Monday, 1 November 2010

The BiReCon Files 1: What's Out There

I thought it might be useful to type up the words from the BiReCon videos. Maybe then if I or someone with better video skills than me has time, they can be turned into alternative versions of the videos, with subtitles on. Or someone with translation skills could produce versions with subtitles in other languages.

So starting at the start with Meg Barker's introduction to the day and the overview of some research work by BiUK.

This is going to be not so new to anyone I'm sure but bisexuality is pretty invisibile in the media. [audience laughter] People tend to be presented as going from straight to gay or gay to straight and bisexuality is very rarely considered. So our most recent one is this guy from Eastenders, which I don't watch but I believe he is called Syed Masood? If anyone does watch Eastenders - but was marrying his girlfriend and was also having a relationship with a guy, and he's apparently presented as "really gay" - you know, so he's really gay but he's marrying this woman. And we had similar representations on Coronation Street and The Bill and various other of our soap operas. So UK soap operas tend to be, you're either gay or you're straight.

Similarly in our - oops, my sash is falling off, this is my organiser's sash. When politicians are mentioned in the newspapers you get the similar story. If they are married politicians and it's found out they are having a relationship with a man with another man, a woman with another woman, it tends to be that they are gay now or they were really gay all along - you know, it's not considered.

We looked a bit in this paper at the difference between bi women's representations and bi men, and here is Rebecca Loos who had an affair with David Beckham or there were rumours that she had. So she is presented as this sexy bi-curious, but that whole kind of is she doing it just for titillation of men kind of thing. Um. Whereas for bi men we did get quite a lot of that kind of research you get in the New York Times piece about 'gay, straight or lying' - this, the idea that bi men don't really exist, that permeated as well into the UK media. So for bi men there's a more like, scepticism about whether they are really bisexual.

And I just looked, to kind of update you all, at the Stonewall reports. There's been two really useful Stonewall reports. Tuned Out about the BBC British Broadcasting Corporation, you know, how do they represent LGB people, and then Unseen On Screen was about youth TV, and they did focus groups and they looked at lots of TV programming. And again, bi invisibility within LGB invisibility, so there wasn't much representation of LGB people and what there was, wasn't good, and then within that representations of bis were one per cent I think in the Unseen On Screen and all of the one per cent of all LGB representation was B, and all of it was negative. And people in the focus groups said things like all of the bi people are cheating, and they're greedy.

I end on an optimistic note, we've got Captain Jack from the [audience cheers] from Doctor Who and Torchwood. Now, seen as quite a much more positive bi character. Doesn't use the word 'bisexual' in the show, but the actor has used the word about the character, and it's quite clear that he's attracted not just to more than one gender but to more than one species, so... [audience laughter] still a bit of the promiscuity kind of stereotype going on there.

Helen's going to talk in a moment about her other research but before she did that, she did some research about the bi activism and she looked at the books on bi activism in the UK and found a real shift from an identity politics agenda, you know, we're bisexuals and we want the same rights as LG people and heterosexuals, to a more queer activism, so there has been a gradual shift towards more, a more kind of a queer perspective rather than an identity politics perspective and she might say a bit more about that in a mo.

And Surya Monro who is also on our team and colleagues they did this report very recently 2010 which was looking at local authorities initiatives about sexuality and trans and found that most of those sort of LGB or trans initiatives didn't make specific reference to bi people in those initiatives. So again, it's sort of an invisibility issue - and we know that the B tends to get dropped off a lot of organisations that are LGB or LGBT will drop off the B, there are similar problems with the T of course.

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