In college, I was once in a class of mostly women and found myself inexplicably drawn to one classmate. She had a feminine name by birth, but her friends called her by a masculine nickname, which I thought was awesomely badass. While I didn’t know enough about her to be attracted to her personality, she was visually captivating. Something about her harmonic voice, sweet smile, svelte figure, and soft, highlighted blonde curls regularly captured my attention. I used to feel myself blushing when we would occasionally make eye contact.
I haven’t spoken with the woman more than twice since meeting her, but I couldn’t help myself from fantasizing about her almost every class.
The class was designed to mimic the Socratic method, but these classmates had very few interesting things to say, to my grave disappointment. Naturally, this led to lots of daydreaming about my crush, some of which became sexual. I wondered periodically what it would be like to kiss her and hold her breasts. I regularly admire the beauty of other women’s bodies, but this classmate was the first woman about whom I had actively fantasized. It was a fun pastime.
I didn’t know what to make of my feelings when they first occurred. I had never questioned my heterosexuality before that class and knew I had always been strongly attracted to men.
So, what did that make me? Bi? Pan? Confused? Could I still call myself straight?
It took years for me to label my attraction as a crush because of the threat to my sexual identity, but, looking back, I now realize that if my feelings had been directed toward a male classmate, I would not have hesitated to label them as such.
I have never had feelings about a woman before or since those which I developed for that classmate, but even if I did, I don’t think that would automatically require a rebranding of my sexual identity. For example, I know a few men who both identify as heterosexual and have had sexual relations with other men, simply out of curiosity, and I don’t think their experiences make them any less straight because that’s how they choose to identify. The women of my freshman year dorm loved to makeout with each other while they were drunk, and they all identified as vehemently heterosexual, too. Likewise, I also know of a couple of gay men who have kissed more women than my straight male friends, and I don’t think their experiences make them any less gay.
Honestly, I really like the idea of pansexuality, and I think that may be a more appropriate label for my own feelings than heterosexuality. I consider sexual energy as an entity that, potentially, can exist between myself and a person of any gender and/or genital orientation. To me, pansexuality feels holistic, deemphasizing biological determinism and nurturing person-to-person sexual intimacy. Even if I was to spend the rest of my non-marital life dating cis-gendered men, I still feel that I have every right to identify as pansexual, just as I feel that I could equally label myself as heterosexual even if I dated people who identified other than as cis-gendered men.
The point of my story is that no experience or fantasy determines anything about your sexual preference.
After all, we are curious creatures, and it’s not surprising that we might like to experiment with behaviors or fantasies we don’t prefer longterm. Although an experience (or two, or three, or forty) could suggest a greater pattern, only you decide how you wish to label your sexual orientation — if you choose to label it at all.