Posted by Smrithi S
Many queer people say they are born the way they are. However, my experience with sexuality has been a fluid one*. This is the story of how I turned pansexual over the last few years.
My name is Smrithi and I come from an orthodox family in a small town called Madurai.
Growing up in a conservative family, sexuality (among other topics) was a taboo in our household – and even in our heads. It was a happy, normal, ‘straight’ childhood. My adolescent years were spent in similar fashion – reading novels, listening to Taylor Swift, collecting/putting up a million posters of Joe Jonas with the accompanying fantasies about knights in shining armours. Over the years, it was always the Frank Hardys, Darcys, Robert Langdons and Edward Cullens that were the objects of my desire, with never a second glance towards the Nancy Drews or Elizabeths or Juliets.
Things were still ‘fine’ when I moved away from home, for college. I got a lot more freedom to experiment, experience the world and start figuring myself out. For over a year, life went in the same way – looking for love (read: getting a boy friend), fangirling over (male) celebrities, joking about having ‘girl friends’ being in a girl’s hostel.
pansexuals see people for who they are and form relationships based on the person, instead of the gender they belong to.
The shift happened so gradually that I cannot even put my finger on when it occurred. Maybe it was just what I wanted to feel all through my life, maybe it was the effect of being in an inclusive, open-minded social sciences institution, but somewhere I was warming up to the idea of same sex attractions and relationships. It also reflected in my own sexuality. I began to stop for a second longer or notice more carefully all the women I find attractive on campus. The female protagonists in books and movies were grabbing my attention too. They even got a chance to feature in my fantasies! I decided it was time I called myself bicurious.
All this while, I had my doubts too. I kept thinking ‘What if all this is just in my head?‘ or ‘What if I’m just in love with the IDEA of this rebellious, abnormal and funky sexual identity?’. I decided to go with the flow and see what happens. It was a drunken night (aren’t they always?) when I worked up the courage to make a move on a fellow bicurious girl. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t getting cold feet or disgusted with myself. My body and mind were in sync, and my fears had been dispelled. I had proof (FINALLY!) that I was now a bisexual. Life was happy again, but maybe not so ‘normal’ – in the traditional heteronormative sense.
As more time passed, I gained exposure into gender issues, different gendered minorities and the various types of sexualities. With all the new terms and realities I was learning about, one particular idea stuck: pansexuality. It got me thinking about my own wants and preferences. Was it really just ‘men’ and ‘women’ I was attracted to? Or did it not really matter what gender they were, as long as they treated me with love and respect and I did the same? My musings eventually led me to realize that I was pansexual (and I still am!).
So, people ask me about what pansexuality means and how it is different from bisexuality. Though they seem very similar, the thin line dividing them is the ideology behind the sexual identity and the gender binary.
Bisexuals have emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to both genders (as defined by the American Psychological Association), while pansexuals find the other person’s gender immaterial for any kind of relationship. While people usually assume the difference is just that pansexuals do not mind being with transgenders and other gender identities that fall in the spectrum between male and female, it is actually the ideology that matters.
I am not saying that bisexuals conform to a gender binary, but that even if bisexuals are open to being with more than the two genders, pansexuals find it irrelevant to even consider the other person’s gender as a basis for any kind of relationship.
The other person could be of any gender and it would not make a difference to a pansexual. We see people for who we are and form consensual relationships based on the person themselves, instead of the gender they belong to.
Much as we would love to be called ‘gender neutral’, most often we end being labelled desperate. This angers me. As such, people do not understand what pansexuality means. We do not need more myths and judgements to cloud people’s notions about this identity. I believe that a person is entitled to be who they want to be and love who they want to love- regardless of whether or not they identify under cisgendered heterosexual boxes!
We see people for who we are and form consensual relationships based on the person themselves, instead of the gender they belong to.
*Note: As I mentioned in the beginning, I strongly believe that a person’s sexuality is a choice. What I mean is that it is fluid, and there are always opportunities for change. I do not promote that a person can change their sexual orientation consciously (it may be possible, but I admit my ignorance about this). I also condemn conversion or conversion therapy of any sort that follows a similar line of reasoning. But as a psychology student, I believe in the unconscious and its ability to cause changes even in a person’s sexuality and sexual identity.
I also add that whatever views have been expressed in this article are my personal opinions, made on my experiences. I do not speak for the entire LGBT community, or even the pansexual community.
Smrithi S did her undergraduation from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad. She is currently pursuing her masters in Counseling Psychology from the Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health, Chennai. She loves reading, writing and educating people (read answering embarrassing doubts) about sex and sexuality.
Featured Image Credit: Agents of Ishq