Before you continue: One huge clarification!
I was translating/editing the male privilege checklist (link in Hebrew) a couple of days ago, when it occurred to me that I have never seen a monosexual privilege checklist. Indeed, I’ve never heard the term spoken or referred to before. Despite the fact that many privilege lists exist for many groups, it appears that the idea that monosexuals enjoy privilege is relatively new as well as foreign to queer and bisexual political thought. More often than not, when the word “privilege” arises in relation to bisexuality or bisexual people, it is coupled with “heterosexual” and with the claim that bisexuals “enjoy heterosexual privilege” (here’s a helpful hint with that: we’re not, in fact, heterosexual). And so I thought it might be time to try to unpack some of these notions and compile a monosexual privilege checklist. The significance of such a list, as I see it, would be to highlight the way in which bisexuals experience oppression, seeing as this is a much-denied and much-erased topic. In fact, there are many things that monosexual people can take for granted in their lives and which bisexuals can’t. I hope this list would be of help to monosexual people in understanding their privileges and becoming better allies to bisexuals, as well as helping bisexuals understand our own (often transparent) oppression. I also hope this list could serve as a starting point for deeper discussion on biphobia as a system (rather than a series of personal mistreatments), within the bisexual movement and the queer movement in general.
A note on terminology:
I am aware of the problematics of using a binary structure such as monosexual/bisexual, however I allow myself to use it as a political and analytical tool in order to expose unequal power relations in a society which already operates under this binary. In addition, it is no less binary to speak about monosexual/bisexual than is it to speak about cisgender/transgender, male/female, white/black or straight/queer . The fact that only the bisexual movement finds itself facing the ubiquitous binary accusation (and so often) for making arguments so closely similar to those of other movements, is suspicious to say the least.
I use the term “bisexual” as an umbrella-word, including anyone attracted to people of more than one gender, who identifies as bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, heteroflexible, homoflexible, or any other bi-spectrum identity, and who considers themselves part of the bisexual movement/community.
I define “monosexual” as any person attracted to people of no more than one gender and who identifies as such (including heterosexuals, gays and lesbians).
I define “privilege” as something society awards some and withholds from others.
The obligatory disclaimer says:
By compiling a list of monosexual privilege, I do not mean to suggest that all monosexuals are the same, nor do I mean to suggest that they enjoy nothing but privilege. Power inequalities exist all over the social map, and monosexuals are just as likely as anyone to be on the bad end of one of them. Some of the points described are naturally ones shared by people of other marginalized groups – people experience similar forms of privilege or oppression through different identities, and the list isn’t meant to be strictly exclusive. And of course, this list would be more accurate the more privileges the person in question enjoys (and in particular: males, white people, heterosexuals, cisgenders, etc.). In addition, I do not mean to imply that all bisexuals are oppressed and enjoy no privileges – many bisexual people belong to other groups which do enjoy privilege. As in any field in life – stuff is complicated and multifaceted. We are all oppressors and we are all oppressed – and we must all deal both with our oppression and our privileges. Please take this as an opportunity.
This list includes some ideas that I picked up from the male privilege checklist, the white privilege checklist, the heterosexual privilege checklist and these two cisgender* privilege checklists. Read them.
Being able to write a list of privileges is not transparent for me: many privileges benefited me while writing it. I am a Jewish citizen of Israel (and thus have access to many civil rights and privileges denied from Palestinians); I am an English speaker; I am a university graduate; I have (had) access to academic and political writings about bisexuality and queer theory/politics; I have an internet connection, computer access and the technical skills required to operate a computer; though I am not able-bodied, I am able to use my hands for typing and my eyes for reading (albeit with the help of glasses). These are all privileges which I can think about that enabled me to write this post (there are probably alot more). As you read the list, please consider your own privileges in light of this paragraph and of the list itself.
This list is far from being exhaustive. I urge you to respond and add more – I will edit the list and add the relevant ones.
For commentators wanting to point out that people from other marginalized groups also suffer some of these attitudes, please see the disclaimer. In addition, I urge you to consider whether you would be likely to make this same comment on any of the other privilege lists. (If not, then you could ask yourself why, and are your reasons relevant in this case, too). Also, see: But this happens to me too!
Another edit: I am no longer approving comments in this vein. If you agree with me that people of different groups experience similar forms of oppression, why not think about ways to connect our shared struggles instead of using yours as an excuse to erase mine?
The monosexual privilege checklist
- Society assures me that my sexual identity is real and that people like me exist.
- When I disclose my sexual identity to others, they believe it without requiring me to prove it (usually by disclosing my sexual and romantic history).
- I can feel sure that, upon disclosing my sexual identity, people accept that it’s my real/actual sexual identity (rather than assuming that I am lying or simply wrong).
- I am never considered closeted when disclosing my sexual identity.
- I am considered to have more authority in defining and judging bisexuality than people who identify as bisexual.
- Perception/acceptance of my sexual identity is generally independent of my choices of relationships, partners, and lifestyles.
- It is unlikely that disclosing my sexual identity in a non-sexual context will be taken as a sign of sexual availability or consent.
- I can be confident that people will not rename my sexual identity or use different words to describe my identity than I do.
- When seen with a partner I’m dating, I can be certain I will be recognized as a member of my sexual-identity group by members of my community.
- I do not have to choose between either invisibility (“passing”) or being consistently “othered” and/or tokenized in my community based on my sexual identity.
- I am never blamed for upholding heteropatriarchy or cisgender privilege because of the word that I use to identify my sexuality.
- I feel welcomed at appropriate services or events that are segregated by sexual identity (for example, straight singles nights, gay community centers, or lesbian-only events).
- I can feel sure that if I choose to enter a monogamous relationship, my friends, community, or my partner will continue to accept my sexual identity, without expecting or pressuring me to change it.
- I do not need to worry about potential partners shifting instantly from amorous relations to disdain, humiliating treatment, verbal or sexual violence because of my sexual identity.
- I can choose to be in a polyamorous relationship without being accused of reinforcing stereotypes against my sexual-identity group.
- I can fairly easily find representations of people of my sexual-identity group and my lifestyle in the media and the arts. I encounter such representations without needing to look hard.
- If I encounter a fictional, historical or famous figure of my sexual identity, I can be reasonably sure that s/he will be named as such in the text or by the media, reviewers and audience.
- I often encounter the word I use to identify myself in the media and the arts. When I hear or read it, I am far less likely to find it in the context of the denial of its existence.
- I can find, fairly easily, reading material, institutions, media representations, etc. which give attention specifically to people of my sexual identity.
- I can feel certain that normal everyday language will include my sexual identity (“straight and gay alike,” “gay and lesbian,” etc.).
- If I am cisgender, I am far less likely to suffer from intimate and sexual violence.
- If I am cisgender, I am less likely to suffer from depression or to contemplate suicide.
- If I am cisgender, I am far less likely to suffer from poverty.
- I am more likely to feel comfortable being open about my sexual identity at work.
- I have access to information about the prevalence of STIs in my community as well as prevention methods that are suitable for me. (For example, searching online yields many, accurate and accessible results).
- Information about the prevalence of STIs in my community as well as prevention methods suitable for me, are unlikely to be subsumed under those of any other sexual-identity groups.
- If I live in a city, I am more likely find medical care that will suit my own particular needs.
- If I am cisgender, I am less likely to risk my health by avoiding medical treatment.
- I have the privilege of not being aware of my privileges.
Unconvinced? Try reading this.
* Cisgender means any person who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth, i.e. non-transgender or genderqueer.
** Heteropatriarchy means heterosexual male rule.