Sunday, 9 August 2015

De Montfort makes eyes at Dave

De Montfort University* has got in a kerfuffle after awarding its highest honour to David Cameron in recognition of the importance of same-sex marriage and its impact in social progress.

There's a petition here which has that rare quality of being an online petition I can entirely sign up to the sentiments of despite not having written. Far too many throw in peculiar delusions along the way.

How I feel about it all though is a little complicated. 
 
Dave was sticking his neck out in backing the marriage bill: it cost him support within his party (who were divided 50-50 on it in Parliament in the end: slightly against in the Commons and slightly in favour in the Lords) and it surely handed Tory votes to UKIP without which he'd now be sitting on a much more comfortable majority. That does deserve some recognition, though it's sad to say that we live in an era where politicians who spend their political capital on doing something of benefit to others deserves special credit. 25 years earlier if such a law had been enacted his party would have been promising to repeal same-sex marriage the moment they got in. Now it's something they boast, somewhat misleadingly, of having done, and so we can feel more secure of it staying law regardless who runs the country in the years to come. As someone who wants liberation and equality, getting the Tories to 'buy in' to same-sex marriage is a definite plus.

But the bill came not from Dave but from Lynne Featherstone, following the resolution at Lib Dem conference proposed by the party's LGBT+ wing and opposed by Stonewall. As the Liberals have been on the right side of every LGBT rights question since forever on account of their ideology, often on their own, that is seen as a less bold move.

I feel parallels in how I've seen for example Unison's LGBT wing getting praise for bisexual engagement work. Which they have been doing well over the last five years or so and I've been glad to see. Yet my work's LGBT network was pulling in bi activists to do equivalent engagement work in the 90s when LG Unison were telling bisexuals to get stuffed. It's a bit galling for people who did heavy lifting long ago, when it's the comparative latecomers to the party get the praise...

Which is a roundabout way of saying I'd have a lot more time for De Montfort if they'd been giving similar recognition to Lynne and e.g. one of the early pioneers who got us here like Bernard Greaves. 
 
That'd feel like celebrating the change rather than buttering up the PM.
 
 
 
* - me neither. Turns out it's in Leicester

Monday, 3 August 2015

My speech at Leeds Pride


I had the delight of being among the speakers on the main stage at Leeds Pride yesterday.  Here's  what I had to say to the crowd:

"Hello Leeds!  Are you having a good Pride?

​"​My first Pride was in London in 1993, and in those days it was called Lesbian and Gay Pride. I thought: I'm not a lesbian, I'm not gay, I'm bisexual and genderqueer, am I wanted and included in this?  I went along and hoped bisexual would be "gay enough". I didn't know it back then but Pride was invented by a bisexual woman, Brenda Howard, so if you're still in any doubt about the bisexuals being here - at this party, we're definitely on the guest list.

​"​I'm delighted to be here on behalf of Leeds Bi Group, which celebrates its first birthday this month having been formed at the national bisexual festival BiCon a year ago.  If you're bi and in or around Leeds join us at Mesmac, 7pm the second Wednesday of every month.  They say bisexuals want to have their cake and eat it, which is a strange slur, but if you want to bring us cake we're good with that.

"​Pride can be an exhilarating event, and I remember the tears I cried at my first one just being surrounded by so many other queer people for the first time.  But it's just one day.

​"The rest of the year there are groups all across the country like Leeds Bi Group making a space where it's OK to be bisexual - in a world that still wants us to fit a simple box of gay or straight.

"And we sadly need it. Half of gay and lesbian people think they can't be out about their sexuality at work.  Bi women are only half as likely as lesbians to feel they can be out at work.  For Bi men that falls to just one in eight.

"We may have nearly-equal marriage but in mental health, in experience of violence and more, we have so much still to do. Bisexual, transgender, lesbian or gay, we still die younger than our heterosexual cisgender friends, and that has to change.

​"But that's the fight for tomorrow and the rest of the year. Be proud and have a wonderful Pride today."

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Co-Op MPs more Tory than Labour

Because the co-op model is closer to the Liberal visions of business structure than to either the Labour or the Tory equivalents, I tend to assume that the 24 Co-Operative party MPs (who have sat in coalition with Labour for many years) will vote more like the Lib Dems than like the Tories.

Monday's welfare vote figures go the other way though.

Of the 208 Labour MPs, 45 - 21.6% - rebelled when Harriet Harman decided the Labour party shouldn't have an opinion on welfare cuts, and voted against the proposed changes.

But of the 24 Co-Operative MPs, just 3 did - 12.5% - making them more obedient to the Labour whip than actual Labour MPs, and readier to acquiesce to the Tory plans.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Sighing for the Summer

Remember how a few years back Katy Perry earwormed everyone for a couple of months with the titillating "try-bi" fluff that was "I kissed a girl and I liked it / hope my boyfriend don't mind it"?

It seems we're there again with a hyped new single from Demi Lovato, a multi-award winning 22 year old American singer whose message for another woman runs:
Take me down into your paradise
Don't be scared cause I'm your body type
Just something that we wanna try
Cause you and I
We're cool for the summer

Cool for the summer? Damnit. It's just the stick bis get so often - that we are "tourists" of same-sex desire, there for the fun of a fling but without a commitment and with the exit door to the safety of passing as straight always open.


The reality of supposed "heterosexual privilege" for bis being misread as straight is rather different, but this song just seems to play into that outdated notion.  My sexuality is not a seasonal fashion.


P.S. It's a bit of a waste of "I'm your body type" to just make it about girl/girl. Can this get picked up and appropriated for some other "similars"?

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

NME for free

Music weekly newspaper-turned-magazine-wtf-is-that-about the NME is to become a freesheet from September.

When I was 16 to 20 it was such a staple of my life. Most of the time twinned with Smash Hits, which was mostly aiming for a younger demographic but if you wanted to read about Kylie and Fugazi that was the press combo for you. My dalliance with the NME only ended when long-term unemployment alternating with scant bits of part time low paid work that amounted to the same kind of wage as dole became so entrenched as how I live that I stripped it from my list of priorities - about the same time buying records dwindled from a weekly browse towards an occasional "oh do you think any good bands are still recording?"

I'll have to make a point in September to pick up a copy and stare blankly at the names of all the artists now on the build-em-up knock-em-down mill.

Back when it Mattered to me, the NME did do good things in making a young queer feel less isolated - for some reason I think of David Quantick as the responsible journalist but probably most of the people there were in the good things camp. When Guns n Roses and Happy Mondays went off the rails on gay issues* the NME gave lots of space in letters pages and opinion pieces to saying that the artists were wrong, that this would not do them favours in the long term, and to giving voice to readers who were doing things like smashing up Happy Mondays records they owned and sending in the bits / photos of the bits.

When you - we - didn't have the internet, that kind of thing being in print made a lot of difference. So even though I would hardly ever feel the urge read that paper now, because I'm just too out of touch with what's new and shiny and will probably never prioritise the time it takes to get back in touch: thank you NME, and good luck still today in your latest incarnation.


[http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-33408435 refers]
[* there wasn't much LGBT nuance back then]

Monday, 6 July 2015

Hoist by its own, etc

The BBC has had the slap to the face this week of the suggestion it might have to pay for the licence fees of elderly pensioners. The move would knock out apparently 20% of the BBC budget, albeit with the option opened up to charge for specific content (like using the iPlayer) that the Beeb currently provides for free.

An unpleasant surprise perhaps. "You must pay for this from your budget" is really "We are taking away a fifth of your funding, good luck making up the shortfall".

While I'm troubled for the impact on the quality of radio / telly / journalism, a bit of me can't help thinking that the BBC has made its bed and now has to lie in it. The endless spin and narrative in favour of the Labservative Establishment and its Purple and Green puppets finally comes back to bite the BBC on its arse, with the Liberals removed from power and unable to come to Auntie's aid.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

"It's like bronzey and silvery only made of iron"

The Bi Women of Color (it's American) blog has a very fine post about the comparative whiteness of bi spaces here that I'd recommend for anyone wondering about that issue.

The fifth point crosses over into a general thing about bi activism though, and one which probably applies to many people who step up and volunteer for these things, in particular who have what some popular parlance calls intersectional or multiple oppressions.

Twentysome years ago in a proverbially gay/straight world I started creating bi spaces because they were something I needed. Ironically, by being the person who turns up every time, who is asked all the questions by the newcomers... that supportive, accepting space becomes something you give, more than something you get.

Those statistics about bisexuals having poor mental and physical health? We are those bisexuals. Those statistics about bis feeling isolated and lacking support and community? We are those bisexuals.

Friday, 12 June 2015

#BiVolunteer

Last week was Volunteers' Week. I was being a "bad volunteer" as some I know see it - too busy being ill, and in bed for a couple of days, so I didn't do much beyond day job, eat and sleep that week.  Oh, I ran a bi social/support group for an evening.  I knew there was something.

But I tweeted:
I could have named more projects and expanded on the theme a little but, y'know, 140 characters and all that.

I prefer "bi volunteering" to "bi activism" as a phrase at the moment. It sounds a bit more... accessible?  Anyone can be a volunteer, but activists must have sekrit superpowers.

The main lesson I've learned on volunteeringy activist doodah was from Natalya, whose wisdom is that you should do the volunteering that you enjoy and find least taxing. It is the one you are most likely to still want to do when doing it involves the equivalent of standing in the sleet at a bus stop on an evening in January when you could be warm and dry at home.

What bi volunteering would you like to do?