Monday 29 November 2010

the state of 'left' discourse....

I know Labour don't have a working majority, but given what's sauce for the goose... Labour have BETRAYED US ALL by not being in government any more, they LIED because Gordon is no longer prime minister, and worst of all they have already U-TURNED on their promises of increasing VAT, implementing the Browne report, holding a referendum on AV, slashing housing benefit... the FIBBING ROTTERS!

Tuesday 23 November 2010

The BiReCon Files 5: How Civil Partners Meet

Another BiReCon video transcript for you. Anna Einarsdottir - How Civil Partners meet

Thank you very much Meg.

So actually this project is entitled "Just like marriage: a young couple civil partnership".  And I work side by side with Dr Graham (??) who unfortunately isn't here and Professor Carol Smart.  Now, we've been doing this project for the last two years and so I'm really really grateful for the opportunity to come here, I really appreciate that.

So my focus for today will primarily be about how civil partners meet.  What kind of stories people tell about this exciting part of the relationship
and then their intentions, what are their intentions when they start to set out.  What I must say is that they're not necessarily looking for a long-term relationship, it's more like just go and see,
how it, you know, take it with the flow kind of thing.

[.fade out/fade back in.]

Slightly different circumstances.  While most men meet online, women meet through their existing social network - through work, through friends, through church.

What about the process from casual dating to a relationship? Well to begin with the importance of transparency and honesty were stressed by many. Which included not playing games or getting into merry-go-round situations such as "I'm not texting you because she isn't" or "I've rung him so he must ring me" or "I will leave it for two days" or "she doesn't think I'm too keen".  You know, and perhaps this can be interpreted as a sign of how few if any dating rules apply to same-sex relationships as opposed to opposite-sex relationships.  And finally what I would like to say is something about how people transition from a relationship to a committed relationship. 

Now the future of a relationship is often determined by critical moments, such as hospitalisation, death in the family, or one party moving away.  It's the reaction that matters and how partners handle the situations, these difficult situations, which win people over largely because they feel they are cared for - but also to think that they are able to handle the responsibility of the future,  They don't run away or panic: in other words, for our participants, they become CP material.
 I found this one a really interesting talk in the gendered divide it highlighted - it was about LGB people rather than just bi in its research, looking at same-gendered couples, and so there was a lot the chimed with my own non-academic observations about the human geography of queer space and life.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Rose... actors speak out on how "It Gets Better"

It's great to see that there are now more "It Gets Better" videos being made aimed at supporting bisexual young people who are being bullied.  Actors Stephanie Riebel, Fay Wolf, and Kristen Howe from web mini-series "Rose by any other name" have got back together to film one - with the help of filmmaker Kyle Schickner and the American Institute of Bisexuality.  Here's what they have to say:

Monday 8 November 2010

Bi Telly day?

Yes, I do want to have my televisual cake and eat it
Coming to this a little late - back on August 1st, over in the USA the Logo channel ran a “bisexual marathon,” airing a series of bi related films and documentaries: Imagine Me and You, Bi the Way, Can’t Bi Me Love, Bisexual Girls, and Three of Hearts.

I wonder when we might see TV over here do that, and without adding a sensationalist "now let's look at one or two very specific bi experiences and pretend they're all bis are about" show or three to the roster.  Anyone got a friendly ear at Channel Four?

Though as I think about it - surely Channel Four would probably decide it should be the Top One Hundred Bisexual Characters On Television Night.  Good luck researching that...

Sunday 7 November 2010

The BiReCon Files 4: Why We Need To Get Bi

Another transcript from the BiReCon videos for you: here is Robyn Ochs -- part of her talk on why we need to 'Get Bi', which looked rather like this:

Robyn says:
Isn't this exciting?  Hehe!  I am so happy to be here.  Wow.  So quick audience survey - how many people are here from outside of the UK? 

Wow.  If you're from outside of the UK and you're in the first row where are you from? 

[audience: Germany, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, US, Israel... fade out]

We love binaries.  And when you think of how sexual orientation is constructed in most places by most people, it's constructed as having two boxes.  Gay, and its opposite, straight, right. 

And of course in this binary construction we have one box that is more valuable and more honoured than the other - culturally, right, the straight box is more valuable - not by us, by them.

The straight box is considered you know a much better box and a bigger box and the gay box is considered a subordinated box

And in betwen those two boxes.  It's like the boxes
they have walls.  They have solid steel walls, right, and lids to keep the people in.  And in this kind of social construction they are separated by this big void.  Like they are opposite sexualities.  We even use terms like opposite - like "straight is the opposite of gay" - and they are separated by the void, the void of nothingness

I think that is another challenge to understanding bisexuality, is that people don't - they have a hard time imagining any space between the two.

The only time people can imagine something between straight and gay is when it's a transitory thing, when someone might be sliding from one to the other.

But it's seen as a temporary place, as an unstable location that isn't real because it's in the void

And this is something that is a big challenge for us and one thing that helped me not be so frustrated by this is that we do this with a lot of different things.  We like to put everything into binaries. 

Saturday 6 November 2010

The BiReCon Files 3: Finnish Bisexuals in 1999 and 2009

Another transcribing of the YouTube shorts from BiReCon. Jenny Kangasvuo - "Comparing the Experiences of Finnish Bisexuals in 1999 and 2009".

What does this increased visibility of bisexuality mean for people who identify as bisexual? What kind of contradictions do bisexuals meet when tackling with everyday life? And what kind of meanings does the concept of bisexuality get in their lives?

I will illustrate these questions by telling some of the stories of my informants.

I have three stories to tell and the first of them Ella's story reflects the changes in Finnish legislation regarding sexual minorities.

I will skip the first slide and come back a bit later.

And the first story is an ordinary story.  Ten years ago I made a joint interview with Ella who was born in 1975 and Taro was born in 1978. A young female couple who both defined themselves as bisexual. They described themselves as a lesbian couple that consists of two bisexual women - the word lesbian in their use referred to the form of their monogamous relationship, a relationship with another woman.

Ella also says that they have a lesbian lifestyle - according to her, having a bisexual lifestyle would be possible only for singles or people who have multiple relationships, so lesbian lifestyle means means that well, two women and no extra persons in addition . Most of Ella's and Taro's close friends were lesbian and many of them even contested the term bisexual with which they defined their sexual identity.

And then, in 1999 Taro said, "but I could not be with a man only even if I loved him.  I would need to be involved with women too.  But when I am with a woman I can very well be without seeing any men at all."

So according to Ella they were leaning on lesbianism even if they described themselves as bisexual.

In December 2009 only Ella answers to my request to make a new interview. And her experiences reflect during the last ten years refect the changes in the legislation.

And Ella says that her story is an ordinary story among her reference group, and she herself uses the term reference group referring to lesbians with children so Ella's reference group is lesbians with children.

She says: first everybody married in a hurry when it became possible, and then everybody started having kids while it still was possible and the result is the wave of divorces that is happening now, it is totally terrible.

And now let's get back to those changes.  And there is a list of changes. [slide]

And Ella's life reflects these changes perfectly.  Ella and Taro registered their partnership right after that, right after it became possible, and then Taro gave birth to two children.

And the artificial insemination became judicially available for female couples in 2007 but Taro gave birth to her kids before that.   The lovers became mothers and Ella says sarcastically
that anything else all but being a good mother became superfluous

Ella and Taro were active members in the community of rainbow families - well I don't know if the term [audience murmurs] at least most of the people seem to recognise it - families with children, sexual minority families with children, something like that.

However after the second child Taro became depressed and started abusing prescribed drugs.  So it was quite startling to hear that bisexuals seem to have more mental health problems like Meg told during the first session - I was, my mouth ajar gave when I heard that because it I am not a health researcher but my interviews seemed to reflect the same thing.

Anyway, Ella tried to hold the family together but after a couple of years Taro took the children and left her because of another woman.

They divorced and Ella started to fight to attain the rights to be a judicial parent to her children.  Currently she is in a process to adopt her children since adoption became an option only in 2009.  And these changes had had a profound effect in Ella's and Taro's life.

Taro became pregnant twice within two years, through artificial insemination partly because Ella and Taro feared that the new legislation would deny the treatment from same-sex couples.  So the law passed and artificial insemination is possible for same sex couples or female couples but before that it was a real fear that only married heterosexual couples would get artificial insemination so Taro had to get pregnant as soon as possible for fear of not getting to have any children at all.

Friday 5 November 2010

BCN editing week

Being a busy / overworked queer activist means that there are weeks in my year marked out for putting together this or that publication. The rest of the time I may choose to pay less attention to that project so I can chug ahead with another plan - this past week for instance has mostly been about considering events to hold in early 2011 rather than about either of the queer magazines I work on or the project to renew BCN's website.

Next week is one of the weeks where I'm putting on the editrix hat to bring together a new edition of BCN. If you're thinking of submitting something, either for next week or another future issue, now's a good time to let me know!

Thursday 4 November 2010

The BiReCon Files 2: Deconstructing Biphobia

Miguel Obradors talk on "Deconstructing Biphobia" is the next video I've chosen to transcribe from the BiReCon talks. Again, this is only a small slice of the presentation, and again here is the video on YouTube before I get down to the words:

Why should we talk about biphobia at BiReCon?

Because here here, we have come here to empower ourselves, to get positive energy to come back to our own countries and to share the knowledge learned.  So this biphobia is always negative.  I think that it's important to talk about biphobia because biphobia is intense in bisexuality in the way we understand ourselves, in the way we relate to other people.
And the problem with bisexuality, with biphobia and so on - those terms have been defined, this discourse, by straight people according to the heteronorm.  So many bisexuals don't feel identified with bisexuality or don't understand what biphobia really entails because biphobia was biphobia was created by analogy from homophobia but they are very different concepts and very different discourses.

So what I'm talking about today is not biphobia in itself, it is the structural oppression that bisexual people experience
in our every day lives.  And this structural oppression
is biphobia, is homophobia and is heterophobia as well.

So about this system of structural oppression - when understanding biphobia, homophobia and heterophobia, you need to take into account that these forces have an effect on bisexual people in a conscious and unconscious way.  You can be aware that we are being oppressed maybe we are not of the fact that we are being oppressed.  This oppression can also be indirect, direct, or symbolic through different aspects.   Also it can be interpersonal as well.  So there are many different factors that overlap each other and can have an influence in this way.

Also as I define myself at the beginning, to say that most of the bisexual people I know they are also polyamourous, or kink, or transgender or genderqueer and so on.  When you don't want to be in a box, you don't want to be in other boxes either.  So I'm saying that because bisexual people experience oppression for being bisexual but also for other lifestyles they have, because of their sexual orientation, because of their subjectivity, and we need to analysse all of this in a holistic way.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

It gets better

Suburban Bi (who frustratingly isn't on the blog aggregator at the moment due to feed compatability issues) found a UKanian voice and one mentioning bisexuality in the videos for "It Gets Better".


I love all the personal stories in this project, even though some of them are heart-wrenching and some have had to be made by friends for people who they've lost. And it's wonderful how it's grown like topsy since it started: I know that the person who started it in the USA is better linked to the media and so forth than me, but if I'd started it and you'd told me it would end up with the President of the USA making a video for the series, I'd have pointed at you and laughed. In a non-judgemental, caring kind of way :D

Monday 1 November 2010

The BiReCon Files 1: What's Out There

I thought it might be useful to type up the words from the BiReCon videos. Maybe then if I or someone with better video skills than me has time, they can be turned into alternative versions of the videos, with subtitles on. Or someone with translation skills could produce versions with subtitles in other languages.

So starting at the start with Meg Barker's introduction to the day and the overview of some research work by BiUK.

This is going to be not so new to anyone I'm sure but bisexuality is pretty invisibile in the media. [audience laughter] People tend to be presented as going from straight to gay or gay to straight and bisexuality is very rarely considered. So our most recent one is this guy from Eastenders, which I don't watch but I believe he is called Syed Masood? If anyone does watch Eastenders - but was marrying his girlfriend and was also having a relationship with a guy, and he's apparently presented as "really gay" - you know, so he's really gay but he's marrying this woman. And we had similar representations on Coronation Street and The Bill and various other of our soap operas. So UK soap operas tend to be, you're either gay or you're straight.

Similarly in our - oops, my sash is falling off, this is my organiser's sash. When politicians are mentioned in the newspapers you get the similar story. If they are married politicians and it's found out they are having a relationship with a man with another man, a woman with another woman, it tends to be that they are gay now or they were really gay all along - you know, it's not considered.

We looked a bit in this paper at the difference between bi women's representations and bi men, and here is Rebecca Loos who had an affair with David Beckham or there were rumours that she had. So she is presented as this sexy bi-curious, but that whole kind of is she doing it just for titillation of men kind of thing. Um. Whereas for bi men we did get quite a lot of that kind of research you get in the New York Times piece about 'gay, straight or lying' - this, the idea that bi men don't really exist, that permeated as well into the UK media. So for bi men there's a more like, scepticism about whether they are really bisexual.

And I just looked, to kind of update you all, at the Stonewall reports. There's been two really useful Stonewall reports. Tuned Out about the BBC British Broadcasting Corporation, you know, how do they represent LGB people, and then Unseen On Screen was about youth TV, and they did focus groups and they looked at lots of TV programming. And again, bi invisibility within LGB invisibility, so there wasn't much representation of LGB people and what there was, wasn't good, and then within that representations of bis were one per cent I think in the Unseen On Screen and all of the one per cent of all LGB representation was B, and all of it was negative. And people in the focus groups said things like all of the bi people are cheating, and they're greedy.

I end on an optimistic note, we've got Captain Jack from the [audience cheers] from Doctor Who and Torchwood. Now, seen as quite a much more positive bi character. Doesn't use the word 'bisexual' in the show, but the actor has used the word about the character, and it's quite clear that he's attracted not just to more than one gender but to more than one species, so... [audience laughter] still a bit of the promiscuity kind of stereotype going on there.

Helen's going to talk in a moment about her other research but before she did that, she did some research about the bi activism and she looked at the books on bi activism in the UK and found a real shift from an identity politics agenda, you know, we're bisexuals and we want the same rights as LG people and heterosexuals, to a more queer activism, so there has been a gradual shift towards more, a more kind of a queer perspective rather than an identity politics perspective and she might say a bit more about that in a mo.

And Surya Monro who is also on our team and colleagues they did this report very recently 2010 which was looking at local authorities initiatives about sexuality and trans and found that most of those sort of LGB or trans initiatives didn't make specific reference to bi people in those initiatives. So again, it's sort of an invisibility issue - and we know that the B tends to get dropped off a lot of organisations that are LGB or LGBT will drop off the B, there are similar problems with the T of course.

Community linkage

As one of the million bi activist tasks on the to-do list that can be taken care of while waiting in at home for a delivery, I've been making BiBloggers a little bit more readable with a more purpley blue aspect and a bit less grey-on-white.

I think we need some graphics for people who are on the BiBloggers syndicator to be able to link to BiBloggers from their journals / sidebars / whatever.

I'm not having a brilliant lot of ideas for that but have made this for my one:

one of the bi bloggers

If anyone can come up with something better I'd be really happy to upgrade! :)