Perspectives 3: Charlotte

Alex Jacobs meets second year Charlotte in a local cafe to talk queer politics, relationships, and how her smoothie turned out to be surprisingly tasty despite having carrot in it.

“I’m bisexual, well, pansexual is more appropriate [for me] I think. I basically don’t care about the gender of the person I’m seeing. It’s like the cliché, what is it, “people not genitals”? I don’t think that’s a saying, but we’ll go with it! Bisexual is probably the better-known term, and also if you’re talking to people who are not super familiar with queer terminology I think they can grasp bisexual more than pansexual. If I were an activist, as a lot of the people who I respect and admire are, then I would maybe try and make pansexual a more widely-understood term, and seen as being just as valid as the term “bisexual”. For me, personally, I don’t really mind which one people use, I just don’t want my sexuality to be seen as reinforcing a gender binary, or trans-exclusionary, or anything like that. In my head, pansexual is the term that I use, but to other people, bisexual is more accessible.”

“From an early age I had, what would you call them, “gay feelings”, if that makes sense! Notions that I was a bit different, not totally straight. And I guess I didn’t really see [being pan] as an option for a long time as well, it was more like you were either straight or gay, and those were the two options. And I thought that was weird, because I didn’t feel like I fitted into either of those categories, so I didn’t really think about it for a long time. I think I kind of knew from childhood, which is weird because you think of it as something you come into during puberty, but really I think you know before then. I remember a lot of feeling really embarrassed when I would watch something, or see something where a woman was naked or sexualised, because it was like, “I know I shouldn’t be looking at this”, or “I shouldn’t be feeling something about this”. It wasn’t necessarily sexual, but more like embarrassment, rather than anything else. Or maybe the knowledge that I was transgressing something, I think.”

“I’m not super vocal about being pansexual. I don’t really see it as a huge part of my identity. I know a lot of people in Oxford do, and I think it’s fantastic how the LGBTQ+ Society creates a community, and so many friendships and relationships are formed. But I don’t feel like I’m that bothered about my sexuality. It’s great that there’s so many different people in Oxford, that you feel more normal, which is something that I don’t have at home. I may not be a huge part of the scene, but I do think it’s fab that it’s there. It’s also really good that it’s optional, so if you’re LGBT+, you don’t have to be part of the scene, but it’s totally welcoming if you are.”

“I don’t really think my gender and my sexuality are linked in any way, partly because I don’t really know what my gender is or means to me, but I think, being any kind of queer woman, you face a level of disbelief that you can have those kinds of feelings. Like when male gayness was legalised in the UK, but female gayness was never legalised, because it was never illegal because people didn’t realise it was a thing. It’s like that, but watered down. You need to prove yourself, prove that you’re bi, that you’ve had relationships with other women. I haven’t really faced that to any kind of terrible extent, but I know that it’s there, and being on the internet has shown me really weird, bigoted attitudes to bi people, and bi women specifically, that I (happily) haven’t had to face, but I know that they are there.”

“I think people sometimes have the misconception that, because you’re pansexual, you have a lot of sex, or that you’re polyamorous. Polyamory is totally as valid as any other kind of relationship style, but it’s not synonymous with bisexuality or pansexuality. The problem is slut-shaming, or seeing having sex with a lot of different people, or having a lot of sex, as a bad thing. It’s not. It’s great! If you are attracted to people of every gender, then I think that (mistakenly) suggests to people that you must have had, or want to have, experience with lots of different genders. It feels like a competition, which is stupid, and not true, because you can still pick a person to be with, if you are monogamous in relationships, but it just means that it doesn’t matter what gender that person is. There are other misconceptions too, like the idea that women are more likely to be bi or pan than men, because of ideas like “women are softer and more emotional, and they’re very affectionate”, which sounds nice, but it’s actually rooted in stereotyping and sexism. It’s just as common for guys to be bisexual, but I think a lot of bi/pan men face discrimination as well. I saw somebody online who posted their tinder bio, and they said they were a bi woman, but wouldn’t go out with a bi man, “because the guy will like men”, and obviously that makes no sense! That’s blatant homophobia.”

“My relationship with my partner has made me realise, maybe this is a terrible way to put it, but just because I’ve “chosen that path” of being with someone, I don’t stop feeling sexual attraction to other people. I guess it’s the same if straight people are in a relationship, even though you might love one person, you can still feel physically or emotionally attracted to other people. Our relationship is strengthened by the openness that we have with each other about that kind of thing, so I think for me it’s enhanced how open you can be with sex and love.”