I want to talk more about a logical fallacy that comes up a lot, one that I briefly mentioned in my article busting the myth(s) of the barsexual. It’s called the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, and the reason it’s called that is because it’s most commonly illustrated with stories similar to this one:
Feargus reads a story in the morning paper about a horrible murder in Edinburgh. “See what these foreigners within our borders have done! No Scotsman would have done such a terrible thing!” The next morning, he learns that the crime was committed by his second cousin. “Well, he’s not really a Scot, no True Scotsman would have done this.”
One of the big areas where this comes up is because people use a version of this to erase bisexuals, almost invariably by comparing us to myths and then using those myths to claim that we’re not “real bisexuals” – some even go so far as to claim that because the standard is mythical, there cannot be any such thing as a real bisexual.
Let me give you an example that happened to me. A fellow said, in what appeared to be all seriousness, that “bisexual means exactly 50/50 attraction, and everyone has a preference, no matter how slight, for one gender or another, so you can’t be a real bisexual because there are no real bisexuals.” (This is the old “You’re a liar” offense. And there’s a little bit of dragging out the old “Kinsey 3” to justify it there too, dontcha think?)
Here’s some others:
“All bisexuals have to have multiple partners and threesomes, so if you don’t you’re not a real bisexual.” (Important note: having multiple partners makes you polyamorous. People who are polyamorous can be straight, gay, or bi – and as long as I’m busting myths, let me bust one about polyamory: there are plenty of polyamorous people who don’t have threesomes. Like, ever.)
“All male bisexuals are actually gay men in denial, or gay men lying in order to get more casual partners, so there are no real bisexuals, therefore you’re not really bisexual.” (“Liar Offense” strikes again.)
It’s also used quite a bit against the trans* and asexual communities.
“Women are born with vaginas, so you’re not a real woman.”
“Anorgasmia is a medical condition, so you’re not really asexual, you just need to see a doctor.”
It comes up sometimes in theist/atheist debates, often when someone who identifies as a Christian is told that “Since the Bible says it’s the whole and only truth, if you don’t believe every single word to be literally true, you’re not really a Christian.”
The upshot is this: don’t tell people they aren’t “real [whatever]s” because they don’t fit your definition of what you think they are. You are likely to be wrong, and doubly or triply so if your definition of what’s a “real” whatever is being applied to a whatever that you do not identify as.
Busting the No True Scotsman fallacy in itself busts a lot of myths, because so many of the myths used to facilitate erasure by straight and lesbian/gay people depend on it. Dan Savage famously erases bisexuality by claiming that men who like people outside the rigid poles of male/female are really just open-minded straight men, because obviously there’s nothing queer about a (presumably cis) man enjoying a penis as long as there’s a pair of breasts above it. He also erases bisexuality through repetition of the “Bi Now, Gay Later” trope, and regularly denigrates trans*folk in a lot of other ways as well.
Recently on Twitter he said he was writing a chapter on bisexuality for his new book and wondered aloud if it would “make it all better or get my gay ass killed.” Well, Dan, if you simply say “I was wrong about stuff and apologize for saying biphobic things” rather than doubling down by trying to convince us you were right all along and then saying more biphobic things, then maybe your reputation in the bisexual community will improve.
The constant use of variations on the No True Scotsman fallacy is the symptom of a big problem. It goes to the heart of many of the issues I write about.
So much of the crap that’s out there, so many of the biphobic statements and attitudes that are the reason that bisexuals have a higher rate of drug, alcohol, and mental health problems than the overall queer population, so much of the daily derp that infests the internet from Tumblrs that claim being gender-blind is superior to “reinforcing the binary” (see Even Aud for some important information on that one) to well-meaning college Queer Resource Centers that mischaracterize (or utterly erase) bisexuality in their Safe Space trainings comes from losing track of a pair of very simple and closely related ideas:
Don’t talk about us without us. Believe us when we tell you about ourselves.
It’s pretty simple. Don’t attempt to define (or redefine) bisexuality or bisexuals without listening to what we have to say about ourselves. Yes, we’re not always going to agree, any more than any other heterogonous population. There are millions of us, and about all we can actually agree on is that the one thing we all have in common is that our range of attraction is not restricted to either our own gender or a specific “opposite” gender. There are going to be individuals among us who can be found that embody any stereotype you want to apply. But none of these myths and stereotypes will apply to the entire population.
You want to know who we are? Demographically, we’re pretty much just like everybody (mostly working class, racially diverse, from all over). A lot of us are in the closet, and a lot of us are pretty stressed out by being rejected by the straight dominant culture – and many of us are further stressed by being rejected by loud elements in L/G culture too.
Some of that stress – hell, a lot of that stress – could be alleviated simply by people taking the time to listen to what bisexuals have to say. It’s not that hard. We’re everywhere.
No, seriously. We are everywhere. We’re next door, we’re downstairs, we’re behind the counter, we’re checking your blood pressure, we’re answering the phone when you call customer service, we’re sitting next to you having coffee, one of us is even in Congress. We’re in that car in front of you, we just got on the bus, we’re riding our bikes, we’re laughing at lolcats. We’re young, we’re old, we’re every race, every religion (or no religion), every socioeconomic status (although everything I’ve seen and heard tends to indicate that we’re not as well represented in the upper ranks of America’s peculiar psuedoclassless class structure as some others).
We’re right here. Ask us before telling us who and what we are. It doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request, does it.