What Is Pansexuality? & Black Celebs Who Have Come Out As PansexualDec 02, 2021 03:00PM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
Pansexuality has been pretty unheard of in mainstream media. Representation matters and that means including everyone who makes up the LGBTQIA+ community. According to queer advocacy organization GLADD, being pansexual means being attracted to all gender identities, or attracted to people regardless of gender, whereas being bisexual means being attracted to more than one gender. But sexuality is obviously personal and can mean something different to each person. The prefix ‘pan’ means all, so individuals that identify as pansexual may feel attracted to people across the gender spectrum, including people that identify as agender or nonbinary.
Unfortunately, pansexuality was not previously widely understood, with reports of people in the 1920s and 1930s who loved across 'labels and boundaries' in Harlem and Chicago's South Side being treated as if they suffered from a mental disorder. It wasn’t until pioneering American sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (inventor of the Kinsey scale) explained that sexuality operated on a continuum, that labels began to be introduced to describe sexual orientation. The 1970s saw the first signs of 'pansexual' being used in roughly the same way as it is today.
The pansexual community has its own flag and symbol. The pansexual flag has a pink stripe to represent attraction to women, a yellow stripe to represent attraction to non-binary people, and a blue stripe to represent attraction to men. The pansexuality symbol combines the male, female, and transgender symbols into one, new, P-shaped symbol representing pansexuality.
Janelle Monae called herself ‘a queer Black woman’ for the first time publicly in a Rolling Stone interview, saying she "has been in relationships with both men and women." She said she originally identified as bisexual, but told Rolling Stone she's still learning what label feels best. "I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too,'" she said. So although she didn't officially come out as pansexual, she identifies as queer and with some aspects of pansexuality.
Outer Banks actor Madison Bailey spoke about what it was like to come out as pansexual during an Instagram Live. "I feel zero shame, and I don’t feel that way because nobody’s ever really shamed me for it and I know a lot of people have had a lot of hate and lack of support. I know so many, countless stories of queer people that did not have support," she said. "But if you’re asking me personally, that’s just my experience with it. It was worth it. I feel lighter, I feel happier that I can just be so open and honest. It feels nice."
Rapper and singer Angel Haze spoke to MTV about her sexuality in 2013, saying, "I see people for who they are...I don't base all of my relationships on sex. I'm still a virgin... I care about connecting with people on a deeper level...I want something that's deep-rooted." When she was asked if she identifies as pansexual, she said. "It exactly is...if I had to identify, that is the term I'd use to describe how I feel."
Fans started speculating that R&B singer Kehlani might be queer after kissing Demi Lovato on stage back in 2018. In a now-deleted string of tweets, the singer said "cuz I keep getting asked... I’m queer. not bi, not straight. I’m attracted to women, men REALLY attracted to queer men, non-binary people, intersex people, trans people. Lil poly pansexual papi hello good morning. does that answer your questions?"
Amandla Stenberg, who identifies as gender non-binary, called themself bisexual during a 2016 Teen Vogue Snapchat takeover. Later, they stated in a 2016 video for Rookie magazine that they only used the word ‘bisexual’ because they didn't feel enough people understood what pansexual means. "I identify publicly as bisexual. I would also use the word pansexual to describe my sexuality. The thing is I use the word bisexual just because I feel like for people who don't necessarily know that vocabulary… it's easier to say I'm bi," Stenberg said. "So, I understand that erasure piece."
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies. She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.
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