
I am very lucky to have a supportive immediate family and a group of people who I know will support me. There are many people who aren’t so fortunate. I hope that we can move towards a future of greater understanding for all people.
– Candace Valentine