I'm A Non-Binary Bisexual/Pansexual. What Does That Mean?
Summer is a time for pride! Around this time of year, I’m going to parades, parties, and posting pics on social media to celebrate. Along with that comes various questions from family, friends and acquaintances about my sexual orientation.
I came out as bisexual in high school, but I’ve always really known, deep down, who I was attracted to. Coming out definitely affected my self-esteem and self-worth as a teen. Since then, I’ve been hypersexualized by straight males, told I’m just greedy, or attention-seeking by my peers, that it’s not a real thing, and that I’m more likely to cheat. I’ve even experienced the LGBTQ+ community expressing that identifying as bi instead of pan is reinforcing the gender binary. Technically I fit the label for both bisexuality and pansexuality. I also identify my gender as non-binary.
To understand all this, here are some helpful terms:
Sex Assignment: Sex is a label - male or female - that you’re assigned by a doctor at birth based on the genitals you’re born with and the chromosomes you have. It goes on your birth certificate.
Gender: One's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.
Non-binary Gender: People whose gender identity doesn’t fall into the male/female and may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither.
Cisgender: People whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth.
Sexual Orientation: Not to be confused with gender identity, sexual orientation is an inherent or unchanging and enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.
Pansexuality: Attraction to people regardless of gender or biological sex. Pansexuals hold space for the idea that gender is very fluid.
Bisexuality: Attraction to people who are of the same gender and a gender other than your own. Bisexuals can be attracted to any two or more genders.
Gender is a social construct set by society. People should be able to identify with whatever gender they feel best suits them, be it male, female, non-binary, genderqueer, or genderfluid, regardless of what the doctor assigns them at birth.
There is a lot of biphobia, misconceptions about bisexuality, and bi-erasure (an effort to remove the label or a generally ignoring bisexuality as a real thing) both within straight society and the LGBTQ+ community. A lot of bi people feel invisible. To represent this feeling, the creator of the bi flag (pink and blue with purple in the middle) said “the key to understanding the symbolism of the bisexual pride flag is to know that the purple pixels of colour blend unnoticeably into both the pink and blue, just as in the real world, where bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities” - Michael Page. In the pansexual flag, the yellow portion in the middle represents non-binary attraction.
One of these misconceptions is that bisexuality reinforces the gender binary, or that bisexual people only date cis people. Another common belief is that bi people are attracted to only 2 genders. Bisexual and pansexual people can be attracted to trans and non-binary humans. Also, there are trans and non-binary people who identify as bisexual or pansexual. Choosing only the bisexual label as the identity that fits you best is ok! There are lots of people who are non-binary and bisexual.
So if you’re into more than one gender, how do you know which is the right label for you personally? Well, which word resonates with you most? Which word feels like home when you use it? Whatever that is, then that’s the right label for you! If you identify as bisexual, but then learnt about pansexuality and think that’s more appropriate for you, or vice versa, you’re allowed to change your labels. Your sexual orientation and the label you choose is not merely a phase (another common misconception) but can be part of an exploration of your sexuality.