Respecting people’s labels, differences enlightening

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The word pansexual used to make me cringe a bit.

While I consider myself fairly liberal and progressive, I wasn’t raised that way. Learning how to be a more open-minded and tolerant person has been a long process I find I am still working on.

I was raised in an incredibly conservative and religious home, and because of that, I’ve found it harder to understand things like gender identities, non-Christian faiths and liberal political views. I’d gone to school with people who identify as LGBT and most of my classmates (including myself) were minorities, so those cultures were no problem for my young brain, as they had been a part of my life as long as my conservative upbringing.

However, when I left home and began picking housing at random, it led me to be confronted by all sorts of people and ideas I hadn’t considered before.

But the sticking point for me was the word pansexual. STOP-Homophobia.com defines pansexuality as having “the capability of attraction to others regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. A pansexual could be open to someone who is male, female, transgender, intersex or agendered/genderqueer.”

It just annoyed me to no end. Wasn’t bisexuality enough? Why did we need a new term for basically the same thing? I felt like my own descriptor of bisexual was being changed out for this weird new term.

It was irrational, I know, but there was something about it that just got under my early 20s skin. I wouldn’t let it slide when someone began talking about their possible pansexuality, and I would debate with them far beyond friendly discussion.

Then one day, while just walking and talking to a new roommate of mine, she brought up the subject of sexuality. I knew that she was bisexual, and assumed she was be just as annoyed with the term pansexual as I was.

Instead, she just cocked her head and said, “I dunno, don’t we all have labels we want people to respect?”

That stopped me right in my self-righteous tracks.

I have plenty of labels I use when describing myself: feminist, millennial, bisexual, agnostic, runner, pseudo-intellectual and more. The terms in which I view myself don’t detract from anyone else.

I understand there is a greater discussion on freedom of speech taking place on university campuses around the nation. But I hope to skip past the lawsuits and free-speech zones and ask that we all take a moment to think about what we hear before we respond.

Patient consideration is not easy, and for me, it certainly is not a natural habit. I still don’t quite understand non-binary pronouns. However, I understand it is important to the person who asked me to use their pronouns.

Instead of being offended they corrected me, I try to understand and respect that we all want to be known by how we see ourselves, whether we see ourselves as religious, pro-choice, transgender and so much more.