My sexuality is an essential part of my personality – especially because it took a long time to figure out exactly how I identified. It’s great to be confident in my own skin, but as a pansexual in a straight-presenting relationship, I have first-hand experience of feeling like an outsider.
Pansexuals (and bisexuals) don’t fit neatly into the boxes created by society. The chameleons of the sexual spectrum, we are neither gay nor straight. Or perhaps we are gay and straight? Who knows.
Either way, identifying as pansexual or bisexual can leave you with a quiet fear that people are judging you. Queer spaces are fabulous, but a sense of not quite belonging nags at me whenever I go to an LGBTQ+ venue with my partner. Do people think we’re being voyeuristic? Are they silently cursing us for invading their safe space, not aware that I’m part of the community? Am I gay enough? My experiences have been nothing but welcoming, yet that uncomfortable sensation remains, manifesting as a lump in my throat and a twist in my gut.
Yes, there’s a strong chance most of this anxiety is in my head. I’m an overthinker at the best of times. It’s perfectly probable that people are too caught up in their own business to care about little old me. Yet for a Gen X-er (or Xennial if you prescribe to this microgeneration), it’s real.
Of course, bisexual people existed when I was growing up, but the world was divided into two clear halves – gay on one side and straight on the other. People who identified in other ways were hidden in the void between the two. It’s not so different from how I feel now, as though I need to announce my sexuality to qualify. I might be in the chasm but I’m screaming and shouting and, quite literally, waving a flag to be seen.
Did the bisexuals and pansexuals of former generations want the same? Did they also see our sexuality as an integral part of who we are?
I sport a pin badge of the pansexual flag on my bag as though to qualify my credentials. Those three stripes are a call for acceptance, proving as much to myself as anyone else that I belong in queer spaces and telling society that what they see might not be what I am. Friends who are bisexual do the same, wearing their flag loud and proud. We’re here, they state, wordlessly. We don’t want to be invisible.
Bisexuals and pansexuals must explicitly state their sexuality to be recognized as anything other than gay or straight, yet this extroverted showing of our colors isn’t just for ourselves. It’s for those who are not out, people who are questioning.
Whether the erasure of certain sexualities is deliberate or not, it comes down to the old saying: If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. That’s why, regardless of the imposter syndrome I feel, I am determined to show who I am. If one bisexual or pansexual person spots my pin and feels more welcome in queer spaces, the nervous stomach is more than worth it.