Friday, 24 June 2011

LGBT History Flickbook

Following on from the LGBT History display that LGF had up back in February, earlier this month I found a shiny little booklet. And lo, there are online versions of both.

They're very pretty with a good smattering of dates and range of 'stuff' from queer history.  Groups, theories, therapy of varying reputability, events, legal changes for better or worse, and so on. It has a healthcare theme but lots of stuff beyond that too.

There are a few problems with it, it has to be said. There is a dollop of inappropriate party bias: a good Labour thing is ostentatiously credited to Labour, a bad Tory thing to the Tories, a good Liberal thing carefully skims giving any credit. And particularly grating, there is a noticeable lack of the B strand in LGBT. The North West has been quite a hub in the bi movement of the last 20 or 30 years: we've the longest-running bi group in the UK, and a record of bi social and political organising stretching back before then. Big events have been held here, like the 6th International Conference on Bisexuality (with 20 countries represented). But where things like Lesbian Community Project or trans group TREC, LG and T newsletters and inky magazines are talked about, the bi counterparts go unmentioned. Which is a shame, and consistent enough to look like it might be deliberate.

And NHS North West has 'form'.  In their 2009 report 'One Year On' they proudly proclaimed of their diversity work that:
"These agreements allow cross-cutting issues to be tackled by all groups, for example the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) stakeholder organisation has been able to address how issues of sexual orientation affect gay men and lesbian women, BME people, people with disabilities, people at different ages, trans people, and LGB people’s religion or belief."

I've tried a couple of routes in to NHS North West for some kind of comment on how and why
that editorial balance decision on the L, G, B and T was made this time; no answers yet. Expect more blogging here if I get an answer out of anyone, and I'll enjoy scribbling some kind of a writeup in the queer press either way.

But still: a fabulously designed, deliciously informative set of publications. Hurrah for it being there: remember how long it used to take to find out about your queer history?

Monday, 20 June 2011

How to research bisexuality well

A year or so ago, on a bi academics email list, I wrote - following one of those emails asking for research participants that make you reach for the clue-bat:

Could there be some kind of "what people doing bi academia and bi activism suggest" web page, for students to compare their design against.

Then when such requests come in, we can suggest that they check their design against this established set of guidance.  That it's not compulsory to meet all of the guidance but that it will greatly  enhance the value of your research (with a sly hint that you may have a  better chance of passing on your course, to appeal to self-interest!)

It would need some worked examples on questions around gender and sexuality that we reach some consensus around as good ways of  phrasing.

Probably we'd have a couple of suggested solutions to problems rather than a One True Way.  And examples of Getting It Horribly Wrong, with why it will produce less useful or misleading data.

Maybe it's already out there.  In which case lots of us having it bookmarked would be clever. 

It's lots of potential drafting and honing work I'm magicking up, I  know, and I also know that I'm just about the least able person here to write it! 

But it could perhaps de-personalise such arguments in future: not starting at "I think your survey design is awful" but at "have you looked at this established resource on designing research in this area to acheive effective results?"... then if they blithely carry on regardless, it's their own lookout!
It got a fairly positive response as an idea but no-one picked it up and went with it, so recently I had a first stab at drafting it.  Does the below make sense?  Is it any use?  Bear in mind that at BCN magazine and at my local bi project, we get undergrads doing BA work as well as PhDers and so on, so it's to my mind more worth talking about basics like accountability to the community than one would perhaps like to think of as needed with PhDers.

Feedback from all quarters welcome!
"Researching and reporting (bi)sexuality - well"

**Why we have written this**

As bisexual community activists and / or academics working in and around issues of sexuality and bisexuality, we come across many researchers seeking participants for, guidance or, or peer review of work. There are some common questions, and unfortunately frequent errors that people make when first embarking on research around bisexuality. 
So we felt it would be helpful to have a fairly simple "FAQ" to help you get the right start.
We think it's important because we've run into issues like:
- whether researchers feel they are accountable or not to the community
- problems where badly planned or implemented research fails to distinguish sexuality (and particularly bisexuality) well - situations where those problems in turn lead to poor evidence
- this damages academic rigor and reputation
- it also damages the wider bisexual community through misleading findings, reporting, and through impacts on policy making and public discourse.
- and it poses problems for a researcher whose work may be less highly reviewed, or who may gain a reputation that makes it harder for them and others to find willing participants for future work.

**Poor Practice**

Among the issues we've come up against are problems:
- in definitions and research assumptions
- in defining the group of people surveyed or researched
- and with analyses that group or equate "all LGB", "all L+BW", "all G+BM" where it may be that bisexual and homosexual experiences differ in important regards.

**Why It Matters**

- better research is in everyone's interests
- a better understanding and modelling of sexual orientation leads to more honest findings
- it helps in building an evidence base on bisexuality and bi experience
- in turn funding academic work
- and also the results of research that distinguishes bi experience and bi needs helps with funding of nonacademic work of direct impact on bisexual communities

**Good Practice**

(this is where I'm just not an academic and it shows!)
- there are a number of print and online spaces where you can advertise for participants, and a number of groups and events which you could attend to talk to people.
- however, use these spaces appropriately and with respect; remember you are working with people not some kind of exhibits or reference books.  State who you are, have the option of people contacting your institution / tutors, be clear what the research is for and if people are not comfortable with you being in a space as a researcher respect that they may well need to be in that bi space more than you do.

- respect of the diversity of labels, beyond straight and gay
- diversity of labels vs practice: bi, pan, omni, and how these are all imprecise 
(aside: what I want to get over here is what I tend to phrase as "bi is to pan as lesbian is to gay woman" - there are not neat discrete boundaries - someone can probably explain that better)
- "bisexual"/"bisexuality" not "bi-sexual"/"bi-sexuality". You wouldn't write "homo-sexuality" or "hetero-sexuality"; similarly the "b" words have been around long enough not to count as neologisms and so there is no need for a hyphen to impart meaning.

**Considering your target research subjects:**

Bisexual People Are Not All Going To Be
- polyamorous / non-monogamous
- white
- academic or comfortable and familiar with academic terms / language
- out as bi
- taking on or owning the label
- in the lgbt scene
- in agreement
- in the bi scene / spaces
- willing to be interviewed

**Question Structures**
- this bit I really am over to you Proper Academics out there, with the textbooks and the library access! Can we have some good and iffy examples to help people?!

**Getting Further Help And Advice**

- this is only a sketchy guide because of trying to fit so many areas of research into one document
- engage with groups like biuk and academic_bi e'list and seek peer review of your questionnaires etc before going 'live', or if that has already happened, be open to positive critical examination of wordings and engagement
- talk to bcn & bimedia or equivalent groups in your own country / catchment area
- commit to sharing your findings with the wider bi community both academic and nonacademic e.g. through submitting articles or precis in Journal of Bisexuality, Bi Community News, etc, so that others benefit from your work as well as you.
- deliver on that sharing of findings when your research is done.
Like I say: feedback very welcome.  And when the polished version is written I shall link to it from here so y'all don't try and use this early attempt!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Shiny shiny

Yay, a few days after one of my magazines comes back from the print shop, here comes the other one. 

First 200 stuffed and stamped and ready to mail :)

This time they do look very good and shiny. I think I might have to do some photos!

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Sometimes it amazes me that this big ole monster of a zine is still going. The lovely fresh ink on the cover says it's issue 106; when you add in the ones with funny numbers that's more like 116.  Since some time around #32, it's been my baby.  By now we should've all moved on, and I should be doing something more grown up than throwing together zines,

Sometimes, like this week, friends come crashing up against the biphobia in the queer communities that reminds me why it, and spaces like biphoria, still have to be there.

Also, I love making these inky things happen.