With no opponent in November’s general election, El Paso Democrat Mary Gonzalez is already unofficially the new state representative for District 75. Which means the 28-year-old is also, as Cindy Ramirez of the El Paso Times noted in June, “the second openly gay representative to have served in the Texas Legislature” (Glen Maxey was the first). 

“Mary Gonzalez: The Lege Gets Its First Out Lesbian,” was the headline on a Hairballs News post at the Houston Press.

Except it turns out Gonzalez is not really a lesbian. Nor, as she explained to Anna Waugh of the North Texas LGBT publication Dallas Voice, is she bisexual. As Waugh wrote:

Gonzalez said she identifies as “pansexual,” an orientation many would call bisexual, except pansexuals don’t believe in a gender binary and can be attracted to all gender identities. Gonzalez said she doesn’t believe in a gender binary because “gender identity isn’t the defining part of my attraction.”

After coming out as bisexual at 21, Gonzalez said a few years later she started dating “gender-queer” and transgender people, and later identified as pan.

“As I started to recognize the gender spectrum and dated along the gender spectrum, I was searching for words that connected to that reality, for words that embraced the spectrum,” she said. “At the time I didn’t feel as if the term bisexual was encompassing of a gender spectrum that I was dating and attracted to.”…

“During the campaign if I had identified as pansexual, I would have overwhelmed everyone,” she said this week, adding that people don’t know what being pan means. “Now that I’m out of the campaign, I’m completely much more able to define it.”

And yet, this is not the first time that the term “pansexual” has been a topic at the Texas legislature.

As Robert T. Garrett of the Dallas Morning News reported, during the last session, soon-to-be-former state representative Wayne Christian inserted a provision into the state budget bill regarding the funding of state colleges and universities with centers “for students focused on gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning, or other gender identity issues.”

Christian wanted to require schools which funded such centers to provide equal funding for centers promoting “family and traditional values” (the provision did not get by the Senate, though Christian also tried to revive it during the special session).

At that time, San Antonio representative Joaquin Castro asked Christian to define “pansexual” himself. Daniel Williams of the blog Legislative Queery recapped that exchange in pictures, which we now bring you in GIF form.

how do you make gifs

While national sex advice columnist Dan Savage, a gay man, has in the past mocked the “effort to find just the right word to describe every flower in our beautiful queer garden,” Jos Truitt of Feministing applauded Gonzalez’s choice to use the word. 

I’m glad Gonzalez feels able to define herself on her own terms now … it matters that Gonzalez is bringing pansexual into the mainstream in this way.

People should be able to be out on their own terms, and it’s a major problem that our political conversation doesn’t have much space for sexuality beyond straight and gay. In fact, there hasn’t been a lot of space for other sexualities in the mainstream conversation, period. It’s a positive and long overdue shift that public figures like Frank Ocean and Gonzalez are finally feeling like they can talk about their sexualities in a way that’s true to their experiences, even if it doesn’t fit neatly in the straight or gay box.