I’ve talked about this before on this blog, and I promised to make a consolidated post of the things I brought up. So here it is.
Pansexuality, is the orientation to describe the attraction to people of all genders, including cis and trans* individuals. Recently, a lot of people who once described themselves as “bisexual” have taken on the label of “pansexual”, because they feel it better describes their experiences.
Bisexuality is the orientation name to describe people attracted to two categories of gender, usually female/male, but to plenty of bisexuals, myself included, the two categories can represent those like us, and those unlike us.
The point that I’m seeking to make with this whole thing, is that pansexuals label themselves for the benefits to them personally, and thus are able to ignore the problematic nature of some of their claims. I believe labeling oneself as pansexual has little to do with inclusiveness, the definition/difference between pansexuality and bisexuality, and more to do with the difference between existing as a “pansexual” person and “bisexual” person.
Pansexuality, as a label, feels “right” because of the advantages. The first of which is invisibility. Very few people know what pansexuality is. To pansexuals, this is one of their biggest problems. Go ahead, look up how many people are giving definitions for their pansexuality. Even Laci fucking Green joins the party. However, that ignorance actually works in their favor. in most cases, people assume they already know exactly what you’re about when you say you’re gay or a lesbian. Of course, they know what you mean when you say you’re bisexual (at least they THINK they do). Pansexuality? What’s THAT? How many people, in the queer community, are allowed the opportunity to describe what they experience when they come out? You get to describe, in your own words, exactly what you experience. You get to dispel confusion and rumors. That is an AWESOME benefit.
The lack of visibility also means the lack of stigma. There is an ugly stigma attached to bisexuality, and most people believe it is deserved. There’s a lot of stereotypes that come with the label of bisexuality. We’re just experimenting, we’re just greedy, we’re just closeted homosexuals, we’re not real queers, etc. Bisexuals have been fighting against that stigma for years. It would make sense to me, why a bisexual person, especially in this time of progression in the LGBTQIA community, would want to rid themselves of the stigma, so that they can be better accepted by both the queer and straight community. Acceptance can mean everything. It can mean your physical and emotional health. It could mean the difference between being lonely and being happy. It could even mean the difference between life and death. So, if you could achieve a certain level of acceptance by simply changing the word to describe your experiences, why wouldn’t you? The only stigma attached to pansexuality is the belief they want to fuck pans. For them to claim that this is an issue they experience, is to mock the hardships that all people in the queer community, especially bisexuals, have experienced due to the stereotypes attached to their labels.
There’s no problem with pansexuals trying to escape the stigma attached to bisexuality. The problem is them, first of all, deciding that bisexuality is not good enough for them, and second of all, pretending that there is this MASSIVE difference between bisexuals and pansexuals.
Instead of fighting for legitimacy, along side bisexuals, they’d rather give in to the demand to “gay it up”, because bisexuality is just NOT “gay enough”! They say they want INCLUSIVENESS, but would it not be more effective to expand the definition of bisexuality to be more inclusive than chuck it like the rest of the fucking world for not being ”good enough”, and say to all those, who find comfort in the label of “bisexual”, that they are not good enough? Wouldn’t that be better than ignoring the experiences of those who identify as bisexual, and denying the long history of what bisexuals have done for the queer community, especially when the difference between “bisexuality” and “pansexuality” is a matter of fucking semantics?!
Lets examine these definitions, or what most pansexuals believe to be the major “difference” between bisexuality and pansexuality. Pansexuals believe that the definition of bisexuality is strictly attraction to cisgendered men and cigendered woman. Cisgendered, is the term to describe a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. Pansexuals believe, first of all, that by labeling themelves as pan they’re being more inclusive of all trans* individuals, yet at the same time, they also believe that it is possible to only be attracted to cisgendered. When you make the claim that you are bisexual, to them, what you are saying is you’re only attracted to cis men and cis women. I would like to argue that point.
First of all, to claim that you are attracted to cisgendered folks and NOT trans* individuals, is to first claim that you can tell the difference. The problem with pansexuals claiming that bisexuality is attraction to specifically cis men and woman, is that they’re disregarding the visibility issues all trans* folk experience. Trans* individuals do NOT experience the same exposure and visibility as cis people. Plenty of cisgendered individuals could live out their entire lives without exposure to trans* individuals. Even certain trans* folk live out their lives without knowing what they are!
Second of all, how do they figure that bisexuality is somehow offensive to people outside of the binary? Aren’t pansexuals insinuating that trans* people who identify as women or men are not REAL women or REAL men when they make the claim that bisexuality doesn’t include them?
Lastly, it is transphobic for a cisgendered person to claim attraction to only cisgender folks. The argument that could be made against this claim, is that “gay men are not sexist/misogynist just because they’re not attracted to women”, and “lesbians are not sexist/misandric just because they’re not attracted to men”. However, both cis men and cis women experience VISIBILITY. Cis men and cis women are EVERYWHERE. If a cisperson were to claim attraction to ONLY cis people, they’re making the claim that they never have and never could be attracted to someone who is trans*, and just in case you weren’t aware, that is a LARGE range of individuals. Most cis people have no real concept of what it even means to be trans*! I haven’t even attempted to define trans* for this post, because as a cis person, I at least know that I could end up offending people by leaving out crucial information. How could a cis person make the claim that they’re not attracted to trans*?! THEY CAN’T. It’s transphobia, plane and simple!
So, when pansexuals go around making the claim that bisexuals are specifically attracted to cis men and women, they’re, revealing their own vast ignorance of trans* individuals and trans* issues, insinuating that transmen and transwomen are NOT real men or real women, and allowing and promoting transphobia (this is the problem with saying you’re pan, but you “accept” bisexuals). To claim that you’re apart of a group that is MORE inclusive is to claim that another group is LESS inclusive: ”Oh, you don’t like trans* people? You think they’re weird? Well head on over to *BISEXUALITY*. It’s a safe place for people like you!” I’m sorry, but as a bisexual women, I have a huge problem with that.
The thing that pansexuals don’t want you to know is that THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PANSEXUALITY AND BISEXUALITY.
Why would panesxuals want people to think there’s a major, must-notice difference? Biphobia!
Biphobia, as wikipedia puts it, is aversion toward bisexuality and bisexual people as a social group or as individuals. “But Ramona, pansexuals can’t be biphobic, that would be like self-hate or something!” Pansexuals can have internalized biphobia that same way People of Color can have internalized racism. As someone with personal experience with internalized racism, I can tell you, those feelings play a huge role in your self-identity.
In conclusion, let me say, I don’t blame pansexuals for their feelings. Neither the straight community or queer community are accepting of bisexuals. Both have decided that we’re not “good enough”. Bisexuality has historically been considered NOT “good enough” for the queer community, and bisexual erasure is rampant in the both the heterosexual and queer community. It is normal to want to be taken seriously when you label your experiences. To have people, especially those in the community that is supposed to welcome you with open arms, tell you that you’re not good enough? That is a heart breaking experience.
Labeling oneself as pansexual does not address those problems! Labeling oneself pansexual is not the cure to biphobia, it is the symptom of a biphobic society, the same way that labeling oneself “Girl Gamer” is a symptom of a misogynist gamer culture! There is nothing special about being attracted to trans* individuals, the same way there is nothing special about identifying as a girl and enjoying video games! The problematic nature of pansexuality is not in the claims pansexuals have made about themselves and bisexuality, or the claims they have made about trans* people and trans* issues (although, make no mistake, those things are problematic, as well). The problematic nature of pansexuality is in what the straight and queer community have done to bisexuals to make people feel so uncomfortable with the label, that they want NOTHING to do with it!
Fascinating post, and very nicely put. I’ve been quite wary of how the Pansexual Community at large (not saying everyone, but it’s surprisingly common) is very happy to disparage bisexuality.
I’ve made myself a challenge of looking at the pansexuality tag from time to time and seeing if I can read through 25 posts without discovering a post that either:
a) Tries to define bisexuality for us, normally as “Only like cis males and females.”
b) Contains something explicitly biphobic.
c) Treats being compared to bisexuality as a great insult.
So far, I haven’t been able to go 25 posts without finding one of those things, which is quite a worrying sign. On the day that I do manage it, I think I’ll feel a lot happier.
Ok, this is going to be a long drabble written purely because I had a dream that involved some biphobia that annoyed me so much I actually can’t get back to sleep, and I then made the mistake of coming online and going through the biphobia tag on Tumblr, and reading some incredibly foul stuff. I’ll try to keep it fairly coherent, but it’s about 5:30 in the morning (amended – as I finish, it’s 7:23) and I’m annoyed, so I might not be quite as tactful as I can normally be. Right, let’s start off.
Bisexuals exist, and biphobia exists. (Read more after the jump, if the read more thing decides to work this time. If not, sorry for clogging your dashboards!)