Starbucks barista, Tristan met his partner five years ago when they sang in the same choir.
His partner, Shannah, is a woman and he describes the start of their relationship as an “odd situation”.
Before they got together, Tristan identified as gay. Today, Tristan identifies as pansexual: he is attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender identity.
His journey to discovering his pansexual identity began when he was much younger. Tristan knew at a young age that he was attracted to men, but he worried about what that meant for his future as he struggled with religion and sexual identity.
“I was concerned and thought I wouldn’t have children and I wouldn’t be able to get married in the church that I grew up in. I always pictured a suburban home with a white picket fence, so that was my struggle coming out,” he says. He also worried about whether he would be accepted by his family and community, so growing up, he kept his identity to himself.
It wasn’t until he went to college in another city, where he met his then boyfriend, that he made the decision to come out to his family as gay. While he was nervous to share the news with his family , to his relief and surprise, his family accepted and supported him. The challenge was, Tristan still had questions about his own identity.
“When I came out as gay, I knew I was attracted to my boyfriend at the time, but in the back of my mind, I also knew that I was attracted to women. When I expressed this to some of my friends in the queer community, they didn’t understand.”
Some of Tristan’s friends in the community, suggested that his attraction to women was just a phase. Despite knowing that he was attracted to men and women, Tristan felt like he needed to identify one way or the other and so he felt it would be easier to live life as a gay man.
When Tristan met his current partner Shannah, it took time for her to fully understand his feelings and identity and it took time for his friends and family, too.
“I had to come out for a second time this time, but as pansexual,” he says. “In many ways it was harder coming out as pansexual to my friends and family than it was coming out as gay years earlier.”
After coming out for the second time, Tristan lost a couple of friends in the queer community, but he was fortunate to have the acceptance of many, including his family.
Through his journey to discovering his identity, Tristan realized that emotions and feelings can change. Discovering your identity can be a continuous process and things can change throughout your life. He also learned the importance of surrounding yourself with people who are accepting of you. He shared this advice for others who may be in the process of discovering their own identities: “I want people to know that it’s ok to love whoever you want to love and be whoever you want to be. Don’t let people judge or put you into a box.”