What are biphobia, panerasure and monosexism? Bi and pansexuality are both a non-monosexual identity, and seem very similar. Even bi/pansexuals seem to use the labels freely depending on the situation. But there are some differences, mainly in terms of stigma and prejudices. The stigma on non-monosexual identities is more severe than on lesbian/gay sexualities, as the prejudices come often from both the straight as the gay/lesbian side. (MM)
Pansexuality is quite an invisible and unknown sexual minority. The main reason for this invisibility is the structural sexual stigma resting on non-monosexual behaviours and identities. Stigma is society’s collective judgment that marginalizes people and groups so they become unseen by and unknown to the non-stigmatized group (in this case, monosexual people).[i]
Consequently most people who consider themselves as pansexual, will often say they are bisexual due to common misperception and unawareness on the meanings of fluid sexuality and gender.[ii]
Simultaneously, people who express themselves as bisexual often have an embodied experience of non-binary bisexuality, which seems a contradictio in terminis but is rather an expression of the indoctrination of binary thinking on non-binary people. Many bisexual people themselves would not define their sexual attraction as binary, which blurs the division between bi- and pansexuality.
Although the embodied experience between bi- and pansexuality seems to be quite similar, the structural stigma on both is different. Research found that pansexual people experience different stigma than bisexual people both within society in general and within the queer community. [iii]
Moreover, research literature tends to group non-monosexual people and identities together under the umbrella-term ‘bisexuality’, hence eradicating the specificities within the embodied experiences of pansexuality, fluid sexuality, or omni-sexuality.[iv] Hereby contributing to the social invisibilization of non-binary sexualities.
The sexual stigma on non-heterosexual communities, behaviours and relationships remains strong in contemporary Western society. The stigma on non-monosexual identities is even worse. One way sexual stigma manifests itself within the societal structures, is sexual prejudice.[v]
Sexual prejudice is a negative attitude held by heterosexuals toward lesbians, gay, and bisexual people.[vi] This excludes non-monosexual identities, who often experience a double prejudice from both heterosexuals and binary non-heterosexuals. These type of claims could be due to the fact that many research on (differing) sexuality is uninformed by the lived and embodied experience of the people they study.
Because sexual stigma is both embedded in the institutions of society and internalized by individuals[vii], it leads to both institutional discrimination and repercussions on the non-monosexual individual’s mental health. In a study on young bisexual women’s sexual, reproductive and mental health, they found that social marginalization (especially biphobia and monosexism) significantly and negatively influences different interconnected components of their health.[viii] Although the term ‘phobia’ isn’t very accurate, as if it’s not a real fear but rather a set of culturally accepted stigmatizations on certain types of behaviour or relationships.
Although there is still very little known in public discourse on non-monosexual relationships and identities, there has been raised slightly more awareness through online sharing of coming-outs by both famous and infamous pansexual people. These people play an underestimated but important role in the self-acceptance of non-monosexual young individuals.
The internet in general has revolutionized the possibilities to find community as a non-normative person, to find equals and feel understood. Researchers found that a lack of an accepting social community due to processes of marginalization affected both sexual and mental health.[ix]
In general, people of non-conforming sexuality or gender can find support within feminist communities. Although the backing from these lgbt-activist organizations for non-binary sexualities and gender can be questioned sometimes. As a strong emphasis is placed on binary non-heterosexuality (read: gay or lesbian) within the public discourse surrounding debates on differing sexualities and gender.
Author: Maysa Mariposa
Image by Josje
Bibliography Note: All the sources can be found on Limo. If you can’t access any academical database, and you would like to read the sources, you can contact Maysa Mariposa on Facebook
[i] Herek, G. M. (2004). Beyond “homophobia”: Thinking about sexual prejudice and stigma in the twenty-first century. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 1, 6-24.
[ii] Corey E. Flanders, Marianne E. LeBreton, Margaret Robinson, Jing Bian & Jaime Alonso Caravaca-Morera. (2017). Defining Bisexuality: Young Bisexual and Pansexual People’s Voices, Journal of Bisexuality, 17:1, 39-57, DOI: 10.1080/15299716.2016.1227016
[iii] See 2.
[iv] See 2.
[v] See 1.
[vi] See 1, p.34.
[vii] See 1, p.33.
[viii] Flanders, Corey, E. Gos, Giselle Dobinson, and Cheryl Logie. (2015). “Understanding Young Bisexual Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Mental Health through Syndemic Theory.” Canadian Journal of Public Health 106.8. E533-538. Web.
[ix] See 7.