Dear Your Teen:
My daughter says she is pansexual. I have no problems with this, but she just turned 14 and has never been on a date before. I just wonder if perhaps she is too young and inexperienced to be choosing a particular sexual orientation. How do you know you’re pansexual? Or is pansexual really not choosing (choosing anything and everything)?
EXPERT | Matthew Rouse, Ph.D.
It may be hard to stand by and watch as your daughter identifies in a way that may make her path in life more difficult, or that you feel is a little premature for her stage of social and sexual development. Still, I’d encourage you to continue to support and accept her as she gets in touch with her authentic self.
Time after time, we hear stories of people who knew their sexual orientations from an early age. However, various pressures from family, community, etc., delayed the process of revealing their orientations to others or even to themselves. Now that some of those societal pressures are eroding, more and more teens are coming out and letting others know what they’ve likely always known to be true about themselves. Your accepting and nurturing relationship with your daughter has probably allowed her to think about her identity without feeling ashamed or that she has to hide it.
First, what does pansexual mean?
Pansexuality is certainly not as “mainstream” as other sexual orientations, although it did get a boost in visibility when Miley Cyrus came out as pansexual. It has its own pride flag as well (pictured above). In essence, it means a person can find themselves attracted to any other person, regardless of that person’s gender or gender identity.
What it doesn’t mean is that a pansexual teen will be a polygamist or sexually promiscuous. When she starts dating, it may be that your daughter only dates one type of person, like cisgender boys, etc. But that doesn’t make how she self-identifies any less valid.
It may also be that, down the road, your daughter self-identifies differently; self-exploration is often a process with a lot of twists and turns.
If you continue to respect and accept the process, as you have been so far, you can be sure that your daughter will continue to be open and honest with you.
The question asked by this parent reflect a wonderful relationship with the daughter. The teen clearly feels supported and accepted enough to share very intimate aspects of her identity. Transgender and sexual minority teens are particularly vulnerable to abuse and rejection. This too often leads to victimization, homelessness, depression and even suicide. In short, we need more parents like this one.
I hope this helps answer the question. Good luck!