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How to Be An Ally to Bisexual / Pansexual People
1. Learn what being bi/pansexual actually means.
This is the first place to start, and also the easiest. The concept of being bi/pansexual is actually really simple, but people often get confused. When I came out to my Dad, for example, he thought being bi meant I had to date a girl AND a boy at the same time (what the hell, Dad?!). The first step to being supportive of non-binary folks (or any marginalized group) is to educate yourself and the people around you.
THIS is a super-simple, 6-image slideshow that accurately provides the basics on bisexuality, pansexuality, and the gender spectrum.
- Pansexuality, bisexuality and genderfluidity powerpoint
A brief and simplistic explanation of pansexuality, bisexuality, gender-fluidity and the gender binary.
2. Learn the difference between sexual and romantic orientation. (YES, they ARE different!).
Essentially, romantic orientation is who you have mushy-gushy, want-to-date-and-hold-their-hand-and-squeeze-them-and-kiss-them feelings for. It can also include who you are sexually attracted to, but it can also have nothing to do with sex whatsoever.
For example, asexual people do not experience sexual attraction at all/rarely, but can still experience romantic attraction and pursue romantic relationships.
Sexual orientation is who you have lustful, hot-under-the-collar-wanna-rip-my-clothes-off-and-pounce-them feelings for. This may also influence who you have romantic feelings for, but not necessarily.
For example, I am sexually attracted to people of all genders (bi/pansexual), but I am only romantically attracted to women and non-binary people (bi/polysexual - I will not date men).
3. Don't ask me if I've "picked a side."
The whole point of being pansexual is that I am fluid and non-binary in my sexual and romantic tastes. I'm never going to "pick a side" because that is contrary to who I am, how I feel, and who I love.
4. Don't call bi/pan people straight.
A bi/pan person is not straight if they're dating a person of a different gender. They're still bi/pansexual.
5. Don't call bi/pan people gay.
A bi/pan person is not gay if they're dating a person of the same gender. They're still bi/pansexual.
6. Refer to bi/pan people using the language they prefer.
Some of us will want to be referred to as bisexual, others pansexual, and others still as fluid, flexible, or queer. Supporting us is as simple as respecting our identities. You can figure out pretty quickly what language a person would like to be referred to by listening to what language they use to refer to themselves (i.e. if someone says "i'm bi" [bisexual] or "gender doesn't really matter to me" [pansexual] or "I prefer not to define myself that way" [fluid/queer].
*Important: Be mindful that queer is still considered a slur in different parts of the world and even in different cultural contexts, so don't call a person "queer" unless they already use that word when referring to themselves.
7. Don't ask us if we're "sure" we're bi just because we haven't dated someone of the same (or opposite) gender before.
When it comes to bi/panphobia, both straight and gay people are equally at fault. Did you have to date someone of a specific gender (or at all) to realize you were attracted to them? No?? Well neither did we!!
8. Correct others when they mislabel a bi or pansexual person as gay or straight.
Bierasure, or incorrectly labelling bi/pansexual people as either gay or straight, is an endemic problem that quite literally erases the existence of bi/pan people.
Now that you're an informed ally, it's time to share all that you've learned with the people around you. This could apply to your friends or family, or even celebrities, alive (i.e. Kristen Stewart, Anna Paquin, etc.), or dead (i.e. Freddy Mercury, Malcolm X, etc.).
Good job! You are now qualified to be a bi/pansexual ally!
Make sure to comment below and share with those who aren't aware of bi/pan erasure.