I often find myself wondering why pansexuality is excluded from the popularized and legitimized queer discourse. I never see LGBTTQQIAP. (*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual).
The length of LGBTTQQIA(P) is why most places still just refer to it as LGBT, with sometimes a Q for “good measure.” This is also why many places have opened the umbrella of “queer,” since queer in this context refers to all non-heterosexual hegemony identities and orientations.
What is the heterosexual hegemony? The heterosexual hegemony is the pervasive and popularized discourse (conversation, but not limited to speech, including ways of thinking and expressing) of cultures that places everything non-heterosexual on the margins of cultures and societies. The heterosexual hegemony also circulates the idea that there are only two genders, male and female, and that persons are meant to be attracted to their opposite gender. This limiting of gender expression/recognition is the heterosexual gender binary (often simply referred to as “binary gender”); this is also called heterosexualism. The heterosexuality hegemony is why people ask questions like: “Isn’t pansexual the same as bi?”
No. Pan is not the same as Bi. Thanks for asking. I mean really, thanks for asking, glad we can get this conversation going. Bisexuality is the idea of being attracted to the two predominant genders: male and female. Bisexuality had a hard time being accepted into queer discourse, and bisexuals still suffer from internalized homophobia (homophobia expressed by homosexual persons), usually revolving around the idea that bisexual women aren’t real lesbians, that bisexual men pass as straight to not have to confront homophobia, and that bisexuals in general “cannot make up their minds” (a particularly ridiculous assertion: bisexuals have made up their minds, they’ve decided to embrace the two genders they are attracted to).
Maybe we don’t need to pay attention to the part where originally a Sapphist was a female who enjoyed the sexual and romantic company of other women, while a lesbian was a female student of Sappho’s school on Lesbos who enjoyed the sexual and romantic company of other women and the sexual and romantic company of men. Maybe. But maybe words are important. Maybe words contribute to the hegemonic discourse, which in turn creates and perpetuates sites of acceptance, prejudice, and even discursive violence. Maybe not maybe, but actually.
Outside of the heterosexual hegemony it is recognized that there are a plethora of genders. Pansexuality not only recognizes but welcomes more than two genders, expressing the potential or actualized attraction to those genders (and non-genders). Pansexual persons are attracted to other people without limit based on genitalia or gender expression (this is not to say that a pansexual person would be attracted to every other person, genitalia type, or gender expression, just that pansexual people do not experience attraction limited to male/female gender expressions and the traditional genitalia expectations of those two genders). Judith Butler wrote about the notion that gender is not just something we have, but something we do, about gender as a performance exchanged in social interaction that acts as a shortkey of highlights to our personhood.
Perhaps one of the difficulties that pansexuality faces in receiving recognition stems from the difficulty that gender performances outside of the heterosexual (female/male) gender binary have in gaining recognition (never mind acceptance). If performances outside of the heterosexual gender binary are immediately rejected when witnessed or never noticed as being performed (because the predominant social modes of interaction have no accurate category to assign to such performances), then those performances that are outside of the heterosexual gender binary cannot achieve social recognition and acceptance.
So perhaps we need to start acknowledging the non-female, non-male, fluidly-gendered, non-gendered individuals amongst us and creating the legitimized discourse on non-binary gender. And while we’re at it, let’s foster some recognition for those among us who love the variety of genders being expressed. It’s time for some Pansexual Pride.