I’m Pansexual, and Here’s What I Want You to Know

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by Hannah Pegg

The first time I came out to my parents was in 2013. I was 15 at the time, but I still remember it clear as day. I wrote my mom and dad letters, put them each into an envelope, and handed them off. I knew I would be a mess of tears if I tried to come out to them face to face, so I figured I could gather all of my thoughts more concisely into a letter. I don’t think either of them were quite shocked because I was always a little different, but nonetheless, they told me they were proud of me and wouldn’t trade me for the world.

I’d always assumed I was a lesbian because I was attracted to women and had only ever dated a girl before. I was confused and felt the weight of society falling on my shoulders. I was 15 and liked women, but there was still this nagging feeling that maybe I wasn’t just a lesbian.

I never knew that I could be anything more than a lesbian, so I continued to identify that way. It wasn’t until last year that I sparked a conversation with my roommate about sexuality. I was taking a queer studies class, and for the first time since 2013, I stopped and looked my sexuality dead in the face. And I was truly stumped. I knew I liked women, and I knew I’d had feelings for men, but I wasn’t quite sure that I was bisexual. My feelings felt stronger than that.

It wasn’t until I did some necessary Google searching that I came across a list of sexual orientations. I scrolled through terms I knew, and ones I’d never heard of, until I finally landed on pansexual. Something just seemed to fall into place. There was finally a word to explain how I’d been feeling.

So, what exactly is pansexuality?

This is a perfect starting point for something so complicated to explain. The thing is, you can look up a definition with a click of button, but in the end, you’ll find that pansexuality as a whole is very different from person to person. As Merriam-Webster puts it, “Pansexuality is of, relating to, or characterized by sexual desire or attraction that is not limited to people of a particular gender identity or sexual orientation,” but what I really like to tell people is that pansexuality is fluid and encompasses all people, regardless of their gender identity.

One of the many things I love about being pansexual is that my love for human beings has no bounds. There are no restraints telling my heart that I can’t love a person because of their gender identity. When it comes to attraction, I look for a connection as opposed to a gender, which really opens up a whole new world of relationships.

A common misconception people have about pansexuals is that since we are attracted to everyone, we must be having lots of sex, right? Well, that depends on the type of person you are. The great thing about sexuality is that it’s not just about sexual preference. Again, for me, I look for someone I can connect with as opposed to jumping into any type of physical relationship. What I’ll never quite understand is why attraction becomes a reason to shame someone for their sexual experiences. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re about to ask someone if they “get around,” take a second to ask yourself, would I feel comfortable answering this?

OK, well this seems very similar to bisexuality. How are they different?

I get asked this question a lot, as I’m sure do many others. The difference really lies in how a person wants to identify. Most people know bisexuality as an attraction to both men and women, but as vocabulary changes, it can now be defined as an attraction to more than one gender. The prefix “bi” in bisexuality means two. However, in recent years, people are becoming increasingly aware that there are more than two genders, thus changing the definition to be more inclusionary of those who fall outside of the gender norms.

For years, there have been disagreements within the bisexual and pansexual communities about whether bisexuality enforces the gender binary. Well, what is the gender binary? It’s the social construct, or gender system, of sex and gender into two categories, masculine and feminine. So when a female is born, she is assumed to be feminine and follow the social codes that have been placed on women (i.e. body standards, sexuality, behavior, etc.).

So then what does this have to do with bisexuality? Well, some people in the LGBTQ+ community believe that labeling oneself as bisexual enforces certain societal codes that do not coincide with those who identify as intersex, gender fluid, androgynous, nonbinary, transgender, etc. So, is bisexuality discrediting certain individuals who do not follow the gender norms? I don’t think so. I think that bisexuality, like pansexuality, varies from person to person.

Is pansexuality just another label?

No, I really don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s important to put a name to the feeling. Previous to last year, I didn’t even know what pansexuality was. I struggled with my sexuality and felt out of place calling myself something I was not. It wasn’t until college that I realized maybe I wasn’t so alone. But I wondered, if I felt this way, how many other people have struggled to find their place in the LGBTQ+ community?

The word pansexual has been around for ages, but it wasn’t until recent years that it took its place on the spectrum. It was first used by Sigmund Freud to describe the sexual desires of humans; however, he never really coined the term as a sexual orientation. Pansexuality as an orientation really took off at the end of the 20th century, leading into the 21st century. So why then do so few people know about it? And how can we make pansexuality a term that is readily available to younger generations?

If you or someone you know is questioning their sexuality, I think it is incredibly important to look into all sides of the LGBTQ+ community. There are so many orientations, genders, and identities that are not covered in schools or by acronyms that deserve to be discussed. Personally, I went to a high school that didn’t do much to explain anything other than the heteronormative in health class. I think it will take time to implement more LGBTQ+-friendly curriculum into schools, however, clubs, events, and open discussions are a wonderful way to expand queer vocabulary. If words like demisexual, asexual, queer, intersex, nonbinary, etc. are talked about more frequently, it will allow those who are unsure a chance to interact with others who feel like them.

Final Thoughts

So what has my year as openly pansexual been like? Honestly, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. For me, pansexuality is much more than just my sexual orientation. It has helped me to put into perspective my behavior toward all people. Perhaps my heart is just a little too big, but I believe that every person I come across, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc., is deserving of some type of connection, whether it be emotional, physical, or intellectual. Those connections are what made me who I am and I think what led me to pansexuality.

I don’t think I could have done this without my incredible roommate, who has listened to my struggles for countless hours and encouraged me to explore my sexuality. I’m also incredibly grateful for my family who are always asking questions and have gone above and beyond to research pansexuality and the LGBTQ+ community.

I’m not sure what’s in store for me, however, I know now that I’m not alone or “confused.” In fact, I’m the furthest thing from confused. I didn’t need some big revelation to tell me that I was pansexual. All it really took was some reflection and a Google search.

Complete Article HERE!

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Study: Even more Americans identify as something other than heterosexual

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A new survey finds the number of people who identify as bisexual, pansexual or homosexual continues to rise

A United States study has found that more people than ever before identify as something other than heterosexual.

The study by YouGov, a U.K.-based data analytics firm, found that one-third of 18 to 34-year olds identify as something other than completely heterosexual — a figure that has increased by 5% since 2015.

Carrie Baker, director of Smith College’s Program for the Study of Women and Gender, told Newsweek that society’s increasing acceptance of LGBTQ relationships has led to an increasing rise in people being more open about their sexuality.

“Really it was not that long ago that same-sex behavior was illegal in this country,” said Baker. “As our culture opens up same-sex sexuality as a possibility, more people are likely to experiment or to acknowledge those feelings or act on them.”

She also explained that an increase in same-sex couples being depicted in movies and television, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” have helped spur conversations that allow people to feel more comfortable with their sexuality.

The study was conducted by having participants rank themselves from a 0 to 6 on the Kinsey scale, 0 being completely straight and 6 being completely gay. The data collected was then compared to a similar study conducted in 2015.

Of the 1,096 people surveyed, 25% labeled themselves as something other than completely heterosexual, an increase from 20 percent in 2015. Twenty percent also picked a 1-5 on the Kinsey scale, meaning they’re bisexual, pansexual or fluid, compared to 16% three years ago. Those who listed themselves as exclusively homosexual — or a 6 on the Kinsey scale — increased 1% over 2015.

Baker said that these results show that sexual attraction is on a spectrum, which she attributes to young people’s openness.

“Circumstance can influence sexuality,” she said. “I also think the young people are thinking less of sexuality as sort of rigid and binary and more as on a continuum and as fluid.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What Does It Actually Mean To Be Sexually Fluid?

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It’s not the same as being bisexual.

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[R]ecently, I was speaking with a friend about sexuality and labels: She has fallen in love with both men and women, and cannot quite pin down her orientation.

She doesn’t feel fully lesbian and she doesn’t feel fully straight. But bisexual somehow doesn’t strike her as the right fit, either.

Hers is more an attraction she can categorize on a person-to-person basis and it has evolved over the years, but when pressed to define it herself, no single word surfaces.

I had two words to suggest: sexually fluid.

Sexually, what? This concept can be difficult to wrap your mind around, and comes with a lot of confusion.

What Is Sexual Fluidity?

“I define sexual fluidity as a capacity for a change in sexual attraction—depending on changes in situational or environmental or relationship conditions,” says Lisa Diamond, Ph.D., professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. Diamond should know: she literally wrote the book on this matter, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire.

Sexual fluidity: The idea that sexual orientation can change over time, and depending on the situation at hand.

The concept of sexual fluidity doesn’t negate the existence of sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and so forth). Rather, fluidity builds in a little wiggle room, Diamond says.

Not quite getting it? Rena McDaniel—a clinical sexologist and licensed therapist—suggests thinking about a spectrum, with attraction to women-identifying people on the left side, and male-identifying people on the right. Your attraction profile exists within a bracket on that spectrum, and that bracket can slide: At age 22, for example, your attraction bracket might sit closer to the left, but by 30, you might find it’s shifted a few degrees to the right.

“You may, for instance, be attracted to the more feminine side of the gender spectrum, and over time, that may evolve and you may find yourself attracted to…people on more the masculine side…and that—over your lifetime—may shift and change,” McDaniel says.

That’s not to say a person chooses their sexual orientation, though: Rather, it means that the degree to which they’re attracted to men or women, or whoever, might vary somewhat over time.

In other words, sexual fluidity does not mean once I was exclusively attracted to men, and now I’m exclusively attracted to women, but something closer to I was once attracted to men and women, but these days I find myself attracted more or less exclusively to women. That migration can depend on a person’s experiences, Diamond adds, and on their personal relationships.

How Is It Different Than Bisexuality?

“Are you not just describing bisexuality?” I hear someone muttering off in the distance. Diamond says she gets that question a lot, and in truth, the two concepts do share much in common.

The confusion isn’t helped by a lack of agreement, even among bisexual people, as to what bisexual means: For some, it’s attraction to both genders; for others, it’s not caring about gender at all and gauging attraction on the basis of the person in front of you.

Bisexuality, she continues, “is a real orientation, it does exist, and I’ve seen a lot of people in the bisexual orientation experience themselves as consistently over time being attracted to both women and men. Maybe not to the exact same degrees—it doesn’t have to be 50/50—but they are consistently attracted to both women and men.”

Fluidity, meanwhile, connotes change over time: “Someone who’s fluid, they aren’t necessarily going to consistently experience attraction for both women and men,” Diamond explains. “There may be times in their life that they are more aware of attraction toward one gender, and times in their life when they’re attracted to the other gender.”

Further, not everyone exhibits the same degree of fluidity—and some people don’t experience fluidity at all, which is also fine. You can be the most open-minded person in the world and still not summon up attraction for a man-identifying or woman-identifying person, because again, you don’t get to choose sexual orientation.

And while Diamond’s research used to indicate that women-identified people were more fluid than male-identified, that’s changing. Many men are increasingly comfortable describing themselves as mostly heterosexual, Diamond notes.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Does It Mean to Be Pansexual?

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[O]ne of the beautiful things about being a person right now is that there are no limits to the ways you can express your sexual preferences. While there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of representation, people who identify with sexualities and genders beyond binaries are finding it easier than ever to find both partners and communities that support their needs. But since inclusivity, though extremely awesome, can also be a bit overwhelming or confusing for some who haven’t heard certain terms in the past, it can be a little hard determining exactly where you fit. So, for the sake of said representation, let’s look at a term that’s gaining more and more traction nowadays: pansexual.

So what does pansexual mean? It’s actually pretty simple: Pansexuality is a sexual identity used to describe those who could be potentially attracted to all people, regardless of gender. Some people who identify as pansexual put it in the most adorable terms possible and say they care about “hearts and not parts.”

The reason pansexuality is defined as a sexual identity, rather than a gender identity, says Becca Mui, Ms.Ed., education manager at GLSEN, is because “it describes people’s feelings of emotional, physical, romantic, and sexual attraction to others, [whereas] gender identities refer to people’s personal conception of themselves, which may include ‘female,’ ‘androgynous,’ ‘transgender,’ “genderqueer,’ ‘nonbinary,’ ‘male’ and many others, or a combination thereof.”

Obviously, there is a bit of overlap (and therefore some confusion) when it comes to different sexual identities. For instance, what’s the difference between bisexual and pansexual, since doesn’t bisexual mean potential attraction to both genders? It does, but they aren’t the same thing. The term bisexual refers to someone who is attracted to male and female people, or people who are on the gender binary. “Someone who is pansexual may be attracted to someone who is transgender, gender nonbinary, or genderqueer,” Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and clinical sexologist, tells Glamour. Pansexuality does not assume there are only two genders, rejects the binary, and embraces all people as individuals.

That’s not to say that identifying as pansexual means you aren’t attracted to people who do identify as male or female (i.e., within the traditional gender binary)—only that gender is not something you take into consideration when it comes to sexual attraction. If you find you’re attracted to all people, or most people, and gender isn’t something that dictates your desire for someone, you might be pansexual!

For some people, pansexual is a way to accept a sexual descriptor while leaving lots of room for interpretation. “[Pansexual] is the most inclusive type of sexuality and is not limited to attraction to men or women,” Alicia Sinclair, a sex coach and founder of B-Vibe, tells Glamour. “They may find their sexual attraction is much broader than the traditional identifications and labels.” Even so, it’s important to remember that labels are entirely self-regulated and are no one’s business but your own. Even if you may technically fit into a “box,” or some of your behaviors may fall under a label, you still may not be comfortable using any one term to describe yourself. For example, someone might be attracted to men and women, but not wish to be called bisexual. They may prefer the term queer, heteroflexible or homoflexible. Or maybe they don’t want any label at all. You don’t have to call yourself something just to make other people comfortable. Any label you choose should be strictly for your own benefit and self-identification.

Though there isn’t a clear stat on how many people identify as pansexual in the world—it’s a relatively new term and has been more widely accepted as a sexual identity only in the last decade or so (and we’re still working on it, tbh)—as more people feel comfortable coming out on a gender and sexuality spectrum, we’ll likely see a push for more comprehensive population statistics. According to the GLSEN 2015 National School Climate survey, 16.1 percent of the student participants identified themselves as pansexual. That’s a pretty significant number, and one that will probably grow as acceptance permeates popular culture.

If you are pansexual, some people want the next step to be explaining their sexual identity to family or friends. When you live in a world that generally expects that there are men and women, gay and straight people, falling outside of those parameters can be jarring for people you love. If you’re looking for some “coming out” ideas, Overstreet suggests writing a letter to family as a way of expressing who you are. “This is a great way to share your identify with them, as well as your feelings related to it, in a safe way,” she says.

Identifying on the sexuality spectrum may lead to some awkward moments in public. Though it can be disheartening, it happens to plenty of people. “Be prepared that some people may comment or ask inappropriate questions about your identity or your behavior,” Overstreet says. “Remember to keep your boundaries in place and don’t feel that you have to answer any questions that are inappropriate.”

Remember that you have agency, that your sexual identity is totally valid, and that how you choose to label yourself is nobody’s business but your own. We’ll say it again for the seats in the back: Any label you choose is strictly for your own benefit and self-identification.

You got this.

Complete Article HERE!

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