Breaking the Binary, Shifting the Ground: Being Bisexual, Asexual, and Non-Binary
I’m tired of fighting for any number of my identities to be accepted, as are countless other people who share similar identities to myself. Non-binary. Biromantic. Asexual.
The biases and stigma I have faced as someone who is bi and ace are eerily similar (and not in the good Halloween, spooky season kind of way), even though one of my identities is perpetually demonised as gluttonous and inherently promiscuous, whilst the other is considered broken, sex-repulsed, frigid, prudish. My confusion occurs when I hear these statements back-to-back of each other, as they’re so oppositional and just reinforce incredibly outdated stereotypes, which perpetuates both biphobia and aphobia. We’re told we’re taking up space which is not ours because of perceived “privileges”: bisexual people in relationships with people of genders different to their own are “straight”; asexual people just “choose” to disengage from sexual relations. And from this stems the discourse that we are not queer enough. Yet people fail to realise that these “privileges” which are forced upon us by ignorant, uneducated people are in fact erasures of the complexities of queerness. Gatekeeping discourse and the erasure of our existence are painful reminders that we still have so far to go as a community before we reach acceptance.
These attitudes and behaviours creep in around you, pervasive from friends, family, colleagues, education, media, slowly building webs which begin to wrap themselves around you. It’s suffocating: thin threads of silk may seem small, but it accumulates until it feels inescapable. This is how queerphobia works: it’s a comment here, a smirk there, a “joke” made at our expense in a staff lunch room. But it’s nasty. Vicious.
Then add a pinch of transphobia to our already painful experiences: the more ‘out’ you are with your gender, the more you start questioning yourself. The more others question you. Living as a femme-presenting person when cis people associate this to womanhood is oftentimes (frequently) painful. The more I live openly about being non-binary, the more I am questioned, the more confusion I encounter, because I “don’t look trans enough”.
I’m thinking of the effects of the current global political climate, the various forms of lockdown and isolation that are being imposed upon our communities, and the intersections and marginalisations experienced by my community. I’m thinking about my trans siblings who are stuck inside hiding themselves from their transphobic families where they’re being misgendered on a daily basis and the detriment this will bring to their mental health. I’m thinking about my non-binary siblings who are feeling momentary relief at not living a double life at their place of employment because they’re not having to do unpaid emotional labour in educating privileged cis people. I’m thinking about my gender non-conforming siblings who exist with multiple marginalisations and intersections of identities and are experiencing reduced access to their communities, their friends, their safe spaces, their outlets: the things and people which bring comfort and solidarity, that provide a sense of belonging and security. I’m thinking about my trans siblings who have lost their lives and their voices at the hands of violence and discrimination. How many other non-binary, trans, genderqueer people have to silently swallow their screams for recognition as we patiently (and exasperatedly) explain that our gender has nothing to do with the labels we’ve been forcibly ascribed to our body parts by people who respect our genitals more than our words?
The way our lived experiences are perceived demonstrates how these identities of mine which I hold so close are inextricably interlinked, defying heteronormative expectations, and often approach my relationships in ways that break and rewrite pre-existing social scripts of normativity and performativity. Yet this is which I have had to learn to accept. But this should not be the case. Aphobia, transphobia, and biphobia are mirrored prejudices, all of which are rooted in the exact same forced heteronormativity and socially accepted hatred of ambiguity. As someone who is both asexual, bisexual, non-binary, I find myself in a position which is unique and can illustrate how these identities are considered similar by the marginalisation we face.
Finding acceptance as a bi person in the LGBTQIA+ community is hard enough, but as an ace-spectrum bisexual you face not only accusations of straight privilege, you also face being accused of not possessing a “real” alternative sexuality, because, well, it is defined by a lack of sexuality.
The suffix “sexual” implies sexual attraction so strongly that I frequently do not feel comfortable attaching it to myself. This is despite me constantly reminding people that sexuality is about way more than sex, and that intimacy can be incredibly broad and personal. I even prefer “ace” over “asexual” for this very reason. Just “bi” is better too, but even this implies bisexuality rather than biromanticism: why has our thinking become so narrow-minded and embedded that we cannot acknowledge both simultaneously? These abbreviations, for me, feel similar to wearing my well-loved leather jacket, with my pronoun pins jammed through the material and which adorn the front of my chest, proudly exclaiming to those who dare transgress to orbit within the same sphere I occupy that I am non-binary.
This is a call to arms: the discourse is overwhelming, and the lack of information, understanding, and an unwillingness to listen and learn has seemed to create this division among LGBTQIA+ communities. My communities are diverse, and there are a multitude of cross-cutting identities, and none of these intersections negate the queerness we possess. So I’m calling on you, Dear Reader who has given their time to read this far, to fight for our collective recognition. We start by recognising our parallel struggles and that queerness, in its multitude of embodiments, is political. To talk of a homogenous “bisexual”, “asexual”, or “non-binary” experience is to neglect our diversity as a group. The simplistic use of these labels can be used as a necessary means to the end towards greater awareness, acceptance, and tolerance. Whether it will always be necessary to utilise the multiplicity of my labels once full awareness and acceptance is achieved is a moot point, but for now uniting under a commitment to validate and welcome seems to me to be incumbent on those wishing to improve this community’s engagement and acceptance.