Pansexuals & Bisexuals- Suggested Communication Strategy

September 25, 2015 at 2:07 am 9 comments

I came out around age 16, at that time, yes there was Internet, but there wasn’t a lot there yet- searching “bisexuality” would likely yield more porn than decent information, and I was fortunate enough to be living in large liberal metro area that had books about bisexuality and gay/lesbian/bisexual issues more generally in the library. I’ll admit that for myself at the time, my understanding of bisexuality was rather binary- an attraction to both men and women. However, this was more due to my understanding of gender at the time than definitions bisexual activists were promoting. Many bi folks did and still do, use definitions like “being attracted to one’s own gender and others”, but others did and still likely do use more gender binary definitions. Bi communities have frequently experienced overlap and allyship with trans communities and individual activists, but transphobia and cissexism has also occurred and still does in bi communities. I think we need to be honest about all this- warts and all, to both bi/pan and monosexual trans, genderqueer and cis folks. Let’s not pretend we have this magically more Enlightened Than HRC attitude.

With this honesty I believe we can sincerely and politely respond to various critiques of bisexual identity from folks who prefer pansexual identities. If we do this consistently, along with affirming the legitimacy and choice of other non-monosexual identities and labels (and desire to use none at all) and listen to younger people’s desires for distinctive identities, I think we can work toward a broader, more inclusive bi community, (or whatever we agree on calling it!). We need to stop publicly arguing with pansexuals over the bisexuality definition. I understand it’s frustrating, but instead let’s redirect the conversation. Say “We accept and include pansexuals and respect your identities, please respect ours. We’d like to dialog and learn about each other *in person* or perhaps over Video chat (Skype, Googletalk etc) or even just message one on one. Obviously we’ll want to limit that to folks who are 18, or have parental approval for everyone’s protection.

This section is for the pansexual folks- I admit I’m less familiar with y’all- but I’d like to address some things I’ve heard from and about *some* NOT ALL pansexuals.

I’d really appreciate it, if you have not already- please learn more about bisexual and transgender movement history- really it was B & T before G & L came along and acted like it was all their in the first place, and B & T were just tag-alongs. (I admit this statement is specific to United States, while I know bits and pieces about other countries, particularly Britain and Germany I’d need to do more research to learn how different identity groups played roles in other countries)

For those who believe in the bi means binary definition therefore I’m pan, I’d like you to consider that I know quite a few trans and non-binary people who identify as bisexual (or sometimes both bi & pan) and in fact, many of them are involved in the Bisexual Organizing Project, BECAUSE or other bisexual groups around the country. I’ve also seen definitions of pansexual that emphasize attraction to “men, women and trans people” which doesn’t seem to actually be respectful of trans people considered many of them *are* men and women. If you want to be an ally to trans people please actually learn about them- in person (if & when they want to talk about it!) books, documentaries, blogs etc. getting many different opinions- there is no Grand Trans High Council that decides which trans celebrities to anoint or whatever. I admit to be being in a continual learning process about gender diversity myself! Other trans people are non-binary, genderqueer, agender, bigender, neutrois etc. there may also be some such folks that don’t see themselves as under the trans umbrella- we all know how complex those “umbrella terms” are now, don’t we?

I have also heard concerns from some trans individuals that pansexual sometimes seems to be used by people who have a particular fetish-y interest in trans people- not always, but it’s something they at least see as a “red flag” while dating. Date people because they are attractive, cool and interesting people, not for social justice/diversity cookies, and same goes for making friends.

I’m also hearing a “I’m gender-blind, transcend gender, I care about people not parts” sorta thing, which sounds familiar, it’s the same twaddle I used to and sometimes still hear from bisexual folks. That may sound cool and enlightened, but it’s also comes off as really annoying and will not win you friends. Most straight and gay people I talk to who have described their experiences of attraction have more criteria than “this person has this gender”. People of every orientation are capable of being superficial, lookist, sizeist or whatever label of bad-ness that you can imagine. We’re human. Sometimes there are messed-up beauty standards we absorb, consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes we just have features that attract us and features that don’t.

Resources about Bi & Trans movements in the next post…stay tuned!

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9 Comments Add your own

  • […] Source: Pansexuals & Bisexuals- Suggested Communication Strategy | The Lefthander’s Path […]

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  • 2. Redfaery  |  September 25, 2015 at 3:36 am

    What honestly frustrates me is that I’ve seen all areas of the GLBTQA spectrum point at pan folk and say “aren’t you just bi?” and then point at bi folk and say “you can’t make up your mind.” It’s a shitty situation for both. (Full disclosure: I identify as grey-area asexual)

    Reply
    • 3. caelesti  |  September 25, 2015 at 4:57 am

      That’s why I actually don’t care much for the mega-acronym, it creates this false perception that’s one big happy family which is nonsense. It’s white corporate urban coast-dwelling GL vs. Bi, Trans, Pan, Ace etc. in all other categories. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone excludes the Ace folks, though it’s starting to change..we have some ace representation in BOP & BECAUSE.

      Reply
      • 4. Sebastian Lokason  |  September 25, 2015 at 7:19 pm

        ^This. I’ll use the acronym but bisexual, pan, transgender, ace etc people tend to get shoved under the rug quite a bit.

  • 5. G. B. Marian  |  September 25, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    I guess I just don’t understand why anyone really needs to “critique” anyone’s else’s sexual identity. Replace the term “sexual identity” with “race” or “ethnicity” and it sounds very ridiculous. My wife is bisexual, so I tend to take it very personally whenever I hear people spewing trash about bisexuals.

    Reply
    • 6. caelesti  |  September 29, 2015 at 1:50 am

      That’s why I’m a fan of idea politics rather than identity politics- no one’s identity is ever “pure” enough for identity ideologues.

      Reply
  • 7. Sebastian Lokason  |  September 25, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    I have never understood the bi v. pan argument. I’ve always understood “bisexual” to mean “attracted to your own gender and other genders”. I will respect someone’s choice of definition for their own sexual identity and not argue with them about it – if someone identifies as pan, that’s fine, but I dislike it when people want to talk over bi-identified people and ‘splain to them about their identity. I also really hate the “men, women, and trans people” thing and I’m glad you brought it up because it always feels dismissive of the fact that a trans man is a man, a trans woman is a woman, etc (speaking as a trans man).

    Reply
    • 8. Lucy Valentine  |  September 30, 2015 at 6:04 am

      I have encountered people who declared their attraction to manly men and womanly women, but not to anyone at all androgynous. They also declared themselves bisexual, using it to mean “attracted to men and to women”.

      And that more or less is the source of the issue. Because we can say bi means “own and other” if we like, but that doesn’t change the fact that a significant number of people think it means “women and men”. So we could opt for altering the definition, or changing to a different word.

      Separately, the “men, women, and trans people” thing needs to be burned so hot it erases itself from history.

      Reply
      • 9. caelesti  |  October 5, 2015 at 11:41 pm

        I think a lot of that depends on the person’s level of social/political awareness- most people are not very aware of gender diversity as a whole, so if they identify as bisexual they are more likely to have a rather cis, heteronormative understanding of it. Media depictions of bisexuality reflect this. Most people haven’t heard the word pansexual before Miley Cyrus came out. It’s fine to identify as pan, but if you do activism & try to educate the public, many people will be surprised when you inform them there are more than 2 sexes or genders to be attracted to.

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