A Mixed Up, Muddled Up World

Freud’s ‘pansexualism’ and the LGBT community

We live in a community of people who enjoy alternate lifestyles. It hasn’t always been that way, because people were afraid to be themselves in public. I get that.

Our ranks include members of the LGBT community who identify as bisexual, homosexual, and transsexual, not to mention metrosexuals (people who have sex on subways), Pinnochiosexuals (people who like partners with very long noses), and so on.

No problem for me. I can run with any crowd (which is my way of saying I have no friends) but I must admit to learning, after all these years, that there is yet another new food group out there: Pansexuals. Here is the definition: “One who can love sexuality in many forms. Like bisexuality, but even more fluid, a pansexual person can love not only the traditional male and female genders, but also transgendered, androgynous, and gender fluid people” — that is, people who melt.

I wondered about the origin of the word. Upon reflection, I decided it came from Peter Pan, a prepubescent character who was played for years by Mary Martin, a 58-year-old grandmother. Pan’s best friend, by the way, was named Tinker Bell (and there’s nothing wrong with that!).

“Pan” is also a character in Greek mythology, but let’s not bring the Greeks into this. In Greek religion and mythology, Pan is “the god of the wild, of shepherds and flocks, nature and mountain wilds and rustic music, and companion of the nymph.” Oh boy. Shepherds, flocks, nymphs, AND they are Greek?

This really screws up North Carolina. The state’s Single-Sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom Act, commonly known HB2, is drawing a lot of heat. It eliminates anti-discrimination protections for gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, and intersexed people, and legislates that in government buildings individuals may only use restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates.

This is a huge problem, first because most of us lost our birth certificate by the seventh grade, but mostly because we only had two genders back in the day: male and female. Now, it’s like going to a Chinese restaurant: you can take one from Column A and two from Column B. You can be a Transmetro Bi-Shepherd (not that there is anything wrong with that) even if you’re not a Tinker Bell. I don’t think our forefathers envisioned a multiple-choice question when the hospital asks what the sex of the newborn child is.

As it turns out, the word isn’t new at all. The origin of the term “pansexual” is generally attributed to “pansexualism,” a term popularized by Sigmund Freud in the early 1900s to describe the view that most human behavior derived from sexual instincts. Freud also popularized words like libido, denial, repression, cathartic, and neurotic. Hell, every guy has a wife with at least three of those traits.

Freud is the founder of psychoanalysis. It works like this:

Patient: I dreamt I was swimming nude in a sea of murky water.

Freud: You vant to sleep with your mother.

Patient: I dreamt I was sawing trees and chewing gum.

Freud: You vant to sleep with your mother.

Patient: I’m unable to sleep because I’m afraid you’ll bring up my mother.

Freud: Sooo!!!! You vant to sleep with your mother!

I don’t particularly like to use public restrooms because I feel intense pressure to wash my hands after I tinkle. I have a theory that the only people who don’t wash in the bathrooms are chefs in restaurants where they work. That’s a plus for me: It keeps the bill down because I lose my appetite.

Look, folks. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending my five-year old ballerina daughter into the Ladies’ Room only to find Gus, a six-foot four-inch sweaty conflicted carnival worker, in there with her. On the other hand, I’d be grateful he wasn’t in the men’s room with me.

Back in the day, ours was a repressive society. People were afraid to let their true feelings show. People were afraid to be who they really were deep inside. When I was 18, I decided to let my Freak Flag fly. After months of combing my hair down and greasing it, I blew it out into a glorious Afro. “What the hell is that?” my Irish-Catholic father asked.

“It’s my Freak Flag,” I said proudly.

“Did you know it comes with a black eye?” my father asked, catching me off guard.

“No,” I replied honestly.

“Well, if I see that thing on your freakin’ head when I get home from work tomorrow, you’ll know.”

There’s something liberating about living life the way you want to, instead of the way your parents want you to. Even if you do get a smack from dad every once in a while.


Rick Murphy is a six-time winner of the New York Press Association Best Column award as well as the winner of first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and the Suburban Newspaper Association of America and a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.

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