Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Bis are not more evolved...

One of the bi stereotypes / cliches that gets rolled out is that bisexuals are more evolved than other people. Cos, y'know, we see personality not gender or genitals. And by 'see' they mean fancy, or indeed intimately enjoy.

Though that's a worrying definition of bisexual so far as I'm concerned, because I've 'seen' a lot of personalities, a lot of genders and (gasp!) even some genitals as well.

It is I'm sure a well-meaning thing to say. It implies a certain "I wish I were, I just don't have it in me", and it's complete nonsense. We're as evolved and as prone to cockwomblery as anyone else.

Earlier I was reading someone (no links, doesn't deserve the traffic) bewailing that they had tried going to bi spaces, but it was just so terribly unwelcoming because they had to listen to women, too.

More evolved? Pffft. In this case: the 1950s called, they miss you and want you back.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Join the Bi Visibility Day tweet-storm!

Are you on twitter? And if so, have you joined in the 2014 Bi Visibility Day mass-tweet yet?
Sign up here to be one of LOADS of bis and allies tweeting to mark Bi Visibility Day on September 23rd

Monday, 30 June 2014

Bi Volunteering Diary

This post may seem a bit self-indulgent or congratulatory, but every so often people badger me to get this or that done on queer activism and seem to find it hard to imagine why I don't deal with that particular thing. So an incomplete diary of last week's bi activist shenanigans: it wasn't an especially busy week, I just decided to make some notes as I went along. Done around having a low-paid day job that is nothing to do with lgBt, partners, important radio listening, slouching on a sofa and so forth. So, if I didn't do the thing you were hoping for, I was probably taking care of stuff like this instead...

Monday. From midnight to 2am, try to work out why a PDF isn't generating properly of the otherwise finished artwork for the new issue of BCN. Get to bed when it finally does what it should do. Over breakfast, upload the PDF to the print house's servers. And go off to the day-job for a rather taxing day.

Monday evening, book a last-minute stall at small local Pride festival a few miles away. I wasn't going to do this, but the stall we did recently at a Pride some 50 miles away reached a lot of people who were clearly really happy to find something specific for bis at last, so I'm on a bit of a high. I suspect this weekend's event won't have such a sunny day and such luxurious icecream, but I'm on a high from last time so let's give up another Saturday eh?

Jot down a few ideas for a piece for a book on bi life someone's writing. I usually get these at the wrong time, like when I'm in the bath or on a bus somewhere and my thoughts will have flown by the time I get anything onto paper.


Tuesday. After work, spin up the database to generate mailing labels and get the envelopes stickered up for a magazine mailing. Over the years I have developed very fine labelling skills for getting envelopes labelled up in the most efficient way possible! Talk with Katie who is our finance person about when we can arrange for me to get back a load of expenses owed. Some tweeting and facebooking about Pride London and about Tameside Pride. A researcher who we helped last year gets back in touch, so I thank them for being one of the rare breed of researchers who are conscientious about feeding back to the community after - a practice I try hard to encourage! Jot down first thoughts about what's going in the August edition of BCN. Line up a story on BiMedia about same-sex partnership recognition on the Isle of Man.


Wednesday. Early in the morning BCN arrives from the print house; this means it's time for a BCN stuffing party! Call in enough pairs of hands and ensure tea and cake to keep up the stuffing momentum. Lug the first two bags to the post office and get them out into the post.

Around all this, find out that the organisers of the bi entry for Pride London have realised the banner they were going to use has gone awol. Contact people nearby who I think are going to London this weekend to see if anyone can take our banners down - no joy. Run up some designs for banners, get feedback from some people in London, run up some further designs, get more feedback and do more artwork tweakery. Find a print company and order the pair of them to be made as a rush job and off it all goes. Not used this print house before, fingers tightly crossed that they will do a good job.

Post this week's edition of my "what I'm doing at the moment" bi activism blog, which is not on blogspot.


Thursday. Before work, line up some news items about today's announcements re Civil Partnership and Marriage reform in Wales & England. Bill in the post goes onto the BCN "stuff to sort out" pile for the next time we have a finance meeting. Notice a news release about the TUC's LGBT conference which has decided it is against homophobia, with nary a mention of transphobia & biphobia, which I could blog about...

Instead go for dinner with one of my partners. Generally, take an evening "off the grid". Someone else can grump at the TUC for us, I'm sure.


Friday. Run round a quick circular about Tameside Pride on email lists. Talk to people in the USA about some problems they've picked up on. Tweet a bit about Bi Visibility Day and try to engage some other organisations in thinking about what they are doing in three months' time, so we get information in before September rather than all in a rush in the final week.

Find a soundcloud podcast of a meeting recently hosted by the council - feel glad I didn't attend as the whole thing is achingly LGbT and I'd only have been disenchanted. The good thing about podcasts is you can do the housework while they play...


Saturday. Get up early, take three trains and a bus ride to run the bi stall at a small local Pride. Awesomely [thanks to the power of the internet on my phone] get to see photos of the new bi banners being unveiled at Pride London 200 miles away. Run stall for four or five hours, chatter with a wide range of stall visitors, give out different leaflets and resources according to their needs. It's a small event but there are a couple of stall visitors for whom I think us being there has been really important. Feel loved as a stallholder when the event organisers bring us fruit and cake.

Public transport wends me slowly home and there I find an email waiting. Someone wants to reference a particular item in an old issue of BCN but it is not yet on the website. Get it up on the web for them as a rush job and settle down for dinner before catching up with two of my partners and generally going floomp on a sofa.


Sunday. Fried breakfast, shopping, an afternoon of watching episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s, and a game of Civ.  Eager volunteers need time away from activism too :)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

September 23rd and hashtags

A debate has opened up amongst some bi activists and groups online about how best to hashtag September 23rd this year on the twitternets.

This may seem a bit navel-gazing a question, but how we hashtag it has an important impact on how the 'official' name branding is perceived. In turn, what happens on the date, and who engages with it and how will be affected. And a combined, shared hashtag will get more momentum and attention - it is "good for SEO" I'm told.

Some of the suggestions bouncing around are:


The last one - #internationalcelebratebisexualityday - is the historically accurate name. It sums up what we want to do well, for all that it was I believe originally meant to focus inwardly on celebrating the (organised) bi community and has changed over time to be more outward looking. 

Unfortunately, it's about a third of a tweet in itself - as well as being a bugger to type on a small phone and an unwieldy name for dropping into conversation. Go do a radio interview where you need to mention what the date is called ten times and you will soon learn to hate such a bold selection of multisyllabic words.

As a consequence, #celebratebisexualityday developed some traction as a name. The trouble is that online there is a strong tendency for things to slip into the idea that "America is the world", and just losing the "international" I worry sends a signal that it's OK to talk of a September 23 that goes just as far as the Canadian and Mexican borders and not a step further. 

This ties in to a conversation among some UK bi activists a few years ago about better, friendlier branding for the date.  I have to say I was in the "sticky" camp of continuing to try and get traction on our existing branding, but was persuaded otherwise.

There seem to be two main contenders for alternative directions to go in.

#BiPrideDay (and related, #BiPride) takes the existing common notion of gay / LGBT+ Pride, which is nice and clear. The downsides are first that for people who want to organise and bring bis together, it suggests quite a specific set of things to do - Pride being associated with a moderately narrow range of festival models these days. For me there is also an implication that we have abandoned LGBT Prides (the ones 'we' invented!) and so the LGBT prides that significantly fail on bisexual engagement or representation have a get-out clause. #BiPride feels good for bi visibility over general LGBT Pride season, but lacks a focus on September 23rd. It's a bit like tagging IDAHO(BIT) as #lgbtPride.

#BiVisibilityDay names one of our biggest challenges as people and as a community and its solution in the name. By not being 'Pride' it opens up more space around ways people - bi or ally - might mark the date and seek to advance bisexual visibility, of people or of community. Only bis can have bi pride, but allies of bis can help raise the bi profile. On the downside it lack the familiarity of a "Pride" branding - but then IDAHO(BIT) and TDOR have that same issue and have still achieved decent levels of momentum and 'brand recognition' over time.

The blurring between those two is #BiDay. That's a lot shorter than #BiVisibilityDay so you can fit more content into your tweets.

It's about bisexuals and it's on a specific day. In the spirit of Bisexual Index's work to define bisexuality in as few words as possible so that there aren't stray words in there excluding people, #BiDay probably does the job of summarising September 23rd best.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Bisexual or bi-sexual?

One question that's cropped up many times in my 20-something years of bi activism and bi volunteering is this:

Should bisexual and bisexuality be spelled with hyphens, as bi-sexual and bi-sexuality?

I say, down with the hyphen! Two reasons:

1) We don't hyphenate homo-sexuality or hetero-sexuality.

2) Generally when words get hyphenated like that it's because they aren't real words or are just getting accepted into English as a single word (think of old films where to indicate the passage of time they have a flipping calendar with "TO-DAY IS" on it -- or how early on people tended to write email as e-mail). As bisexuality is real and definitely not something invented earlier this week, I think the hyphen sends out all the wrong signals on that front too.

I wrote this in a thread somewhere else but thought it was worth copying over here :)

Friday, 23 May 2014

England swings Right

With almost all the council election results in (there seem to be far fewer seats up than in 2010 which I'm a bit puzzled by) we've got a fair idea of the outcome of this year's May council elections, over which to ruminate wildly while waiting for the European election count this Sunday.

Across England the shift in seats is rightwards: towards the fear of your neighbour and the promise of a "better yesterday"-ism from Tory to UKIP, and similarly toward a more authoritarian, monocultural society in shifting from Liberal to Green.

Labour have picked up seats but their vote seems to have stalled. Like some of the county council seat results last year, when looking ward by ward at different councils today I kept finding find someone had got in not because Labour support has risen but because the voters seeking to oust them have shuffled between other parties and the famed 'split opposition' aspect of First Past The Post has done its work.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Chwarae Teg

Fair play to the BNP*, normally when I get a bit of paper through my letterbox with racism on it, it's from the Labour Party.

Hopefully despite going for the same values as Manchester Labour, Griffin will nonetheless be out on his arse come Sunday.

* not a phrase that comes easily

Saturday, 17 May 2014

My speech for the Manchester IDAHOBIT vigil today


Why ram in the B, people ask. It is controversial, even with the international IDAHOBIT committee.

In Australia today there's a film festival to mark IDAHOBIT. In their publicity they have said it is an LGBT event, challenging homophobia and transphobia and a celebration of lesbian, gay and transgender life.

Colleagues from the equivalents of BiPhoria down under have challenged this, not surprisingly. Is the B in that LGBT just there to make up the numbers?

And they were told: biphobia is just a subset of homophobia, it doesn't need mentioning.

I understand how people come to say that - it has long been the accepted idea of bisexuality. Half gay, half the oppression. Growing up and coming out into queer culture 20 or so years ago it was the received wisdom that I received too.

We didn't know better because bi voices had not reached that critical mass. And that connects to the wider world issues that IDAHOBIT draws to our attention, because then we similarly just couldnt know what was happening for queers in other nations.

And just as we have started thanks to the internets to learn of how things may be good or bad abroad, we have come to understand a lot more of life here in the UK too, and to have research on bi life rather than just the odd bit of anecdote.

Because when we started to learn from one another, it all got a bit more frightening.

Across Europe, 50% of lesbians and gay men are out at work. Fifty percent. That's great! Except... when we think of the maths adding up to 100. That means 50% aren't, often because they don't feel it would be safe or wise.

But then: only 27% of bi women are out at work
And 14% of bi men.

86% of the men in my community keeping themselves in the closet because of prejudice in the workplace, even in countries like ours where the law offers some kind of protection.

Just yesterday I got an email to BiPhoria from someone who had sought support at their LGBT staff network, "employee at national law firm... Weird how lgbt groups, like mine at my work can make me feel less included than not having one at all." Because biphobia comes from inside the gay community too.

Three years ago a report on queer people's health found one in five bi women rated their health as fair or worse than that. For gay and straight women it was one in ten.

When it came to their mental health, four per cent of straight women reported a long term illness. 12% of lesbians. But 21% of bi women.

And the statistics on women who experience rape, physical violence and stalking: straight 35%, lesbian 44%, bi 61%.

Not that 35% is a number any of us can be happy with.

Double the violent abuse. Five times the levels of mental health struggles.

So biphobia, it's not just a milder version of homophobia. A Manchester Labour councillor told me a year or so ago, bisexuals aren't part of LGBT because they don't experience oppression. The facts just don't bear that belief out.

And yet, this isn't that the world is getting worse. It is, in places, as the voting in Eurovision last weekend showed sometimes it can feel like the world is becoming more polarised for or against us. We have to stop and remember 20, 30, 40 years ago it didn't seem as polarised because it was even more one-sided. Slowly the tide of history is flowing our way even if sometimes it ebbs and flows

So, thank you for inviting me, it's a slightly scary privilege to speak alongside some of the colleagues I am here with today, and thank you for standing with us in the ongoing fight with homophobia, biphobia and transphobia