I'm pansexual. Deal with it

I'm a sweet and wickedly smart young woman who is also albino. I'm not sure my boyfriend can handle me

By Cary Tennis
Published August 3, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Hey there,

Me and my boyfriend have been dating for two years; it's been an at times hectic and trying ride, but also one of the best things that has happened in my life. I'm in college right now, a junior graphic design major at a solid university, gaining some insightful experience at my summer internship. This is definitely my dream in life, and I'm really grateful that I can achieve it, after growing up in a staunchly religious upbringing, where I felt afraid to explore myself more closely. Upon discovering that I was pansexual, I became suicidal and stooped into depression that lasted through middle school into high school. Coming out made me feel alienated and like there was no hope. I was always under a microscope, and felt like I could never compare because of my desires, which my parents would view as weird or bizarre. I'm an albino as well so I've felt othered because of that as well.

I don't really place that much stake in what gender my love interests are; I'm more interested in going on adventures with them and pleasuring them and my tastes extends across the spectrum of men and women (trans men and women included). When I met my boyfriend he was well aware of this. But over the course of our dating, his reactions to it have changed from, "Yay, we can have threesomes!" to "It's weird that you like him/her/them." It feels weird for him and he feels that he can't understand it. He alternately thinks that it will take time, or that he will probably never be able to understand. He has tried to understand it, by putting himself in my shoes and imagining what it would be like for him to be with a guy (I think that this isn't really the way to go about it, personally) and I admire his effort, of course, but questions float through my head: How long do I have to wait for him to understand me? Am I asking too much of him? But is it really too much to want the one person that I love to understand me, over all the others that didn't/won't.

I also wonder if this is beyond his scope of things. He is a heterosexual male who I'm pretty sure would score a 1 on the Kinsey scale.

Straight guys (the ones I know, at least), are pretty rigidly set in their sexuality, sometimes preventing them from relating to certain things. Is this just like him liking chocolate ice cream and me liking strawberry? Is it just a difference in tastes that he can't understand why I like strawberry? I'm curious to know your thoughts. Am I asking too much?

Not Understood

Dear Not Understood,

I'll bet your boyfriend is trying to accept you and you are trying to accept him but you are not clear on the difference between acceptance and understanding.

Acceptance is an act of love. Accepting you as you are can be as simple as just saying, I accept you as you are.

Acceptance is a leap of faith. It's available to everyone. It's sort of like the Protestant act of accepting certain propositions about the status and capacities of Jesus. They'll tell you, those Protestants who collar you in malls and at festivals down South, that all you have to do is accept certain things, and you're good to go. They're saying that "being saved" does not require knowledge or understanding, just a willingness to accept certain things.

Likewise, being in a sacred relationship with another human being does not require complete understanding. It just requires acceptance of, you might say, another person's "otherness." That otherness is beyond conscious understanding, just like the idea of the son of God coming down and healing the souls of humans.

If you and he disagree about something, that doesn't mean he doesn't understand you. I find it scary when people don't disagree. It means each person has no idea what the other person thinks. Disagreeing is understanding. Or, as William Blake said, "In opposition is true friendship."

OK, speaking of leaps of faith, follow me here:

This blackbird wants my oatmeal. I am sitting outside at Java Beach in the chilly August fog and this blackbird wants my oatmeal. When I am through he can have some. But I don't want him in my bowl. So I shoo him off. I don't have to understand him. That doesn't mean I don't accept him. I'm just not giving him my oatmeal. Not until I'm done.

You don't have to give your boyfriend your oatmeal. He doesn't have to give you his oatmeal. You can both sit outside at a table and he can hop around but when he gets too close to your oatmeal you shoo him off. That doesn't mean you don't understand him or accept him. He just has to get his own oatmeal. Likewise, he's not giving you all his corn flakes. That doesn't mean he doesn't love you. He's just eating his corn flakes.

We cannot even know, ourselves, how completely we accept this or that. Nonetheless, we can say to each other, I accept you completely. That isn't exactly lying. It's stating an ideal that we then attempt to live up to.

He may say, "I accept you completely and utterly," and then the next sentence may be, "Don't use your napkin like that." That's how we are. We're always in each other's stuff.

Here is my bottom line: You are who you are and you have the right to be who you are and other people's degree of acceptance is out of your control.

We're imperfect creatures, able to imagine perfection but unable to attain it.

Cary Tennis

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