Cissexism and transphobia in bisexual communities

A version of this text also appears in my book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. If you like it, please consider buying a copy.

Note: If you came here seeking reassurance that bisexuality is binarist and/or that all bisexuals are transphobic, you will not find it here. Please see this first.

A note for commentators: Please remember that I’m the same person who wrote Words, binary and biphobia, or: why “bi” is binary but “FTM” is not, and that I consider these two posts as complementary. If you could avoid using my own arguments to dispute me, that would be helpful for productive discussion. Thank you.

If you’re not aware of the problems with using a binary gender system, please see this post: Not Your Mom’s Trans 101.

* Thank you to Robyn Ochs, who helped me think of many of these things.

Why this post?

(Why criticize?)

Within the mainstream bisexual movement, the links between bisexuality and transgenderism have always been thought of as close. Challenging of binaries, and the close relationship often existing between bisexual and transgender communities and politics, have been spoken and applauded by the mainstream bisexual movement (especially in the US) since its very beginnings. However and notwithstanding, in this post, I would like to raise a few thoughts about why the efforts of the mainstream bisexual movement to be trans-inclusive have been lacking. I’d like to call out specific problems within bisexual movements so that we, as a community, might be able to put work and energy into addressing these issues, and to be accountable for our communities’ cissexism* and transphobia.

This post came about because recently I’ve been noticing a disturbing tendency within mainstream bisexual discourses, to pretend as if the bisexual community has “always” and only ever defined bisexuality as (non binary) attraction to “same and other” genders, rather than as (binary) attraction to “both men and women”. This tendency is both inaccurate and dangerous, as it paints a false image of bisexual realities and histories in which the mainstream bisexual movement has used (and routinely uses) binary definitions and language widely.

In fact, definitions of bisexuality as attraction to “both genders” or to “men and women” abound in both past and present, activist and academic bisexual writing. While there have always been people in bi movements who defined bisexuality as attraction to “same + different” genders or as attraction to “more than one” gender, claiming that this is the only way bisexuality has ever been defined by “the movement” is misleading and has nothing to do with the realities and histories of bisexual movements themselves.

This argument is dangerous not only because it makes bisexual activists look like wishful thinkers at best and fabricators at worst, but also because it “relieves” the mainstream bisexual movement from responsibility and accountability about our own communities’ cissexism and transphobia. However, despite ardent denials, cissexism and transphobia both remain significant problems within many bisexual communities. As bisexual people and activists, we need to learn how to be accountable and work towards dismantling these forms of oppression in our communities, without glossing over these problems in attempts to avert biphobic accusations.

Cissexism and transphobia in bisexual communities

First off, and before I start, I have to mention that if asked on any occasion, I would say that the bisexual movement, as a whole, is light years ahead of most other activist communities (not just gay and lesbian) as far as it concerns transgender and genderqueer inclusion. I’m also aware of the huge amounts of bisexual writing about the intersections between bi and trans. I think the bisexual movement deserves every bit of respect when it comes to acknowledging these things, and this should not be dismissed in light of the critique I put forth below.

However and notwithstanding, despite awareness and declarations which encourage trans/genderqueer inclusion, the mainstream bi movement has long been suffering from several problems around transphobia and cissexism, which remain largely unaddressed. Note that when I talk about “the” mainstream bi movement, I am referring mostly to mainstream movements within the US, UK or Europe – and within those, I’m referring only to hegemonic discourse**. While it’s worth remembering that a lot of different bi communities exist all over world, and that not all of them behave in similar ways, it should still be acknowledged that there’s a huge body of bisexual work which nonetheless comprises a dominant discourse for these communities: Books, zines, articles, essays, papers, blogs, mailing lists, facebook groups, and many more. The fact that I do not live in US (or the UK, or Europe) only serves to emphasize this: I am more likely to be exposed to hegemonic discourse, because it is hegemonic.

And the hegemonic discourse about bisexuality, that I see from my own vantage point, is one talking about “both genders” or “both sexes”, treating bisexual and transgender people as if we’re two discreet populations, a movement generally lead by cisgender people (making it, de facto, a cis movement), engaging in tokenism, and many more things – even as they talk about trans inclusion and patting themselves on the back. Clare Hemmings talks about this in her book Bisexual Spaces when she says that in general, bisexual communities in the US and the UK have a tendency to speak of themselves as if they’re “already inclusive” without actually concerning themselves with the dirty details of actually working to include marginalized groups (not just trans/genderqueer people, but also people of color, working class people, disabled people, and many more).

From a personal perspective, I can cite two (kinds of) incidents that disturbed, and continue to disturb me. The first is pretty typical for me: Reading any kind of book or anthology about bisexuality, ever (except Clare Hemmings’ book) – and I’ve read a whole lot – I often need to curb my irritation and frustration with the amount of “both genders” that I need to read just to get through a single text. It’s stopped me several times from reading bisexual anthologies fully in one batch – I needed whole months of breaking it down. Even while reading a single piece, I often have to stop, take a deep breath and make a conscious effort to move forward. Often it is not the only problem, but most of the time, it’s definitely one of the most disturbing ones. This frustrates me all the more because as a genderqueer bisexual person, it seems as though I can never really get it right – or rather, can’t ever be gotten right. In bisexual texts I’m erased as a transgender person, and in transgender texts, I am erased as a bisexual person. I’ve seen very few texts that successfully incorporate the two – it’s usually either one or the other.

The second thing which works very strongly in my head is my experiences from BiCon 2010. After years of reading all the self-congratulatory ‘inclusive’ texts of the US and UK bi movements, I was shocked with how little trans/genderqueer inclusion was actually taking place. I mean things like language, people saying “LGB” instead of “LGBT” or saying “both genders”, discussion topics which never seemed to incorporate viewpoints or issues related to transgender people, I mean the teeny-tiny amount of workshops and spaces explicitly targeting trans/genderqueer people or issues (As I recall, there were only 1-2 workshops specifically targeting trans people. The other two trans-only spaces, during the lunch breaks, were a last-minute effort organized by my girlfriend). One evening I sat down with quite a few other trans and genderqueer people (most of whom were local) and we had a long conversation about transphobia at the convention and in the bi community in general. People were definitely feeling marginalized. And yet, throughout the convention, many cis people were still praising the bi community for being so trans-inclusive.

For me this is even more disturbing by comparison to the Israeli bi community: We grew out of the transgender community, and our politics are intimately related to transgender politics. The community here is led by trans and genderqueer people, and the rest are mostly allies. Transphobia is routinely called out and is not tolerated, our language and our politics incorporate multiple gender identities and trans issues. People who join the community without knowing these things are subsequently educated about them. This is our local ‘hegemonic discourse’ – there’s no such thing as “both genders”.

These are all issues that are generally unspoken in American/western bi communities. Moreover, in my experience online, when they are mentioned, they are generally silenced or met with pretty heavy criticism. For example, in a recent incident on one facebook group, some people actually argued that acknowledging that some bi people were attracted to more than just two genders might make others “feel uncomfortable”.

I could go on for much longer on this (and I do intend to, in my book). However, I think that even these few and rather associative examples are enough in order to point out a significant problem within mainstream bisexual communities. Despite speaking itself as if it’s trans/genderqueer inclusive, the bisexual movement in fact shares much of the cissexism and transphobia of mainstream society and of lesbian/gay communities. As a movement which largely proclaims allegiance to the transgender movement and to trans/genderqueer people, it is our responsibility to take up these points of criticism and to turn them into productive work towards eliminating transphobia and cissexism in our communities.

Afterword: concerning attraction

Some people have suggested to me that there’s nothing wrong with defining individuals’ bisexuality as attraction to “men and women”, since some people actually are attracted only to cisgender men and cisgender women. So to briefly reply to this:

I don’t think that being attracted only to cis men and women is overtly/deliberately transphobic and evil. I don’t think that such people intend to hurt anyone or to practice cis privilege on anyone’s back. However and notwithstanding, I do find that this tendency resonates with cissexist social standards.

People often like to think about attraction as a non-political, inborn, pure, uncontrollable quality which is somehow a given, but in most cases this is not so. More often than not, our attractions are shaped by social standards of beauty and attractiveness – of who/what is “allowed” to be considered attractive, and who/what is not. These standards of beauty are of course deeply political as they are shaped by dominant social beliefs and structures: to name just a few, white people are considered more attractive than people of color, thin people more than fat people, nondisabled people more than disabled people – and cisgender people more than transgender/genderqueer people. In Read My Lips, Riki Wilchins argues that the reason why transgender people are considered unattractive is that their/our bodies are unintelligible in terms of sexual attraction, to a culture which constructs its sexuality upon cisgender bodies. In order to be considered attractive, one must possess a body that “matches” their gender identity. This means that cisgender bodies are structurally privileged in terms of sexuality and sexual attraction – and we know what structural privileging of cisgender identity is called (that’s rights, cissexism).

Lisa Millbank of A Radical TransFeminist wrote very elloquently about how people need to challenge themselves in terms of sexual attraction to include people of marginalized groups, whom society teaches us to find unattractive: Significant Othering: Attraction Down The Privilege Gradient. I advise anyone to whom it may concern, to read this and reflect upon the contents.

P.S.: Some important comments contributed below

emergentlifeform adds below:

I haven’t had time to read through all the comments here so maybe someone has brought this up already, but I just wanted to bring up some other forms of transphobia within the bi community which you don’t seem to have addressed here. I am bi myself and am not interested in attacking the bi community, but I’m concerned about the way the controversy around binarism obscures other forms of transphobia within the bi community, such as third-gendering/ungendering trans people, and fetishisation.

Firstly there is the issue of fetishisation. I have many times seen trans people fetishised as a bi person’s fantasy, ‘the best of both worlds’, etc. I think it’s clear that this is third-gendering and objectifying. Obviously trans women bear the brunt of this esp. re: their representation/exploitation in pornography, but I’ve seen similar statements made about trans men too. This relates to something I heard recently, about an acquaintance who is a bi activist, who was saying to a friend that gay cis men who sleep with trans men must be ‘a little bit bisexual’ or at least included in some way under the bisexual umbrella. Clearly, also transphobic/ungendering (and also really not true, I know of a lot of exclusively gay cis men who’ve slept with trans men, including my own previous partners). I’ve also seen this sentiment reflected elsewhere but I thought it was notable that it came from a bi activist who claims to be a trans ally.

I guess I find it frustrating that I am seeing more and more of a trend towards ‘trans inclusion’ actually just meaning genderqueer and non-binary inclusion, and an increase in people referring to ‘men, women and trans’ as if trans people aren’t ever also men and women. Obviously, non-binary inclusion and the eradication of binarism is important, but I can’t help but feel like sometimes it happens at the expense of third-gendering all trans people. In general you seem to be pretty good at including binary trans people in your work, but it is a trend that worries me more generally.

* Cissexism is the social system according to which everyone is, or should be, cisgender (i.e. nontransgender), including the social system of privilege for those who are cisgender, and punishment for those who are not.
** Discourse means everything spoken, written, or otherwise communicated about a certain topic.
Hegemonic discourse means a discourse created by those in power and which dominates social understandings about a given topic.

Want to read more about this?

Advertisements

62 thoughts on “Cissexism and transphobia in bisexual communities

  1. I’m really fine with defining my Bisexuality as attracted to men and women. I’d just like to point out several things about that sentence. First, I did not say cismen and ciswomen. Second, saying that does not deny that other gender identities exist (I cannot say if I’m attracted to these other genders until I’ve met some of them).

  2. You claim that the definition of bi as an attraction to both same and other genders is a new step in bisexuality. May I direct you to the Anything That Moves Magazine, published over 20 years ago, whose manifesto clearly states: “Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders. Do not mistake our fluidity for confusion, irresponsibility, or an inability to commit. Do not equate promiscuity, infidelity, or unsafe sexual behavior with bisexuality. Those are human traits that cross all sexual orientations. Nothing should be assumed about anyone’s sexuality, including your own.”

    To claim that bisexuals “only” “reinforced the gender binary” until recently, something I have never witnessed in 2 decades of involvement in the bi community, is false. Twenty years is plenty long enough for us to have spent cherishing our ideals that we WON’T be locked into the gender binary. http://www.anythingthatmoves.com/manifesto.html

    For at least 2 decades, bi people have loved and included trans people. This is not a recent development.

    • bbg,

      Thanks for your reply.

      However, and respectfully, I never made that claim.

      Here is what I wrote:
      “While there have always been people in bi movements who defined bisexuality as attraction to “same + different” genders or as attraction to “more than one” gender, claiming that this is the only way bisexuality has ever been defined by “the movement” is misleading and has nothing to do with the realities and histories of bisexual movements themselves.”

      To stress the point, and as I write both above (as well as in my post about the binary): many people in the bisexual movement have used non-binary definitions of bisexuality even since the beginning of the movement. This was not only in the US, but also in the UK (for example, in The Bisexual Imaginary, Clare Hemmings uses such a definition of bisexuality), and it existed as early as 1991 or sooner. I also know that where language was lacking, people defined their attraction using words such as “third gender(s)”, “androgynous people”, “in between”, etc., which means that bisexuality, as a word, has never been used by bi movements to describe attraction solely to two cisgender categories.

      However, and as I also write above – to pretend that this is the only definition to have ever been used by the bisexual movement is dangerous and misleading (for the reasons I state a above). Unfortunately, the dominant definition has been and still is attraction to “both men and women” – open any anthology/zine/paper/article, etc. etc. In fact, no need to look so far – this definition is even used in the ATM text that you quoted. Writing “don’t assume that there are only two genders” does not cancel out the fact that the term is used in the previous sentence.

      In general, I think that as a community, allegations of binarism have, perhaps, made us unduly resistant to addressing actual cissexism within our communities and movements. There is a significant difference between biphobic allegations and internal accountability. What I tried to encourage in this post is a step back from the defensive stance towards an honest examination of community work which needs to be done.

      • In general, I think that as a community, allegations of binarism have, perhaps, made us unduly resistant to addressing actual cissexism within our communities and movements. There is a significant difference between biphobic allegations and internal accountability. What I tried to encourage in this post is a step back from the defensive stance towards an honest examination of community work which needs to be done.

        Wow, I think this can’t be emphasised enough. I’ve made those binarist allegations in the past and I’ve seen a complete retreat into la, la, bi world is the perfect trans* world. Having learned more about the history of binarist accusations and their relationship to biphobia, I can kinda understand now why that happened.

        It is incredibly difficult to both defend yourself from inaccurate accusations on one hand and to accept criticism on the other – it needs a simultaneous openness and militancy that’s easy to talk about, difficult to do, and more difficult still when under systematic marginalisation.

        I think posts like this are a critical step forward. Thank you!

      • I apreciate this article. Tho I must admit to being pretty clueless to this being an issue in the “Out Bi community” I live in a city and Bi community with very strong Trans membership and leadership. I think I will forward your blog for discussion, if you don’t mind?

      • I’m glad you agree that the definition of bisexuality has always had room for “all genders” and not just “two genders.” As long as I have been bi, bi has never meant “only men and women” or “only cis people.” The label has always been inclusive of attraction to both cis and trans people. Thank you for confirming this.

        • bbg,

          I find it a little unfortunate that even after all the things I wrote, which describe tangible problems in bisexual communities, people seem to focus only on the symbolic/semantic part (which I haven’t really claimed). I wrote about a lot of other things, which I believe require attention.

  3. too be fair I notice way more articles and governmental policies and media coverage, events etc for trans community than bi community. Not saying we get more discrimination hell no being trans is very hard and hard for cisgendered straight community to grasp. But believe it is more visible like homosexuality it will get more coverage and shouldn’t we worry about our own movement. that sounds harsh of course we should be inclusive and work to trans and les/gay equality too but …..the bi community is so unseen. its more seen on a one to one level and more accepted in the lgbt community but in the straight community and in media and wider world we are still at best not that important at worst a joke. we are tagged on the end of gay and les. It makes sense we would be trans inclusive. How does it not make sense to people that if there is a sexuality attracted to BOTH men and women they are probably going to be pretty cool with trans people since this includes transexuals who want to be one of those and transgendered which is a mix of both. Our very definition would love androgony. Look we didnt make up the name bisexual its an old word like homosexual and heterosexual which are all very cisgended. words have a history and grammatical purpose its hard to change linguistic practices just because attitudes change and frankly scientifically, factually speaking everyne has qualities of male, female or both not some alien quality so bisexual works just fine. after all technically shouldn’t transexual mean sexual attraction to trans people not wanting to be the other sex. that seems like a linguistic hiccup too but whose that picky really. I’m a bisexual woman. I sometimes like to be androgynous and have had fantasies about being male and i support trans people but I’m not going to try and change the dictionary definition of my sexual or make up a new word like pansexual or try to make things all wishy washy and fluid. going around saying everything is fluid is not really going to make your sexuality look genuine and inherent that makes you should like you chose it. priorities.

    • C,

      You mention several things. I’ll try to reply in order:

      Regarding greater visibility of the trans movement over the bi movement – I agree with you here, and I agree that it’s an issue requiring attention (Why is the bi movement silenced? What can we do to change this?). However, I don’t quite understand how it relates to the content of my post. My post is about existing cissexism and transphobia in bisexual communities, such that bars bisexual transgender and genderqueer people from participating, and limits the scope of bisexual movements (mainstream and otherwise). In either case – this is not a contest.

      You mention transgender and transexual people as part of a trans umbrella – the transgender umbrella also includes genderqueer people, bigender people, cross dressers, transvestites, sometimes also intersex people, butches and femmes (when/where appropriate), and more. Transgender identities are not always a mix of “both” feminine and masculine qualities. Many people identify outside the gender binary. The attempt to divide an individual’s transgender/genderqueer identity into “masculine” and “feminine” components might be compared to attempts of dividing bisexuality to a “gay side” and a “straight side”. This is problematic to say the least.

      Also, it should be noted that attraction to “men and women” does not cover the entire gender spectrum, as many people do not identify as men or women. In addition, when spoken, “men and women” usually only refers to cisgender men and women (as trans men and women are usually not considered as being within those categories). Hence, saying “men and women” is not gender-inclusive.

      As to the semantic origin of the word “bisexual” – it is true that the word was made up by the medical institution and only later reclaimed by the movement. This means that we – bisexuals – can change the meaning of the word to mean whatever we want (for example – attraction to more than one gender, or to similar and different genders). I’d like to think we’re not “stuck” with the medical definition (attraction to “both men and women”), otherwise things are very bad indeed.

      You say that everyone has feminine and masculine traits – this might or might not be true, however it reads like an attempt to disseminate the importance of acknowledging transgender identities. A bit like saying that “everyone is bisexual really”. As you appear to support trans inclusion, I’d suggest caution of making such arguments.

      Regarding alternative identity words such as pansexual, fluid, etc. – I wasn’t advising use of them, in particular (though of course people are welcome to identify however they please). I was speaking very specifically about the need to address cissexism and transphobia which takes place within bisexual communities.

      Once again in the responses, I find myself dragged to the symbolic/metaphorical level while speaking about tangible problems. This is unfortunate, and I encourage my commentators to reflect on why this is happening.

  4. Some folks here need to read the whole post, and its links. :) The post takes exquisite care in its careful balance between acknowledgement of trans* inclusion in the bi community and gentle criticism of the cissexism which does persist.

    bidyke is doing you all an extraordinary favour here. Try and learn from it, don’t just find one part of the post you disagree with and ignore the rest.

  5. Thank you for this. All but one article I’ve read defending the word “bi” from accusations of transphobia/binarism has come off as INCREDIBLY TRANSPHOBIC because of just this issue–claiming that bi spaces are all trans-friendly happyland and aren’t we so oppressed relative to trans people, they get all the attention (what kind of attention, from whom, and why?) and make our identity about them (because, you know, it’s totally appropriate when cis feminists say the same things about the word cis/trans people getting all the attention)–since I haven’t felt any more respected or included in bi spaces than anywhere else, and I’ve heard lots of people define their own bisexuality in that way (or more explicitly trans-exclusive/fetishizing ways as well, as a matter of liking both men and women coz they like both cock and boobs (no…just never ever ever say that to a trans woman, ever), etc). Anyway, it’s a lot easier to read a rebuttal of that criticism when it’s not saying lalala-everything’s-perfect-calling-out-transphobia-is-always-biphobic, which is how posts of that nature tend to go.

    • Thank you.

      I think this is a very sticky topic for the bisexual community, as it’s often hard for people to tell apart between biphobic allegations and legitimate inner-community critique (as is also evident by the responses here…).

      I think it’s really important to remember that bisexuality and the bi community really are being scapegoated for cissexism and transphobia, and that bi communities generally are better around trans/genderqueer inclusion than many other communities. This, of course, doesn’t cancel out the significant amounts of cissexism and transphobia, but it does give us some perspective into how complex this issue is.

      Either way, I’m glad to read that you feel I managed to balance out these two perspectives. That was my intention :)

  6. I read and will continue to read your writing with the greatest respect and interest. However please be aware you are in danger of letting yourself be dragged into the middle of a long running fight that has been played out in the vanishing small arena of the “bisexual leadership” in the USA, Canada as well as Europe, primarily Holland and the UK.

    So far the bisexual world has managed to avoid the fate of the gay and to some respects lesbian community where the current leadership has staged a fairly successful wholesale rewrite of the history of the GLBT civil rights movement. That movement was primarily politically left, anti-imperialist and aligned with other major liberation movements of the 1960’s including civil rights, feminism and anti-war movements. It had a major gender non-conforming and minority component but has through the magic of television and judicious pruning of history been transformed into something now seen as white, male, upper-middle/upper-class, wealthy and politically centrist. So it is extremely serious to see a person of your growing importance and caliber be lured, all unknowingly to be sure, into assisting in the rewriting of history to “fit” a particular small group’s narrative.

    The bisexual portion of the GLBT civil right movement has always been and continues to be heavily trans-gender/sexual, and genderqueer (originally called gender-fuck) inclusive in its membership, local leadership and self understanding.

    Additionally thought not addressed in this particular essay it has also always been, again in it’s grass roots and local leadership, composed of more non-western (black/afro-american, first nations/indigenous, hispanic/latino, asian/pacific islander) peoples than many other groups both within and without the GLBT civil right movement. This is not to say that bisexual people are somehow more wonderful, more open-minded, not as prejudiced and all that other lovely stuff. Instead it’s more an accident of history. It seems to have come about because we were all simply more unwanted and had to band together.

    And also the bisexual movement has had more ‘just plain folks’, those who aren’t necessarily academics, or celebrities, or wealthy. Those people who have families, who had to work for a living, who don’t have the time or the skills or the inclination to bang the drum and produce carefully air-brushed narratives of everything they and their friends did or wish they had done.

    In short, the B in GLBT is composed more of union than management, more privates than officers. But that is a big problem because history as we mostly know it is about the very few pharaohs the pyramids were built for and not the masses of workers who actually built them.

    As a partial antidote to the more anecdotal and ahistoric sources you may have been using may I bring to your attention these few items among many:

    (1) Most of the academic and popular record on non-heterosexual people has not been by bisexual people. As a matter of fact it has been distinctly hostile to and dismissive of bisexual people. Even non-monosexual people who have gotten in are still not in positions of power and must be quite circumspect in what they write for the official record. Until recently, and by recently I mean last year, most source materials were still debating our very existence. So announcing that this or that “fact” or wording as “found” in the traditional sources is the end all and be all of research on the topic is somewhat in the realm of going to the Voortrekker Monument in hopes of finding good source materials for a unbiased history of the Matabele.

    (2) The San Francisco based magazine “Anything That Moves” (1990-2002) that although it did not begin it’s formal run until 1990 grew out of and was reflective of the actual existing bisexual culture. This is a direct quote from it’s manifesto that should go a long way to clearing up any lingering doubt about the topic of trans and gender non-conforming people and their involvement in the actual bisexual community:

    “Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders. Do not mistake our fluidity for confusion, irresponsibility, or an inability to commit. Do not equate promiscuity, infidelity, or unsafe sexual behavior with bisexuality. Those are human traits that cross all sexual orientations. Nothing should be assumed about anyone’s sexuality, including your own.”

    (3) “Bisexual people have the capacity for emotional, romantic, loving and/or physical attraction to more than one gender.” Lani Ka`ahumanu in the bisexual movement’s response to anti-gay fundementalist Christian full-page “ex-gay” ad campaign. (1997)

    (4) Begun in the 1990’s the ‘Transcending Boundaries Conference’ a Northeast American conference for bisexual/fluid/pansexual, transgender/genderqueer, intersex and polyamorous people and their friends, families and allies. These grew from a number of national and regional bisexual groups including BICEP (Bisexual Community Engaging in Politics), ECBN, later called BRC, as well as BiNet USA. In 2000 the conferences became so popular that it was able to be spun off into it’s own independent non-profit institution and has continued on from there. Last years keynoter was Kate Bornstein.

    (5) Founded in 2000 in New York City the “Coalition for Unity and Inclusion” was a coalition of transgender and bisexual activists (led by QOC) who drew support from reform minded directors of the more traditional LGBT organizations, liberal politicians as well as the grass-roots bisexual and transgender community. They used such tactics as letter writing campaigns, petition drives and an innovative “feedback campaign” to achieve their goals of forcing the inclusion of transgender and bisexual people in the life of the local lesbian & gay community including getting the Gay Center renamed the LGBT Center (2001); getting the Gay Pride March renamed the LGBT Pride March (2002); getting the local gay film festival to include trans and bi films and eventually changing its name to reflect the entire spectrum of the community (2004). The group ultimately merged with an older bisexual group and continues on.

    (6) “Bisexuals are people who have the innate capacity to form enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. There may be an individual preference for one gender over others. Bisexuality is not synonymous with being polyamorous. Individual bisexual people may be celibate, monogamous or non-monogamous just as individual straight, lesbian or gay people can be.” from the website of the LA based “American Institute of Bisexuality” (2007)

    (7) The updated policy declaration “No ENDA without the ‘T” made in 2007 by the American national group BiNet USA that reinforces what has been in effect since the 1990’s, saying in part:

    “The trans community is part of the bi ‘net.’ Unlike other national groups, we will not discard ‘inconvenient’ parts of our community in order to win a political victory. Likewise, we would never consider tossing out the polyamourous, the monogamous, the pagan, or the christians; our diversity makes us strong.

    Since the beginning of our organization, the trans community has been our closest ally. They were excluded from the same organizations as the bisexual community. We fought along side each other to forge a LGBT community. We have benefited from their hard work (as they us). Now is not the time to look the other way . . . Back in the 90’s, BiNet’s membership body voted via consensus to direct board members to support trans causes and stand with them – even when difficult. We are continuing the battle to this day.”

    (8) And if nothing else I urge you to simply look at the snapshots of various bi gatherings. Look at all the people of every nationality, gender and permutation of both. If nothing else that should tell the real story right there.

    Again, I have the utmost respect for you. Also I have no wish to rejoin old battles long ago left behind so this is my only comment on this matter. I am no way disputing that quite a few of the bisexual ‘rank and file’ carelessly have and will no doubt continue to use cishomonormative wording to describe bisexual people, just as many uninformed call first nations people ‘red-skins’. However, this does not make it true and I have no wish to see the actual historical record so distorted.

    • (Just) Ann Old Lady,

      I appreciate your taking the time to write this well thought-out response. Please note that I never claimed that binary definitions of bisexuality have been the only ones, or indeed that the bisexual movement is only ever cissexist/transphobic. In fact, my post was not at all about semantics and I did not go into bisexual history. For more about this, please see my response to bbg above.

      On a more meta-level, your stance appears to be that the bisexual community is flawless as far as it goes to transgender inclusion. This seems to be in keeping with Clare Hemmings’ argument in “Bisexual Spaces”, that bisexual communities speak of themselves as if they are already inclusive in a way which needn’t require any actual work (except, perhaps, patting ourselves on the back). I encourage you to read her chapter “A Place to Call Home” for a greater perspective on this.

      In general, I would like to think that a community which encourages inclusion of trans and genderqueer people would also welcome constructive criticism when it’s suggested, and use it as a tool to further its efforts to be inclusive. However, the strong resistance to this route, visible in the responses here, seems to suggest the contrary. I would advise to reflect on the question of why and for what reasons is this happening.

      • I come to this discussion really late, but I have to side with Ann Old Lady. If you ignore bisexual/pansexual/fluid history in favor of making urgent critiques of the current mainstream bisexual/pansexual/fluid movement, then you’ve only succeeded in creating an exceedingly limited and blinkered argument against current cissexist/transphobic activity or expressions within the movement.

        What might be more important to ask (and more difficult to answer) is that, with a history of very strong incidents of trans/genderqueer/intersex inclusion and advocacy, why does cissexism and transphobia persist in the bisexual movement? Certainly, the Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Movement, which took over when the Gay Liberation Front was past its prime, had a rapid influx of people from the middle class, propelling the movement to more conservative positions.

        Is something similar going on with the bisexual community? Having made bold moves toward transgender inclusion and standing side-by-side with transgendered people fighting for inclusion in the LGBTQ, has an influx of bisexuals from the middle class pulled the bisexual movement further
        away from its radical roots? Or was transphobia and cissexism always a constant, even if bisexual leadership was more radically clear in our communities’ mutual needs for alliance and advocacy?

        I’m afraid I have limited patience with deconstructing cissexism and transphobia in the bisexual community while ignoring our history and not asking very concrete questions about who was pushing for transinclusiveness and who wasn’t (or who was standing in the way). Why did active alliance with transpeople occur in one decade and not in another? Were there regions in the US/Canada/UK/Europe where the bi communities were more conscious of the gender binary and fought transphobia, while others contributed to it?

        I realize it isn’t your job to play historian and uncover a vanishing history–but your analysis is definitely the weaker without it. Acknowledging that “some bisexuals” are cissexist and transphobic, while “some bisexuals” are not and it’s a problem that has to be worked on, really isn’t that helpful. In fact, the critique is so generic it’s the opposite of helpful. What
        we really need, and what may be presently beyond your abilities, is to know what successfully fosters cultures of trans/genderqueer/intersex
        inclusivity and creative contribution to the bisexual/pansexual/queer
        struggle. Can we learn that from our history and where can we start digging to begin? Furthermore, we have all these wonderful conferences, like the Transcending Boundaries Conference, that bring a lot of intersectionality to our discourse. Why is their impact not being felt at the ground level? Are we the victims, not only of powerful prevailing binaries, but also an academic classism that keeps language and concepts from being transmitted to working class and poor people?

        • You ask a lot of good questions. Why aren’t you answering them too? For that matter, I don’t see why you would even ask them in the first place if you weren’t aware that cissexism existed in bi communities. This post is raising awareness of that issue, so that more people can come to ask and hopefully answer questions like yours. Without awareness, there won’t even be investigation, let alone results.

        • Dear Max,

          You seem to be mansplaining. Please check yourself.

          Also: please read my responses to other commentators here. I’ve already answered to all of your arguments, and I fail to see why you would want to repeat them once more. In addition, please refer to the “note to commentators” in my post above. Thank you.

          bidyke

        • “What we really need, and what may be presently beyond your abilities, is to know what successfully fosters cultures of trans/genderqueer/intersex inclusivity and creative contribution to the bisexual/pansexual/queer struggle. Can we learn that from our history and where can we start digging to begin? ”

          How about: coffee clatches, knitting circles, meet-greet-and-eats, discussion groups, panel discussions, lectures, and other events with the sole purpose of getting gay, lesbian, bi and trans people together, recognizing the differences and similarities of each segment of the LGBT rainbow? I wish I wasn’t previously committed to other activism full-time, or else I’d try putting something like this together in my area. It would be fun if someone reading my post would just set up some little pizza-shop dinner where the conversation is centered on people sharing their stories, reaching out to each other to find common ground and see how we can work together on our common goals. it would be great.

          Judging by the conversations I see about this subject, all over the internet, I think local-level “hey everybody, let’s all sit and chat” meetings could be a way to break the ice and educate people about the problems with cissexism, transphobia, and biphobia. (And privilege, and economic advantage/disadvantage, and so on…) Conferences are wonderful for those who can afford it, but are often preaching to the choir. We need a dialog between our communities that has to start at the grassroots level. Think globally, act locally, as they say.

          • bbg,

            While I think your suggestions can be helpful at interpersonal levels, I think they might not be sufficient for creating structural change or for addressing power hierarchies. Finding common ground is great, and certainly fun to think about, but it also gleans on very important differences. The “common ground” in LGBT communities seems to always be determined by hegemonic identities (male, white, gay, cisgender, middle class, nondisabled, etc). What we are currently constantly encouraged to do by LGBT communities is to forget/forgo our differences – and therefore power relations – and to pretend as if everything is okay. That is, act as if our power relations and social hierarchies don’t matter. But acting as though they don’t matter, doesn’t make them go away.

            I think that before we reach the stage of being “okay” with each other, there needs to be some serious work done specifically around acknowledging hierarchies and working to deconstruct them. In the case of this post, it means working specifically on addressing cissexism and transphobia. This means, for example, organizing talks and workshops where cisgender bisexuals can listen to trans bisexuals and learn what it means to be trans and what transphobia looks like, it means cis bi people acknowledging and talking about their own transphobia and cissexism, it means pressuring bi leadership and the bi movement as a whole – not only to be more “trans-inclusive”, but also to adopt a whole new, non-binary, model for sex, gender and (bi)sexuality. It means doing a lot of education work within the community, talking about the problems, calling people out, looking into where it hurts – debriding the wound, as it were. This is difficult work which requires a lot of courage and effort because it means changing the community from the very base/root (=radix, the Latin origin of “radical”). It is also enormously gratifying because it means creating deep change rather than superficial correction.

            • Thanks bidyke, I think we are both on the same page and have the same goals. I think this is something that can begin at the grassroots level. However we may get there, tt’s good that these topics are being discussed now; keep up the good work.

    • I think that bidyke made it very clear that she was taking about the mainstream/hegemonic discourse, i.e. talk from the management and officers. In that sense, I think you’re both in agreement; while bisexual communities may have a rich history of trans*-inclusion, the message from the top – the people who are getting to speak – is one of happy perfect la-la-land which admits no faults. Things are always messier than that on the ground, however inclusive a community, and there are always things to improve on.

      But when conversations about the movement are captured by only one privileged strand within the movement, it becomes very difficult to do that “improving” work. I think you both acknowledge the good job the bisexual community does today to include trans* folk. Part of doing a good job to include is keeping eyes open and keeping thinking, and not lapsing into a false sense of security. I think this article does that job well.

  7. Pingback: Words, binary and biphobia, or: why “bi” is binary but “FTM” is not | Bi radical

  8. Although it wasn’t mentioned in the article, this is also an issue for bi communities in Canada. While the bi communities here overlap with trans* communities in terms of membership, and have a history of working together, we also have problems getting people past the idea that there are only two genders and that bisexuality is attraction to both of them. This definition of bisexuality reinforces a hierarchy of hotness that excludes trans people, and defines our identity in transphobic ways.

    I agree that pretending it never happened and isn’t still happening isn’t helpful. It’s certainly still happening in Toronto.

    • Thank you :)

      And yes – Canada definitely deserves mention. There’s this thing going on in people’s heads (including mine) where Canada is just conflated with the US. It shouldn’t be happening, though, and I’ll definitely try to remember that for next times.

  9. Small editing point – as if I’ve read it right it’d be good to correct before it winds up in print somewhere. Toward the end where you say,

    “These standards of beauty are of course deeply political as they are shaped by dominant social beliefs and structures: to name just a few, white people are considered more attractive than people of color, thin people more than fat people, nondisabled people more than disabled people – and transgender/genderqueer people more than cisgender people”

    I think that last clause is meant to be the other way around?

  10. As someone who is not an academic and all that palaver, and who has never had a book published: I wonder how much the effect you talk about of “both”-ism in bi books is about the prejudices / assumptions / etc of the bi scenes, and how much of it is the effect of the values of the publishers?

    I’m thinking here of the story I’ve heard about how the Klein scale starts at 1 (rather than 0 as with Kinsey) and that being down to pressure from a publisher who didn’t think audiences could understand a scale that started at 0 rather than 1. While, as I say, I know I don’t have the experience to be able to say that this is the problem – equally I don’t have the experience to be able to say that it isn’t!

    I imagine it would be an effect we’d see changing in more recent times perhaps as more self-publishing options become possibilities.

    • I’m sorry, but this reads like a bit of an attempt to evade responsibility for transphobia in the community.

      But to reply to your argument:

      First of all, the problem is not only symptomatic and linguistic, as you seem to imply. Rather, the use of “both men and women” reflects a deep undercurrent of cissexism in bisexual communities which is expressed in a variety of material ways (community leadership, community resources dedicated to bi trans* people, people’s actual attitudes towards trans* people in the community, etc.)

      Secondly, even if it was the only problem, I think that placing the fault of “both men and women” with publishers is a bit of wishful thinking. It doesn’t work when you consider dozens of books, and a lot of other media which is not mediated by publishers such as zines, articles, blogs, mailing lists, facebook groups, etc., which still use this language.

      Cissexism in bisexual communities is an existing problem. Wishing it away will not solve it.

  11. Pingback: Why I identify as bisexual and not pansexual | Bi radical

  12. I think this is flawed in that you refer to the problems in the bisexual community as cissexist and transphobic. Binarism is a separate thing. It is not a cis problem. At least half the people I know of who deny that constructions of bisexuality are ever binarist point to Julia Serano’s article on the subject and say “There, if a trans woman said it isn’t binarist, is mustn’t be.” This ignores the explicitly binarist construction of her definition of bisexuality in said article, as well as the fact that she has always expressed explicitly binarist and operative essentialist views.

    What I am saying is that it is bad to frame binarism as just a part of cissexism when it is a significant problem within trans communities, among other problems that devalue or disrespect certain members, such as the aforementioned operative essentialism, as well as the rampant transmisogyny and femmephobia in some “radical” communities.

    • I agree with you that apart from being a problem in cissexist spaces, binarism is also a problem in many trans communities. I also agree regarding the binarism of Serano’s arguments (and her positions on gender in general). However, I wasn’t discussing transgender communities; rather, I was discussing mainstream bisexual communities, which are overwhelmingly cisgender. In this context, I think it’s obvious that the binarism is part and parcel of cissexism, and this is so for two main reasons:

      Firstly, because when cisgender bisexuals say “men and women” they usually mean only cisgender men and women. Oftentimes, upon being called out on it, they proceed to third-gender trans people in attempts to appear “inclusive” (i.e. “men, women, and even transgenders”). And so, binarist language in these discourses creates an othering and alienating effect in relation to trans* people and serves as sign and evidence of deeper cissexist perceptions. (Note that I am referring here to a wide trend and that many trans* and trans*-ally bisexuals do include trans men and women in their definition of “men and women”. Unfortunately for everyone, they are often a minority in bisexual communities and discourses.)

      Secondly, this binarist language is cissexist because binarism is used as an excuse and justification for people’s cissexism. This is done by saying stuff like “we’re all born either male or female so saying ‘both men and women’ is actually accurate” (AKA biological determinism). Further, people often use this argument in order to avoid being accountable for their cissexist language and perceptions, and for mainstream bi communities’ cissexism and transphobia. (This is evident in quite a few responses to this post, so it might be helpful to look into them).

      To conclude, I don’t think that in this context, one can isolate binarism from cissexism and present them as two separate things. Particularly, I think that binarism here serves both as a sign/symptom of deeper cissexist perceptions and as a tool for upholding existing cissexism and avoiding accountability.

  13. Thankyou for this post.

    Here’s an example of an issue that particularly affects bi/pan trans people: if a trans person attempts to access medical treatment by going to some medical gatekeeper (local physician, therapist, staff at a gender identity clinic, etc.), they are invariably questioned about their sexual orientation. My own experience of this is in the UK, but I know from others that it happens in the US and other countries. If the answer is that they’re bi or pansexual, all of the potential anti-bi prejudices may come into play in the mind of that gatekeeper. It’s quite likely that some people are denied treatment on this basis. Clearly, sexual orientation shouldn’t be a factor at all here. But I’ve never heard any critique or advocacy for change from the mainstream bi community on this subject. In fact, for all that bi organisations often trumpet their trans-inclusiveness, I’ve hardly heard any actual discussion of intersectional prejudice against people who are bi and trans at all.

  14. Pingback: Some differences and similarities between bisexuality and pansexuality | Bi radical

  15. I’m always a little baffled by the idea that being bisexual is confining and restrictive. There’s been a lot of confusion since the T that originally stood for transsexual was switched to transgender, which became the umbrella term for everything from fetishism (crossdressing/transvestite) to true gender identification.

    I am partnered with a transsexual lesbian. I don’t feel the need to switch my identification from bisexual to pansexual because she isn’t “cis”. She’s a woman. I’m a woman. We are in a sexual relationship. I have also been in a sexual relationship with a man prior to falling in love with her.

    As far as I am concerned, I am bisexual, although I have been told by other people that I am not, that I am “pan” because “trans” is an alternate gender – which i find self defeating and false.

    However, I find much more vitriol directed at the bi community form the lesbian community than any other part of the acronymic umbrella, and I think that is what makes me saddest of all.

      • I was replying to a comment earlier in the thread, not your post. My apologies for hitting the main reply button. My point was that it is sad to see the continuing divisions based on this idea that the term “bisexuality” is somehow not inclusive enough or that it does not address a relationship with a transsexual, and therefore I must adopt the term “pan” instead – which i think was your point as well, that we need not hold the “bi” to mean “binary”. :)

  16. Pingback: What my book is about | Bi radical

  17. I haven’t had time to read through all the comments here so maybe someone has brought this up already, but I just wanted to bring up some other forms of transphobia within the bi community which you don’t seem to have addressed here. I am bi myself and am not interested in attacking the bi community, but I’m concerned about the way the controversy around binarism obscures other forms of transphobia within the bi community, such as third-gendering/ungendering trans people, and fetishisation.

    Firstly there is the issue of fetishisation. I have many times seen trans people fetishised as a bi person’s fantasy, ‘the best of both worlds’, etc. I think it’s clear that this is third-gendering and objectifying. Obviously trans women bear the brunt of this esp. re: their representation/exploitation in pornography, but I’ve seen similar statements made about trans men too. This relates to something I heard recently, about an acquaintance who is a bi activist, who was saying to a friend that gay cis men who sleep with trans men must be ‘a little bit bisexual’ or at least included in some way under the bisexual umbrella. Clearly, also transphobic/ungendering (and also really not true, I know of a lot of exclusively gay cis men who’ve slept with trans men, including my own previous partners). I’ve also seen this sentiment reflected elsewhere but I thought it was notable that it came from a bi activist who claims to be a trans ally.

    I guess I find it frustrating that I am seeing more and more of a trend towards ‘trans inclusion’ actually just meaning genderqueer and non-binary inclusion, and an increase in people referring to ‘men, women and trans’ as if trans people aren’t ever also men and women. Obviously, non-binary inclusion and the eradication of binarism is important, but I can’t help but feel like sometimes it happens at the expense of third-gendering all trans people. In general you seem to be pretty good at including binary trans people in your work, but it is a trend that worries me more generally.

    Just one niggle though, re: this trend – your addendum to this post addresses bi people who are only attracted to men and women. Ignoring for a moment the issue of the ways our sexualites aren’t unproblematic/unconstructed (which I broadly agree with, although I can’t stand Riki Wilchins for her relentless subversivism and resurrecting the ‘butch flight’ meme), I wonder why you’re assuming that a bi person who claims only to be attracted to men and women would necessarily only be attracted to cis men and cis women? There is another point to be made here which is even if people claim to never be attracted to trans people (binary or not), we don’t wear signs (much) and that you can’t always tell by looking at us. You don’t know if you’ve looked at a trans woman and thought she was hot, unless you know the extensive medical histories of all women you’ve ever been attracted to, which I’m willing to bet the large majority of people do not. That aside, I guess this rubbed me up the wrong way a little bit as it seemed to be third-gendering in this same ‘men, women and trans’ way that I am seeing too much of at the moment. But in general I really appreciate your work and how trans inclusive and understanding you are.

    • Thank you for taking the time to write this! No, this wasn’t brought up in any of the other comments. In fact, most of the other comments were busy denying that the bi community is, or has ever been even a little transphobic, ever!!!!!!!!!1 It’s so good to read a comment that actually brings forth more information about this subject.

      Now that I read what you wrote, I think that of course you’re absolutely right. I wish I’d thought about these things beforehand (or read what you said beforehand), since the text of this post (expanded) got into my book – which is going down to print next week, so it’s too late to add these points. However, if you don’t mind, can I have your permission to copy and paste your first three paragraphs at the end of the post? I think they’re important.

      As to my addendum/afterword – I did emphasize that point, perhaps not clearly enough? I wrote:

      Some people have suggested to me that there’s nothing wrong with defining individuals’ bisexuality as attraction to “men and women”, since some people actually are attracted only to cisgender men and cisgender women. (Emphasis added)

      Regardless, though, I think that in most cases, when cis people say “men and women”, they only mean cisgender men and women, simply because trans people do not “qualify” to them as either (regardless of how they identify). I’ve also often heard the “I also mean trans men and women” trope as an excuse to avoid confronting/discussing cissexism and transphobia in bi communities, especially as far as it goes for exclusion of non-binary trans people. Another disturbing trend has been a “return” to defining bisexuality according to bodies – male and female – which is both cissexist and erases intersex and non-binary-gender people. I addressed this more broadly in my book.

      Also – thanks for the appreciation :) As someone who’s genderqueer, this topic is incredibly important to me.

      • Yes, I’m happy for my comment to be included! One other issue I failed to mention is that I’ve also seen the ‘sleeping with a trans person makes you bisexual’ trope used in a biphobic way too (you can’t really be gay/straight, part of the gay community, etc if you sleep with a trans person). But whether it’s used in a biphobic way or in an ostensibly bi friendly way (‘let’s expand the bisexual umbrella!’), it’s still transphobic.

        Re: the other issue. I have really struggled to express what makes me uneasy about this below. I certainly don’t want to suggest that the exclusion of non-binary people, androgynous people, people who don’t want to/can’t access hormones & surgery, people who don’t pass etc isn’t important – as that isn’t my experience, I don’t think it’s my place to offer a solution to that here. But the idea that saying ‘I’m attracted to men’ necessarily excludes me pisses me off, because for one thing it isn’t true, and for another it suggests there’s something fundamentally different between me and other men, and that my body is necessarily unattractive to people who are normally attracted to cis men. It does seem to imply this being attracted to a trans person makes you bisexual trope by the back door. I know that’s not what you’re trying to say here, but it is what it brings up for me.

        You’re right that when (the majority of) cis people say ‘I like men and women’ they think they only mean cis people (as well as when they say ‘I like men’ or ‘I like women’) – because that’s what ‘men’ and ‘women’ are to most people. Ostensibly, yes, this excludes trans people, but in reality, it doesn’t, because in reality a lot of trans people aren’t particularly distinguishable from cis people – identity isn’t the only thing that makes me male, my body does too, you know?

        In my experience, someone who expresses an attraction to men (unqualified) is more likely to be respectful of my identity and not fetishise me than someone who expresses an attraction to trans men. Some LBQ women for example like to say they’re attracted to ‘women and trans men’ – but what do they mean by trans men? Do men who have been on hormones for years and are indistinguishable from cis men count? Men who have had genital reconstruction surgery? When people express a specific attraction to trans people it almost always comes across as fetishistic to me, and is almost always grounded in (inaccurate and stereotypical) assumptions about what trans people are like/not like. (Margaret Cho is a prime example of this: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/05/08/4809/ – I don’t appreciate the author’s use of the t-word but otherwise it’s an insightful article). On the other hand if they like men, I’m in, at least provisionally – my trans status, amongst many other things about me, might end up being a deal-breaker, but equally it might not be (and hasn’t been, in the past). I know/know of many other trans people for whom this has also been the case. I don’t feel like my being trans makes me any more significantly different from any other man than differences in race, ability, or body type, or any other thing that might be a deal breaker for someone (I’m not trying to suggest that these things ought to be deal breakers for people or that we shouldn’t question why they are – they’re all products of unjust dynamics after all).

        So – I’m not convinced that if someone professes an attraction to men and women, or just men, or just women, that that is necessarily exclusive of trans people, at least binary, transitioning trans people. And the idea that it is seems to me to reinforce this idea that trans people are necessarily sexually unintelligible/’transgressive’ (well of course Wilchins would say that because that’s her criteria for being ‘really’ trans: http://quinnae.com/2012/12/22/my-transsexual-menace-a-response-to-riki-wilchins/), that we can never be attractive simply as men and women.

        • emergentlifeform,

          I think you make a lot of good points, but also that this is a really sticky subject. I think the question standing at the center here is whether we want to talk about trans people’s similarity to cis people, or their difference. Personally, I would take these two different approaches at different times, and for different purposes. For example, the point you make about queer women (in the communities I belong to, they are mostly lesbians) who are attracted only to women and trans men is very accurate, and I think it not only demonstrates many queer women’s cissexism, but also their transmisogyny (since what this usually means is: “anyone assigned female at birth”). In that case (and other cases of trans men’s fetishization), it might be appropriate to point out, as you have, the similarity of trans men to other men, and to question the differentiation.

          What I wanted to do with this post, however, was to reflect bi communities’ cissexism and transphobia back to them in a different context. So, while I agree with you that saying “I’m attracted to men and women” should definitely not imply only cisgender people, we also can’t ignore the fact that society at large – and most cis bi people* – do mean it in this way. When I write about these kinds of problems, I try to leave my readers very little room to feel okay about themselves. Rather, what I try to do is address people’s internalized oppression in a way that will confront them with their own bullshit, and hopefully lead them to change. If I took the position that talking about attraction to “men and women” only can be okay, then I would be giving room for people to avoid confronting their cissexism and transphobia, and to hang on to that as an excuse for their avoidance from dealing with them (as some people have done here in the comments, too). Also, as a genderqueer person, it’s important for me to emphasize that the binary doesn’t cover everyone, even if it does include trans men and women.

          I guess this is where it gets sticky. I always try to balance out these two positions, and emphasize that many trans people do identify as binary and want to be included under “men and women”. I think I hinted toward that with what I wrote in the final part of the text, but maybe didn’t emphasize it enough. Obviously, what I wanted to emphasize was the part where this idea fails to include everyone. I’ll try keeping this in mind for next times I write/talk about it, and emphasize the other part as well.

          * I say “most cis bi people” offhandedly like that because most cis people in general are cissexist.

  18. “people saying “LGB” instead of “LGBT””

    I say LGB when I mean LGB. There are some experiences shared by LGB individuals that are different from trans* people. At other times I’ll say LGBT, if what I’m discussing truly is relevant to all four of those categories of people.

    • Thank you! I get constantly corrected like this.
      I will not be well liked for saying this and will probably get flamed of the internets but since we are talking about erasure in the discourse I have to jump on the soap box for a second.

      I get attacked for straddling multiple queer identities because people can’t figure out which box I belong in so my point of view doesn’t make sense, I come across as crossing the floor all the time. So then I say “queer women’s circles” or LGB When say LGB in attempt to indicate which fact i’m speaking from people erase it by correcting me. It comes across like they are accusing me of being transphobic.
      I consider trans women to be women and trans men to be men, I also consider bringing up that a woman is trans when it’s not relevant to be erasing the entire point of transition at some point your transition is over and it comes across like “oh yeah, thanks for reminding me it’ll never end here. My straight boyfriends can get over this, why can’t you?”. I’m in the queer scene because I’m attracted to women and I don’t like it when people put words in my mouth or erase the way I identify.

      I’m a fluidly queer genderqueer woman who is MTF-bodied, the /bodied/ part is important. I was transgender once, but that was something I passed through to get to where I am now. I get boxed as FTM, MTF, a lesbian a bi female or a hot guy depending on the phase of the moon or the direction of the wind.

      In the GLBT community I am not allowed to exist. You have to pick a letter and be one letter only. I end up calling myself trans* and tolerating having my identity erased because it’s just not worth the argument any more, I got sick to death of talking to a brick wall so I gave up.. The GLBTQ community where the Q is well represented is better on that front and a small number of people similar to myself have gotten together and decided to make their own queer scene. I approve of this. I often feel more accepted by straight people.
      In mainstream GLBT circles a lot of cisgender people are so terrified of offending me they won’t even approach me even though they wanted to introduce themselves all night. This is why I often end up with straight girlfriends. The straight girl is going to be akward, she’s going to say the wrong thing, but she will introduce herself and a connection will be made a conversation will happen. The lesbian or bi girl suspects I might be trans*, can’t tell and does nothing because she’s afraid of offending me. Since we are in politically correct dogma land where you get burnt at the stake if you say anything that could possibly be misconstrued as offensive, I’ll explicitly point out that I did not say pansexual because in my experience so far pansexual women don’t do this to me. It’s like everyone has become so focused on proving themselves they are not being discriminatory, but in doing so they have forgotten how to listen.

      Eg I don’t mind if that straight chick eyeing me comes up to me and asks if I’m a boy or a girl because she can’t tell, I’m going to use her inability to gender me as a way to flirt with her. But now this is prohibited. The idea has been put in her mind I will be offended and another small part of how I express my queer gender has been silenced.

      I want the scene to stop putting words in my mouth when they won’t even accept my existence, how can they possibly know what I mean? They’ve silenced me saying anything on my experiences enough and ended enough my relationships by erasing the self identification of my partners.

      I do not exist.
      I’m just a trans girl.

  19. Pingback: Scriptive, or, There Is Trouble In The Forest | Eponymous Fliponymous

  20. In new zealand, i’ve turned up to a few bi meet up groups, etc which specifically exclude trans* people (and presumably non binary as well). When I asked about that the organizer proceeded to say to my face they didn’t want dudes in dresses hitting on guys there – she was apparently unaware that I was trans*-bodied as well as many other things as a I tend to pass for a hetrosexual woman, much to my anoyance – blantantly checking out all the cute girls doesn’t seem to unerase me eaither.

    Other groups have tried to officially exclude trans* people but say I could come, generally because the organizer wanted to fuck me or equally uneducated and inappropriate reasons – I refer to this as “hotness privlege” (where are trans* person, usually a woman or at least reading as a woman is treated and included as if she was a cis woman because people find her attractive) and it’s something i’m very uncomfortable with and have no time for. I’m sure I don’t have to point out all the reasons why this is bad.

    Granted NZ is a very backwards country when it comes to these issues but even so it’s not right and I won’t have anything to do with the NZ bi community any more because of it. It makes me feel very isolated and I find it ironic and amusing that women who identify as straight are willing to date me on finding an unexpected spark but bi women immediately write me off because they’re “not into trans* people”, almost always while their body language is saying the opposite – I have no problem with being not being into me because of my body, but claiming not to be while you’re acting as if you are because you’re afraid of what you’re friends might think is pathetic. Queer communities are no place for that to be a problem.

  21. Something else I really can’t help bringing up is that the idea that ‘pansexual’ is a more trans friendly or inclusive term seems completely ridiculous to me. More inclusive of genderqueer people, possibly – I’m not genderqueer so it’s not my place to comment. But I have almost never seen pansexuality defined in a way which does not third-gender trans men and women. All of the points I made about cissexism and transphobia from bisexuals is in my experience, usually more true of pansexuals. A lot of pansexual people I have met/read identify as pansexual specifically because they are attracted to trans people in a way which is fetishistic and/or third gendering. Being attracted to or dating a binary identified trans person is often cited as a reason for identifying as pansexual rather than bisexual. The extent that I’ve seen this happen suggests to me that pansexual is no less problematic a term, especially for binary trans people (but the fetishism issue probably affects gq people too). It’s actually worse. I think I’ve spoken to a grand total of two pansexual people who do not consider attraction to binary trans people to make them pan, and they were both trans themselves. The entire discourse around pansexuality vs. bisexuality seems to actively encourage excluding trans men and women from the categories ‘man’ or ‘woman’, rather than embracing less restrictive (and cissexist) definitions of those categories.

    I think this is where some of my discomfort before came from about someone defining their attraction to ‘men and women’ necessarily excluding binary trans people, because that seems to be part of the same discourse.

  22. Pingback: Episode 03: “Labels” Links | The BiCast

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s