Q: My daughter recently sat us down and "came out" to us. It was shocking enough to hear she wasn’t straight. However, she’s not exactly saying she’s gay either. She told us she’s pansexual. I’ve done the research. I get what it means. I just don’t understand how that’s going to play out in our daughter’s life. We’re struggling to figure out how to move forward as a family with this new identity, trying to understand that the new identity doesn’t identify as anything.
Oddly enough, most of us actually aren’t straight—read about the Kinsey scale sometime and see how it applies to you! Here’s a more recent study, many of us enjoy pleasure in less hetero-terms than you seem to expect.
Let’s talk terms: language tends to help us explain and describe complex ideas, but sometimes even our words can be confusing. If your child was "gay" it would be assumed that they are attracted to people with the same assigned-gender. If your child was "bisexual" it would be assumed that they are attracted to people who are same-and-the-opposite assigned gender.
But what if you realize that you are just attracted to human beings and that their gender is irrelevant? Such is the case for the word "pansexual" which is often described as: an attraction not based on gender.
More people who had previously self-labeled as bisexual are now updating that description to pansexual, after they realized that people don’t often fall into these rigid categories of gender-identity expression. Gender is influenced by chromosomes, organs, hormones, and socialization. Transgender people and those that we refer to as "gender nonconforming" are just that; real people who categorically tend to get left out of our conversations about sex and culture when we only talk in typical terms "man" and "woman". Try to not get hung up on the words, it just means that your daughter likes people for who they are.
Great news! You don’t have to do anything as you move forward. Just promise me that if she brings home a date, you won’t ask them any questions about their sexuality; give yourself a chance to get to know people for who they are, and not how they experience their body.
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