Friday, 13 September 2013

Biphobia and Monosexism.

The difference between monosexism and biphobia


X-posted from tumblr, because I think people might find this helpful.
Re: monosexism and biphobia. Do you use these words interchangeably? I notice more and more people are treating the two as synonymous and it doesn’t really sit right with me.

Personally, I don’t.
But before I answer, I have to clarify something first, because a lot of people seem to think I invented the word “monosexism”: So, while this is incredibly flattering, the fact is I didn’t. This word has been in use in bisexual movements from the 1990s or even earlier. I’m willing to take credit for popularizing it on tumblr, though :p
Now to my answer:
I see biphobia as a particular aspect of monosexism, they are definitely not interchangeable. Monosexism, as I see it, refers to the structural privileging of monosexual identities and behaviours. So, monosexism refers, for example, to the belief that one can only be either straight or gay, that it is better to be monosexual than bisexual*, that only monosexual identities are “real”, that monosexual issues are the only ones deserving of attention, etc. Monosexism causes bisexual erasure (from media, literature, art, TV and film, etc.), it causes discrimination when it comes to activist priorities, budgeting, etc. It causes the social isolation that leads many bis* to have poor health and mental health, and prevents proper treatment and support that might help alleviate them. It keeps bi* people “low” on the “pecking order” and creates all sorts of oppression. I see monosexism as the main factor responsible for all the horrible statistics in the Bisexual Invisibility report, for example. So, basically, monosexism is the system, the base structure. It is everything which isn’t directly aimed at bi* people but nonetheless has the effect of eradicating our existence or legitimacy.
I also have to say that monosexism is a structure that first and foremost comes from heterosexism and the patriarchy – 99.99999999% of it comes from heterosexual culture. So for me, monosexism is a term that allows us to look at all the ways that the “broader” culture creates oppression against bisexuals*. In addition, it allows us to consider monosexism as a structure that affects everyone instead of just bi* people – for example, by limiting other people’s options.
Biphobia, on the other hand, is direct negative attitudes and treatment of bi* people. It’s one specific result of monosexism. So here we can think about the many negative attitudes and behaviours specifically aimed against bis*. For example, when people refuse to date bisexuals*, when bis* are represented in stereotypical ways in the media, when bi* women become the target of sexual violence (because they’re perceived as particularly sexy sexual objects), when bi* people are discriminated at their jobs because of their bisexuality (for example, because they’re perceived as unreliable, flaky, unable to handle responsibility or commit to their job), and, yes – when bi* people are treated badly by L, G, and T communities.
I think it’s important to make that distinction, because these are two completely different levels of oppression working against bisexuals* – and of course, I think that the room that biphobia occupies right now in bi* political dialogues is unproportionate, and that we need to pay lots more attention to structural, heterosexual, monosexism.
[For a teeny bit more on that, here’s the snippet from my book where I define the two terms]

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