Saturday, 1 February 2020

LGBT History Month is here!

In February 2005, the UK marked its first LGBT History Month.

I loved the notion: although looking back over old correspondence it seems that the organisers were perhaps collaborating on something to be marked in the more progressive schools around the country, the wider LGBT community heard about it and picked up the idea and ran with it.  So while there were no doubt a bunch of schools events (at thirtyish I wasn't really the demographic to hear about them!) there were a host of other things besides too around the country aimed at the LGBT community in general or anyone LGBT friendly in wider society.

But it was quite lesbian-and-gay despite the name.

Lots of bi and trans people felt left out and some of us decided to do things about it; but to be honest, it was much more something that got picked up within the trans community than the bi community.  So the next few years there were a host of trans events, and a slight downturn in the amount of gay and lesbian stuff - the second and third years of things often see a bit of a downturn as people who had one idea struggle to work out what to do the second time around - but there wasn't much for bis.

In Manchester we had a talk about interpretations of bisexuality in history over the past 3,000 years.  The odd person or group here and there did a talk that didn't really have much to do with history but was perhaps their latest bi research being presented, but it felt very much an LGbT History Month.
By 2013 I'd had an idea.  There has been lots of bisexual stuff that has gone on over the years, and a growing number of high profile openly bi people or depicitions of bis on TV and in film.

There have also been a lot of erased bisexual contributions to our LGBT history, When the story of the decriminalisation of sex between men in Wales and England is told, for instance, we all hear about Labour MP Leo Abse and Conservative MP Humphrey Berkeley, but there is far less mention of Tory peer Lord Montagu or Roy Jenkins (later leader of the SDP) and the role they played as bisexual men without whom the law would likely have taken many more years to change.  If we rely on the sources of the gay and lesbian press we'll never remember the stories of things like BiCon or the bi ban at London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard. 

And so I built bisexualhistory on twitter and its facebook twin bihistory - each sharing in so far as I can manage at least one thing every day about bi history.  "On this day in..." they go - they are all anniversaries or birthdays or the like.  Usually with a link to a news article or wikipedia page so you can read more on the thing in question.

As well as reminding (or teaching!) you of a little dollop of our bisexual history each day, they give an easy way to remind other people about your bisexuality - retweeting about famous bis or bi events is a subtle reminder but one no-one can accuse you of "ramming it down their throat" over, you're just retweeting a happy birthday message to Anna Paquin or Sara Ramirez or what have you. And for allies it's a really easy way of gently showing support through the year.

I'd love people to submit more dates for the calendar. Maybe you know a few or would like to help out by researching some.

And meanwhile the Month has grown like topsy the last few years with a host of events including the big "Hub" events around the UK - more than a dozen big LGBT history festivals at museums around the country and even with a couple overseas joining in.

So happy LGBT History Month. Even if it's not LGBTHM wherever in the world you are!

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Let It Snow

So I've been sinking into Christmas films by way of cooling down to the festive season.  It's gonna be strange, like any Christmas where someone important is missing for the first time and you're trying not to mention the heartache. Regular readers of my proper blog will know all about that so I'll not waste space on it here.

Amongst the films distracting me is Let It Snow, a rare Christmas film with queer representation.  I loved the effusion of this bit:
Have you ever been with someone and you stay up until, like, 4am, just talking about everything, like how you're both super scared of getting old, and what it felt like the first time you saw The Goblet of Fire, and you're just like, "I can't believe I get to exist at the same time as you!"

It might not be where my mind is now, but the times I have helter-skeltered my way into love have been so very much Just That.  Both requited and unrequited: there is a place in Castlefield that warms my heart every time I pass it just a little for the love and hope I felt there one summer, even though it was for someone who would never feel the same about me.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Fighting to lose

There are many things to be said of Tony Blair, and by now I imagine all of them have been said repeatedly.

His government deliberately delayed progress on LGB rights, and was the only government to ever legislate away the hard-won human rights of transgender people. It gave the NHS a short-term fix that was consciously designed to bankrupt the organisation in the long term, relying on Labour being out of power by the time the chickens came home to roost. It brought in a - most welcome - minimum wage that the Liberals were attacked for critiquing by the unions and then a decade later the unions started attacking it using the self-same lines as the Liberals had used. It delivered partial devolution of power but kept in the hands of the PM the valuable power to appoint peers as a way of bribing people to toe the party line. There was a spending boom off the back of a bubble that the government totally screwed up and nearly wrecked the economy. There was then another spending boom off the back of a different bubble that the government totally screwed up and really wrecked the economy. Iraq. The trans tax. And so on. You know the score.

However, what Blair did that no other Labour leader has managed in my life, was to properly win. As a general rule of thumb no matter how good or worthy or wicked or cruel your plans, no matter how well you have spun them this way or that, if you don't get in then it is unlikely to come to pass. Very occasionally you get your plans into action regardless: the NHS was implemented, albeit somewhat botched, despite the party behind it not getting into power in 1945; phase 2 of the Bedroom Tax was rolled out similarly in 2010 despite its architects having been shown the door.

What Blair realised - and maybe it needed losing four times in a row to give the vision painful clarity - was that for all the theoretical and philosophical stuff, in practice there are seats Labour can win from the Tories, and there are seats the Liberals can win from the Tories. There is a small amount of drift, perhaps 1% a year, in each seat on this but the general lesson is that there are places where for example the least Labour can get is 5% and the most is 30%: either way they lose, but a couple of thousand people's decisions about whether to vote Labour decides whether the seat goes Conservative or not.

In 1997 Labour and its activists engaged in a pincer movement with their counterparts in the  Liberals. To be broad brush and so slightly misleading about it, Blue-Gold seats got hammered by the Liberals and Labour stayed quiet or went elsewhere; in Blue-Reds the Liberals sat on their hands while Labour went to work.  Tories found they were fighting on two fronts against an enemy that has declared more-or-less a truce on its own internal battle front.  Result: a stonking Labour majority and a big Liberal bloc with the Tories out of power for a decade.

Contrast to 2010, 2015, 2017 and - on the YouGov poll last night though it ain't over etc etc - 2019. Labour keep setting off on a battle plan involving taking out two enemies at once, despite having seen time and again before how that is a strategy entitled How To Get Second Place But Not Win.

General Melchett would be proud of them.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Manifestos Lack Surprises

In this year's second season of I'm A Voter Get Me Out Of Here we are on to week three and the party manifestos.

The Liberals have gone with the idea of a Britain that is in the 21st century and feels kinda hopeful and outward looking and has friends who are a bit different from us but we love them anyway. And revoking Article 50 or having a People's Vote with the options "Stay" or "Go".

Labour have gone for the idea of a Britain that is more 1970s-ey. Nationalised industries, not liking queers or immigrants.  And having a People's Vote, with a ballot paper offering the options "Leave" and "?".

The Greens gave everyone a chuckle by starting their manifesto launch with the words, "we are different. We offer a People's Vote." You can get away with that if you're first but when you're third in the line it doesn't quite have the oomph. If only they could come up with a different pair of options.

Plaid have, remarkably, said they will be putting Wales first. This is a big departure from their 2017 manifesto, "Sod Wales, What About Uruguay?" - amazing they've never thought of that one before.

The Tory manifesto has yet to be launched but seems to be pretty much Labour's manifesto with "owned by the state" crossed out and "owned by one of our friends" written in with a crayon. There'll be some racism to keep up with Labour, and they have expunged the MPs who liked the queers so don't hold your breath on that front.

Their unique selling point will be a manifesto containing no People's Vote. On Johnson's record, that makes the Tories the people most likely to deliver one: it's always what isn't in the manifesto that makes all the difference, like when Labour didn't put in killing a quarter of a million civilians in an illegal war because it's not a big thing.

So if you've got shares in Stubby Pencil On A Bit Of String PLC, vote Liberal, Labour, Green or Nationalist. And if you've had enough of voting there's the Liberals if you are amenable to foreigners and the Tories if you aren't.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Flashback to 2010

Most of us remember life under Labour last time - but there has been so much political turmoil since.

If you need a reminder, here is the 2010 General Election as told by Doctor Who and the Pet Shop Boys. Stars David Tennant in the role of Nick Clegg.

The tragic plot twist was that while the Doctor was busy saving us from the Cybermen, elsewhere the Daleks were massing - and we spent the next five years with the Doctor and Davros locked in a room. People always seem to gravitate to the Cybermen to save them from the Daleks or the Daleks to save them from the Cybermen: I do wish they'd try humanity instead. Ah well.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

From here to December 12th

So, we have a General Election. Crack out the Spitting Image Election 87 Special and that episode of Blackadder III.

Tomorrow belongs to me; Baldrick, put down "fraud and sexual deviance"...

This might actually be the end of Groundhog Day and the start of Something Happening. Could be for the better, could be for the worse. But hey. At last we get a slightly different show on TV for six weeks.

Even if it is immediately followed by another looping rerun of Groundhog Day...

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Mathematical Operators

A small thought.  The thing about "LGBT+" as a term is that it needs a counterpart.

Specifically "LGBT-", for where you say LGBT on the tin but you really mean a slightly smaller list.

(I want to carry on to other maths operators here but the next obvious one is multiplication, and the * has been appropriated for other purposes already, and the one after that is division and if you haven't already heard about divisions within LGBT you're never gonna learn and frankly it's our own private set of internal battles!)

Monday, 23 September 2019

Political Engagement

It is September 23rd and I see our politicians have been engaging with Bi Visibility Day right across the political spectrum this year.

For the Liberals, Jo Swinson had read up on bisexuality and did a detailed message of support about bisexuality, biphobia and bi erasure.

For Labour, Jeremy Corbyn had read up on bisexuality and sat on a fence over Brexit as a sign of solidarity with people who can't make up their minds.

For the Conservatives, Boris Johnson had read up on bisexuality and spent the day being a cheat and a liar in solidarity with all those bis we know you can't trust.

And for the SNP... nothing. In solidarity with all that bi invisibility.

Non-pisstake version: actually during the course of the day I looked at social media from all the parties, their leaders and their LGBT groups. There was a lot from the Lib Dems including from Swinson; there was a panicked last-minute nod from a couple of Tory, Green and Labour accounts; from Plaid and the Nats, nowt.