CW: Mentions of Transphobia, Biphobia, bi-erasure, bi-invisibility, pan-erasure, poly-erasure, naughty words, biased opinions against monosexuals.
I’m digitally black and blue. Ow.
I got a schooling the other day, I jumped on a post by someone I follow. I’m a complete stranger to them but decided to dive in on a conversation which I should have a.) thought through b.) assessed and c.) not have been so arrogant on. It was the most male-ego shit I had pulled in ages.
I was a knob. I did not check myself at all.
She, however, was astute in her sit-down (her Instagram handle is @misscarolf, follow her for on point social activism in the US, she’s also Pansexual and super smart and a lovely person).
I basically disagreed with her definition of bisexuality and put forward a weak argument as to why, and as she quite graciously pointed out, it was dripping in ignorant perceptions of what I thought bisexuality was to me.
Now, although my definition of bisexuality is completely valid. No one should erase someone else’s orientation based on their own self-identification. Something gay/lesbian and straight people do constantly to me.
What she said, in sum, was bi = 2 gender sexual attraction, poly = multiple gender sexual attraction and pan = all the sexual attraction to everyone. What I disputed was that bi is not limited to only 2 and incorrectly stated that pan = emotional attraction to personalities/people. Or some other horse shit.
Bisexuality, polysexuality and pansexuality are quite commonly erased and left invisible in mainstream media, society and the queer community. Monosexual supremacy rules, and even though there has been a spate of bisexual celebrities springing up, they are almost always wrongly identified as gay/lesbian; or even worse, LGBT (which isn’t an orientation or even accurate to the community anymore).
With the often-confusing conflation between bisexuality and pansexuality, which is something I see in online community forums and private groups, is that one can often invalidate the other. A go-to for pansexuals is that cis-bisexuals are transphobic (because they can be, being bisexual doesn’t make them immune to being shit), just as there is high levels of transphobia in the gay and lesbian community also (let’s just assume we already know that heterosexuals are rarely not shit, and leave them out of this) and I’m sure that there are self-identifying pansexuals who are transphobic. It’s a given, people aren’t great.
Society, in general, is having a slow fucking time coming around to the idea that gender and genitals are not necessarily linked.
However, because bisexual people can be transphobic; because they can have negative views or invalidating ‘preferences’ (the preference debate is for another day) that does not mean that they all do. As a bisexual person, I can happily say that thus far in life I have found myself attracted to a vast array of genders. I actually find myself more inclined towards the genderqueer, gender non-conforming and non-binary folx because gay cis-men and straight cis-women are often problematic as fuck with their gender/sexuality politics.
That being said, let’s be hypothetical. In my fake world, there are 10 genders. A pansexual person could be sexually/romantically attracted to all 10 of them and myself, as a bisexual person, could only be attracted to 9 of them; technically speaking, I am still bisexual, and I would not consider myself pansexual. Although I could comfortably identify as polysexual or even pan.
Straying away from the textbook definition of a sexual orientation is an individual’s prerogative. If we were to hypothesise again, saying that myself as a self-identifying bisexual was sexually/romantically attracted to 5/10 genders then that is fine, I am still bisexual. If we then had a self-identifying pansexual say they were, at that specific moment in their life, attracted to 8/10 (lets assume they struck off cis-gendered men and women, because why not?) then they are still pansexual.
The issue in my problematic behaviour was that in trying to define the intersections of my bisexuality with gender and romantic/sexual attraction, I tried to take away the rights of pansexuality to exist. As it was quite rightly put to me, I was being ignorant via my subjective experience of sexuality to umbrella all bisexuals in a light that erases poly/pansexuality.
That is fucked up.
Although bisexuals struggle for representation and against erasure, even more greatly affected are the self-identifying pan and polysexuals.
There have been times in the last few years where I have questioned how I define myself. It’s a common trait amongst bisexuals to still have self-doubt, trying to redefine ourselves based on recent activity/experiences. We also need to bear in mind that sexual attraction isn’t the only element that is to be considered when we think of our sexuality, and it is never as clear cut as many think (attraction is rarely experienced as 50% towards one gender and 50% towards another, think more so a 70/30, on a sliding scale).
It can be further defined by our romantic attraction and how we experience physical attraction but also our internalised bias and life experience; I personally lived a long time convincing myself I had to act heterosexual in life, I therefore struggle to imagine myself romantically involved with men (cis or otherwise). I also find it hard trusting men due to the men I have had in my life, so I just tend to avoid them in general.
It’s a lose-lose on that front, to be fair.
I personally committed myself to be a good ally in every respect of my identity and that means supporting and defending those that are minorities or oppressed in whichever community.
So, I need to do better. Much better.