6 college students explain what being pansexual means to them

the voice and vision of a new generation

6 college students explain what being pansexual means to them

December 8, 2018

Growing up in the South and coming from a more conservative, religious background, it took me a while to figure out some big things about my identity. One of those things was my sexuality. For the longest time, I could not see past the notion that people could only be attracted to one gender. Being attracted to a person regardless of their gender, pansexuality, was a concept that was never presented to me as a reality growing up.

But even after realizing my truth, I did not feel the need to even let others know about my sexuality. I thought that even if I shared my sexuality with others, it would still be seen as invalid. However, there was a huge problem with this. I absolutely hated the fact that people would just assume that I was straight or only attracted to one gender. And in this way, I felt invisible.

Even today, as a trans person, I sometimes even feel that my sexuality is overlooked as being not as important to my identity as my transness. But every part of my identity is meaningful, valid, and worthy of being celebrated.

This is exactly why Pansexual Pride Day and fostering awareness and visibility for pansexuality is important. There are many other people out there, who like me, feel or have felt that their identities are not recognized. But representation and awareness are essential for acceptance and true understanding.

So, to me, being pansexual is being attracted to a person for their mind, their soul, and their whole being. Despite what others may believe, I am not confused, afraid of commitment, or even ashamed for that matter. I am proud of who I am. I am proud to be pansexual.

Check out below to learn how these 5 GLAAD Campus Ambassadors navigate their pansexual identities. 

Mason Bernardo

Western Washington University

I identify as a pansexual, transgender man! I often get asked what pansexual means. It's a foreign term for people not involved in the community. For me, being pansexual means I'm attracted to boys, girls, and everything in-between and outside of that gender binary.

Though bisexual means being attracted to two or more genders, as a trans man, I have always been more comfortable with identifying as pansexual. For me, it means not being attracted to any specific gender. I'm attracted to hearts, not parts. I wish people knew that being pansexual is not meant to invalidate the bi community. They are different (though similar) sexualities, not meant to be at "war" with one another.

Christine Miyazato

UC Santa Barbara

I identify as a queer, pansexual or panromantic Japanese American womxn. I mostly identify with “queer” as opposed to “pansexual” because I feel it is a more fluid label, one that allows for less confinement and more freedom to just be. However, pansexuality is important to me to define and reclaim because it helps others understand the diversity in romantic and sexual orientation and, by proxy, the multitude of gender expressions that exist.

Common misconceptions that some have about pansexual identity is that pansexual people, much like the bisexual stereotype, are either “greedy” or can’t “pick a side.” These assumptions and stereotypes can really harm us and are not factual, but perpetuated by both the queer community and straight people.

My pansexual role model is Janelle Monae, because she’s fearless and unapologetic and allows no one control over her own personhood. In many ways we’ve had similar upbringings. Both of us were raised in the church, have working-class backgrounds, and initially struggled to find our place in the world. But even if she doesn’t have all the answers, she’s OK with that. And I think there’s liberation in knowing what we can control, and knowing that there are some things in life we just can’t control.

Francisco Xavier

UC Santa Barbara

I was first introduced to the term pansexual through my close friend. They have always been very open with their sexuality and it is through their openness that I was able to explore my queer identity. I still use their definition to explain pansexuality which basically says that pansexuality means that your heart has no set image of who you will be physically or romantically attracted to. Acknowledging the fact that gender and sexuality are fluid I currently feel that pansexuality best describes me, but I also recognize that I have the freedom to decide what titles (if any at all) fit me best.

I often find myself being asked unwarranted and extremely invasive sexual questions. I have no issue educating people on the spectrum of sexual and gender identities, but I am very often left leaving conversations feeling like my entire identity was reduced to who I chose to sleep with. To counter the sexual comments I have come to the conclusion that it is beneficial to both the person and I that I express my feelings. Although it may feel uncomfortable it is a necessary conversation that can make a difference in the way an individual understands your sexual and/or gender identity.

Valentina Ríos Romero

Middlebury College

I identify as a pansexual woman. Being pansexual means that I am attracted to people regardless of their gender identity. For me, this is all about the freedom to feel whatever I may feel, without the imposed constraints of thinking ‘but I should be attracted to this person’ or ‘I shouldn’t be feeling this for this person.’ People think that this means you’re attracted to everybody, in a similar misconception to bisexuality.

Growing up and first realizing I was queer was a process imbued with a lot of guilt and confusion. I think this second-guessing is a big part of the coming-of-age of so many queer kids, especially in Mexico, where I’m from, where the vocabulary and visibility of queerness is still an ongoing process.

Pansexuality is about assuming an identity that gives me the freedom to be attracted to whomever I’m attracted to without questioning myself or without feeling like that somehow threatens who I am. It’s about self-acceptance, and an excitement for self-discovery.  

Sunanda Tamrakar

University of Pittsburgh

I identify as an Asian pansexual woman. I think people just assume that when you’re pan, you’re attracted to everyone. But just like people who are bi, that isn’t always the case and it doesn’t have to be.

Being pansexual to me represents a sense of freedom—validating the fluidity of attraction in that there are no boundaries or limitations.

Gabriel Brown is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a junior at Marshall University studying biological sciences and chemistry. Gabe is the Lead Facilitator for the LGBTQ+ Office's student-led Transgender Support Group and is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, National Service Fraternity.

the voice and vision of a new generation