Pansexuality: On Being the Bay Leaf
Sometimes I feel like a bay leaf. Why, you ask, do you relate to a herb that may or may not improve the flavor of soup stocks? Because I identify as pansexual. I am attracted to people over their gender; in other words, I am attracted to men, women, and folks otherwise identified.
This identity frequently gets lumped in with bisexuality, and I’ll admit, sometimes it seems simpler to tell folks that I am bisexual. (Please note that due to the lack of quantified research on pansexual health, many of the resources mentioned here draw from research of the bisexual community)
Like the much contested and underrated bay leaf, many fail to notice whether or not bisexual and pansexual people are included in the LGBTQIA alphabet soup. When will someone realize our subtle earthy flavor is missing? Or that there is no P-shaped noodle? At the very least, I feel entitled to an honorary carb!
When it comes to my physical and mental health, I’ve been silent too. Reflecting on my medical history, I’ve never had a conversation with my current primary care provider about my orientation. This reluctance to speak up is more common than I thought – the Human Rights Campaign reports that 33% of bisexual women and 39% of bisexual men do not inform their doctor of their sexual identity.
Sex ed programs might barely scratch the surface on bisexual health. This means a lot of reading between the lines in brochures, guides, websites, etc. on health recommendations for someone who dates all genders.
Occasionally, my bisexual partners have been unaware or unwilling to participate in what I would consider basic healthy habits, such as getting tested for STIs or HIV regularly, cleaning toys, etc.. These habits that are common sense to me based on my own research and self- edification, but something perhaps they have not been introduced to or openly talked about. Sometimes even I could use a reminder.
Getting the conversation going benefits both pansexuals and their partners. Consider talking with your healthcare provider at your next check up, or if you feel uncomfortable having this conversation with your current doctor, take a look at the website Bizone to locate a queer friendly provider near you. BiNet can also direct you to local groups across the country where folks can find community and support. If your doctor is unfamiliar with pansexuality/bisexuality, consider giving them some tips on how to make their practice more inclusive–the HRC’s Health Disparities Among Bisexual People brief has some great suggestions.
If you live somewhere where you have limited access to in-person resources there is also a growing online community of pansexuals you can connect with. Reddit has its own pansexual page with over 6,000 users, featuring coming out stories and advice, interviews and surveys. Tumblr has a strong pansexual presence filled with GIFs and memes, too.
Make sure your voice is heard and stay healthy. Trust me, the soup tastes better when we’re in it!
Alicia Hynes is a strategic storyteller who does her best to take care of her pelvic health. She lives in Maine with her fiance and her hedgehog, Lentil.