This is the interesting read I’ve been working up to all night.
I have heard countless [bisexual, multisexual, no-label, omnisexual, pansexual, polysexual, and queer-as-in-sexuality] people ask, “Why do we have to label our sexualities?” I do agree that we should not be forced to reduce our complex sexual attractions and orientations down to a simple moniker. But as an activist, I would argue that the most persuasive argument for why BMNOPPQ folks should unite around some kind of umbrella label (whether “bisexual” or otherwise) is to challenge monosexism and bi-invisibility. In this scenario, said label would not blithely detail who we are sexual with, nor claim that we are somehow inherently different from hetero- or homo- or asexual folks (because I do not think we are), but rather point out that we (and we alone) are targeted by a particular sexist double standard, namely, monosexism. Doing this would enable us to raise awareness about, and to challenge, monosexism in our culture.
This is a long read, but well worth it. It takes a bit of time to plow through all the different aspects of intersectionality inherent with the author’s argument: that bisexuality is valid, and not necessarily a reinforcement of a gender binary, that there are valid reasons for choosing the term with no intent to step on any others’ toes.
Let me start out by saying that I know that, of late, I’ve read quite a few posts here about how the term ‘offense’ should probably just be banned, because it’s a good way to hide abdicate one’s responsibility - saying “we meant no offense” or “I don’t mean to offend anyone” is a good way to say something offensive without claiming any responsibility for saying something offensive. Saying “we didn’t mean to offend anyone” when a job posting says that a CTO “is almost certainly a man because x, y, and z” (I’m paraphrasing, but it’s a thing) is a good way of saying “gosh you guys are touchy” without saying “gosh you guys are touchy”, especially if the apology doesn’t actually include an honest apology (here, but I digress). Needless to say, I do see the parallels here - saying “I’m bi, but no offense meant when it comes to gender binaries” has plenty of problems going for it.
However, in her post on the matter, the author raises quite a few excellent points on the fact that so many of these groups rely on the existence of a binary for their own existence. That the transgender community relies on, and often rises against the idea of a gender binary is analogous in many ways to the idea that the bisexual community, in all its forms and labels, relies on and rises against the idea of a monosexual binary. It’s just one example of the fact that intersectionality isn’t simply the case of a four-circle Venn diagram: it often works out to be much more complicated than that implies.
Again, to the author’s credit, mentioning that there are uneven vagaries through out the debate, throughout time, and (only vaguely hinted at) throughout locale makes the issue all the more complex. I hadn’t really heard of issue, myself, but after digging into the original article (this article being a counter to the criticisms the author received on an original post), there certainly is an argument going on out there over the language involved in identity, and even identity itself. I hadn’t heard of the terms ‘essentialist’ or ‘binarist’ used in this context before, even, though to be fair I would hardly consider myself well-read on either matter, being rather new to both circles - gender has only solidified for me recently, and I was part of the no-labels camp for many, many years, and even now, the ‘bi’ label fits weird for me for various and inarticulate reasons.
I guess it comes down to the fact that, just like all these vague and complicated arguments, it’s easy enough to see both sides of the matter, and it’s hard enough to choose a side. All that’s to be done is to listen and read and learn, and find out where one fits with the matter and maybe even contribute here and there. I know that most of this is pretty waffly, but I’ve been reading for most of the evening, and I think I come down more on the side of the author for a few points:
- There isn’t just one binary; the gender binary isn’t the only one out there.
- Labels are important for more than just simple self-identity - we are not solipsistic, insular creatures, and we have a lot to gain personally through shared identity.
- Labels are STILL important for self-identity, and someone’s label for themselves is not necessarily an indictment against one’s views on a binary (in short, leading with “bisexuality is binarity and essentialist” denies one the chance to defend their journey toward accepting that label).
- Yes, this may all seem pretty small in the long-run, and perhaps even counter-productive, but intersectionality in all its myriad forms adds up and does count for quite a bit for the ways in which people treat each other. We are not just one label at a time, and even if we have a hierarchy of labels within us, we are not each of those labels separately. I am not just a furry*, or just pansexual, or just poly, or just whatever, but all of those things cluster together and mingle to make a me, and I’m just a me in society of others who are their own clusters of labels, and sometimes, its those identities that seem to interact, rather than whatever it is we call people.
(Pointed out to me by @ForneusLex)
* I mentioned policing boundaries in an earlier post; this is a very pertinent topic for that. Who is and isn’t a furry, what makes a furry versus anything else, is a topic that’s thorny as all get-out, but holy moly that doesn’t stop just about everyone (including me sigh) from trying!