Not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity

On August 30, senior Sage Cameron returned from an LGBT camp. After seven years of attending, he knew it was time. Cameron said that he had suspicions about his true sexuality for quite a while, but it never really felt right to him to come out; the opportunity was never there and finally here it was.

On that day, Cameron “came out” and shared with the world that he identifies as pansexual.

“Pansexuality means [that] when it comes to romantic relations, gender is not a deciding factor,” Cameron said. “It’s more based on the person.”

Pansexuality is an identity that has only recently received any recognition. The media only began recognizing the idea of pansexuality in 2007, according to a Google Trends chart.

Since then, awareness has been gaining traction, but still at a slow pace.

The dictionary definition for pansexual, sometimes referred to as omnisexual, is cited as, “a person who is sexually and/or romantically attracted toward persons of any gender identity and/or biological sex.”

Junior Nicole Gallagher, co-president of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), defined pansexuality similarly.

“[Being] pansexual means that you’re attracted to anyone regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a girl, a boy or don’t identify as a gender, you can still be attracted to them,” Gallagher said.

According to Cameron, the common misconception in society has been that pansexuality and bisexuality are the same thing. Contrary to that, there is a distinct and key difference that separates the two.

“Bisexuality means you would only date two identities: male and female. Pansexuality means everything is included. Bisexuality means two identities while Pansexuality means all identities,” Cameron said.

This is also indicated in their titles, with the latin roots; “bi” meaning two and “pan” translating to “all.”

Although society has become more and more progressive towards the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, or the LGBTQIA (as it’s typically abbreviated as) community, there is still a lot of discrimination toward the community. Coming out, especially as a youth, can be no easy task.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization working to achieve equal rights for the LGBTQIA community, LGBT youth are two times as likely to be assaulted at school.

The same source also reports that 92 percent of LGBT members hear negative messages about their orientation.

“I’ve been thinking about it for three years now. I never really summoned up the courage [to come out] until now because it’s now [my senior] year. I felt like I had nothing to lose,” Cameron said. “It’s way easier to live with myself now. I feel real and authentic. I don’t feel like I’m constantly trying to fit in. I feel like I am who I am now.”

Cameron said that, despite the huge positive response that came following his coming out, there was also a negative response that followed.

“I was going to move in with my dad after I came out but [I decided against it] because he wasn’t being very accepting,” Cameron said. “He said that all teens go through a phase and that this was just mine. He was trying to put me in a box that I wasn’t a part of and it doesn’t feel good to get a label that you don’t identify with and that you don’t want. Living in that situation was very hard. It brought me down. I went into depression after this for a little bit.”

Adding to that, Cameron said that there have been people who assume that he has his own agenda for coming out, whether it’s for attention or “to stand out,” but Cameron said that things are starting to look up.

“Awareness just has to be raised,” Cameron said. “We’re stepping into an era where we will be aware of these things because there are college classes like the sociology of gender.”

In the Mountlake Terrace community, work is being done and progress is being made in attempt  to raise awareness of the LGBTQIA community.

“It just gets down to basic respect, regardless of their lifestyle or sexuality. We are all people,” Principal Greg Schwab said. “We have to start with the premise that we are all human beings and deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Everybody brings something to this life experience and to this school community that makes it a richer place.”

Schwab added, “I don’t think we should ever be in a position to say that one person’s lifestyle choice or sexuality choice, any of those things, are any of our business. We need to be in the business of respecting and supporting each other.”

Schwab brought the discrimination toward the LGBTQIA community back to the fundamental value of respect.

“The way we encourage respectful behavior is by addressing issues head on,” Schwab said. “We work with those individuals to address the issue. We spend a lot of time teaching. That’s what the whole purpose of it is. It isn’t about busting someone or getting them in trouble. It’s to help educate them that what they’re doing doesn’t fit with the values of our school community.”

At MTHS, the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club makes it their goal to raise awareness and help spread the truth of the LGBTQIA community.

“Mostly, [GSA is] all about school unity,” junior and co-president of GSA Nicole Gallagher said. “We want people to feel like this is a safe place so that if they come out at school, they don’t feel like they’re going to be bullied or made fun of. We want people to feel included and we want people to feel comfortable. We are also trying to educate the rest of the school, the non-LGBT, community on what exactly the different labels are so that they don’t use them incorrectly.”

Coming out can be a difficult process. It can be filled with self-doubt and fear. Cameron, fresh off of his own experience, had plenty of advice to give.

“Wait for the perfect time,” Cameron said. “Don’t push yourself out until you’re ready. It’s not as bad as you think it will be. The earlier you do it, the more rewarding it will be.”

Gallagher, wise with the experience of recently coming out also as a pansexual, had her own advice to share.

“I suggest coming out to your family first and then your friends,” Gallagher said. “It depends on how you feel. Do it in stages. Start with your friends or family and then expand. Once you start telling someone, other people are going to know.”