I identify as pansexual because that’s the word that I think most closely describes my sexual orientation, but I don’t actually think that I am pansexual. Can you even be pansexual without the sex part?? Probably, but sometimes it feels like I can’t really know how I identify until I’ve had sex. “Pan” means “all” or “every,” but I’m not attracted to everyone. I know that’s not what pansexual means – obviously pansexual people aren’t attracted to everyone – but when I am attracted to someone, I am only attracted to that one person. When I am not interested in any one person, it almost feels like I’m attracted to no one. Not in an asexual way (although maybe???), but more like my sexual orientation is a compass. When I am attracted to someone, really attracted – emotionally, physically, sexually, romantically – not just a passing attraction, my internal compass orients itself. But when I don’t have someone in my life it just kind of spins and spins and doesn’t point anywhere. It is disoriented. Is there a word for that? Does there have to be?
Being in a state of disorientation is exactly as it sounds, very disorienting. You don’t realize how heavily we define ourselves by our sexual orientation until you don’t have one. When you picture your future, who are you supposed to picture it with? When you talk crushes with your friends, how can you accurately express that while you may find people attractive, you’re not actually attracted to anyone right now, man or woman, gay or straight, cis or trans, not even in a theoretical way. Not even in a silly, in-your-wildest-dreams celebrity crush kind of way. It is very hard to put into words, because for most people, even if they aren’t seeing anyone, they are attracted to people. At this point in my life I don’t feel that I am.
Does that mean that I am just waiting for the next person to come along who will awaken some kind of sexual attraction in me? I’m not sure I like the idea that my sexual orientation is contingent on someone else. Shouldn’t that be a thing that is uniquely mine? There’s a sense of dependency in that – a sense of powerlessness. I don’t want to be a radio, that every once in a while broadcasts a song clearly as it is tuned back and forth, but otherwise only transmits ever-changing variations of static. Who is tuning the dial in this scenario? I don’t think it’s me.