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More than meets the eye

October 03, 2020

Cover image by Peter Salanki from San Francisco, USA - The bisexual pride flag
Uploaded by Anastasiarasputin, CC BY 2.0, Link

We all have choices in our lives. Where do I live? Do I have for breakfast? How late can I leave for work without missing stand-up? Other factors in our lives are not a choice. Some things are just who we are. Being pansexual is who I am.

For the purpose of clarity, Pansexual (pan) means: "Attracted to individuals regardless of their gender identity or sex."

For a bi individual, gender identity plays a role in their attraction towards others. Bi people may also be more attracted to some genders than others. A pan individual is attracted to anyone regardless of gender. I often describe it as simple as saying: I like who I like! I don't consider gender in my attraction towards people, but many bi individuals do. As a pan person, gender doesn't even play a part in attraction for me. The term pansexual came about later than bi as the term bi originates before the concept of non-binary gender was well understood. Pansexuality was defined to encompass an attraction to these non-binary individuals.

September 23rd is Bi Visibility Day. This day has been recognised since 1999 as a day where bi people all over the world celebrate their identity and support one another. Pan individuals have a separate day, May 24th, as their day of visibility. Despite this, pan people are often included in Bi Visibility day due to their similarities.

I doubt most of my colleagues know my sexual preference. Most merely assume those they meet are straight unless told otherwise. On the odd occasion that I am asked about my orientation, I say bi. I don't want to explain what pan means when the response is so often "Oh, so it's just bi then". It's easier for me to say I'm just bi. They are similar and it's close enough in a lot of cases but I do wish more understood the differences.

Honestly, I don't tell people my sexual orientation unless asked because it doesn't matter. It doesn't change who I am as a person. It doesn't change how people should interact with me or how others should treat me. In my professional life, it isn't important. Even in my personal life, it only comes up if I'm in a relationship with someone who isn't a woman. The only member of my family who knows is my mother. This isn't because I think I will no longer be accepted. It is because I don't think it matters. Or at least, it shouldn't matter.

After conducting an Employee Engagement Survey, we noticed some responses indicting a correlation between being bi and not being able to be their true selves at work. This made me wonder, why is this? I think it's because it's so hard to relate to someone who is bi or pan as a straight person. The idea of finding more than one gender attractive is likely such an alien concept. But bi and pan colleagues are not aliens, they're people just like everyone else. Some of the assumptions I've experienced in the past have made me feel less so. Imagine, with the roles reversed, if people assumed individuals are straight because they want to be boring.

I can't talk much about the past, as I've only worked here a year. But in that year, I have found Auto Trader to be more inclusive than I could have hoped. My colleagues and those around me have always been supportive of me. I would be willing to say I have joined one of the most inclusive workforces in the UK given experiences I have heard from others also starting work. This doesn't, however, mean there still isn't lots of work to do and areas to improve.

Sam Farndale, Graduate Software Tester