Trying this thing where when I learn a new piece of politics that may be shifting my framework, I write it down.
So I’m reading this book by Shiri Eisner, and there’s a bit about how the word “bisexual” and bisexual movements are particularly conceptualized as transphobic, not that they aren’t but that they may be criticized as reinforcing the gender binary more often than “gay” or “lesbian” are. That’s not really my experience, but perhaps because I follow so many trans women as intellectual leaders on queer politics, and have more queer and trans women as friends-with-shared-politics than masculine people; and I refuse to see that experience as so very unusual, because why should it be?
My experience is one of using the term “lesbian” for myself but always having to modify it, like saying “dyke” or “pandyke” or the specific “I’m attracted to cis and trans women” or even the long specific explanation of “I’m attracted to some people who are femme, feminist, and female-identified.” Because I know very well how transphobic queer women’s communities can be, and not only white ones but queer women of color communities (ones that I’ve witnessed anyway), and I would rather be clumsy in explicitly distancing myself from that, then let the expectations stand. So I don’t find myself worrying much in my daily life about bisexual cis people, or bisexual binary-identified people in general, being transphobic, whereas I worry a lot about what I would call “queer AFAB communities” because those are the groups that form though they may self describe as queer women’s communities.
That said, I do see a lot of this discourse elsewhere, and I do meet a lot of people who say that they are “pansexual”, sometimes because that’s the best term for them and sometimes because they want to explicitly not be transphobic as well, because “bisexual” is supposed to be inherently binary-reinforcing. At the end of her first chapter, Shiri Eisner goes a lot into explaining where this idea comes from, rather than trying to deny it or trying to erase any actual transpobia by bisexual people.
So there’s this one quote that really struck home and told me something new:
“Another thought regarding the origin of those allegations is what Julia Serano calls the masculinism of the transgender movement, which I think comes into play on this issue as well. Serano says, and I agree, that the transgender movement consistently prefers masculine-spectrum viewpoints and ideas, while marginalizing those of feminine-spectrum trans and genderqueer people. Specifically regarding the issue of increased criticism toward the bi community and relative lack of criticism toward the lesbian community about transphobia, I think this is heavily influenced by the fact that the transgender movement is mainly controlled by trans men who emerged and were influenced by lesbian communities. That is, the reason why they don’t criticize lesbians is that very often, these are their home communities. However, criticizing bisexuals is very much in keeping with the often-present biphobia of many lesbian communities.” –Shiri Eisner, quoting herself
Bingo. One of those pieces of critique that I may have known in experience, but now that it’s articulated, will make me think or say things a little differently.