Bisexuality, Binarism And Why Everyone Has It Wrong
Crossposted at The Spectrum Cafe
I’d like to leave a note here that one can use bisexuality to mean more than two genders attracted to provided they actually share the why for it and that why isn’t binarist or cissexist. There are non binarist and non cissexist ways to ignore the bi part of bisexual but the onus is on you to make sure that people know you’re not engaging in that shit. This post deals with the binarist and cissexist reasons for expanding bisexual and the binarism and cissexism strawman about the “two gender attractions” in bisexuality if one is using that definition.
I recently read an article from Julia Serano that filled me with dismay. Not just the article itself but the whole debate about bisexuality and how no one really comprehends the actual issue.
For those who have a deep phobia of hyperlinks (or a really shitty computer, like me), it was an attempt to defend bisexuality from accusations of enforcing the gender binary. Mostly by spouting male/female essentialism (which is pretty cissexist in and of itself and hell, even sexist) and then using it as a descriptor of how there’s a difference in her treatment by society depending on her partner, which is fairly problematic since it’s pulling labeling from a heterosexist, cissexist and binarist society. Never do that. It’s a bad call. Also, shock and awe y’all, this happens with any polysexuality, including pansexuality. It’s not a good reason under any light.
But this isn’t a fisk of her article. Because really, she’s defending bisexuality from a giant strawman fallacy dropped by her just as wrong opponents. I’ve discussed the concept of cissexism and binarism within gay, lesbian and etc labeling before but I haven’t tackled bisexuality’s rather unique situation as of yet and handled the topic in a more general fashion. So today I’m sliding on my details hat and going full steam into what about bisexuality is the binarism and cissexism issue and what isn’t.
See, the thing about bisexuality that everyone forgets (sometimes even bisexuals) is that it is a sexual orientation wherein you are attracted to two gender groups. Just two. It says nothing more than that. Bi-sexual. And in and of itself, being attracted to just two gender groups is not binarist, cissexist, sexist or anything. So bisexuality, as a simple, base level sexuality, is not in any way, shape or form, binarist or cissexist.
So where does that binarism and cissexism come into play? Because there is absolutely no doubt that there is binarism and cissexism in play in bisexuality. It comes up every day, same as with the monosexual orientations. You may think I’m contradicting myself but I’m really not. Bisexuality becomes binarist and cissexist because people structure assumptions around it, put it into positions it doesn’t belong and add things to the definition that make it a problem. For instance, Serano’s assumption that bisexual (a word about genders) is related to sex and that sex is male and female only, that is cissexist and binarist. And that poisons her usage of bisexual as a term.
Bisexuality gets run through the meat grinder of social bullshit pretty hard. People will attach the biological essentialism to it and that’s certainly bad but it gets even worse when you realize something very important about bisexuality and genders.
Bisexuality can just as easily describe an attraction to only say, agender folk and women as it can only men and women.
That’s right, bisexuality is just an attraction to only two gender groups. Any two. If I was attracted just agender folks and menz, I would be just as bisexual as Julia Serano would for being into men and women. Especially if the formulation of my attraction to agender and bigender folks was different for each of them, like hers is for men and for women. So why is this realization also a revelation about bisexuality that is unpleasant and negative? Because if you think about it a bit, you’ll notice that people equate bisexuality with an attraction to only men and women. And that is binarist. Fully and completely. Not only that, but it’s also sexuality policing. That’s right, by only associating bisexuality with an attraction to men and women you erase and police those bisexuals who are attracted to another combination of two genders. It’s not just damaging to nonbinary gender people but to other bisexuals.
Another element that poisons bisexuality, the bisexual community and the discourse of bisexuality with binarism (and actually sexuality policing as well) is the utter erasure of other forms of polysexuality. Because let’s face it, pansexuality is attraction regardless of gender. It means that any gender is in (and implicitly claims that the attractions are not different at all between genders for a pansexual). This does not cover people who are attracted to men, women and agender people or women, agender people and one type of mixed form people (two examples of trisexuality) or people who are attracted two types of mixed form people, agender people and men (an example of quadsexuality) or… well you get the idea. You see, there’s more than one sexuality between two and all/regardless. There’s three, four, five, six, etc up to the number of genders that exist. But bisexuality is essentially used as a label umbrella for all of those other sexualities (if people even acknowledge their existence, which is rare.) What happens is, instead of recognizing that biphobia is actually a form of monosexism and bisexuality one simple form of polysexuality, bisexuality replaces polysexuality as the label for non monosexual orientations and biphobia is equated to polysexuality. This erasure is destructive to these other sexualities and centers bisexuality as the only polysexual option beyond pansexuality (which many bisexuals even approach in a bigoted fashion) which creates binarism within bisexuality.
So people on both of the major sides of this debate on bisexuality and binarism are both engaging in binarism, cissexism, erasure and are just flat out wrong. Bisexuality doesn’t enforce the binary and cissexism, the erasing way it is used to mean polysexual, the way essentialism is spilled into it and the way it is policed to only be about men and women does.
And those are the problems all of us, not just the bisexual and polysexual communities, need to solve.
Filed under: activism | 63 Comments
Tags: binarism, bisexuality, cissexism, erasure, monosexuality, polysexuality, sexuality