Happy Pansexual Awareness Day! In this story, published by teenvogue, Elana Rubin shares her experience about how she realized she was pansexual, and what pansexuality means for her. For more facts about pansexuality, check out "6 Facts About the Pansexual Pride Flag"!
I realized I was pansexual when I was 20 years old. Up until college, I had not even considered the possibility that I was not straight. I walked home one night, after listening to a fellow student discuss her coming out story, and thought about my perceived sexuality. I thought of my boyfriend, abroad in Italy, and was confused what it would mean to no longer be his straight girlfriend — what if I was attracted to other genders, too? I had never thought much about it. I just assumed, because I liked guys up until that point, that I was straight.
When I was younger, I only found myself attracted to boys. And it made sense — any boy I befriended, older people made implied romantic comments about the relationship, encouraging it. So I thought that’s what happens — I date boys and will eventually marry a man. But that one student’s candidness about her sexuality truly made me reevaluate what I thought was a given. What took me around two more years to realize fully is that it’s not that I was straight my whole life up until that point — it’s just that I had closed myself off to the idea of being anything other than that. This meant taking 20 years of heterosexual relationships as my only guide of romance — in media and almost all the people that I knew — and realizing, for me, it doesn’t have to be that way. It isn’t that way. I’m attracted to someone for who they are as a person, regardless of their gender.
The first person who wasn’t a cisgender guy that I was interested in was Ruby Rose, who identifies as genderfluid (though she uses she/her/hers pronouns). I know you’ve probably heard about the “straight” girl crushing on Ruby Rose before; don’t roll your eyes. When I watched season three of Orange is the New Black, I totally hopped aboard the Ruby Rose train. She was mysterious, sexy and of course had an accent. So while she didn’t in fact “make me gay,” she solidified what I suspected as my truth. My second non-male crush identifies as female and wasn’t a celebrity; she was someone I met through work. She perfected the art of conversation and had a glowing smile, and spending time with her felt safe and right.
What pansexuality means to me is my attraction to people isn’t based on their gender. I’m attracted to someone who’s ambitious, smart, dorky and caring. I like someone that challenges me, and forces me to defend my opinions and mind. I like someone I can easily laugh with, someone who will watch Netflix with me and unapologetically love One Direction as much as I do. And these characteristics can be found in any gender.
What’s especially fun and exciting as a pansexual person is how my attraction for different people and genders manifests. I find with people who aren’t male that I’m more at ease and immediately comforted — albeit still nervous when a cute barista says she likes my makeup. With men, there’s more of a guard up that I’ve got to work around. Getting around that can be worth it, though.
With the boyfriend I had in college, what worried me was our relationship would change due to my “new” sexuality. It was also confusing to reconcile that I discovered this part of me that recognizes attraction to other people. I was nervous to explain this to him, and aimed to be as clear as possible that my sexuality didn’t change the fact that I wanted to be with him. I knew he’d be supportive, but no matter how wonderful you think people will be when coming out, it’s still a huge thing to reveal and feeling anxious is definitely understood.
Questioning years of attraction toward one gender and questioning if you can be attracted to other genders is 100% OK, and definitely worth the journey of self-discovery. Now it has been three years since I realized I’m pansexual. I have come out to my friends and family; most of them responded with an outpouring of love. I’m unbelievably excited to continue vocalizing this part of my identity, embrace others joining the community with open arms and can’t wait to rock the hell out of NYC Pride.
By Elana Rubin