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Dating As A Pansexual Man on Tinder

Tinder is a minefield for most people in the dating scene, but for those in open relationships, who are polyamorous or are part of the LGBTQI+ community, there are many more considerations.

Sean* is a pansexual, polyamorous man in his late thirties, who identifies as a straight man on Tinder and other dating apps, yet uses language in his bio to indicate that he is not. Whilst he cannot speak for other people and their experiences, Sean had a great chat with me one evening to discuss his journey as a person who has lived through judgement, fear of persecution, and managed great change throughout his sexual journey. Through our chat Sean was able to open my eyes to a different perspective on being pansexual online, the perspective of a man on dating apps, which to me feels very different being a married woman on Tinder.

Like many LGBTQI+ youth Sean did not accept himself as pansexual during his teen years, rather preferring to identify as heterosexual. Sean first turned to sex with other men when he was unsuccessful in relationships with women his age.

Later on becoming involved in kink and swinging communities he was able to experience more with men, however the shame and the stigma persisted, Sean was unable to acknowledge or accept his own desires.

It wasn’t until he dated a woman who was an LGBTQI+ ally, she was able to help him better understand and accept himself. With support and understanding around him Sean has been able to navigate the development of his sexuality with more acceptance. Becoming more open to himself, Sean has also been in an ethically non-monogamous relationship (ENM). In this situation, Sean supported his girlfriend in finding a girlfriend herself, this he said was difficult because the dynamic lacked equality for him – he felt like “a third wheel” and ENM dynamics should make the partners comfortable with their positions. Through these kinds of experiences Sean has been able to learn more about himself and his perspectives as a pansexual man.

I met Sean on Tinder earlier this year and after reading his bio I swiped right in the hopes that he would agree to speak with me on the blog. 

Full disclosure, I swiped right on a number of people who mentioned ENM and polyamory, Sean was the only one who agreed to talk to me, which indicates to some degree how concerned people are about judgement and backlash for their personal choices.

Like many people on Tinder, Sean chooses not to disclose his sexuality up front for fear of alienation and repercussions in his professional and personal life. Using language like ENM (ethically non-monogamous), Polyamorous and LGBTQI+ friendly to suggest his sexuality, he also mentions body positivity and curvy women throughout his bio as another way of letting the reader know that he is not just another shallow man looking for a hook up.

These subtle messages serve two purposes, one is to warn off closed minded people, and the other is to discretely acknowledge his identity to the rest of the community.

When we discussed this, Sean admitted that if the character limit was higher, he would have written a more detailed bio with more indicators. Looking to the future Sean believes that the openness and activism seen amongst the younger generations will force greater change in the world for the LGBTQI+ community.

While some people may disagree with hiding their sexuality from prospective partners, for Sean and many members of the community it feels like a necessity to protect their relationships, both personally and professionally. Working in a government job and having grown up in a heteronormative space, Sean has lived his life in spaces influenced by casual racism, homophobia and misogyny. In his experience there is little to no understanding for bisexual or pansexual men, mostly people label it as a “weird fetish” rejecting it as a sexuality. 

For many straight people, announcing a new relationship or discussing their hook-ups is socially accepted amongst friends and family, for Sean and others in his position, it means carefully selecting how much to share with each work place, family member and friendship group.

This lack of understanding and support is what causes men like Sean to compartmentalise their lives in this way.There is a large discussion around men’s mental health in Australia, are we to believe that only heterosexual men suffer, or that our ignorance and lack of acceptance of these men’s’ sexuality wouldn’t cause harm?

Sean taught me a lot about online dating as a man in a world still dominated by the male gaze and casual misogyny. The discussions we had went way beyond what I have crammed into these paragraphs, but the topics I did manage to bring up here are important to discuss as the Australian community. When it comes to understanding and acceptance within bisexual and pansexual communities, it seems to be an easier journey for many women than men.

Online dating shouldn’t exclude people from being themselves, however in the world we currently live in, that is the reality for Sean and others like him.

Hopefully with people like Sean talking about their experiences and the rise of the sex positive movement online the future can be more open and accepting around sex, sex work, gender and sexuality. Tinder can be a toxic place, but for most people that doesn’t include judgement about their sexual identity, rather most people are judged on unfair, but smaller issues like physical appearance. Dating can be scary and traumatic enough without fear of persecution for just being yourself.

*Sean’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.

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