Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Rewind


How time flies. 
 
Around this time in the morning three years ago Labour were celebrating delivering another Tory led government, again to the right of the previous one. Maybe at the next election, in 2022, they'd actually make a stab at taking power, but it was vital to let the Tories do Brexit first and so avoid having the blame for its inevitable failures.
 
It was also the moment Nick Clegg left the political stage. I've mixed feelings about the chap, but he does still have the title "most effective politician on the UK left of the last decade."
 
Theresa May's coalition government duly fulfilled Mystic Clegg's 2015 warning of a "Blukip coalition" between the Tories and the DUP delivering UKIP's agenda - a programme which like Section 28 is quite definitely "for the many not the few".
 
People who never watched The Blame Game and only skim-read BCN suddenly came across the existence of the DUP, and what a rollercoaster ride that was for many of them. And indeed for the DUP - snubbed by Cameron in his search for a majority in 2010, at last having their fifteen minutes of fame.
 
The concessions won by the smaller parties in coalition type things are fascinating. The Liberals got higher tax for the rich, lower tax for the poor, same-sex marriage, the scrapping of ID cards and the trans tax, etc. The DUP got big fat wads of cash spent in their constituencies in proper "pork barrel" politics. I remain curious about what the Co-operative Party got in exchange for keeping Brown in power. I can't name anything - does anyone have any ideas?
 
Now Johnson has his 80-seat majority we've all been allowed to forget that Northern Ireland exists, which is a shame as the political system there is quite instructive for people who want to understand mainland UKanian politics better but need a blank slate rather than the world they are used to.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Misreading Tom

My social media timeline has a big dash of talk about the money raised by one man's sponsored walk.  There are about equal levels of "he's amazing and personally made these millions of pounds of difference", and "it is outrageous that this should happen as he should have been sat comfortably in an armchair and the money happened another way".

I don't think he raised this money in that sense that it would otherwise not have been forthcoming. I don't mean to belittle anything about his excellent efforts, but whether you run a marathon and get sponsored £100 or £10m you still do the same amount of marathonning. It's just about whether your run is drawn to enough people's attention and how they feel at that moment about the cause you're raising for.

Tom's fundraiser had lots of media-friendly imagery and notions and of course the papers - lacking celeb gossip, snatched photos from new TV series shoots, normal political interplay, sports or so much more to report on - loved it.

But people aren't, I think, really donating because of Tom.  They are donating because millions of us are living lives that have been turned upside down. 

We want to be able to do something that helps this end, something that makes it less hard for everyone in the world.  Except almost everything you could do for any other crisis is ruled out: all you can do is stay indoors lots to try and reduce the R factor, and hope the people working in healthcare are going to make it through okay.  A sponsored walk is something when people are wrung out and frantic at the feeling they can only do nothing.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Mentally Processing 2020

My favourite analogy for what is going on just now is that humanity has been dumped.

You know when you're on the receiving end of a breakup and you don't see it coming, and it is with someone you have been seeing for long enough that you kind of have a life together at least half-assedly mapped out in your head.

Your spending plans are tied to them. Your social plans. Your happiness. Your sense of who you are. Your sense that you can trust how things will be from one day to the next, derived from how things have been between you and them each day until now.

That's what happened to us all last month.  We were breezing happily along, suddenly the virus hit us like an "it's over between us" to everyone in the land all at once.

For the first few days of working from adjusting and switching to working from home or travelling in a zombie apocalypse, it was like the moments and days after a relationship breakup. Blinking, unsure it's quite real, wondering if they might just change their mind and this whole thing will be a horrible moment of staring into the void but then won't be so bad after all.

And all those ways we measure and plan and know ourselves fell apart.

So it makes sense you can't focus on your work properly.  Where normally feeling like this you'd fall back on your friends to reassure you of things, you can't see them or go to a pub and grouch about what has happened.  All those good things to do like taking up a new hobby that involves getting out of the house and meeting new people, getting drunk in a bar and dancing near strangers, or going away someplace new for a change of scene - nope. 

And this time whoever you are, you aren't one of the lucky, pretty, confident things that outside of analogy-land bounce straight into a new relationship in next to no time. Damn their eyes.

Inside I wonder how many of us are even at the equivalent point to that day however many weeks or months after being dumped by a serious love where you have mostly stopped crying?

This month before us is the time when you want there to be your love next to you and there is no-one. You want to make plans to go away together in the summer, to move to a new place together, to have them there to talk to and to be company when you need to share how your day was or on a day out in the Easter Bank Holiday sunshine.

We can't make plans for our new life yet. We have to stay home and will naturally tend to focus on what we lost.

Because we are grieving the life we all thought we'd have this spring, like we'd grieve the life we thought we had with someone that they suddenly snatched away from us.

And we're crushed and we're cross and we just want to hit fast forward and be past all this.  Normally we all know someone who's feeling like that but instead every single one of us is going through it at the same damn time.

On top of which a growing number of us have the non-metaphorical grief of loss to deal with as people we love die at the hands of the plague that our former life left us for.

This is why I'm trying to be more kind to myself than normal, more willing to accept that I have days where I just feel like I failed, and to extend the same to others. We are all shambling round shellshocked from being dumped by a partner we didn't even know we had: the 2020 we thought we were going to be living with.

We can get through this. Let's not beat ourselves up along the way.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Goodbye, Jeremy

With a new Labour leader elected, Jeremy Corbyn steps back into the shadows of centre-right politics, bringing a wave of reflection on his time at the helm.

Heck, let's go with the flow. How was his five year stint?

He succeeded in his central aims:
- Keep the Tories in power
- Enable every Tory measure
- Have a mass movement of people who have been sold a promise of a better yesterday working to ensure the Tories remain in power so that Jeremy can enjoy saying "no!" to an eager audience.

He got one of his stretch goals too: Britain out of the EU, leaving us free to adopt laws that go beyond what the EU allowed. Of course, the majority of the time since Labour became the second party of UK politics the Tories have been in power, so that was doing more to enable Conservative militancy than to empower the downtrodden, but if people aren't kept downtrodden you risk a terrible shortage of bandwagons.

As COVID arrived we got a textbook Corbyn move. Every MP up and down the land saw a huge surge in casework, with twice, three times, even four times the usual amount of calls on MPs for support from constituents in peril reported across the country and across all parties.

The House of Commons responded responsibly with an offer of extra office cost funding. Your staff might be off ill with COVID and you need to hire someone extra to cover for them, or move a part-timer up to full-time to make up the shortage. You might need more stationery, or to buy a new PC for one of your team to work safely from home.  Loads of MPs said "thanks, that's a useful cushion in case we need it." Jeremy loudly declared he wouldn't take a penny - no matter how much it might cause problems for the people in his constituency in need. "I'm alright Jack, sod the proles."

Bye bye, you posturing right-wing sossidge. Enjoy the retirement.

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.

https://www.facebook.com/bihistory

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!

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

That was 2019

The annual year roundup that I write for Bi Community News:

That was 2019. Three dates for Brexit came and went, the EU elections swung to the extremes of isolationist and internationalist politics, America impeached a President, and a handful of Brits chose a new Prime Minister and then 14 million voters endorsed the decision in time for Christmas. In queer life, we marked twentyone years of the bisexual flag and fifty years since the Stonewall riots in the USA. The year saw more Prides than ever before including London adding itself to the roster of Trans Prides around the country and a Bi Pride that broke records for a bisexual event in the UK.
Both our bi+ communities and bi+ representation are growing year on year – reflected not least in three separate lists of ‘best bi books’ that we reported on: the bi categories in the Lambda awards and in the Rainbow book awards and then the Bi Book Awards.

Here’s our month by month round up of the main points of the year in bi life:
In January one of the UK’s bi MPs declared that Brexit couldn’t come too soon – even though many LGBT people and campaigners were most worried at what its consequences might be for equality.

The ONS had figures showing more people identifying as bi or gay – in line with recent trends. And upskirting became illegal in the UK. BiCamp announced its 2019 date, and we got some bi TV to look forward to in Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Gotham.
February was LGBT History Month, with bi talks and bisexual community history archive displays.
The Oscars were especially memorable for bi representation, while the UK Prime Minister’s daily Points of Light awards honoured Marcus Morgan of Bisexual Index.
With over 100 Pride festivals due in 2019, Manchester Pride announced a hike in its ticket prices from £16 to as much as £70, with a rival festival launching in response. There’s a wider debate around the ‘commercialisation’ of Prides, which we reflected on in BCN magazine later in the year.
March saw a growing tide of rejection of transphobia in the LGB community with the hashtags and campaigns GwiththeT, LwiththeT and BwiththeT gaining momentum as well as banners on Pride marches and the like.

In a parallel development a host of LGBT organisations came together to press for better sex and relationship education. But one MP managed to delay it just that bit longer.
We got fresh research showing bisexuality on the rise in the USA in April. London saw a day-long BiFest once more. The House of Lords agreed to an improved sex education curriculum to include more about relationships. And the first of a trio of bi groups shared in £400,000 of government funding for LGBT projects in the UK through the year.
In May, Liberty announced they were taking up the case of a bisexual serviceman stripped of his medals twenty years ago. That case would take til the end of the year to be won. Big Bi Fun Day returned to Leicester.

There was tough research news from the TUC about working life for bi people. In the USA, Abby’s, a TV comedy with a bi lead got canned after just ten episodes.  Over here there was Blind Date’s bisexual awkwardness and the Eurovision Song Contest had an openly bi winner.
In June the National Union of Students presented research on experience of harassment and violence at our universities and colleges. It wasn’t good news about bi life. There was important news too about rates of gonorrhea and syphilis in the UK. Finally in research there was fun news: bis are more filled with wonder at the universe than are other people. In part these things are a legacy of past LGBTphobia: the APA apologised for its role in stigmatising bisexuality, homosexuality and transgender identity.
Ecuador legalised same-sex marriage. And the government admitted their plans to censor porn online in the UK still weren’t quite workable.
We saw new stats from YouGov suggest more people are identifying as bi in July. Parliament gave politicians in Northern Ireland a final warning over having neither same-sex marriage nor a functioning government, declaring they had til November to pick one.

We got a new Prime Minister and a new Equalities Minister, Penny Mordaunt, to replace Amber Rudd. Mordaunt would just weeks later be replaced in the role by Liz Truss. Over in the USA, the national Sexual Health Conference had a pre-conference Bisexual Health Summit. And on bi TV, Lucifer got a final run of sixteen episodes.
In August there was a BiCon in Lancaster, Prides in a host of cities, and for the first time Belfast city hall flew the rainbow flag. On telly, The 100 got a final lease of life, while Orange Is The New Black used the “b” word at last. And in the USA, politician Kate Brown was laid into for doing what she said she would do if she got elected. There’s no pleasing some voters.
September is always a frantic bi month with Bi Visibility Day and its offshoots, Bi Week and #BiMonth. Speaking of which, Bi Week finally settled on a regular date – it will henceforth run from 16 to 22 September. Bi Visibility Day was huge again.

Bi Pride broke records with over 1,000 attendees at a bi event.  In wider culture we saw the Emmy awards celebrate a host of bi content including programmes like Fleabag. The Last Night Of The Proms had a spectacular bi and queer dimension.
October saw the US lose prominent bi politician Katie Hill, but good news here as the porn registry plan was dropped by the government. A new expanded and rewritten edition of Getting Bi offered fresh advice on coming out and staying out as bisexual.
In November, a last-ditch attempt by the DUP to block same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland foundered. Fascinating research from New Zealand suggested a gap in how many people identify as bi that is growing among young people rather than shrinking. The Anderton Park school protests in theory came to an end when the courts ruled against them. On telly Atypical brought more bi representation.
December was dominated by the snap election where both out bi MPs held their seats though we lost some champions of bi and LGBT liberation.
We learned that the changes in the rules on blood donation haven’t affected the quality of the blood supply. But perhaps the most important news was that Northern Ireland at last had to join the rest of the country in recognising same-sex marriage.

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.