Binarism, Cissexism and Third Gendering

In an afternoon of following every vaguely interesting link on my facebook feed I found myself reading what liked like it could be a really positive site on bisexuality called The Bisexual Index. It includes an FAQ section that’s really a FRB (Frequently Repeated Bullshit) section.

One piece of frequently repeated bullshit was headed “Bi means two so bisexuality is transphobic”. It began by explaining that “Some people get hung up on the ‘bi’ and protest that gender isn’t binary. They claim that identifying as bisexual is tantamount to saying trans* people don’t exist, or that you’re not attracted to them, or that you’re only into masculine men and feminine women”.

Jesus christ, this is why I hate the asterisk. Whenever people use the asterisk, bullshit follows. What’s wrong with this picture? I hope I’m not the only one seeing it. Apparently if we view bisexuality as meaning “two genders”, which they go on to point out isn’t necessarily how it works, that means trans people aren’t included. That, I think, says more about the writer’s assumptions than anyone else’s. The implication is that if bisexuals only like men and women, they don’t like trans people, who are something else.

The writer, then, engages in a pervasive act of cissexism – third gendering trans people. As Julia Serano explains it in Whipping Girl, “relegating us to our own unique categories that are separate from “woman” or “man” ”. Third gendering happens in a lot of circumstances, including when cissexism (the assumption that gender is defined by the genitals one was born with, and exceptions are nonexistent, unnatural or abnormal) is conflated with binarism (the assumption that there are only two genders, and exceptions are nonexistent, unnatural or abnormal).

Cissexism and binarism are both important, and intersect in the form of non-binary trans people. But they can be logically separate. It is possible to be binarist but accept trans people just as long as they fit one of the binary genders. Conversely, it is possible to be cissexist while claiming to be against the binary; accepting others that move outside their assigned position in the binary just as long as they don’t claim to legitimately inhabit the other binary gender, which is reserved for cis people (though as cissexist views tend to still value assigned gender this can be a problematic attitude for non-binary people).

In the page linked, we see someone I assume to be thinking of themself as a super cool ally doing the latter – appearing to be concerned for trans people, but making the assumption that they’re all sitting outside of the binary, hence only by their super cool definition of bisexuality will they be included.

I’m a trans and I’m a woman and I’m bisexual, and when I sleep with someone of any gender or sexuality it’s because they want to sleep with a woman and I’m a woman. When people aren’t being cissexist assholes, that’s how it works for binary trans people. Anyone that wishes to make sleeping with me about something else than sleeping with a woman doesn’t get in my pants, and I won’t be doing so much as unzipping my dress for whoever so eloquently fought bullshit with bullshit on that FAQ.

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