New words, old prejudices

A friend shared a tweet with me from pink news yesterday; it highlighted Layla Moran’s coming out story for Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness and Visibility day. The comments on this tweet were a veritable smorgasbord of unkindness and prejudice. There are various themes of hate, the party, the day, Layla herself, trans people. The one that I want to focus on though is the comments that object to the word pansexual. I think these are the comments that are quite likely to seem harmless or even valid to a wider audience. They are not.

“Virtue signalling nonsense” “Pansexual? What community what? People go deeper every day; we need to start talking straight again. This is crazy” “So a new name for bisexual then?” “For those unsure, a Pansexual is someone who will will have sex with anyone with a pulse. In the old days, we called them Squaddies”. These are a few of such comments, I could go on, but frankly, it’s exhausting and demoralising.

Closer to home, I have heard criticisms of Layla’s coming out; dismissing it as ‘identity politics’ or suggesting she should define her sexuality with different words or even not at all. It seems to me that while some parts of the LGBT+ gain a modicum of validity in the popular discourse, this is more often than not used it as a way of discrediting another part. As someone as who identifies as bisexual, never is it more accepted as ‘a real thing’ than as when people are telling pansexual people that their identity is not valid. Nor is it an isolated example, it is persistently used as a tactic to alienate the trans community as with the LGB alliance.

I assert that prejudice is old because whatever the deviation from the sexual and gender norms, there are people hostile to it. People disgusted and angry about it, there are people prepared to legislate against it. There are always people who will portray and perceive any deviation from the heteronormative as a threat. It was 1990 when the WHO declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder; it was 2003 when section 28 was repealed in England and Wales (2000 in Scotland). Some people don’t understand it. I was tempted at first write up a Q&A around the implied questions around pansexuality and other sexual and gender identities. Still, there are many better resources written, and there are always more questions. If any of these comments sound like you or pose questions, you don’t know how to answer do that internet search look on stonewall or browse pink news or similar.

* I am a party member and activist in Trafford

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • You are correct. Unfortunately LGBT+ rights are seen as belonging to one side of a culture war which people irrationally believe threatens their way of life.

    We need to do much more to oppose transphobia as it is this bigotry that is the greatest threat to personal liberty right now. It has become socially acceptable to a worrying degree and there is a huge risk of legislation being passed that is deliberately transphobic.

    Jo Swinson was very good on this issue but her loss as leader puts that clear position under threat and the party has dragged its heels in dealing with transphobia within the party.

  • Paul Barker 27th May '20 - 5:37pm

    Im not sure if this is the place to raise it but are we still sure that the idea of Identity is a useful one ? I do realise that as someone who looks like a white, cis man, I speak from a position of privelege.
    Back in the 1960s the idea that we could all choose our Identitities seemed like liberation but if you ask yourself honestly who is using “Identity Politics” most succsessfully now, Its Trump & Farage & Putin isnt it ?

    It ought to be possible to proclaim ones own Identity without trashing other peoples, but a lot of people seem to find it very hard. Perhaps Liberals have come up with an Idea that only Liberals can use ?

  • Adam Bernard 27th May '20 - 6:37pm

    Paul, you’re making this sound abstract and obscure. But people are right now trying to make it impossible for people to marry the one they love; to make it impossible to adopt children; to use the bloody loo in public, for heaven’s sake.
    These are real threats and opining that we don’t need the idea of identity isn’t going to help us combat them.

  • @Paul Barker

    Your question doesn’t make sense. I don’t think you understand what identity or “identity politics” actually is.

  • I found Layla Moran’s self-description as “pansexual” both amusing and pretentious. In general politicians talk too much about their private lives. If she felt the need to tell the world at all about her new relationship, why couldn’t she use the well-established word “bisexual”. Layla also struck a false note when talking about the famous Glasgow hotel incident, it makes me doubt her judgment I”m afraid.

  • Forgive my ignorance, what is pansexual, if not bisexual?

  • Lots of people refer to the bi+ community – which includes both bisexual and pansexual people and people of a number of other sexualities, some of whom think of that sexuality as a subset of bisexual and others think of it as different from bisexuality.

    I don’t call myself pansexual, because there are a number of genders (not either of the big two, though) that I’m not attracted to. But there are plenty of bisexual people who could, but prefer “bisexual”.

    Note that a person can’t be bi+, any more than a person can be LGBT – it groups together several distinct identities. But we tend to use it because we have lots in common, in particular because biphobes and biphobia don’t make the distinctions, and we all have to deal with it, even those of us who aren’t bisexual.

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