A lot of times when queer people talk about their coming out experience, they describe a “moment of realization” when they finally discovered they are attracted to the opposite sex. Often times this moment includes another person or a poster of a celebrity that sparks something in them that they never knew was there. Other people say that they always knew and grew up either expressing it or hiding it. I had neither of these experiences.
I never really gave a second thought to my sexuality or how I was supposed to define it. I dated men because the few people I had liked enough to actually date happened to be men. When I was 19, I dated a woman for the first time, though it didn’t stand out to me until I started telling my friends and family about her. I got questions like “Are you a lesbian now?”, “How do you know you like her as more than just a friend?”, and even “Is it because she dresses like a boy?” The reactions I received from my loved ones about my relationship were disheartening, but they made me think about my sexuality in a way I never had before. I sat down with my girlfriend and tried to come to terms with a label that I felt fit me. When I told her I didn’t care about the sex or gender of my partner, she helped me settle on the term pansexual. The label felt foreign and weird to me, but it was comforting to actually have a word for something that I hadn’t even known I needed to define.
This moment was one of the first times I realized that this relationship would have a greater impact on me than I ever anticipated. After my girlfriend and I split up, I was anxious to return to the dating world with my new-found sexual identity. I wasn’t sure how either men or women would respond to it, or if I should even tell them. My short time in a queer relationship had taught me that bisexuality and pansexuality were sometimes not well received in both the straight and the LGBTQIA communities. I was afraid that my duel attraction to the sexes would exile me from a world that I hadn’t even really entered yet.
A few months after my breakup with my girlfriend, I starting a boy that I had met at work. I ultimately decided to tell him about my sexuality and to my surprise he seem unaffected by the news, which made me feel both relieved and foolish all at the same time. After a few weeks of dating however, I started to realize that I felt much different in this relationship than I had any of my previous ones, queer or not. Once I came to terms with my sexuality and was openly accepted for it, I felt more confident in every aspect of our relationship. I no longer felt like I had to hide, even though before hand I had no idea what I was hiding from. Sexually, I had a better understanding of my body and my desires, and I had no hesitation in telling him my wants and needs because I had no secrets. Emotionally, I felt closer to him because I knew I was being honest. The freedom that I felt was unlike anything I had ever experienced, like I was escaping from a room that I didn’t know had an exit.
Today I am openly and proudly pansexual, and although I still get questioned on the validity of my identity sometimes, I feel secure in who I am and all of my relationships have been better because of that. I am an advocate for the bisexual and pansexual community, because I believe that if I had known these terms existed when I was younger, I may have been able to explore my identity earlier instead of spending so much time in the dark. Dating a girl changed the way I date not just in regards to gender, but also in the way I allow myself to give love and to receive love. Although you should never have to pick a label for the comfort of other people, sometimes being able to define your identity for yourself can bring you more comfort than you ever anticipated.
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