By refusing to acknowledge monosexual privilege, the queer community may never be able to address the issues bi people face.
Few things get queer activists so riled up as talking about monosexual privilege, but it is something that has to be addressed if solidarity is going to be truly shown to bi people. Monosexual privilege simply means that a person does not experience oppression or discrimination on the basis of potentially experiencing attraction to multiple genders. That is not to say that gay (or even some asexual) people have it easier by any means, but that bisexual/biromantic and pansexual/romantic people face different oppression because of experiencing attraction to more than one gender.
If you don’t believe it’s an issue then start listening to bi and pan people. It’s the only way that we can start building inclusivity. Many common insults for bi and pan people refer to them as being “greedy”, and there’s a long stereotype that bi and pan people are more likely to cheat and can’t be satisfied. These are pernicious lies that society uses to try to erase and silence bi and pan people. They are also not experienced by people who don’t experience attraction to multiple genders.
Statistics too show an alarming reality for bi people. Bi people are more likely to experience intimate partner violence, harassment, sexual assault (including rape), stalking, anxiety, depression and suicide than gay or straight people. Yet, they’re less likely to be out, suggesting bi people are at risk of huge isolation. The statistics themselves are often stark. Bi people don’t just experience oppression or serious struggles on a small scale but by quite some way. Bi people, for example, have been found to be 80% more likely to have anxiety (compared to 50% of gay people). Furthermore, it’s been found that bi people are at greater risk for mental health conditions generally and one exacerbating factor is believed to be the fact that bi people just don’t feel welcome in any community. Studies on the issues bi people face are rare, but they paint a horrific picture for the realities bi people face. They show that bi people are at risk of ostracisation from society by both gay and straight people because of their potential to be attracted to people of multiple genders. There are few studies at all on what pan people face, but it wouldn’t be surprising if pan people faced similar barriers towards acceptance in society as bi people.
“Studies on the issues bi people face are rare, but they paint a horrific picture for the realities bi people face”
The word “privilege” among oppressed groups often emits anger. However, almost everyone in life will experience some privilege of some sort. This isn’t trying to erase the very real and dangerous threat of homophobia in society, but to acknowledge that while we work towards challenging homophobia, we also have to look at what bi and pan people face. Monosexual privilege as a term, is not about attacking. It’s about detailing that other people experience oppression because they aren’t just attracted to one gender. To try to silence this examination is biphobia and panphobia – and queerphobia. It also does a disservice to the wider queer community who work to tackle homophobia, transphobia, panphobia and biphobia.
Perhaps what so many resist is the idea that gay and straight people are somehow tied. Historically, bi and pan people have been viewed as “traitors” to the queer community who can”choose” to have relationships with a cis heterosexual person of a different gender. Bi and pan people were almost seen as half straight, and not truly queer. Some of the backlash to the term “monosexual privilege” may be about the perception of the shoe being on the other foot then, but nobody is saying that monosexual people make gay people less queer. There’re no rankings of ultimate queerness no matter how hard biphobes, panphobes, aphobes and transphobes try. This is about acknowledging how different systems of oppression work and all queer people should want that.
Let’s start having the uncomfortable conversations in the community and put aside our own defensiveness. It’s only by engaging that we can bring change.