Bisexual vs. Pansexual

When I was 15, I came out as bisexual, because I liked boys and girls.

A few months later, my friend confided in me that she thought she might be bisexual too, because she’d found herself unexpectedly crushing on another girl at summer camp.

We did some research online together, excitedly chattering about sapphic infatuations all the while – and as we learned more and more, my friend said to me, “I think I might be pansexual, not bisexual.” I asked her why and she said, “Because I’m attracted to people regardless of whether they’re male or female.”

This felt strange to me then, and it still feels strange to me now when I hear this argument from other people. Being bisexual doesn’t mean I’m attracted to dicks and pussies – it means I’m attracted to people, people of either sex, but people nonetheless.

It’s been suggested to me many times that perhaps pansexual would be a better label for me, since I’m often attracted to people who don’t conform to the gender binary – mainly, boyish girls or genderqueer female-bodied folks. The term “pansexual” was essentially invented to describe people whose attractions don’t fit within the clean-cut gender binary of male/female – and yeah, that’s me.

But the more I think about it, the more I feel that bisexual is a suitable label for me – because I’m attracted to people within a binary. It’s just not the traditional gender binary. I’m attracted to cis men and gender-fucking female-bodied people. There are occasional exceptions, but those are the two major groups I find myself drawn to, romantically and sexually.

The prefix “pan” means “all” or “every,” and that just doesn’t apply to me. I don’t seem to have the capacity to be attracted to people of every gender identification; only a few.

From time to time, I toy with the label “androsexual,” since masculine energy is really what gets me hot, regardless of what type of body it’s emanating from. But that’s not as recognizable a term as bisexual. I don’t always relish having to explain my attraction patterns to heteronormative folks, because they’re prone to asking questions like, “If you’re attracted to butchy women, why not just date men? Isn’t it basically the same thing?” (Oy vey.)

How do you feel about terms like bisexual and pansexual? Do you identify with one, neither, or both? How do the people in your social circles use these terms?

Sharing the Sexy #7

• Here’s the 7 dumbest myths about gay sex.

• Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson is launching a company that sells stylish bowties to benefit pro-gay rights organizations. I don’t know about you, but I love being able to buy cute things and support my favorite causes at the same time!

• This dildo is apparently spiritually charged. Would you buy one?

• This theory of attraction purports to explain why we get into certain kinds of relationships with certain kinds of people.

• This headline is so ridiculous, it requires no commentary: Man Tries to Rape Raccoon, Gets His Penis Bitten Off.

• Got a vaginal infection you want to cure naturally? (I am so amused by the suggestion to put garlic in your vagina. I’ll definitely try this next time I get an infection…!)

• This guy’s penis inhaled a condom…?! “Basically you know when the tip goes inside out and inside your penis? That’s it.” Uh, no, I don’t know if I’ve seen that one before.

• I made a list of examples of how our society actively encourages women to suppress our sexuality. Can you think of any more?

• The Pervocracy writes about that age-old battle: vibrator vs. penis. My thoughts, as someone who owns a zillion vibrators and has a wonderful boyfriend with a wonderful cock? Both are satisfying. Both are immensely pleasurable. And both have their time and place in my life, absolutely.

• Feeling generous? A Steampunk’s Guide to Sex is taking Kickstarter donations.

• In sex-positive circles, we spend a lot of time discussing all the kinky and out-there things we’d like to try… but what don’t you want to do in bed? My list: scat (but I’d give watersports a shot), armpit-licking, group sex with four or more people, ass-to-mouth, and getting fucked with anything over 8 inches long (sorry, huge dudes!).

• This man cut off, cooked, and served his own penis. I’m speechless.

• In honor of Bi Visibility Day, Carrie wrote about being an out-and-proud bisexual. Hell yeah!

• Rush Limbaugh is seriously blaming small penises on feminists. What the fuck is wrong with this guy?

Sharing the Sexy #3

Hey babies! I’m currently sitting in the window of a Starbucks eyeing up some hot girls in plaid shirts… um, I mean, typing up this post. Here’s some sexy stuff I saw on the internet this week; what have you been up to?

• Mandy “can’t stop hate-masturbating to Paul Ryan.” This piece made me laugh and (to my chagrin) kind of turned me on. Yeah, Paul Ryan is physically attractive (sigh!). It’s kind of like how I find John Mayer insanely sexy, but he’s also kind of a dick. (Did I just compare Paul Ryan to John Mayer? I’m pretty sure that’s extremely insulting to both of them.)

A woman on Sexxit is upset because of some things her high-functioning autistic husband said to her about their sexual relationship. I found this particularly fascinating because an ex-boyfriend of mine had Asperger’s and we had similar issues, though obviously not as severe (we only dated for a few weeks). Read the comments – there’s some gems, including an insightful reply from another person with Asperger’s. (If you find this stuff as interesting as I do, watch the movie Adam, stat!)

• Dodson and Ross talk about sexual communication and why you shouldn’t lie about what you like. This video makes me feel very lucky to have a boyfriend who listens to my sexual requests and makes ‘em happen.

• Have you ever wanted to see me modelling a silly pinup sailor costume? Well, now you can. (Backstory: Eden didn’t have any new toys I wanted to review this month, so I figured I’d use my monthly free assignment to get myself a Halloween costume. Except it ended up being pretty mediocre, so I might realize my dreams of Halloweening as Jane Lane after all.)

• Luke Young writes with disdain about ways to increase penis size. I have to agree with him that it isn’t worth the risk (and I prefer average-sized dicks anyway), but I’ve heard of several men who’ve had success with jelqing.

• Here’s a round-up of facts and chatter around that idiot Paul Akin and his comments on how, when rape leads to pregnancy, it wasn’t “legitimate rape.” Thanks, Republican upper-class white cis dude, for yet another opinion on my anatomy! I’m glad you feel so entitled to mansplain such things. *rolls eyes*

• Another piece on Akin: Cool Party You’ve Got There, Republicans. Melissa McEwan is my hero.

A New Zealand TV commercial got away with using the words “vagina” and “discharge.” It saddens me that we live in a world so puritanical that this is considered somehow scandalous, but it’s still a step forward and I’m happy.

• This week on Sexxit, there was a thread about how to have civil conversations about circumcision and intactivism. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m somewhat tired of being expected to have “civil conversations” with people who make unnecessary, life-altering, sexually damaging decisions on behalf of their non-consenting children.

• Don’t know what porn to watch? Here’s a periodic table of feminist porn!

• Rachel Rabbit White writes about what happens when porn star Joanna Angel goes speed-dating.

• My boyfriend talks about what it’s like to date a sex toy reviewer. Apparently it’s pretty cool.

• This “dinner table debate” between Dan Savage (gay sex columnist) and Brian Brown (president of the National Organization for Marriage) is very interesting. Particularly hilarious: Brown’s assertion that “just because you believe something is wrong, it doesn’t mean that you make it illegal” (he was talking about divorce, and apparently didn’t see the irony in this argument) and his usage of the word “marginalize” to describe what same-sex marriage advocates are doing to the church. Ha ha, yeah, us queer folks are so big and strong and we’re always bullying the poor weak church. Right. You go on believing that fable if it makes you feel better about your bigotry.

Public Service Reminder: Sexual Orientation is Internal

I’ve been engaging in a lot of conversations lately about various aspects of queer sexuality – what else is new? – and it occurred to me that a lot of people hold a huge misconception about sexual orientation.

Many people think you can tell a person’s sexual orientation from how they look, move, or speak. This could not be further from the truth.

In fact, you can never actually know someone’s sexual orientation unless they tell it to you in no uncertain terms. It’s just not something that can be definitively read. Doesn’t matter how good you think your “gaydar” is, or how much you think you know the “signs” – there’s literally no way to know for sure how someone identifies, unless they tell you themselves.

This extends to gender identity and trans* status, too. I’ve heard all too many people claim they’ve “never met a trans person,” but the thing is, they don’t know that. There aren’t any foolproof, telltale signs. Thinking you know whether someone is trans is as ignorant as thinking you know someone’s STI status just by looking at them – you don’t. There’s no way you could.

As a queer femme in a relationship with a dude, I get misread all the time. I understand perfectly well why it happens – I “look straight” (i.e. girly and not particularly “alternative” in any way), and I’m often holding hands with a member of the opposite sex. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I recall the time I got booed at a Pride event for kissing my boyfriend, and how hurtful that was. That person assumed I was straight. They don’t know me and they don’t know what’s in my heart, but they thought they did, and that hurts.

But the thing is, practically everyone does it. I did it myself, the other day. A guy I volunteer with, who I’d always assumed was gay because he’d been telling me about the man he was seeing, suddenly mentioned that he doesn’t identify as gay. I still don’t know how he does identify, but it was a great reminder that we all need to stop making so many assumptions and just have the courage to ask if we’re curious. It’s been my experience, in queer and trans* communities, that asking someone “What do you identify as?” or “What pronouns do you use?” or “What kind of person are you usually attracted to?” is not frowned upon, but instead, almost always welcomed. People love to talk about themselves, especially if asked in a respectful, genuinely interested way.

How do you identify? Where do you lie on the Kinsey scale? Do you ever get misread for an identity that doesn’t fit you? How do you deal with that?

Story Time: My First Girlfriend

There’s nothing quite like being freshly out of the closet.

Once the smoke has cleared and you’re no longer dealing with a daily onslaught of reactions to your announcement, you can see the enormous horizons in front of you. You can see all the people who you now have permission to date and to fuck. And it’s a freeing, though incredibly terrifying, feeling.

I came out as bi when I was fifteen, after I realized that a raver chick who’d been flirting with me was actually pretty attractive. Not just in an “Oh hey, I like her outfit” kind of way, but in an “I wouldn’t mind if she pinned me against a wall and kissed me til my lips bruise” kind of way.

The raver girl got a boyfriend just before school let out for the summer. I remember being crushed when, on the last day of ninth grade, I stood by the front doors and watched her walk out, hand in hand with her new man (or should I say, boy). I had this sense that she was the only girl in possession of the key to my bisexuality, and I’d have to give up on girls forever now. It was silly, but it was how I felt.

But when we got back to school after the summer of my first Pride, I noticed a new girl. A charming, awkward, witty, intelligent girl who loved Edward Albee and potato latkes. Her gender presentation veered toward androgyny, and she proudly self-identified with the word “dyke,” but she was nowhere near butch. To this day, I still have a thing for girls who are boyish as hell but still very much girls (which I realize is hard to conceptualize and visualize – it’s more of a “vibe” thing, I suppose).

She wrote to me online to tell me she liked something I’d written, some story I’d read aloud in the English class we’d shared in the previous school year. We sent messages back and forth after that, rarely encountering each other at school but encountering each other multiple times a day in our online haunts. We talked about books and films and strange societal phenomena.

I remember standing at the sinks in the girls’ bathroom with my best friend at the time, and telling her, “I think I have a crush on that girl I’ve been talking to.” My friend said, “You should ask her out!” Like it was so simple. Like I was that brave. Like I was ready to take on my first relationship, period, let alone my first queer relationship.

It took me an entire month to build up a sense that The Girl actually liked me, in some way beyond just admiring my writing and my taste in horror flicks. But she did. I was almost certain of it. The way she looked up at me demurely when I walked by her group of friends at lunch, the way she snuck out of detention just to talk to me for a few short minutes, the way she kept mentioning her gayness and my biness as if to confirm the compatibility of the two. It seemed almost like an invitation.

Once, on the subway, I leaned forward to hug her just as the train was pulling into my stop, and it suddenly jerked, causing me to fall right into her. Body contact. Words caught somewhere in my esophagus. I gasped and giggled and rushed off the train, euphoric.

So it was finally time to do something about it.

I wrote her a letter, though “assembled” would probably be a better word, since it was actually just an annotated collection of excerpts from my journal. The excerpts explained that I really, really liked her, that I wanted to be with her and thought she was wonderful and thought about kissing her. Mushy crap that I figured she would like.

After shoving the letter nervously into her hands at the very end of a party, I said goodbye and rushed home. I didn’t want to be anywhere near her when she read that thing. I wanted to be far enough away that she could completely ignore me if she wanted to.

But she didn’t want to. My phone rang shortly after I arrived home.

“Hi.” It was her.
“Hi.” I felt like I’d been dunked in ice.
“Hi. So… we should date.”

And so began the most gutwrenching and romantically titillating few weeks of my life thus far.

To be continued…?

Readers: Have any romantic stories from your youth to share? Did your first boyfriend/girlfriend live up to your expectations of relationships? How have you grown since then?