What is pansexuality?

October 24, 2018

Ok, so I’m going to throw it out there right off the bat. Pansexuality isn’t a sexual attraction to a Tefal pot and pan set. (Or any other brand of pots and pans for that matter). I know, it’s misleading, right?

So now we’re clear on what it isn’t, I guess I should explain what it is. In order to do that I’ll need to share a bit with you about my queerness. So let’s start right at the beginning.

I remember having feelings about boys from a young age. I was aged 4 or 5  when I knew I fancied boys. I didn’t really look at girls in the same way. However, I remember watching a cartoon called “ThunderCats” and there was a female character called Cheetara who, according to Wikipedia is a “Cat-like humanoid alien”. Well, Cheetara did it for me and I remember fancying her in the same kind of way I did the boys at school. I realise that sounds weird as fuck but we’re all friends here.

I also remember cuddling with my next door neighbour (who was a girl) in a way that wasn’t platonic. It was just once, I was very young but I liked it. At that age, I didn’t rationalise any of these feelings, it just was what is what.

Fast forward to 2013 and I was 30. I had never been around gay people of any description and had been in back-to-back relationships with men. None of them had worked out and I was newly single. At the time, I was working with a gay man, a lesbian woman and a bisexual girl so the conversation about sexuality was open and interesting. One of my workmates asked me if I’d ever thought about being with a girl. My answer surprised me a bit. “Sure, I wouldn’t rule it out.”

It wasn’t long before I met a gay girl who fancied me and I thought she was pretty magical too. So there I was, after 30 years of the straight life, in a relationship with a girl. In order for my friends and family to feel comfortable with this change in my life, they started asking lots of questions about my sexuality: So are you gay now? Are you bisexual? Won’t you miss boys? Which gender do you want to settle down with? Do you think you’re just trying it out? Is this your experimental stage? Shouldn’t you have done that at uni? etc etc.

The confusion for people was real and I understand it. So when asked “what I was now”, I picked the fairly well-established category of bisexual. But it didn’t feel right. It never really fit. It seemed too simplistic. The definition of bisexuality is that a person is sexually attracted to both men and women. On paper, that’s absolutely true. I am. However, I’m also attracted to transgender* people, gender fluid** people and people who identify as having no gender.

For the traditionalists, I can hear you say:

“Look, Laura, I hear talk of gender but at the end of the day, it boils down to vaginas and penises, whether you’re talking about a trans or non-binary person, they have one or the other. So actually you are bisexual and pansexuality doesn’t exist.”

My response to that is, for me, pansexuality is a sexual attraction to all people, regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. To say that I’m bisexual and therefore attracted to “men” or “women” feels disrespectful to a whole raft of people who don’t fit those two socially constructed gender labels. It also doesn’t feel authentic for me. Bisexuality implies only two options, man or woman, one or the other. Pansexuality is about sexual attraction to a spectrum of gender identities. If I’m not using and promoting the pansexual label, I’m not recognising the variety of gender identities that exist and the fact that I can be attracted to all of them.

For those of you new to this subject, it’s not simple, and it is as confusing for me, as it probably is for you reading this.  It’s not simple, because people aren’t simple and it’s very difficult to categorise 7.6 billion humans. As much as I wish labels didn’t exist, they do and while we live in a society that uses labels to understand people, I would prefer to be labelled in a way that feels true to me, minus the Tefal jokes…


* Transexual Person – a person who emotionally and psychologically feels that they belong to a gender that is inconsistent with, or not culturally associated with, their assigned sex. They often desire to permanently transition to the gender with which they identify. This may or may not involve surgery.

**Gender Fluid Person – a person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender. They may feel equally male, female and/or neither.

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