Proud (And Patient) Pansexual
Being a self-identifying pansexual is hard. I find myself constantly explaining who I am, running through an exhausting cycle that never produces understanding. I feel that I am always receiving the cocked eyebrow or scrunched nose in response to my sexuality. Truthfully, it's disheartening to have who I am belittled in such a way. Sexuality is hard enough, but to also deal with the notions other people have inside their minds about certain sexualities and how they impose those stereotypes on others is exhausting.
Patrick O'Connell, a sophomore Theatre and Performance major, elaborates on this further, pulling from his experience as being a self-identifying bisexual.
“With bisexuality and pansexuality, a lot of doubt comes because you are stuck in the middle, and people perceive it [as] a stepping stone to being all the way on one side,” O’Connell says. “But I am stuck on this stepping stone [and] you feel like you haven't finished figuring out your sexuality because you feel people [are] waiting for you to get the idea and I’m like, I got the idea, I got the idea.”
Often times, with bixsexuality and pansexuality, people assume they are the same thing; while they are similar, there is a difference. Pansexuality, by definition, is the attraction to someone regardless of sex or gender. Bisexuality, by definition, is attraction to two sexes. But that is not their definite traits.
“Sexuality is so fluid in my mind that it is hard to grasp my sexuality,” says O’Connell. Sexuality is an ever growing spectrum, so even when someone finds a label that fits them, it is more important to understand how they interpret their sexuality rather than what we believe their sexualtiy to be.
O’Connell recalls an experience he had with his coworkers over summer break who only saw him as a gay man. “It was interesting to be perceived as queer, to have that, but then it was frustrating to have half of it ignored,” he says. “I felt like I was living my straight life again where I had another attraction that I was not telling people about—but with women, with what I am ‘supposed’ to be attracted to.”
It is wrong to both assume someone's sexuality and also to warp a person’s sexuality into a different perception. It becomes an initial erasure of who someone is.
Here at Emerson, though, there is a community that understands. Travis Cilik, a sophomore Theatre and Performance major, explains, “Coming from a place [like] Emerson, so many people identify as so many different things. It’s nice to know that it's not at the forefront of our consciousness; when I tell people I am a gay man, people just see me as human, [that] my sexuality [isn’t] everything. Yes, it does make up a huge part of my life and the kind of person I am but it doesn’t ‘run’ things.”
At the end of the day, sexuality is an ever-growing, always fluid concept. People can change how they identify like they change clothes, and that's okay because it is all a part of the process of learning to understand one’s self. Like sophomore Theatre and Performance major Michelle Romero says, “I think sexuality is very complicated. [As a straight woman], there are some days where, for the majority of the time, I would say that I am straight [and] I find myself being more attracted to men—but it doesn't mean I don't find women attractive [either].”
At the end of the day, someone’s sexuality, or any way they define themselves, is a part of who they are as a whole. To exclude it, or to initially misinterpret how they identify, is hurtful and discredits who they are. Recognizing someone's own self-identifying sexuality as they present it, and not how you would assume it, is the core way to recognize someone for who they truly are and not who you would want them to be. Sexuality is as fluid as the gigantic rainbow that the LGBTQ+ community embraces—an array of colors, all of which are essential in creating a rainbow and none without importance. A rainbow is not a rainbow without all of its colors, as a person is not who they are without all of their identities—sexuality and all.
Illustrations by Lily Walsh