There’s been a lot of talk about coming out lately, but what Mary Gonzalez did last week is a first. Gonzalez won the El Paso Democratic primary in May, and since there’s no challenger she’s set to become the representative from her district. And on Friday, she came out as pansexual in the Dallas Voice:
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.”
(Ahem, I see those scare quotes around genderqueer.)
Gonzalez initially identified as queer, which apparently proved confusing to a news media that’s way behind the times on sexuality and gender. So she started using the word gay, which led to her being labeled as a lesbian. And then there was policing of her sexuality for not being a “true lesbian” because she’d dated men in the past. At that point, Gonzalez felt the election had focused on her sexuality enough already, with the media labeling her the Latina lesbian lawmaker.
“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.”
I’m glad Gonzalez feels able to define herself on her own terms now. While there has been a slowly increasing number of legislators who are out as not straight, we haven’t actually seen much sexuality diversity represented in our politics. There are a few out bisexual legislators in the country, but most out politicians have identified as gay or lesbian. So 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 (next step: not having to come out as not straight. Or maybe just having to come out as straight? Just cause that would crack me up). It’s high time the media and our politics start making this sort of space (rather than, say, pushing Frank Ocean into the gay box). Gonzalez is opening up space for other folks to come out as pansexual, and to represent more of the diversity within the queer community. This should mean that soon other folks won’t have to educate everyone about what pansexual means when they come out.
Congratulations and thank you, Mary Gonzalez, for coming out on your own terms.