Reality Check, Pan!

BY IPALIBO.

Over the past year, I’d considered myself to be open-minded and accepting because I’d exposed and educated myself on as many topics in the LGBTQIA+ discourse as I could. The past year has been eye-opening, aided by the fact that I managed a foreign client’s LGBTQIA+ social media accounts, which prompted me to research and better understand the nuances of sexuality and gender.

I identify as a pansexual man (which means I can be attracted to anyone despite their gender or sexual orientation). I am also a Nigerian living in Nigeria who has considered and imagined the entire concept of pansexuality. I had always believed that I could be with anyone I was genuinely attracted to, but I had never truly experienced, met, or grappled with the reality of pansexuality. So, I was unaware of some of my prejudices.

Due to the criminalization of self-expression and all things LGBTQIA+ in Nigeria, I’d rarely met anyone who openly identified as anything but gay or lesbian. However, everything changed when I met this person online. They are a non-binary transgender MtF, and they were in the process of transitioning.

I was aware of their transition process and body dysphoria concerns because we’d discussed those over the phone for months; however, I hadn’t met them personally and had never considered or anticipated what to expect. So, when we planned a date, and they showed up dressed in ‘feminine clothing,’ I was taken aback (in retrospect, it was absurd of me to think they’d dress otherwise). Shocked, I nearly back-pedaled because their looks weren’t what I’d expected. They suddenly became too much to handle.

Reality check, pansexual!

I began to worry about what people would think and say if they saw us together. I found myself pacing with them to my house to save face, hoping no one would notice their attire. More reactions ensued when they wanted to go shopping, and I suggested they wear my masculine clothes to avoid harassment or unwanted attention. In my mind, I was rational and reasonable, but who was I kidding?

As I write this, I realize that I am unaware of the courage it took for them to dress in clothes that reflect who they are but may attract hostility, verbal abuse, or worse, physical harm. It’s not the fault of the clothes or the person wearing them; it’s the fault of a society steeped in hatred, ignorance, conformity, homophobia, transphobia, and anti-self-expression; one that destroys anything it doesn’t understand.

When I examined my behavior after they’d left, it was an epiphany for me; I couldn’t help but wonder if I genuinely cared and accepted them for who they are, or were my actions merely reflections of self-preservation? When I figured it was the latter, I was awash with shame.

There’s this saying by Buddha: “When you like a flower, you pluck it; but when you love a flower, you water it daily.”

So, I sincerely apologize for inadvertently imposing my views on you, however subtly. I see you, so I’ll sit back and watch you bloom.

I do not intend and will always resist the urge to clip anyone’s wings because it would be the antithesis of who I am becoming. I only wish for everyone to fully express themselves, regardless of my opinions, because that is love. I am sure that the freedom to express oneself is the ultimate act of love, and as I grapple with the reality of pansexuality and my humanity on a grander scale, I hope love triumphs.

Have you ever had any experience that rocked the foundations of your beliefs?

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