Saturday, 25 April 2015

More Out MPs in 2015?

It was pleasing to read research that suggests we may have more LGBT MPs in the coming parliament than the old one.  I'd been worrying the academics were all busy and I was going to have to do the maths myself.

The 2010 parliament had 27 out LGB members - 13 Conservative (4% of their parliamentary party), 9 Labour (3%), 4 Lib Dem (7%) and 1 Plaid Cymru (33%).  Of these, two were bi men (one Lib Dem, one Tory) and two gay women (one Tory, one Labour): the remaining 22 gay men.  In the interests of multi-party balance I should add that the DUP are probably most emphatic that none of the 26 are theirs.

27 is a significant slice of the 36 out bi or gay MPs we've ever had. If you were ever an out-LGB MP, the chances are you still are one. There haven't been any openly trans MPs in the UK yet, and though there are trans candidates for most of the mainland parties - indeed one of them currently being splashed over the papers as trans, queer and poly - alas none look likely to break through.  Sorry Zoe.

For all that the polls suggest another hung parliament, they also suggest one with a swing to the right: we will have a different bunch of MPs running the show. It looks like fewer Lib Dem MPs and more SNP members, and a huge switcharound of Labour MPs as they lose a swathe of seats in Scotland and gain others in England. Probably quite some turnover of Tory MPs too.

All sides, pretty much, have out candidates. There are 38 for the Liberal Democrats, 35 Labour, 28 Tory, 22 Green, 5 UKIP, 3 Plaid Cymru, 1 SNP and 1 Alliance.  The latter three parties only stand in 40, 59 and 18 seats respectively.

That said, in UK elections most candidates don't get elected. There's not many openly-LGBT potential new MPs in Tory-gain or SNP-gain type seats, but there are a few in Labour-gain seats. If the polls turn around for the Lib Dems, the seats they'd gain would add a little to the tally too. So we can look forward to fresh queer faces on the green benches after May 7th.

To keep bisexual geeks on their toes, both existing seats with bi MPs - and the one that might gain a new out bi MP - are seats that might change hands.  The Conservative seat of Shrewsbury and Atcham has been in blue, gold and red columns in the last fifteen years, while the Liberal seat of Southwark and Old Bermondsey has been a Labour target at every election since 1983. Labour hope to gain Stockton South: on current polls they should do as it's a very Labour seat that flipped blue in 2010.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The Daily Record is confused

In the Scottish Daily Record this week (24th April, publication stamped 3pm though so perhaps online only) Nicole Heaney writes about how we live in terribly modern times where,
"having an attraction to the same sex in some eyes does not make you homosexual and it does not make you bisexual. Thus meaning you can be in a relationship with a female and be attracted to males but not necessarily be bisexual. The reason for this is because you could simply not envision yourself in a relationship with the same sex."
Woah there. This is a special redefining of bisexual to mean "attracted to more than one gender and interested in relationships with everyone to whom you are attracted".

Let's consider that "not really the sexuality in question" clause applied for gay or straight people: if you were, say, going out clubbing, pulling people and having casual sex seven nights a week, and happy with this and not wanting anything "more" in your life right now... you're just kidding yourself about having a sexuality at all.  Hmmm. No. Those people are definitely gay or straight. Once you stop having a double-standard for bi, Nicole's definition of non-bi-bis comes unstuck quickly.

Then she turns to the future, which will be...
"A time when sexuality won’t be pigeon holed. A time where gay, straight, male or female will not matter and we will just have sex with whomever we are attracted to regardless of their status."

Uh-oh. We've seen this one before, haven't we? It's the same future fairytale with which Peter Tatchell invents bisexuality every couple of years without ever using the B word. (I'm skipping over the lack in the original text of whether the other person is consenting. Subeditors can do terrible things to hone down a word count, after all).

I think it conflates two ideas, one which is useful, one which is not. Some day, yes, I hope whether you are bi, gay, straight or asexual won't matter: we won't need safe spaces as an escape from biphobia and so forth. That way that the first gay pubs I went to had blacked-out windows for the safety of patrons will be a long forgotten horror. If you find out someone fancies you, you'll only have to think: do I fancy them back? Are we both single or otherwise available? Great! Let's do something about it then!

The other idea, though, is the idea that when prejudice and queerbashing are behind us as a society, labels - bi, gay, straight - will no longer be needed. I think that's a duffer. Just because it's safe to be bi or gay won't make all the people who never experienced same-sex attraction suddenly realise how attractive the people they never fancied before are. We'll still be bi, gay, straight, asexual. We just won't be raised to beat ourselves up about it. And when someone turns you down because they just aren't into girls, they'll still need words that express that. Terms like bisexual may lose their loaded values, but they are still vital concepts about how humans and human sexuality work.

Then again, the Daily Record article begins by observing that "It’s hard to believe that only some 20 years ago it was a crime to be homosexual".  It is indeed.  Not least because it wasn't - even though Section 28 had sought to make talking about it a thought-crime, homosexuality was decriminalised in Scotland in 1980, thirtyfive years ago. 

We should probably have stopped reading there.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Whose fault is it anyway

Why did the economy tank? Whose fault is "the mess Labour left us"?

The soundbite from the Tories is "the Labour government did it"

The soundbite from the Greens is "the bankers did it"

The soundbite from the Labour party is "a big boy dun it and run away"

The soundbite from UKIP is "a big foreign boy dun it and run away"

The soundbite from the Lib Dems is "can we get a word in here... no? damn"

Well, Labour did it, and the bankers did it, and loads and loads of you lot did it. Cheap loans, stupid mortgages, house price super-inflation, the bankers couldn't do it on their own: they needed millions of complicity borrowers to make it happen. And while that happened on the edge of government control, Labour's tax and spend was based on the pretend money the bankers were creating for assets that were not really any greater than they had been before the hot air boom: when the balloon went pfffffft, we were left with the 'real' tax take but an expectation of what government could afford to spend based on all that imaginary cash being there too.  Suddenly what had been passed off as foolish overspending was a humungous £400m a week more going out than was coming in.  The 'mess Labour left' isn't the economy as such, it's the massive overestimate of how much the government could afford to spend given general economic activity and taxation levels.

But the politicians won't be heard saying that between now and polling day, as it has far too many home truths to be acceptable to the press and the voters alike.

So that's fun.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Coalition, please

Doing the bisexual community info outreach stall in Sheffield last weekend, one of the conversations I had with quite a few stall visitors was about the Bisexuality Report. What was it; why it was useful; how it came about.

Each time I started along the lines of, "think back to 2010 after the Coalition Government was formed? One of the good things was, because it was a formal coalition, they laid out on paper what they were going to do. On LGBT issues there was an LGB&T Action Plan. It was incredibly helpful for people outside Westminster, outside the well-funded London clique groups like Stonewall. Because now we knew broadly what to expect and when, so we knew: this thing should come up next May, we have time to prepare and know what to look for, and what to chase up on if it doesn't seem to be happening." That then led onto talking about how the LGB&T Action Plan lacked a bi strand and evidence base, which gave momentum to the "Bi Life 2" idea and led to my proposal for the Bisexuality Report in 2011.

Having a coalition government meant a written plan with a timeline both parties had broadly signed up to.  Prior to 2010 there was never that kind of open agenda: to know what was going to happen next you had to be part of the Westminster bubble. You had to already be in the clique in order to influence the clique. Here instead was an open plan for all to follow.

Of course it hasn't meant that as grassroots community group organising types we magically have gained offices, staff and so on. But within what unfunded projects can do it has been massively better.

Which parties are involved in the next government will affect what winds up in any new five year agenda for action, but from the perspective of the less cash-heavy end of the third sector, I do hope it's a coalition. That way we all have more chance of engagement with what happens from here to 2020.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

I've Stalled

After going to the Sheffield ZineFest the last two years as a participant (writeups here and here) this year was the big leap into the unknown of taking a half-a-table to share my goodies with the world for the first time.

It was also the first time going in a car - with my strongarmed co-stall-volunteer - which is just as well with having to be there on time instead of roll up when the train network feels like getting you there, as well as there being someone else to guilt you into getting up and setting off at the right time rather than having a lie-in.

The zinester fun room was back with a different typewriter

It's a different day out as a stall-holder.  When you're away from your stall, like a nervous parent, a quarter of your brain is doing radar pings of your stall: do I need to go back and talk to whoever's visiting the stall now? Have I made sure the person looking after the stall has a nice hot cup of tea? You get to be jealous of the other stall holders who are definitely getting much more attention (it's a bit of a red herring, as you only notice this in the bits of the day when your stall isn't busy).  And you really notice the different styles of interaction of people who come up to the table.

My usual frustration at zinefest stalls is a lack of labelling - something that looks artsy and has an enigmatic name on its own is intriguing, in a room of 100 such things it's just annoying - so slap bang in the middle of the BCNs was an explanation of what it is and what kind of reader might like it, and similar notes for other things on the stall.

The fabulous BCN / other bizines / bi info stall
To step back though - the Electric Works remains a very pretty building and as in the last two years there were loads of stalls sprawled out over the ground floor. My impression was that there were slightly more stalls again than in 2014.

It was sad this time to find fewer workshops going on and no equivalent to the "100 years ago" display and "Sheffield history" live artworking of the past two years. The art and bigger workshop schedules were fab things to have and helped the less outgoing attendees' participation, I think, but they take some finding and instigating - it's not meant as a big criticism of the organisers who finessed a whole host of stalls into place. I umm'ed and ahh'ed about putting in a workshop offer but didn't quite feel I had enough of the right roots to run a session at Zinefest, and also thought tabling for the first time was enough of an adventure. Baby steps.

We didn't take enough to cover the cost of having a stall. While it would have been good to do so, that wasn't the real aim: this was about getting the word out and sharing info with people who would benefit from it.

You're in the right place...

A pile of BCNs went and my stockpile is about 70 copies of Getting Bi lighter. Lots of my hastily-made Northern Bis flyers were taken with the aid of "where are you from? ah, there's a bi group there, here are the details" conversations. We're in a weird uptick time in bi group organising in the North: two years ago such conversations would have gone "Manchester's nearest to you then" almost every time, but now we have a bit of a blossoming with meets in Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool.

There must have been some political thingy or other on nearby - some people showed up wearing Labour pin badges, and were were noticeable for making sure they got seen without actually giving any support to what was going on, and avoiding actual eyecontact or conversation.  A (I googled and discovered Lib Dem) council candidate who was not badged and stickered up came by too, did actual talking in order to learn about things and find out what she could pass on to appropriate people locally, and gave us some money for some of the things she was taking.

Being a bit ziney and a bit strand-of-LGBT-community-info, ours was a stall with specific niche appeal, but there were really good conversations with perhaps 25 people through the day, and only one visit that could be described as consisting of "eww bisexuals are icky hahaha".

So quite a good day out...

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Welcome U-Turn

I see on my newsfeed that Blogspot.com is no longer going to kick out the more "sexually explicit" blogger blogs.

Good, and thank you for taking a more sensible approach, dear hosts.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

More media bis

It's been another good week for bisexual representation: in case you missed them, Catwoman came out on the weekend while the lead in trashy sci-fi fun The 100 was outed as bisexual between an on-screen kiss and a producer's tweet. And of course I was in the local news.

It all inspired this happy graphic:


It'd be good to get some people who aren't young, white and cisfemale* next week though. Still, a half-full glass is better than no beer and no glass.


* I'm figuring catpeople are still cis or trans...

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Trendy bisexual


Thanks to Swansea Uni's LGBT staff network for letting me know...  it seems I'm currently trending on Google as the thing people wanting "LGBT Q&A" must be looking for.

A facebook friend says that it also applies to "LGBT Manchester".

Scary! :D