On coming out as pansexual

The word “pansexual” claimed me. I don’t know how else to describe it. I discovered my sexuality on Wikipedia at the age of twelve. Some kids learn about identity from a friend or a community, but for me it was 2002 and I was alone in my family’s mobile home sitting at the pine wardrobe my dad had converted into a computer cabinet. The dial-up tone crackled out, the hourglass cursor turned over, and I found pan.

Can I turn back to the internet of yesteryear? In 2002 visual kei (Japan’s androgynous, raw, sometimes-gothic, gender-bending response to glam rock and hair metal) had adopted a little corner of the English-speaking internet. I’d already worked out that I liked both boys and girls, so I must be bisexual. But what was I when I was attracted to Mana (then of Malice Mizer), a male guitarist dressed in baby doll goth gabt? Was my poignant tweenage longing the “lesbian half” of my bisexuality? Or was the “straight half” desiring this beautiful man? I had fallen off the Kinsey scale.

Pansexual: my gut told me I’d correctly named my feelings of attraction. It means that you’re not bi, as in attracted to two sides of a coin, but pan—attracted to all representations of gender. I wonder if other pansexuals take as much joy as I do in a person who blends and shreds the trappings of femininity and masculinity. I wonder if they feel the electric, overwhelming romantic possibility in every person they meet.

For me, pansexuality is an exhilarating and playful sexuality. The word ‘pan’ itself is vital, evoking the wild and lusty Pan and all his cultural derivatives. And yet I am monogamous in relationships; all-attraction does not mean pansexuals are necessarily polyamorous. Still, I can joke that personality is my only turn-off and consent my only requirement. Pan: the type O sexuality; the universal plug.

Bisexuality, homosexuality, heterosexuality: what I’d worked out was that all of these identities position who you are in terms of who the other is—the object of your affection. That works for a lot of people. There’s nothing wrong with it. But what if you don’t know or you can’t tell who or what that “other” is? And more importantly, what if you don’t care? What if your attraction persists no matter what you find out about that person’s anatomy?

In my pansexuality, a body that is offered to me is always accepted as whole and desirable just as it is. The body may change over time, but every time it comes to me, that body is a whole and worshipful body.

I am pan because I need a way to talk about sexuality detached from being attracted to the “same,” to the “opposite,” or to “both” as if those categories are all that exist. And this is the best way that I’ve found.

Tana talks about queerness and gender in books on her Youtube channel saytanabooks. When not fumbling in front of a camera, she writes short stories, plays tabletop games, dances ballroom, and tries to remember to text her friends back. (Sorry guys.)

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