Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Chez Dave

"BCN magazine editor Jen Yockney was among the guests at last night’s LGBT garden party hosted by David Cameron at 10 Downing Street." reported BiMedia last week.

Yes, dear reader, it's true. After about five years of Prime Ministerial Downing Street LGB&T receptions, at last someone finally got invited on behalf of one of the projects that focus on the "B" thread.

I've no idea quite how I got on the guest list, but the invite dropped into my BCN email account so I have to conclude it was for my work on Bi Community News as editor for a decade and more of the main UK bi news source and journal of what the bi movement's been up to and talking about. 

It could have been someone from one of many other projects who got picked though: for example BiPhoria is 18 this year, the UK's longest running bi group these days. They might have picked a veteran of the London Bi Group which ran for longer but closed down a few years ago. Bisexual Index and BiUK are doing fabulous work. And BiCon is I think the longest-running LGBT festival / pride / whatever in the UK, with 28 years of track record and never a year skipped or new organisation formed following a tricky financial implosion.

Whichever of us were to be picked though, it was high time the bis were invited to the LGBT party. And the White House's LGBT receptions have shown that one person the first year can grow to be a sizeable bi caucus over time...

But to Number 10.  It was so damn exciting to be there: I grew up watching Yes Minister and listening to Week Ending and here I was walking through the black door into the epicentre of power, among so many people who have done great things for the LGBT communities – and in blazing sunshine after weeks of rain it was a lucky date to have picked. I'm told last year it bucketed with rain and the attendees were crammed inside. Garden drinks in warm late-midsummer sun much better.

Cameron spoke for a few minutes about how the anti-equal-marriage wing of the faith groups is making the same mistake of pushing away their natural friends just as the Conservatives did in the 80s and 90s (and 00s) with their homophobia and biphobia. He kept referring to 'gay marriage' but in a politician who just seven years ago was campaigning to get elected by attacking his opponents for the scrapping of Section 28 that's a very healthy amount of travel. I want more, but I'll settle for that much progress. What matters is not the Prime Minister getting the nuances of LGB&T identity and debate, but that the 'gay marriage' legislation that ends up coming forward reflects how the current partnership law particularly makes life peculiar for bi, trans and intersex people. You did include those things in your submission to the equal marriage consultation, didn't you? Good. Me too.

Outside in the twitterverse a few people errupted in the "oh my, how can LGBT people go there?" type remarks. Because the way round that the lustre of shiny importance travels when a big ole lefty genderqueer bi activist like me goes to 10 Downing Street is that it improves Cameron's image... riiiiight. Pish. It says that the kind of policymaking people who have spent years and years ignoring bis are starting to change their tune, starting to acknowledge our work, our existence and particular needs - which is what we as bi activists were working for all those years and what work like The Bisexuality Report has been building the focus towards more sharply of late.

That aspect of it was a bit frightening though - being the first one through the door means you have a tiny sense of carrying the future of better bi representation here on your own shoulders.

So? It was a pleasant gathering of a bit over a hundred key people in LGB&T community work: from groups like Pride Sports, Manchester Pride, Albert Kennedy Trust, TREC, GIRES and so forth, grassroots and policywranglers alike, alongside various clergy on the side of the angels, and only a very small smattering of politicians. Like many LGBT conferences I've been to down the years, it was a chance to swap news and ideas, to find out what we're all up to, only this time with fewer workshops and speakers between those conversations.

And it's going to be a long slow grind towards equal marriage legislation, but I think Call-Me-Dave is as committed to it as the rest of us there. Which is going to be an important part of the battle.

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