[OPINION] Why the word 'pansexual' makes me feel safe

My story is quite funny. Or at least I think it is. It's the opposite of the usual stories where people discover their sexuality.

I identified as a lesbian at 12. But then I realized I was attracted to men too at 18. But somehow using the terms for these felt like being in someone else's skin. I didn't fit into an identity, and for a while I was confused. So, I called myself queer.

Then an actress in a lesbian vampire webseries (it's called Carmilla, by the way, and all 3 seasons are on Youtube for free) came out as pansexual. She said she didn't see gender and instead fell in love with people's souls.

Nothing resonated with me as a gay woman the way that did. Ever. 

Sexuality is a spectrum, and I've never believed it to be something that's fixed. But labels provide little niches of acceptance in a community where some of its own members hate each other. Biphobia and transphobia exist in the LGBT community, and sometimes your worst enemies are really your own peers.

The word "pansexual" makes me feel safe. It tells me my feelings and attraction towards the different orientations and identities is valid. I've loved ciswomen and transwomen and transmen and bisexuals and straights. The word "pansexual" tells me, "Hey, there's a place for that; there are people like you, too."

Now I call myself pansexual, and I've never felt more comfortable in my own skin. There's something freeing about having a single word define exactly what you are. I know it's cool to hate labels and wave that around like it's a personality trait, but the word "pansexual" feels like the navigator that brought me to where I was always meant to be. 

I started at the gayest end of the spectrum and slowly found my way home. And that's the story of how I discovered my sexuality in reverse.

Some people would ask me: "Why not just identify as bisexual? That's pretty much the same thing, right?" 

It's not. For me, identifying as bisexual would be a rejection of my attraction to all the genders – male, female, and non-binary – so I tell them, "No, I'm pansexual," and I assert my truth.

Sometimes, though, I still find myself introducing myself as a lesbian because it's easier. I wouldn't have to deal with follow-up questions and having to explain the concept of gender and sexual attraction. I've realized, though, how inimical that can be to the community, how such a small thing can be counterproductive to the cause and defeat all that we've been fighting for: acceptance, recognition, and equality.

I realized the little lies about my sexuality also stem from the part of myself that still thinks this would be easier if I was just attracted to one specific gender, and that I'm still probably just confused. I've spent years trying to reject that part of me, trying to make myself easier to swallow for society. 

But now I'm trying to shake off the habit because it doesn't make sense to do that. What's the point in being an out and proud gay woman only to hide under another sexuality because it's easier for the world to understand?

I think of the younger kids who are confused, who are constantly told that gay is okay, or to just make up their minds about who they're attracted to because it's not normal to be attracted to more than one gender.

I have to come out as pansexual for them, for their sake, so that they find a place where they belong too, so that they can find their way home. – Rappler.com

 Janelle Manzano is a full-time law student, uses she/her pronouns, and is pansexual. When she's not drowning in readings, she paints and writes prose or poetry.