Pan on Campus: Biscuit Interviews Pansexuality Advocate Elle Long

elle2Pansexuality may be as old as the hills, but the pansexual movement is still young, and that means that it’s still a little mysterious to outsiders. We’re natural allies, and we’re nosy, too, so we caught up with advocate Elle Long to get the skinny on what’s happening in pan activism right now.

Hi Elle! First of all, tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do. How long have you been involved in pansexual activism and advocacy? What sort of things do you get up to as an advocate?

I am a junior at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, majoring in Political Science and Law, minoring in Ethnic Studies. I’m involved with the Speech and Debate team for the school but that’s about as sporty as I get!
My main focus in advocacy for pansexuality has been education and it started when I came to BGSU three years ago. Making myself available to explain to people what pansexuality is, whether that’s somebody stopping me on campus to talk about it or explaining what it is during class when the question arises. Over this summer, I am working with BGSU to start a group called Dish. The group is going to act as a space for pansexuals or any questioning pansexuals to discuss their experiences and what ultimately led them to identify as pansexual. I’m really excited for it!

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing pansexual people and communities at the moment?

The biggest challenges also happen to be the most infuriating, and that’s when people tell you that your sexuality doesn’t exist. That’s something I’ll never understand; what exactly makes people think that they’re allowed to tell another person how they can or cannot identify? I understand that not everyone will agree with that; there are a lot of people that are firmly against it! I just can’t wrap my head around why. I have met people that identify as gay and people that identify as straight say that they don’t agree with individuals that identify as pansexual, or even as bi- or asexual for that matter.

The gay people that I have met that are against it argue that it makes the gay agenda harder to push. They argue that it makes it harder for homophobic people to see the other side of the spectrum. As I can see their point, it’s also valid to point out that when the tide rises, all boats rise. A threat to anyone’s sexual identity, is a threat a threat to everyone’s sexual identity.

But what’s more, is that it’s just not anyone’s business. People are proudly gay, proudly lesbian, proudly pansexual… And if that is deterring someone from sleeping at night, then their issues must be deeper rooted. Let people be who they want to be. Why is that hard?

As citizens of the internet, we often get to see the pan activism that goes on online, but we miss what happens in the Real World. Can you give us an idea of what we’re not seeing?

What’s awesome about the society that we live in today is that the internet and the real world are so intertwined that there’s really no difference anymore. I think what happens online is just as important as what’s happening when we’re unplugged. Especially because when you post an article or talk about pansexuality online, it has the potential to reach so many people.

We had one meeting for Dish right before the end of the school year, just to get people interested and get people talking about it. What was most interesting was starting to explain to people what pansexuality was and seeing people’s faces light up. One girl even shouted out, “That’s me! That’s what I am!” Seeing her realize what her identity was gave me chills. That’s what encouraged me to really go hard and make this group. Helping people get a better grasp on their identity is so rewarding. If Dish takes off next semester like I’m hoping it will, then we’ll start our outreach by trying to set up Dish on campuses all over.

downloadWhat really excites you about pansexual advocacy right now? Are there particular successes that you’re proud of?

Like I said before, helping people come closer to understanding their identities is an unreal feeling. You can’t help but to be so proud and so excited for someone that is discovering themselves and becoming more comfortable in their own skin. You really discover a lot about yourself that way, too.

Bisexual activists and advocates often find they face more stigma from within the LGBTQ community than outside of it. Do you think the same applies to pansexuals?

Absolutely. I’m not trying to take a jab at any of the members of the LGBTQ+ community. They were my first friends, my current friends, and the ones I’ll hold onto for the rest of my life. But every rose has it’s thorns. Luckily, I haven’t seen as much of this in my everyday outside experiences as much as I’ve seen it through cyberbullying. You hear a lot that a person really isn’t bisexual or pansexual if they are currently dating or marry someone of the opposite gender. I wish that was something that I could explain from their perspective but I can’t. If I only eat vegetables for a day does that mean that I gave up being an omnivore? No. It just means that this is what tickled my fancy at the time so that’s what I did.
Side note, that fantastic interview with Anna Paquin by Larry King. He tried to spin it and say that Anna wasn’t bisexual anymore because she’s married to man, and then she shut him shut him down like a graceful hammer. It was awesome. (That interview is almost two years old and it still makes us punch the air – Ed.)

when the tide rises, all boats rise. A threat to anyone’s sexual identity is a threat a threat to everyone’s sexual identity

How do you feel about the phrase “bi+” to denote inclusion of all non-monosexual identities? What about and the use of bisexual as an umbrella term, as suggested by BiNet USA?

I personally wouldn’t be cool with using bisexual as an umbrella term simply because I’m not bisexual. I’m pansexual.

If you had unlimited cash and unlimited time, what would your next move as a pansexuality advocate be?

I would be in Paris so fast. From my dabblings online and talking to French students at my school, it sounds like there is a lot of people there that identify as pansexual and I think it’d be amazing to get an international coalition in the works.

Thanks so much for talking to us, Elle. Best of luck with Dish!

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Libby Baxter-Williams

Libby is a 30-something Londoner, who spends more time reading picture books than is seemly. She became a bi activist entirely by accident, but now she can't imagine living any other way. In the event of an emergency, she'll have a large gin and tonic, thanks.
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