The term “pansexual” was coined by Sigmund Freud and employed within his theories on psychoanalysis in the early-to-mid 1900s, but its modern usage has little linkage with Freud’s definition or his theories of sex instincts and the subconscious.
Even though modern usage of “pansexual” and its connotations are on the lips of some, it is still hardly understood and is frequently associated with bisexuality. In fact, they hold very different principles.
While it is hard to trace the rise of the pansexuality trend, it was definitely tied to the growing activism and awareness of non-binary and genderqueer folks. Back in the 1990s, the term first became more prevalent in the media, after gaining traction in the queer community.
More recently, in 2012, Texas state representative Mary Gonzalez proclaimed to be pansexual.
“I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me. I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.”
David Bond, vice president of programs for LGBT crisis intervention group, Trevor Project, helps us to further understand the term, by expounding that someone who identifies as pansexual is capable of being attracted to multiple sexes and gender identities.
Other individuals have also described their pansexual identity by saying that “they just don’t focus on gender or sex identity, but focus more on the person instead.”
Many individuals from the queer community have written articles and backed this new label up, such as this dedicated tumblr blog. Not that we need another letter in the queer alphabet soup, but the definition of pansexuality has served to be a panacea for many.
I met and spoke to two individuals residing in different cities, who identify as pansexual. Here’s the interview from the ground for us to further understand the concept.
What is pansexuality?
Darken: Like a lot of people, I identify and use the terms bisexual/pansexual interchangeably. Pansexuality to me means that my sexual attraction is not limited to or based on one or two genders. I’m attracted to people of different genders and sexual orientations. I also describe myself as a FOMOsexual because I have total ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ and try to have the whole cake and eat it.
Joy: Pansexuality and bisexually are terms often confused. To many people, pansexuality means that I like everyone. The truth is, I like the person, not the gender.
My current partner is female. If one day she tells me, “I always felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body and wants to undergo a change”, I will still love her. For me, I feel more than a bisexual because, for a very long time, I’ve known that I am neither straight nor gay.
I am not attracted to just guys or girls, and I can’t swallow saying I like both – it’s not so simple to me. When I found out that pansexuality is an attraction to the person beyond the gender, I felt I belong there. It encompasses the real meaning of freedom of love.
How did you discover you are pansexual?
D: There was no light bulb moment. As with my gender that was assigned during birth, it’s something that was always there. The idea of having just one partner/gender/sexual orientation just never seemed like a path for me. I was always into girls and boys as a teenager. What’s really changed is the growing awareness and language to talk about things like pansexuality, trans/non-binary genders.
In a way, language is a way of ordaining some indeterminable concepts and feelings. I’m aware of my attraction to other gender benders. I have been amazed and frightened by how I have been able to forge a romance with persons that have no script or roadmap.
J: All along I never felt that I could toe the lines of social norms. When I was about 22, I went to find out more about my sexuality because I was just not comfortable with the labels that were slapped on me. Just because I was dating a girl, I didn’t feel like a lesbian.
Then I dated guys and people would claim that I “turned straight” – a term I really abhor. What are we? Fucking zombies? We don’t turn. When I read about pansexuality I felt that it really fit me.
How does the society you live in perceive pansexuality?
D: I live in a queer bubble and am surrounded with similar attitudes towards sexuality. However, there is still a lot of bi/panphobia. Like a lot of oppressed groups, pansexuals are often thrown under the bus in assimilating to society. In my opinion, many pansexuals, in their efforts to be seen in a positive light, silence their real identity. Berlin also has this problem where a lot of people like to act like they have seen and done it all before when they clearly haven’t.
J: Nope. I don’t think it is acceptable. It is ignorance. People like to just sum this up as bisexuality because they don’t comprehend anything beyond that. They do not realise that not everyone falls under ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories. There are people who identify as transgender, non-binary or don’t have a gender. To people around, they just think I like both genders but to me it’s more than that. Even people in the queer community need to be educated that there are sexual orientations that are beyond straight, gay and bi.
Do you know people like you, and do you feel a sense of solidarity?
D: Yes! I live in a queer bubble in Berlin.
J: No! The only person I know is your friend (Darken) whom I never met before. (laughs)
What was a defining pansexual moment for you?
D: I guess for a large part of my life I wanted to defy labels and just be my own beautiful self. My experience of pan/biphobia in the gay and lesbian dominated queer scenes brought me to the labels. I started to call myself bi/pansexual as part of a fight for the space to be the who I am, and not be controlled by others’ standards of what is queer!
J: I’ve always felt that way, but there was once I had a crush on a male colleague. After a long time, I found out he was actually born a female. It didn’t change my perception at all. I still found him funny, kind and generous. I have the capacity to accept the person for who they are.
What do labels mean to you?
D: Labels are sometimes useful. I fully support and encourage everyone’s self-determination to label or not label themselves. Having a sensitivity to not appropriate others’ experience or culture is important to me. Labels are incredibly complex but are also really simple.
J: I used to say I don’t believe in labels. After a while, I felt like something was amiss because labels help people understand. Labels are not a bad thing but they should be self-proclaimed – you should be the one giving yourself the label, and not others. You are the only one who has the right to label yourself, and only you can define yourself.
What would be offensive to a pansexual?
J: You are just bisexual. Or, you are just confused.
D: Panphobia! Biphobia! Neat little boxes. I would like to think pansexuals are angry about the rising tide of fascism, racism, ableism, patriarchy, queerphobia we are currently experiencing and holding out some hands to create solidarity and find ways to fight back!
What do you want people to know about pansexuality?
J: It’s not the love of pans. I want people to know that pansexuals don’t want to sleep with everyone.
D: Everything. Follow your dreams people.