liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
[personal profile] liv
So there's some pushback against using the term bisexual in that the bi prefix implies that there are exactly two distinct sexes / genders, and therefore excludes people who don't fit neatly into either box. Julia Serano, one of my favourite writers on trans* issues, recently made a very thoughtful and informative post about this issue. Among other astute stuff, she points out that it's no more assuming a binary system of gender to say that I am bisexual (ie attracted to both men and women), than it is for another person to say that they're straight (ie attracted to people of the opposite sex to themselves, assuming that these categories are obvious, and, well, binary) or lesbian (attracted exclusively to women, sometimes with a fairly narrow or even transphobic definition of who counts as "real" women).

For me personally, I'm pretty much happy to call myself bi(sexual) or to use an alternative term. The trouble with pansexual or omnisexual is that they really do seem to carry the connotations of "will fuck anything that stays still long enough", which is really not how I am at all. I'm extremely picky in my attractions, and even more so in whom I'll actually enter into a sexual interaction with. In fact, compared to a lot of people I've compared experiences with, I am attracted to a very small proportion of the people I encounter, I guess maybe about 1 or 2%, and even then mostly people I know quite well. I've seen people who seem to experience attraction the way I do, as a rare thing and one that depends on the context of interaction with the person, describe themselves as demi-sexual or grey-A; that would be completely the wrong term for me, as I have a high sex drive, just a relatively narrow field of potential partners I want to express it with. But gender just isn't a very big factor in who's included in that small group; I probably have stronger preferences about somatotype and colouring than gender.

And even then, the main common characteristic among people I'm attracted to is a certain kind of very visible intelligence. I have considered identifying as sapiosexual, but there are several problems with that. First of all that it's a rare and specialist term, few people really know what it means, so I have to explain. And it doesn't clearly identify me as part of a group for political purposes. Also it feels kind of pretentious! There's also a more serious problem, which is that using sapiosexual as an identity term may contribute to a different oppressive system, the one which values people who are fluent in the dominant language and knowledgeable about prestige domains and good at abstract reasoning over people from cultural minorities and people who lack access to education and people with intellectual disabilities. I'm not sure that being attracted to intellectual types (regardless of what their body looks like) is much superior to being attracted to thin, blonde women with big breasts. As a personal preference, whatever, like most people I fancy some people more than others, but as a political or identity stance, not really ideal.

I think part of the issue is that identity terms with -sexual in them are generally not great. Because it makes it sound like who you are is some trivial matter of sexual taste. And it's not really done to keep referring to your sexuality in the public arena, it's at best making a big deal out of something private and personal and in the big picture not very important, and quite likely distasteful or inappropriate. There's a reason why a whole lot more people are happy to call themselves gay than homosexual, straight rather than heterosexual etc, and even terms like Ace are gaining ground over asexual, trans or trans* over transsexual and so on. Bisexual can at least be shortened to bi, but it still sounds like it's what I do in bed, rather than a facet of my personal history and experiences and identity.

And then there's Queer as a catch-all term. Again, in some contexts I'm happy with it, in others not so much. For one thing it's a reclaimed term, which means that many people do still perceive it as hurtful. For someone who has had that used against them as a term of abuse, it's not great for me to keep reminding them of that experience. Also, it's possibly just a bit too non-specific. There are contexts where I want to mention that I am in fact bisexual, not just in some generic way different from the heteronormative default.

For me personally, biphobia has never been a big problem; I've rarely met anyone who had a problem with me being bi who wasn't already homophobic anyway. And I've not really had much to do with exclusively gay people who think that being bi means I'm actually a lesbian but just too scared to come out, or I'm a traitor to the cause by sleeping with men, partly because I tend not to be involved in that kind of very politicized, quasi-separatist scene. But I know that biphobia and bi invisibility are real problems for some people, so there may be some positive benefit in calling myself bi rather than just Queer. Especially since I am a mostly cis woman in a very visible, socially sanctioned relationship with a cis man; I suspect most people I interact with casually think I'm straight.

I definitely want the world to be a better place for non-binary people. I am greatly in sympathy with people who have non-standard gender identities; I'm on the edge of considering myself part of that group, and I hesitate mainly because my differences from being a woman in the most conventional, default, binary sense of the term are really tiny and I don't want to appropriate anyone else's struggle or identity. And I recognize that as far as the GSM spectrum goes, I have a pretty easy life, given that most people perceive me as a conventionally gendered cis woman, and anyone who's likely to be casually homophobic will probably assume I'm straight unless I choose to tell them otherwise. But hey, that's why I have a blog, I can write long essays about identity labels, rather than just saying "I'm bi" and letting people make possibly wrong assumptions about my views of gender and sex.

And while we're on the topic, a thoughtful piece by CN Lester about whether the term non-binary may itself reinforce binary assumptions.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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