Last month the news broke that Miley Cyrus is pansexual after she came out in her Elle magazine interview: “I’m down with any adult—who is down to love me. I don’t relate to being a boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl,” said Cyrus of her sexuality and gender identity, also adding that she came out to her mum at 14.
What is pansexuality?
With Miley Cyrus coming out last month many people have been questioning what exactly this means.
Pansexuality means being attracted to someone regardless of their sex or gender. Those who identify as pansexual can be attracted to anyone whether they’re heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, cisgender, transgender or non-binary.
In short pansexuality is the most open sexuality there is, you can love anyone regardless of what they identify as. Often grouped with bisexuality, pansexuality is different because it is inclusive of all genders including those who do not identify as being male or female.
The definition of bisexuality can be troubling as it states that someone who is bisexual is attracted to two genders, however as there are over 30 genders bisexuality can be seen to be excluding those who do not identify as male or female. Many people who identify as pansexual may also identify as bisexual, they do overlap and have their similarities, it’s down to the individual. What’s important to remember is that they are both different and established sexualities.
Like any sexuality pansexuality comes with a stigma and harmful stereotypes. Pansexuality is often described as being “greedy” or a “phase” and a lot of people question its existence labeling it as a new “trend” made popular by singers like Miley. This isn’t true – pansexuality has always existed.
As it stands, pansexuality doesn’t have much recognition in the media, one of the many reasons when people hear about it for the first time they can pass it off as being a trend. Even popular LGBT inclusive media such as Orange is The New Black fails to have any pansexual characters, or mention the existence of the attraction to more than one gender being a valid sexuality.
Pansexuality doesn’t have an initial in the LGBT acronym, which is why it is often brushed under bisexuality. The updated LGBTQ+ acronym, which is now commonly used, allows pansexuality to be included under the + symbol and get the recognition it deserves. This can also be the cause of internalised homophobia from other members of the LGBT community who doubt the existence of pansexuality, which can be hard to deal with if you’re trying to come out and people don’t believe your sexuality exists. Those who are pansexual are often discriminated against at LGBT pride events by others within the community due to the stereotype that they can “choose” to be straight or aren’t fully part of the community.
Chelmsford student Danni Venters said of her sexuality:
“It’s weird because I always feel like sexuality is only represented in the media as heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality. There isn’t much representation for those who identify as pansexual or non-binary. I feel like there needs to be more because it’s something I’ve always had trouble understanding. I think that’s mainly due to the fact that there’s hardly anything out there to explain it to you when you know you don’t fit into any of the other categories.”
As of 24th May 2015 Pansexuality Visibility Day was established on tumblr, a day dedicated to raising awareness of those who identify as pansexual and also an opportunity for those who have not yet come out to feel like their sexuality is valid and recongised. With the existing attitudes towards pansexuality it can make it very difficult for someone to come out without fear of being laughed at or told it’s a “phase.”
Miley is one of the first major celebrities to come out as pansexual setting a gateway for people to follow, rapper Angel Haze and YouTuber Laci Green are among those in the media who identify as pansexual. In her interview Miley also spoke about her genderfluidity and how she does not identify as being either a boy or girl. Genderfluidity or non-binary refers to an individual who does not have a set gender and therefore are fluid in how they choose to express themselves.
Miley’s announcement is not only great for her, to finally feel comfortable with herself after spending so many years locked into Disney, but also great for society too. Miley’s September VMAs performance featured several drag queens from Rupaul’s drag race, who much like Miley make up an important part of the LGBT spectrum.
Miley showcasing the talent of those who are often brushed aside by the media on a mainstream awards show is great, as Miley isn’t ashamed of herself or how she chooses to express herself. Although criticized for not being the best role model, Miley is still using her sexuality as a pretty positive thing for young teens who may be struggling with coming out.
It may seem that sexuality is a pretty big issue in the media right now, or as homophobes would argue it’s being shoved in peoples faces, but it’s not that sexuality is a trend or an experiment or something we say to make us seem more interesting, it’s that it’s 2015 and our attitudes towards sex and sexuality are much more open and accepting than they were 20 or so years ago.
Pansexuals form an important part of the LGBT community, and their sexuality is as valid as a homosexual man or woman. Every sexuality is valid and hopefully Miley’s announcement will bring with it the rise of more inclusive TV and film characters. Pansexuality exists and it’s real, and everyone deserves to have their sexuality known and accepted by wider society.