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Podcast Cameo

There's a "podcast" I listen to called The Biggest Problem In The Universe which is full of useful information, in addition to politically incorrect humour. It is hosted by two satirists Maddox (George Ouzounian) and Dick Masterson (Dax Herrera) who bring in perceived problems with society and put them on a list. At the time of writing, the top problems are Slacktivism and the epidemic of FGM. The two things least likely to be considered a problem are Tesla Motors and Maddox himself.

Dick and Maddox regularly play voicemail from fans so I decided to contribute one three weeks ago. Just when I thought they had decided not to use it, I heard my own voice on the air when I listened to the end of episode 45. I left a voicemail mocking a self-righteous pansexual hoping that they would touch on this problem.

In case you don't know, pansexuals are people who may feel attraction to a person of any gender identity. Gender does not play a role in their sexual orientation. All of the pansexual rhetoric starts with this definition. So far so good. But the problem comes when people inevitably ask for the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality. As is hardly ever done, I will now attempt to describe the difference in a respectful way: pansexuals are people who are fully bisexual to the point of preferring a different term. That's it. They simply don't prefer males, females or the transgendered even a little bit.

Bisexual flag.

What you usually hear is that pansexuals are anything but bisexual because the "bi" prefix narrows the definition down to just men and women. According to one quotation, bisexuality has "transphobic overtones" and someone my age named Kristen Ritchie recently said "identifying as bisexual did not seem right or fitting to me after learning it was only inclusive of cis folks." It's not my place to tell people how they should identify, but it's ironic that her way of doing so prescribes what bisexuals are against their own identification.

Defending your choice of a new word by labelling bisexuals as exclusionary isn't just rude, it's incorrect. This is a movement whose B proudly appears beside a T in all of its literature. As Julia Serano puts it, most of the infighting that rejected transgendered people in the past came from homosexuals. The gay and lesbian communities were trying to establish their traits as "positive identities" rather than "medical afflictions" so they were uncomfortable associating with people who wanted to change their sex organs. Obviously there are some bisexuals who only like biological men and women but this amount of variation is true of any community. Not all straight people are attracted to rappers and not all gay people are attracted to Romanians. An article that tries to correct the deflated statistics on trans people estimates that its incidence in the US is about 1 in 2500. So even if bisexuals were cis-focused, they would still be 99.96% the same as pansexuals. If your main point is that you are attracted to the remaining 0.04%, you can just say this without putting down another group that is just finishing its long fight for acceptance.

The word "pansexuality" (not to be confused with Freud's "pansexualism") appears to date back to 2007. The word "bisexuality" on the other hand was coined over 100 years ago when transgenders were more rare and had much less visibility. It's not like the bi and pan movements always existed in parallel and the bi affiliates specifically chose not to be pan. The best argument for the pansexual movement is that it fixes a purely linguistic problem. Anyone can encourage members of older LGBT movements to use this word without demonizing them if they don't.

So in the message, I called myself a pansexual and sarcastically lectured the listeners on why denouncing the gender binary makes me so much better than them. Dick laughed but didn't claim to know much about these arguments. Maddox, familiar with the movement as I knew he would be, gave an immediate groan and told everyone that biology determines gender traits in the vast majority of cases. He then said that this smugness is exactly what he hears from pansexuals. It is quite reminiscent of people bragging about how non-racist they are. The claim that you are so unbiased that even your sexual urges have no discrimination naturally lends itself to a holier-than-thou attitude.

Now obviously such a thing can be true. A big part of LGBT rights is acknowledging that these things happen naturally and not as the result of propaganda. Plenty of people are born heterosexual, plenty of people are born homosexual and being born with predispositions that don't discriminate is certainly possible too. But this can be used opportunistically, just like when "sapiosexuals" brag that they are attracted to intelligence. I used this word in the voicemail too because Dick and Maddox had groaned about this one on a previous episode. Is this really something that could be built into a species? Certainly if I said I were sexually attracted to Python2.7, that would be seen as just a stupid exaggeration. Programming languages haven't been around long enough to influence our evolution. Intelligence has but in a very different form. Before rich languages developed, the people showing the greatest signs of intelligence would've been survivalists who found new tools or new uses for existing tools. It's hard to imagine that booksmarts can be any kind of irrational addiction. So-called sapiosexuals like smart people more but if there's no strong irrationality behind it, it's a disservice to call it a sexual orientation. To some extent everyone, sexual or asexual, tries to avoid being in a relationship with a dumbass. For reference, episode 36 dealt with the phenomenon of people describing their likes and dislikes sexually to make up for a limited vocabulary.

But I digress. When I left the message, I hadn't read any reactions to this pansexual labyrinth. But now I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only one who noticed this dismissive and condescending aspect. One page I read from November 14 was criticizing a November 12 pansexuality article on exactly these grounds. But upon reading the original article, it seems that many parts quoted as being offensive have now been deleted or more carefully worded. If the authors collaborated to resolve this, maybe they can get along.