Tuesday, 31 December 2013

So much more than marriage: #bi 2013

It was the year Bi Community News – a survivor in an ever-shrinking field of LGBT print magazines – turned eighteen, and the year Brighton BothWays celebrated ten years of giving bisexuals a friendly and supportive space. What else might we remember 2013 for?

Bi-coloured UK map For England and Wales the first six months of the year were the story of the Same-Sex Marriage Bill. Unveiled in February after Westminster’s largest public consultation exercise ever, this seemed to go on forever at the time, and eventually passed by a huge majority in the summer. So great was its success, by later stages the anti-equality camp in the House of Lords – which over the last fifteen years has blocked or delayed so much legislation on bisexual and gay equalities – didn’t even press the decision to a vote. A number of issues remain with the Bill, or Act as it now is, including pensions issues and problems for intersex and genderqueer people, but it was a huge step forward – in a year where many other nations were taking the same step.

@bisexualhistory - Putting the B in LGBT History MonthFebruary is LGBT History Month and there were no bi-specific events this time around, but twitter saw the launch on January 31st of @bisexualhistory, giving a daily “on this day…” snippet of bi history. It’s now on Facebook too.

In May the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency published the findings of a large-scale research project across the EU, looking at how LGBT experiences compare from country to country.  Over 93,000 people took part so the scale of the research was much larger than most similar projects. Across the 28 member states, about four in every 10 respondents did not reveal their LGBT identity to anyone in their social environment bar a few friends. However, this rose to half of respondents among bisexual women and transgender people, and three quarters of respondents among bisexual men.

As the summer approached, Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski came out as bisexual – the first Conservative MP to do so and one of only two out bi MPs currently in Westminster. Sharp as ever the Daily Mail trumpeted Kawczynski as the “first bisexual MP”, forgetting Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes, as well as former MPs like onetime Secretary of State for Wales Ron Davies or Winchester byelection winner Mark Oaten. All three main parties have now had at least one out bi MP, and they have all had openly gay MPs too, which is surely a good thing for keeping legal equalities that have been won over recent years.

BCN magazine - issue 121

While we are on the subject of politics it was a year for bisexuals in the corridors of power with both Bi Community News and BiUK represented at the annual 10 Downing Street LGBT garden party with David Cameron in July - and a few weeks later at the counterpart Deputy Prime Ministerial event with Nick Clegg.  Two-party coalition government really means twice as many parties, it seems.  Meanwhile across the pond the White House joined in, assembling representatives from bisexual organisations and LGBT groups across the USA to talk about what the US government could be doing to tackle bisexual people’s issues.

It was a year for community-building as new bi social and support groups launched in Edinburgh, in Dublin, and for Bi Professionals and over 50s in London. Annual bi conference / festival BiCon returned to Scotland for the first time since 2006 and saw extensive engagement from LGBT and wider community groups.

Bi Visibility Day on September 23rd was bigger than ever. We saw bi flags flying from buildings around the country including universities, police stations and town halls, a plethora of local events, and support for Bi Visibility Day from both the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson, the first time it's had recognition at that level in the UK.

heygoogle280There were new battles to be fought online. In August, Apple backed down on their bi ban – but Google kept theirs in place. Later in the year internet censoring “child protection” filters set up by UK ISPs under pressure from 10 Downing Street turned out to block lots of LGBT info sites like Bi Community News, Bi.Org and more, even including services specifically targeted at vulnerable young people in need of help like Childline.

As the year came to a close Scotland picked up the same-sex marriage baton and the Holyrood Parliament had its first debate on the issue. This passed overwhelmingly with further legislative stages to come in 2014.

And then to round the year off we had Olympic medallist Tom Daley‘s non-specific coming out on YouTube, where he talked about having a male partner but didn’t use words like “bisexual” or “gay”, prompted lots of debate online about identity, relationships, labels and bisexual erasure.

2014So 2013 comes to a close and that naturally takes me to the New Year ahead… some things I'm looking forward to already in the bi calendar:
  • Two new bi groups launch early in 2014 – watch this space for details!
  • The return in July of BiReCon, the bisexuality research and theory conference, along with BiCon in Leeds at the start of August.
  • Big Bi Fun Day on May 17th and the BDSM Bisexuals weekend on March 22nd.
Have a great New Year’s Eve.

As you might have gathered I originally wrote this for BiMedia.