One huge clarification – monosexual privilege, gays and lesbians

X-posted from Tumblr.

(What is this about?)

This is really upsetting. It appears that the idea that biphobia originates from gay and lesbian communities is so deeply ingrained in bisexual* communities many people are incapable of thinking outside it.

To make myself clear: THE IDEA OF MONOSEXISM MEANS THAT IT’S A WIDESPREAD STRUCTURE. IT MEANS IT DOES NOT ORIGINATE IN GAY AND LESBIAN COMMUNITIES. GAYS AND LESBIANS ARE NOT OUR OPPRESSORS (though they may well cooperate with this structure).

Here’s a snippet from my book to help explain. It is part of a much longer criticism of this idea (some parts bolded for emphasis):

The stance that bisexuals are only oppressed as a result of homophobia and lesbophobia erases the need for a unique bisexual liberation struggle and places bisexuals as mere “halfway” appendages to the gay and lesbian movement.

[. . .]

Considering the fact that the overwhelming majority of biphobia and monosexism originates not from gay and lesbian communities, but from heterosexual structures, it seems like the bisexual movement, as a whole, is all-too-focused on the wrong aspect. This overwhelming focus on gay and lesbian biphobia creates a false impression that, as a commentator recently put on my blog, “[bisexuals are] perfectly justified saying we get worse treatment in the gay community [than in straight ones]”. In turn, this notion contributes to the belief that bisexuals do not, in fact, experience (as much?) oppression by the heterosexual society, as well as sprouting the belief that our “real problem” lies with not within heteropatriarchy, but within gay and lesbian communities (that is, scapegoating).

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10 thoughts on “One huge clarification – monosexual privilege, gays and lesbians

  1. Pingback: The monosexual privilege checklist | Bi radical

  2. I have warned some upset bisexual activists not to over generalize the oppression that occurs in the gay and lesbian community. And the most violent forms of oppression have come from straight homophobia and biphobia – and I don’t over generalize that either. However there has been within a segment of the gay male community a complete lack of recognition. Even a complete and painful dismissal of some of my most intimate loving relationships (with the opposite sex) as a lie or a denial. As well actual job discrimination and actual harassment from some gay men. In certain cases things that were blatantly illegal. I would never ever say that gays and lesbians or straights are my oppressors as I have gained great support from some of all orientations. BUT it would be foolish for me to ignore the oppression that I experienced within the gay male community and to not challenge that oppression legally (which I have). You might say “GAY” has some degree of agency and power at this point in history. In the 1960s and 50s the gay and the bisexual existed in equal oppressive circumstances. BUT gay liberation after 1970 has had a continual ongoing erasure and dismissal of bi people. As Foucault would have it Knowledge/Power is diffused and embodied in discourse, knowledge and ‘regimes of truth’. And an ongoing systematic regime of truth is the binary of GAY and STRAIGHT. Any oppressed group will take whatever power that they can get to gain the agency needed to activate change even if that power is gleened from on oppressive structure, in this case the subordination of gay from straight. But there is some degree of gay collusion with this regime of truth that continually dismisses bi people and at best provides mere tokenism instead of real inclusion in an LGBT movement. None of this can be ignored really. And bisexual people should not rely on gays lesbians or straight people for liberation. We should primarily rely on each other and seek out our true allies regardless of their orientation.

    • Here’s another quote from the book to explain my stance on this:

      to answer the question why bisexual discourses, as a whole, had maintained such a focus on gay and lesbian biphobia, one need only look at bisexual people’s (and especially bisexual activists and writers’) lived experiences. Most bisexuals come out not to bisexual communities but to gay or lesbian ones, seeking the same acknowledgement, acceptance and support that gay and lesbian people expect to – and indeed do – receive there. However, as opposed to gays and lesbians, bisexuals often encounter erasure, exclusion and biphobic response within those communities. This experience is particularly painful, since gay and lesbian communities are where we often come seeking for help, and where we subsequently become heartbroken and even betrayed, as this rejection seems to come from where we least expect it – where we came for support. This feeling of pain and heartbreak is not only real but might also be thought of as a central component in many bisexuals’ lived experiences, in the formation of some bisexual identities, and certainly in forming bisexual politics, as evidenced above.

      • This has certainly been my experience. But today after letting go and forgiving I realize the powerful position I am in. I am currently in an open relationship with a bi woman. Essentially we both are to some degree or another part of the gay community, the lesbian community, the trans community, the straight community, the bi community and the poly community simply from our past relationships and group involvement. Bisexual people have this wonderful position and power where we can work to create broader understandings and not deeper divisions. There may be a great deal more power as unifies, listeners, and bridge builders than holding onto grudges for being misunderstood. As painful as those experiences may have been there is more power forgiving and moving on and creating broader understandings concerning love, intimacy and sexuality.

  3. Not to hog up to much comment space but the idea that there is “more acceptance from straight” is very relative indeed and a bit of a red hearing. I don’t go out of my way to out myself in rural Alabama that I am bisexual or queer in any manner. I have found many straight men whom I have clicked with more but they are in very liberal circles and would consider themselves “slightly bi” And “almost straight” the sensitive straight men. For them their same sex feelings are not strong enough to want to pursue in a homophobic Biphobic culture and their engagement would be rather limited anyway so they identify as straight. They tend to see me more clearly than gay men who have ZERO interest in the opposite gender. Just as straight men who have no interest in the same gender can not understand me. But indeed I know a lot of women and men who are “a little bi” but for all practical communication purposes “straight”. And I know some who are really closeted bisexual but are assumed “straight”. So perhaps this “straight” acceptance is really coming from people who are not quite straight.

  4. I can definitely see this as being reflective of my lived experience: LG people no more prejudiced against me than straights are, but it seems more painful coming from them. I wanted to see them as my allies, my community, but instead I’m finding non-monosexual communities to be infinitely more radical and subversive (considering the state of the LG movement in Canada, which I believe is quite similar to that of other Western countries). I can’t really expect LG people to be any more aware of bi politics than straight people.

  5. I agree with you but at the same time, the reason why I’m here, trying to look up resources is because since yesterday I’ve been having an argument with a lesbian feminist ‘friend’ of mine who insists biphobia does not exist because (quote) “bisexuals are just semi-straight people whining about not being invited to gay parties.”

    • I hear you. Here’s what I wrote in my book about this:

      To answer the question why bisexual discourses, as a whole, had maintained such a focus on gay and lesbian biphobia, one need only look at bisexual people’s (and especially bisexual activists and writers’) lived experiences. Most bisexuals come out not to bisexual communities but to gay or lesbian ones, seeking the same acknowledgement, acceptance and support that gay and lesbian people expect to – and indeed do – receive there. However, as opposed to gays and lesbians, bisexuals often encounter erasure, exclusion and biphobic response within those communities. This experience is particularly painful, since gay and lesbian communities are where we often come seeking for help, and where we subsequently become heartbroken and even betrayed, as this rejection seems to come from where we least expect it – where we came for support. This feeling of pain and heartbreak is not only real but might also be thought of as a central component in many bisexuals’ lived experiences, in the formation of some bisexual identities, and certainly in forming bisexual politics, as evidenced above.

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