Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The way ahead

So Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn's coalition of chaos has hit the buffer of a massive 432-202 defeat in the Commons.

What happens next?  Well, the EU needs to come up with an alternative we can support, parps Boris, Britain's highest-paid armchair general.

After two and a half years of bending over backwards to enable our whacky demands that replace the previous combination of opt-outs and special-cases they had allowed us since the 1970s perhaps the EU will have had enough and go for the only fix they can deliver:


By next Tuesday all 27 nations can have ratified a short bill renouncing EU membership and joining EU2, formally inheriting all the currency, political and social institutions of the EU bar "anything that refers to the United Kingdom".

"There you go" Tusk tells us. "It's your EU now, do what you bloody well want with it. No longer our problem so we can get on with reforming the union and protecting ourselves from the huge, systemically corrupt and heavily armed failed state to our East. Catch you later."

We then only have to negotiate with ourselves, which with the skill of the average Brexit secretary should mean we wind up only down about £59bn on the deal.

Except Ireland wouldn't be able to sign up because of the Good Friday Agreement. Bugger. Ah well, there is no solution to the puzzle. We'll have to stay.

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 in Bisexual

Something I wrote for the BCN website wrapping up loads of bi news from the past twelve months...


So, 2018 has been and gone. Here are our bi-lights of the year past.

Seen On Screen

We had more bis on TV than ever including shows with bisexual leads The Bi Life, Sally4Ever and The Bisexual, as well as bis in shows like Riverdale, The Good Place, Jeremy Thorpe drama A Very English Scandal, bi poly life in the 1940s with Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, and the Freddie Mercury film Bohemian Rhapsody.

Research

Research showed bisexuals are far more closeted than gay and lesbian people – and more likely to experience violence and abuse. So much for the ‘best of both worlds’. The BiReCon (bisexuality research conference) events that have happened each even-numbered year since 2008 took a break but there was a day-long event in a similar vein in Manchester.

The government published the findings of the biggest LGBT survey ever conducted in the UK – and pulled out the bi findings where they were interesting, and often sadly reflected how bi people face additional challenges compared to gay and straight people. Among the resulting work programme they promised to ban ‘conversion therapy’ – the discredited practice of trying to persuade people into being straight or gay rather than gay or bi.

Politics

Political life in the UK is in a bit of turmoil, but in some parts of the union more than others. While the Conservative-DUP not-a-coalition struggles on in Westminster, and the Sinn Fein-DUP deadlock sees nothing happening in Stormont, there’s a working coalition in Cardiff Bay, and a minority government in Holyrood similarly getting on with its own agenda.

And so Scotland and Wales both announced improvements in sex and relationship education in schools – thanks in part to SNP education minister John Swinney and Lib Dem education minister Kirsty Williams but importantly thanks to long lobbying campaigns by individuals and campaign groups like TIE. Working for change takes time but the changes set for classrooms in Wales and Scotland will make all the toil of recent years feel worth it. England and Northern Ireland may be waiting a bit longer for equivalent improvements. We got our fifth equality minister at Westminster in the space of two years: I suppose they last longer than Brexit secretaries.

Referendums continued to be a poor way to decide human rights: while Ireland voted the right way on abortion, giving people rights over their own bodies rather than over one anothers, Taiwan rejected same-sex marriage, and Romania debated redefining the word ‘family’ to exclude same-sex couples.
Meanwhile in the US midterms the voters put Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate alongside other LGBT winners in other races while the Republicans’ most prominent out bisexual defected to the Democrats. The Danish minister for Education came out as bisexual, and Colombia got its first out-bi Senator.

Looking Back

Many events for LGBT History Month in 2017 had focused on 50 years since a bisexual MP (Home Secretary and later SDP leader Roy Jenkins) had enabled the partial decriminalisation of sex between men.  This year we had other key anniversaries with round numbers involved – 40 years since the Rainbow Flag, 30 years since Section 28, and 20 years of the bisexual flag.

Proud Allies

There were bi stalls at more LGBT Prides than ever (we reckon) with BiPrideUK’s campaign of publicity stalls reaching much of the smattering of prides that local groups like Bothways, BiPhoria and BiCymru don’t reach in an average year.

It was a summer where a small clique of transphobic people disrupted Pride in London and inspired many other Prides to show their rejection of transphobia.

Bi events

BiCon came to Salford for the first time – and went rather well. Next time it’s in Lancaster. Smaller BiFest events were successes in Birmingham, Swansea, London and Stirling.

Bi Visibility Day (and that does seem to be gaining ground as the name used for it worldwide now rather than just in the UK) was huge once again – with its children, BiWeek and BiMonth growing in usage as well.  Twitter joined in with a special BiWeek emoji. and BiVisibilityDay trended hard in the UK on September 23rd.

Big Bi Fun Day‘s future was left in doubt with no-one coming forward to run it in 2019.

Us


And there were of course six fabulous issues of BCN magazine. Subscribe to get the next six now.

The future

It turned out there will be a sexuality question in the census in 2021, along with a trans question – but they’ll be optional and people will still have a blunt “are you male or female” question, so there is still more work to do. Making it optional implies a degree of shame about the answer, if you ask us.



And so to 2019, whose anniversaries include 50 years since the Stonewall riot in the USA, 30 years since the UK’s LG(BT) lobbying group named after it was launched, and 25 years since BiPhoria formed – the UK’s oldest extant bi group.

We might even see progress on making Civil Partnerships more equal. And, of course, there’s Brexit

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Paddy Ashdown

My first proper Paddy Ashdown memory was in the 1992 election. Paxman was giving him a manifesto grilling about whether the voters of Yeovil were crying out for the abolition of section 28 and equalisation of the age of consent.

At a time when it was far from popular - the ink was still wet from Section 28 coming into law remember - Paddy put him back in his box as "we don't campaign for these things based on whether they are popular but because they are the right thing to do".

I already knew I was too left wing for Labour and the Tories, but it helped nail down which way to vote a couple of weeks later.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Yellow Peril

France has protests about fuel prices.  The "yellow vests" are out in force across the country, bullying and attacking not just their enemies but their friends in a delusional, blinkered rage against the world.

Except, like the ones we had here circa 2000, they really aren't the spontaneous grassroots types they have been spinning themselves as to the media. To a great degree, they're puppets whipped up into entitlement by profiteering forces we saw then too - big oil, terrified of its own future and trying to prevent the actions needed to keep most of the planet liveable in an era of man-made climate change.


This time though there's another force at work - one that wasn't clearly a part of the UKanian fuel protests. Russia hates that they failed in their efforts to control the French presidential election - they were hit by a double whammy as the Macron campaign knew they were coming for them and took appropriate measures, and Putin's choice of President was unappetising to too many French people.

Militant capitalism on one side. A failed state on the other.

It suits both the traditional christian-democrat and social-democrat groups for Macron to come a cropper - will they happily be Putin's puppets or stand up against the 'gilets' and their demand for a shittier planet and subservient Europe in the interests of financially and politically motivated outside forces?

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

International Action

Pink News reports that in North American trade negotiations, Liberal Party leader and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau is standing alone to defend the rights of pregnant US citizens.

They say that:
the draft text of the deal includes a pledge to enact “policies that protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including with regard to pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, gender identity.”

The Republicans are up in arms about this of course. How dare there be protection in the workplace against being groped by a predatory tosser, eh Donald?

Though of course that kind of gutting of employment rights is just what Theresa and her personal sidekick Jeremy are working tirelessly to deliver for the people of Britain. And our trades unions have already carefully expunged the Liberals from UK politics almost completely so there won't be a powerful Trudeau-like figure here to intervene. Aren't we lucky? Thanks Unite, thanks Unison, thanks Call-Me-Dave.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The 20th Bi Visibility Day is here!

...well, Bi Visibility Weekend then. I'm going to be rather busy the rest of the weekend so I thought I better get my blogpost in early: the Big Day is tomorrow.

It’s the 20th annual Bi Visibility Day this Sunday, September 23rd.

The date highlights bisexuality and the challenges posed by biphobia and bisexual erasure, as well as celebrating the work of a growing number of local, national and international organisations around the world which champion bisexual visibility and equality.

Last year there were around 130 events marking the date, from exhibitions, talks and film screenings to picnics and socials in bi-friendly bars. A host of public buildings around the world flew the pink, purple and blue bisexual flag. So far this year that tally has already hit 160.

Since 2001 I've been running BiVisibilityDay.com as a listings website, and I try to note everything happening to mark the date around the world. We usually get some 'late arriving' listings to add that we didn't get to hear about in advance so that 160 will most likely rise further.  They are spread across 31 countries, with some welcome new additions - I always love uploading a new flag to the website.

It's not just a numbers game though. I’ve been organising events marking Bi Visibility Day since the start in 1999 and the transformation in that time is huge. We are more talked about and more heard as bi people than ever before; yet also the challenges and particular needs of bisexuals have been thrown into sharper relief over that time.

Back then, bi was often seen as a kind of ‘gay lite’ with bis experiencing less impact from social homophobia, but research increasingly shows bi people have greater mental and physical health challenges than gay or straight people. We’re more likely to experience domestic violence from our partners, too. And just as there's a 'pay gap' between men and women, bi people on average earn less than their gay and straight friends.

So, far from the ‘best of both worlds’ cliche, the challenge of either persistently reasserting your bisexuality or having part of your life erased proves wearing for many bi people. Where lesbians and gay men have one closet to escape, many bi people find that leaving the one closet leads to being put in another.

Greater bisexual visibility is the best solution to that problem, so in the many many forms that this year's Bi Visibility Day events take I hope they will all be helping more bis find a space where they are neither in the ‘straight closet’ nor the gay one.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Reporting back on Cake

For anyone who was unable to attend the Liberal Democrat Friends of Cake Annual General Meeting last weekend, here are the notes the Underbaker circulated on Facebook a couple of days ago:


CONFERENCE POLICY IN FULL: at our AGM in Brighton, the following composited motion was passed reflecting the current values and direction of the party, including the proposed "friends of friends of someone who once met a Lib Dem at a train station and she seemed fairly nice" system of selecting party leader.

This AGM Notes:a) CAKE;
b) biscuits;
c) tarts;
d) pies and what have been termed "other sundry Liberal Carbohydrate groupings" by writers for the website Liberal Cakeocrat Voice;
e) that these now form the so-called "broad church" of Liberalism, despite many of them (and we mean the biscuits) coming from separate and fundamentally illiberal ideological traditions.


This AGM is Proud of our Record:
a) That the Old Age Pension was devised by the Liberal MP and part-time Prime Minister David Lloyd George after young Megan pressed him to ensure that our nation's elderly would be able to afford a nice bit of cake now and then.
b) That the NHS was invented by the Liberal MP William Beveridge to assist anyone who needed help in having their cake and eating it.

This AGM Believes:
a) In licking your finger and using it to pick the last crumbs up off the plate when no-one's looking, as first publicly proposed by John Stuart Mill to be the logical conclusion of Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism.
b) But that it was most likely Harriet Taylor's idea as she was a very sensible woman.

This AGM Recognises:
a) The fine tradition of Moist Liberalism on which this Party was built.
b) Our traditional membership system, which consists of sending a cake not less than six inches in diameter to the Treasurer annually, who brings any leftovers to executive meetings for the rest of the team to polish off.

This AGM is Deeply Troubled by:
a) The entryist Biscuitty Tendency, who have sought to annex the Jaffa Cake and redefine Liberalism from its Moist roots, and the implications this has for what will be on the menu at Betty's Tea Rooms at York Spring Conference.
b) The status of Brussels And European Friends Of French Fancies And Danish Pastries in a post-Brexit world, and whether it will still be entitled to send voting representatives to Federal Conference.
c) The Party Leadership's suggestion of a "friends of neighbours of close personal acquaintances of Friends Of Cake" supporter scheme, under which eating a cake without first offering the Executive a slice would still count as showing somehow adequate commitment to the cause, which to us is frankly about as convincing as the adding up in a Labservative Party manifesto, I mean CRUMBS.

This AGM resolves:
a) To put the kettle on and have a worry about it all over a cuppa and a lovely bit of velvet cake at the first opportunity.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Interview-ette for Foundation

A little piece Foundation did with me about BiPhoria and Bi Visibility Day 2018...



How can people get involved with your services?
BiPhoria does lots of things all through the year – social spaces, sending speakers to events, running bi outreach and visibility stalls.  The best place to start is at our monthly “talky space” meetings which are at LGBT Foundation on the first Tuesday of each month at 7.30pm – so the next one is on Tuesday 2nd October. Or drop us a line on bis@biphoria.org.uk

What events are you holding this year for Bi visibility day?
By the time people read this we’ll have unveiled our bi visibility banner on Canal Street – on Sackville Gardens roughly opposite Via.  Go take a look! 
On Saturday 22nd we’ll be at LGBT Foundation from 12.30 having a chatter and making #StillBisexual videos – bring along your bi story to share! 
On the day itself – Sunday 23rd – we will be in Bolton running a street stall as part of Bolton Pride, and joining Salford Uni as part of their freshers week student programme.  And we’ll be all over social media about the date alongside the @bivisibilityday team.

What are your hopes for the day?
It’s the twentieth year and we’ve seen so much change in that time, including many more organisations and institutions marking the date as a part of bi inclusion and challenging biphobia – back in 1999 it was just BiPhoria! 
I hope the attendant publicity and things like the bi flags flying and Canal Street banner will prompt conversations that help bi people feel more able to be open about who they are and find one another, because invisibility and the resulting sense of isolation is one of our greatest challenges.
And that we remember our comparative visibility now is built on the work of generations of bi and LGBT+ activists who worked when things were so much more difficult.