The vast majority of people around the world are now familiar with the terms gay, lesbian, bi, and trans. Over many decades the familiar acronym that started as LGB has grown to LGBTQ+ (and other acronyms depending on where you are), but less is known about who the “+” represents. As we explore and learn more about ourselves and each other in our ever evolving and rapidly changing world, we coin new terms to include other forms of love and/or attraction (or lack thereof). That “+” is a small symbol with an enormous meaning, and among the many terms included with that little plus are pansexuals like me.
Nearly every time I have told someone that I identify as pansexual, the response I get is something along the lines of: “what is that?” or “does that mean you like to screw pans?” (obviously not). We pansexuals are still among some of the lesser-known groups in the LGBTQ+ community, and we are sometimes excluded, unrecognized, and even berated by members within the same community. We have been called bi-phobic, but I can assure you that is simply not the case.
I knew from an early age that I was attracted to girls as well as boys, and when I first came out to friends and family I came out as bisexual. However, as I got older and more mature, I realized that it was not just males and females I was attracted to, but I could be attracted to anyone regardless of their sexual orientation or identification—it is about who they are, not what they are or what they have. If you identify as pansexual or know someone who does, you are probably familiar with the phrase “hearts not parts” –this is the pansexual slogan, or motto, and it is pretty spot on! If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, what it means to me (and many pansexuals) is that what one has between their legs is not the determining factor in who is dateable or loveable. Who I decide to devote myself to is not limited to cis males or cis females—if someone is right for me, they are right for me regardless of what genitalia they have, whether they are male, female, male to female, female to male, somewhere in between, or consider themselves none of the above. Love is love, as we say!
Many pansexuals have their own way of defining the term, and like anyone else we have our individual preferences. As a group, like most people, we are generally trying to get through life while finding the partner(s) and/or situation that works best for us. However, belonging to this group does not define us as individuals, and we as individuals do not define the group.
In America, where I live, we are still behind the times a bit. Gay marriage was not legalized in all 50 states until the Supreme Court overruled state bans in 2015, Pride parades are still crashed by anti-LGBT protesters, and LGBTQ+ members are still chastised and even killed (the story is similar—or worse—in many places around the world). Other than Pride month, we have no holidays that celebrate any one specific group of our LGBTQ+ community. When I heard of Pansexual Visibility Day (as well as Lesbian and Transgender Visibility days) my heart filled with joy, and I nearly started sobbing. What an incredible way to say, “hey pansexuals—we see you, and we celebrate you!” These visibility days ought to be happening everywhere!
Until that happens, let me leave you with this: learn about the members of the LGBTQ+ community, talk with them, recognize them as individuals with wants and needs like everyone else, and most of all, see them. No, I do not mean stare at them, I mean truly see them—see us! If you have a pansexual friend or family member, reach out to them and love them! If you are a pansexual, I see you and I am with you. If you are unsure and still exploring—keep exploring until you find who you are and love yourself no matter what. We are all here together.
Written by Lauren Brown
Lauren Brown is a thirty-year-old mother of three, a student, and a proud pansexual. She is a psychology major and sociology minor at an American university where she will attain her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
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