Bi, gay, pansexual: What do I call myself?

Originally Published: December 12, 2003 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: September 14, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I don't like to be considered gay nor bisexual, and I identified as pansexual for a bit, until I found out that pansexuality is sexual expression of all kinds. I want to know what I am. I don't like labels and I think that everyone and anyone can fall in love with anyone else of any gender, therefore I believe that there is no such thing as sexual orientations. What is a word for that?

Dear Reader,

We live in a society that, unfortunately, likes to put people in boxes with simple labels: gay, bisexual, black, white, etc. For some of us, the fit doesn't seem to really work, and many times this insistence on a clear-cut, one-word label can actually prevent us from getting to know each other as the multi-faceted individuals we are.

It appears that you've been thinking about this a lot, and though you profess that you don't like labels, you still find yourself searching for one. While labels are limiting, they can also be useful, or even liberating sometimes. Being able to describe oneself with a word or term that is shared with others can help an individual form a community with people who might have similar experiences. Sometimes the changed usage of a label empowers groups of people, such as the embracing of the word "queer" by some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.

As far as labels go, it seems that there isn't an agreed-upon term for someone who doesn't believe in sexual orientation and thinks that it's possible for any person of any gender to love any other person. You might find that you have to explain this concept rather than give a one-word answer if someone asks, "What are you?" Better yet, explain why that question is limiting in and of itself. You are a person who likes to think that identity is complex and deserves more than a one-word answer.

As for your original embrace of "pansexual" as an identity, the term is, as you pointed out, a complex one. Some people think it means what you originally thought: openness to being with members of both the same and opposite sex. It is, instead, a term that arose in the early 1900s to describe a way of thinking — especially prominent in certain psychoanalytic circles — that sexual instinct plays a part in all human thoughts and activities, even being the most important or only source of real energy in our lives. In fact, its earliest uses, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, were meant as insults directed at those psychoanalysts.

Over the years, though, pansexual has come to mean that a person is capable of falling in love with and/or having a sexual attraction to a person regardless of where they stand on the gender/sexuality spectrum. This is different from bisexuality, because "bi" implies only two genders (men and women). Pansexuals can be attracted to cismen, ciswomen, transmen, transwomen, intersex people, androgynous people, and everything else. It is generally considered a more inclusive term than bisexual.

In the meantime, perhaps you can come up with your own term for yourself, as well as for those with attractions similar to yours. Other Go Ask Alice! readers are welcome to write in with their own ideas as well (send us your comments in the "submit your comments here" box below the Related Questions).

Alice

December 19, 2014

594643
You be whatever you wish to be, you are amazing just the way you are!
You be whatever you wish to be, you are amazing just the way you are!

August 8, 2013

534335
This is actually a very articulate and informed response to the writer's question. I am impressed. The prefix "pan" is an effective label for those that recognize the fluidity of sex, gender, and...
This is actually a very articulate and informed response to the writer's question. I am impressed. The prefix "pan" is an effective label for those that recognize the fluidity of sex, gender, and sexuality. It precludes the importance of the long standing binary that infects those concepts. The writer and others with similar mindsets and outlooks, while being able to use the Pan label as a social shortcut, will most likely end up having to expound further, as it is not currently a mainstream term. But discourse leads to understanding, more so than labels, which, quite often lead to misunderstanding due to misinterpretation. Just my 2 cents. (=

December 17, 2012

520287
I think of myself as having "fluid" sexuality.
I think of myself as having "fluid" sexuality.

December 12, 2012

520062
I've considered myself a lesbian for years. Well up until recently. I have had feelings for men occasionally, and I can also see myself potentially falling in love with a trans person. Pansexual is a...
I've considered myself a lesbian for years. Well up until recently. I have had feelings for men occasionally, and I can also see myself potentially falling in love with a trans person. Pansexual is a lovely term. It promotes love regardless of gender.

December 12, 2012

520051
Pomosexuality refers to a nonorientation in which people disregard sexual labels altogether.
Pomosexuality refers to a nonorientation in which people disregard sexual labels altogether.

June 21, 2012

512757
I have the same thoughts as well. I think that there is that one person out there for everyone, and I say person because for me the gender doesn't matter. So when people ask me "what do you like?...
I have the same thoughts as well. I think that there is that one person out there for everyone, and I say person because for me the gender doesn't matter. So when people ask me "what do you like? Girls or boys" I just say "I like people"

March 22, 2012

508987
Polysexuality refers to people who are attracted to more than one gender or sex but do not wish to identify as bisexual because it implies that there are only two binary genders or sexes. Polysexuals...
Polysexuality refers to people who are attracted to more than one gender or sex but do not wish to identify as bisexual because it implies that there are only two binary genders or sexes. Polysexuals are those people sexually attracted to many different sorts of ideas, races, and characteristics. Polysexuality should not be confused with pansexuality; pan meaning all, and poly meaning many, though not necessarily all. Polysexuality is a self-identifying term that is somewhat amorphous, as there is a wide variety of different people who use the term to describe themselves.

May 4, 2009

21541
Alice,

I call myself "try-sexual" in that I will at least consider trying just about anything sexual. I do not consider labels for myself that important, and I have found that others who label...

Alice,

I call myself "try-sexual" in that I will at least consider trying just about anything sexual. I do not consider labels for myself that important, and I have found that others who label themselves to often ignore those labels. I had a very nice relationship with a committed lesbian once. She had a real problem when she felt she needed to reclassify herself as bi because of our relationship. I told her that it wasn't necessary, but she got hung up on the chubby hole... was sad.

To all, just find love and pleasure where you find it, be open to anything. There is too little happiness in the world today and we all need more of it. Less limiting and more joy, that is what we all should strive for.

July 28, 2008

21284

Dear Alice,

I want to make sure that, no matter what pansexuality started off as, today it actually refers to a person who is NOT ONLY intrested in sex/sexuality, but a person who loves a...

Dear Alice,

I want to make sure that, no matter what pansexuality started off as, today it actually refers to a person who is NOT ONLY intrested in sex/sexuality, but a person who loves a person for who they are — no mater the gender or sexual orientation. This includes people who are transexual/transgender, hermaphrodite, androgynous, etc, and thus goes beyond mere bisexuality. It is a person who loves the other person's personality, intelligence, humor, and all the other little quirks that make that person the unique individual. Looks are NOT the primary factor, nor is some primal urge of sexuality, or being a sexual adict. I just wanted to make sure that was clear.... since many people do not know the term pansexual. Thanks!

June 28, 2006

21093

Dear Alice,

When people's small minds can't grasp my open-mindedness with my sexuality, and they just have to ask what my sexual orientation is, I respond with "I'm just sexual."

Dear Alice,

When people's small minds can't grasp my open-mindedness with my sexuality, and they just have to ask what my sexual orientation is, I respond with "I'm just sexual."

December 16, 2004

20828
Alice,

For me, what I call that is being open-minded in your attraction. *Smiles* Why do you need to label yourself? If someone isn't intrested enough to learn what you feel you are, if they only...

Alice,

For me, what I call that is being open-minded in your attraction. *Smiles* Why do you need to label yourself? If someone isn't intrested enough to learn what you feel you are, if they only want a little label to slap on you, then it isn't worth giving them one. Or at least, that's what I feel. You don't always have to have words to describe what you are, as long as you're true to yourself.

The Open-minded Teen

October 22, 2004

20804
Dear Alice,

I have heard many titles for people's sexualities. The most recent deals with sexuality, however doesn't at the same time.

Metrosexual. AKA a straight guy who cares about the...

Dear Alice,

I have heard many titles for people's sexualities. The most recent deals with sexuality, however doesn't at the same time.

Metrosexual. AKA a straight guy who cares about the way he looks.

-Bardwells

May 9, 2004

20708
Dear Alice, Comment for Bi/Gay/Pan-Sexual: Some people use the term "pomosexual" (as in "postmodern") as a way of not labeling as gay/straight/bi.
Dear Alice, Comment for Bi/Gay/Pan-Sexual: Some people use the term "pomosexual" (as in "postmodern") as a way of not labeling as gay/straight/bi.

January 9, 2004

20523
Hey Alice, After reading BI, GAY, PAN-SEXUAL: WHAT DO I CALL MYSELF?, I have something to say, too. I think there are a lot of people in this world who are just as confused as the writer. Maybe it's...
Hey Alice, After reading BI, GAY, PAN-SEXUAL: WHAT DO I CALL MYSELF?, I have something to say, too. I think there are a lot of people in this world who are just as confused as the writer. Maybe it's the society that made us this way??? I don't really know. For instance, I, too, have wondered what exactly am I. I am definitely attracted to males, not to females. However, I found myself looking at girls and compliment them in my head. And I was also raised to appreciate the beauty of the female body. Well, words are made up by people, if the writer really insisted on giving/finding himself/herself a name, then make one up. Because in my mind, as long as you're in love, it doesn't really matter what gender you are. Because seriously, those people can talk about others all they want, they just might be one of those people who're trying to hide their own personal sexual curiosities. ---nymph---