Saturday 31 December 2011

Back in the army

A few years ago - gosh, it must be about five years now - local bi group BiPhoria dressed up in bad camo print and waved a banner for the Bisexual Recruitment Army as our Manchester LGBT Pride presence.

It was all in good fun and we filled a website with bad punnery - like how we were challenging bisexual invisibility through the use of bad camouflage, capable of marching both ways on the parade ground at the same time, and had a regimental motto of all we need is a few good men, and a few good women, and a place that sells really sturdy beds.

Well, the website stayed up for a while but in the end it wasn't going anywhere fast and so we let the domain lapse, and so while the B*R*A Facebook group is still there, there was no more sign of the B*R*A.

Until now.  Back up as a subsection of the BiPhoria website, I give you: The Bisexual Recruitment Army. Hope it gives you a good giggle.

Friday 30 December 2011

New Year's Promises

Wearing my BiPhoria hat I've written a New Year circular to people who we have met at outreach stalls at Prides, Freshers fairs and suchlike. It offers up three suggestions for new year's resolutions for bi folk.

Maybe you’ll want to take one of them up, so I'll share them here too!

* going along to a bi group – there are groups in Manchester, Bristol, Swansea, Sheffield, London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and so forth; see the UK bi calendar.
* booking for BiCon, the year’s biggest bi event – this summer in Bradford and bookings are now open. It makes BiCon runners feel much happier when people book early - and when I say 'feel happier' I mean 'able to sleep at night'.
* subscribing to bi magazine BCN. Because it's remarkably affordable a way to support there being a bi voice alongside the gay and lesbian voices that titles like GT and Diva provide, and because it gives you oodles of writing about bisexuality popping through your letterbox six times a year.

Whether you take up one, all or none of these suggestions – a happy new year to you

Friday 25 November 2011

How LGBT is your LGBT Pride?

About ten to fifteen years ago, there was a trend of "lesbian and gay" organisations and events in the UK shuffling over to  calling themselves LGBT, or "lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender".

London L&G Pride and the L&G wing of the Lib Dems were the first I noticed make this change, around 1996. Slowly other Prides and LG(B)(T) organisations around the country followed suit. We've advanced to the point that now, fifteen years on, it looks a little peculiar when you see something that is, at least on the label, LG rather than LGB or LGBT.

But changing the label on the tin is one thing, how far have we changed what's in the tin?

This came back into my mind as I was bumbling around the Manchester Pride website this week. I'd never noticed their Pride Surveys before, but here were some remarkable results.

At the 2008 and 2010 Manchester LGBT Prides, they conducted some kind of survey of attendees.  Each time the best part of 1000 people were interviewed, so you would imagine there was some degree of statistical validity to the findings.

I'm going to put trans/cis matters to one side for a moment and ask: what did they show on sexuality?

Lesbians and gay men form the lion's share - 80%+ - of those attending. The next largest sexuality grouping is heterosexual people. Bisexuals only make up about 7% of those attending - a tenth of the attendance by gay and lesbian people.

A remarkable statistic, that hugely underlines the need for bi work and bi visibility at that event, given every study of sexuality worth reading finds more bisexuals - especially when it comes to women - than gay and lesbian people.  It is on a par with the stats from Kairos' London LGBT Almanac, which suggested that of all LGBT service users in London, only about 6% were bi. 

It would seem we have a long way to go yet before the label "LGBT" really means it.

Friday 4 November 2011

Inky goodness

One of the enduring strengths of bisexual community focused activism or bi organising in the UK over the last three decades has been the arc of newsletters and magazines giving us a tangible existence outside of groups and events. You might be fifty miles from the nearest bi social meetup and nine months from the next BiCon, but there was the prospect of the secret newsletter of the bisexuals dropping onto your doormat any day now.

Originally there was Bi Monthly, which grew from the newsletter of the London Bi Group in the early 80s to being a national forum for bis to talk to one another.  When that ran out of steam at the end of the 80s, a successor grew up called BiFrost.  It ran for four years and 40 or so issues, some of which were slender and others quite chunky black-and-white magazines.

BiFrost burned bright and then burned up, and in its place came Bi Community News, or BCN.  That started in 1995 and is still around today, as the magazine cover with Gwen and Jack from Torchwood above will suggest.  With over 100 editions published it's now got glossy with a splash of colour, comes out six times a year, and is one of the two best queer magazines in Britain. As its editor for the last decade, I am entirely unbiased when I say that!

What always seems peculiar to me is that BCN and its counterpart in Germany BiJou seem to be the two big names. Because in the USA things should - to my mind - be at least five times as good. After all, they have a much bigger population than the UK does, and economies of scale in print should mean that a magazine with five times the sales of BCN can do quite delicious things in being bigger, brighter, more colourful and having a higher profile. I've thought enough about what that shift in numbers would do for us here to feel sure of that.

Yet - with all the love I have for the Boston-focused Bi Women newsletter, there isn't anything quite like BCN that seems to have such a national aim or reach. I'm not aware there's even more than one bi magazine in print in the USA any more, since North Bi North West and Bi Tribune folded a few years ago and more importantly since legendary 90s bi and queer magazine Anything That Moves shut down.  There is the Journal of Bisexuality but it's an academic quarterly book rather than coffee-table reading.

So it's good to see Bi Social Network trying to break out of that with its bid to launch an offshoot Bi Social magazine, albeit as an electronic magazine for most editions with inky print specials.

I grew up addicted to magazines, the things I was passionate about as a teenager were there in piles of inky paper by my bed, be they Private Eye, Smash Hits or the geekier end of the home computer magazine pool. That might be colouring my judgement, but for me print publications - things you can hold in your hand, leave next to the loo, spill coffee over at breakfast and leave to dry out over the radiator - mean much more than electronic ones.

So I hope that - though their original fundraising plan seems not to be going as well as you'd hope - Bi Social Network can get their magazine into shape and into print too. America could use a vibrant bi press, and the sense of a little competition from over there could only do good things for BCN and BiJou too.

(However, if you're in the UK, BCN needs your donations more than BSN does!)

Saturday 15 October 2011

Pink, Purple, Blue vs Cyan, Magenta, Yellow

Two related thoughts about the pan flag:

First, should we take it that the colours chosen being 3 of the 4 used for most printing processes to acheive all colours is deliberate?  It would seem an unlikely combination to have by chance.

Second, if it is a flag based on CMYK, what should we think of the symbolism that it excludes black and other dark hues?

Sunday 9 October 2011


OK, from now on some of my blog posts are going to be carried on my favourite left-wing blog aggregator as well as on the bi one.

Awesome :)

Friday 30 September 2011

Harriet Harman has another dime bar moment

Onetime trans-bashing clueless-embarrassment-to-the-nation equality minister Harriet Harman now has a new role - as a clueless opposition MP.

On balance it's an improvement.  Her inability to grasp even pretty damn simple ideas while governing the country damaged our equality legislation and made life worse for people.  Now she just embarrasses herself and her party.  I'm a lot more comfortable with incompetents in opposition than in government.

So today she's getting herself in the headlines for condemning the left-right coalition's plans for individual voter registration to replace household-based registration.  She says it's a terrible thing to do: it will disenfranchise people who are young, black, or poor, and suchlike. It is the act of politicians who are seeking to rig elections.

And the BBC reports her as bewailing that "the Lib Dems - to their eternal shame - (are) colluding with the Tories in changing the law on the electoral register."

So, changing to individual voter registration bad. Apparently. What does Harriet want instead?

She wants ...individual voter registration. Only, rolled out in 2015 not 2014.

Now, maybe I'm just peculiar (it has been suggested) but it seems to me that either this is a terrible thing to do, it rigs elections, disenfranchises the black / poor / young etc... or it isn't.  Which year you change over to it isn't going to change that, not when your wiggle room is a matter of twelve months.

Get a grip, Harriet, you election-rigging, youth-hating, poor-bashing [etc!]

With an official opposition of this calibre no wonder the only effective opposition to the coalition is also on the government benches.

Highlighting the differences

The announcements today and tomorrow from the government will be fun.

In the past with one-party government, (or one-effective-party as in the Lab/Co-op coalition) you had all the exciting pronouncements in one go at the start of the relevant conference week.  Now with an openly talked about coalition, each side gets its hot topics to display separately.

So two weeks ago the ministers in the left side of the left-right coalition were the ones getting their special announcements out.  Rolling back of the blood ban, same-sex marriage, gender-free passports, to cite the ones that caught my LGBT-centric eye.  Now we get the ones the Tory ministers wanted held back til their conference for them to celebrate: so far we've got the extra money for going back to weekly bin collections. 

What else will there be to delight the blue-rinse conference audience?

Lost Girl's gorgeous cliche

Lost Girl is now up to episode four on SyFy.

If you liked Buffy and Angel, you'll probably like this.  It's got that vampires-are-real kind of world mythology, with the more 'adult' themes (aka people don't just fancy those of a different gender from themselves, and sex happens) that Angel and later seasons of Buffy had.

But where Buffy dodged the bi bullet with Willow's instant gay/straight flip, Lost Girl takes the bull by the horns. Our central hero, Bo, is a succubus, feasting on the sexual energy of whomever comes to hand without regard for gender; and when faced with a choice of joining the 'light' or 'dark' supernatural sides, she walks the line between them instead, not feeling herself to be either one thing or the other, and thus faces bewilderment and opprobrium from either camp.

You know, I think there might be the odd hint of the Big Book Of Bi Cliche there.

The first season finished showing months ago in the USA so as it starts showing here, I hear of it getting renewed for a second season. Our two lead characters are both women, and programme commissioners on the other side of the Atlantic don't seem to like their scifi to have too many strong women in it: see the cancelling of Caprica or Firefly. Hopefully they'll continue not to notice that our hero in this one is a woman for another couple of years.

Friday 23 September 2011

Happy #bivisibility Day!

Happy Bi Visibility Day everyone!

As I was reflecting with someone earlier this week, there's a lot of mirroring between being a bisexual and being a Lib Dem:

  • It's not either of the two big, popular choices that everyone's heard of.
  • If you say you are, people will try to get you to admit you're not perfectly equidistant and are therefore one of the two popular choices really.
  • There's a popular image that it's just a 'stopping off' point and not a real, coherent, long-term thing to be.
  • It attracts nowhere near the financial and social support that the easier options get.
  • And finally in this dubious list: after a few brief bursts of fashionability, it's starting to get a little bit more sustained and serious recognition in the public eye.

So hurrah for the growing number of (mostly female, but that's another blogpost) actors and popstars and other such celebs who are coming out and staying out as bi. Hurrah that they are doing so despite the idiot responses of people like Beth Ditto. And hurrah that for the first time, this year Stonewall have given a little nod towards Bi Visibility Day with their tweet linking to the September 23 website.

Happy bi day folks :)

Thursday 22 September 2011

The least trumpeted success of the week?

This has been a week of three dollops of good news from the government on LGBT issues, but two of those seem to have garnered the most attention.

So while the news of the left-right coalition's plans for same-sex marriage and for changes to the restrictions on donating blood are fab, here's a cheer for the other one that has slipped out.

The government are considering - and presumably with a fair chance of it happening given that these things are more rarely kite-flying under the rigour of the politics of coalition - options for degendering passports. That you could have your passport record you no longer just as M or F - but as M, F or X: Male, Female or Other/Refused.

Brilliant. Brilliant for those of us for whom either our gender does not fit the popular two categories, and those for whom their sense of self is more mutable or shifting; also brilliant for anyone who doesn't think the state has any business recording extraneous data beyond "this is who this is, this is where they are allowed to travel" on a passport.

I wonder if, when it comes in, I could upgrade my old gender-infested passport for free?

Tuesday 13 September 2011

So where would they go?

The Catholic clergy are revolting. Ahem, that is, they are up in arms at the prospect of same-sex marriage in Scotland. Today PinkNews reports:
Bishop of Paisley Philip Tartaglia, who is expected to become the next Archbishop of Glasgow, claimed yesterday that Catholic voters would desert the SNP if marriage equality becomes a reality.

Well where exactly does he think these voters are going to go?

Not the Lib Dems, obviously. The original party of this terrible 'treating all people as if they are created equal' thing that is so anathema to the Bishop's version of Christianity.

Not Labour, who are always just a few years behind the Liberals on these issues.Not the Tories any more, who have been proudly a few decades behind for, well, decades - but who are now playing catch-up as hard as they can.

So... what's left to try, the Greens? Their ideology wouldn't stop the Greens from being awful on queer rights, but their nose for electoral fluffiness and popularity means they aren't making the noises the Bish wants either.

Like the previous lot of dinosaurs, you've got nowhere left to run, mister pointyhat.

Monday 12 September 2011

Seen through other people's eyes

Not least because of the dearth of other bi glossy and zinestery titles even internationally these days, BCN-making is sometimes a bit of a lonely furrow to plough*.

As such, early this summer I started doing a little bit of consciously trying to hook into the places where other small press / zinestery types might be found. After all, while I do my best to make BCN look as much of a Serious Queer Press Contender as I can, the 'independence first: advertising is just to help pay for shiny extras' attitude of rugged small-press publishing is entirely zinester culture. I know where my roots are, even if I do get to do the cover in colour these days :) and it might be good to recharge those firey batteries of WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US representation rage and OOOH CLEVER layout creativity.

This led to finding zinewiki, and to a couple of delicious mornings where I dug out a wodge of my 80s and 90s bi zines and tried to remember enough about them to say something meaningful on zinewiki, and thus built up a bi zine(ster) category on it. It was a bit of a shock to find the zinewiki had so many hundreds of hundreds of zines and none of the bi stuff was out there. A happy, heady mix of improving bi visibility, nerding on one of my favourite subjects, and happily reminiscing about the days of buying stuff from abroad before PayPal made it all so simple ("hello little tourist currency exchange shop that I've caught two buses to get to, I'd like to buy five US dollars please, as notes. Um. How much is that?")

In turn this led to a little flurry of zine-buying, feeling a little more inspired to make another issue of QUelectionEERing, and then finding BCN got offered a writeup by people who read lots of zines.

And here it is, over on SpillTheZines. As the doting mother to BCN you have no idea how much trepidation there was in clicking on the link! But silly of me, they were very kind. It is interesting to see it through someone else's eyes though: for instance, I take all the stuff on the website, the links and such, for granted because I've been doing them for a billion years**.

* I originally wrote "plough to furrow" here. It can be hard some issues to get together all the content for the deadlines I aim for, and be artworking promptly when life gets in the way, but it's not THAT hard! :)
** or is it ten years? one or the other.

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Is Your Homo Hero Bi?

A remarkable four of the seven categories in this year's Homo Hero awards have bi nominees!

Have you voted yet?

I'm delighted to be on one of the shortlists - other prominent bi activists are on two of the others, while community press magazine BCN is nominated in another category.

This is an amazing level of bi representation - our community volunteers getting shortlisted alongside people like the director of Manchester Pride or Sir Ian McKellen is amazing in itself.

It's a long shot, but we might win one or another category - there's no judging panel, it's all about the votes cast by the public. So please - get over to the Homo Hero site, show your support for the work done by the nominees and many other people in building us a bi community. And stay tuned for news from the awards 'do' on 22nd September (the day before Bi Visibility Day!)

Manchester Pride

Most years Manchester Pride seems to get a little better than the one before (2010 was an exception where they regressed to the 90s and went all biphobic on us) and this time around it was lovely, if chilly and wet. There was a new all-time-high in the number of stalls with bi material on them: five! BiPhoria (naturally), Albert Kennedy Trust, LGBT Youth NW, Unison and the Liberal Democrats.

Lots of interest in the stuff BiPhoria does and in other bi projects like BCN, a fistful of people from the Leicester / Nottingham area who got excited when we told them about BiCon this coming weekend, and a whole heap of new signups for the info and events email list. Oh, and the use of "bi-furious" as a neologism continues to be a winner at getting people to come over and ask the kind of questions that lead to education.

Also, the bi pride colours bunting looked fabulous.

Regrets: being so worn out from being bouncy at people all day that I couldn't face staying around for the evening and so missed things like the Sugababes; though unlike my last Manc Pride weekend, there wasn't anything of the "oooh" oomph of the Human League to make me fight to overcome the floomp.

Monday 1 August 2011

Oh, Stonewall....

an opinion piece for BiMedia:

The UK's leading "lesbian, gay and bisexual" (according to its Christmas cards) charity Stonewall has published its response to the government consultation on reforms to marriage and civil partnership legislation. It seems that bisexuals have dropped off the Stonewall radar once again.

Stonewall have published their draft submission to the Coalition Government's review of the restrictions on marriage and civil partnership.  The submission form first asks for comments about marriage reform to open it up to same-sex couples, and then goes on to the subject of civil partnerships and whether those should be open to mixed-sex couples.  In the UK at present civil partnerships are only open to same-sex couples, and marriage only open to mixed-sex couples.

Stonewall's submission begins:
Stonewall seeks to secure marriage for gay people as a civil vehicle on the same basis as heterosexual marriage, available in a registry office but without a mandate on religious organisations to celebrate it. We seek to retain civil partnerships for lesbian and gay people recognising their special and unique status.
And it carries on in that vein. Indeed, after talking only and quite explicitly about lesbians and gay men over marriage reform, the Stonewall submission then responds to a question on Civil Partnership by declaring that as this only affects heterosexual people, it's a matter for them of which Stonewall therefore has no opinion, thus:
This is a matter for heterosexual people and Stonewall would recommend consulting with them and stakeholder organisations representing them.

And, er, that's that.

Newsflash, Stonewall: bisexual people get married. Bisexual people get civil partnerships. Some of the bis who do the one would like to do the other, in either direction, but the law won't let them.

A charity claiming to give voice to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, really ought to be listening to and giving voice to those bisexual people too - even when it does make the answer on a form a little more complicated.

Come on. A campaigning group that was working for lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights, would be able to remember bisexuals existed all the time rather than just now and then.

And the most frustrating thing is, in discussing the marriage / civil partnership divide that currently exists, bisexuals are a brilliant case to cite for what's so broken. Ten years ago, bisexual people found their relationships were treated differently in law based on the genders of themselves and their partners: today, after so much equality campaigning and the introduction of civil partnerships, that situation is exactly the same.

Bi people get into relationships with lesbians, gays, straight people and other bis.  Gay and lesbian people get into relationships with bis.  We are your queer family.  And LGB equality is only worthy of the name if we break down the barriers around civil partnerships as well as marriage: campaigning and lobbying for anything less puts the lie to a claim to be campaigning for equality for lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

Friday 1 July 2011

Queer Left gathers

It must be something in the air.

The weekend before last was the bi activist gathering; last weekend was the twice-yearly queer left gathering.  This time it was in Manchester - and where last time it had been the dayglo surroundings of the Lib Dem party HQ press room, this time it was one of the swish new hotels that have popped up near Piccadilly station.

There was some overlap with the previous weekend's bisexual activist - talking about diversity work, the left-right coalition government's action plan on LGBT equality, and suchlike.  There was welcome praise for my inky press efforts here just as there was there!

It's a lot more fun being in government than in opposition: the things you get to talk about are much more likely to lead to real change.

It's also lovely to be able to sit back and let the new generation of officers lead the discussion and planning, and just interject when you're feeling wise or motivated on a topic.  Having been Chair, I now know quite how much work doing that role in the organisation takes; it probably makes me a lot more tolerant of this one than I was of the ones who came before me!

Bi activists get together

The weekend before last was one of the irregular Bi Activism Conferences.  I nearly didn't go - being there, with travel and all that, cost me about £100 so it meant there would be nothing in the kitty for playing out the rest of the month - but I'm glad I did.

About 25 of us were there from various roles or interested backgrounds - local group runners, academics, event organisers, the bi press, and more; and we talked about a whole heap of things including some diversity issues around bi spaces, academic projects, how to interact with the left-right coalition's recently announced Action Plan on LGBT issues, ways we could use computer software to aid specific projects, skills swapping and more besides.  To break up the talking there was a fun exercise with bits of coloured paper and felt tip pens, and to my relief one bit where it all went over to flipchart.

The academics bit was especially useful - there is now quite a backlog of data from the annual BiCon surveys and it produced a plan for where we go from here with that. A plan which involves me only producing one more survey before it becomes Someone Else's Problem!  More widely, the BiReCon project rolls on which is brilliant for academic / activist / community links and communication.

I came away having talked myself into doing a few more bits of activist work - but I'd talked other people into doing one of the big projects I'd been contemplating taking on myself so that's probably a win overall!

The main thing we need to get out there about these weekends though is that you really don't have to be that much of a Big Activist to join in.  There were people who were just thinking about having a go at a one-off project there, with voices just as big and respected round the table as the old guard of been-doing-this-for-years activists like myself.  It is a space that doesn't suit all bis - it's for people who want to get their hands metaphorically dirty in order to get bi community and visibility building work done, but the door is very open.  The next one's in six months: care to join us?

A final note: I hadn't been in the last four years or so, on account of being extra busy with my three-year stint as Chair of Delga, but as I quietly ease down the level of commitment that queer left organising takes from my time, there's a bit more wiggle room for going to things like this.  It was a positive thing all round to have the break away, I think: I've been at or involved in so much 'bi stuff' over the last ten years that stepping back made it less easy for others to take me doing things for granted, and more easy for other people to start doing things that I'd been taking care of. But it was good to be back: the energy in lots of areas was really good to see.

Friday 24 June 2011

LGBT History Flickbook

Following on from the LGBT History display that LGF had up back in February, earlier this month I found a shiny little booklet. And lo, there are online versions of both.

They're very pretty with a good smattering of dates and range of 'stuff' from queer history.  Groups, theories, therapy of varying reputability, events, legal changes for better or worse, and so on. It has a healthcare theme but lots of stuff beyond that too.

There are a few problems with it, it has to be said. There is a dollop of inappropriate party bias: a good Labour thing is ostentatiously credited to Labour, a bad Tory thing to the Tories, a good Liberal thing carefully skims giving any credit. And particularly grating, there is a noticeable lack of the B strand in LGBT. The North West has been quite a hub in the bi movement of the last 20 or 30 years: we've the longest-running bi group in the UK, and a record of bi social and political organising stretching back before then. Big events have been held here, like the 6th International Conference on Bisexuality (with 20 countries represented). But where things like Lesbian Community Project or trans group TREC, LG and T newsletters and inky magazines are talked about, the bi counterparts go unmentioned. Which is a shame, and consistent enough to look like it might be deliberate.

And NHS North West has 'form'.  In their 2009 report 'One Year On' they proudly proclaimed of their diversity work that:
"These agreements allow cross-cutting issues to be tackled by all groups, for example the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) stakeholder organisation has been able to address how issues of sexual orientation affect gay men and lesbian women, BME people, people with disabilities, people at different ages, trans people, and LGB people’s religion or belief."

I've tried a couple of routes in to NHS North West for some kind of comment on how and why
that editorial balance decision on the L, G, B and T was made this time; no answers yet. Expect more blogging here if I get an answer out of anyone, and I'll enjoy scribbling some kind of a writeup in the queer press either way.

But still: a fabulously designed, deliciously informative set of publications. Hurrah for it being there: remember how long it used to take to find out about your queer history?

Monday 20 June 2011

How to research bisexuality well

A year or so ago, on a bi academics email list, I wrote - following one of those emails asking for research participants that make you reach for the clue-bat:

Could there be some kind of "what people doing bi academia and bi activism suggest" web page, for students to compare their design against.

Then when such requests come in, we can suggest that they check their design against this established set of guidance.  That it's not compulsory to meet all of the guidance but that it will greatly  enhance the value of your research (with a sly hint that you may have a  better chance of passing on your course, to appeal to self-interest!)

It would need some worked examples on questions around gender and sexuality that we reach some consensus around as good ways of  phrasing.

Probably we'd have a couple of suggested solutions to problems rather than a One True Way.  And examples of Getting It Horribly Wrong, with why it will produce less useful or misleading data.

Maybe it's already out there.  In which case lots of us having it bookmarked would be clever. 

It's lots of potential drafting and honing work I'm magicking up, I  know, and I also know that I'm just about the least able person here to write it! 

But it could perhaps de-personalise such arguments in future: not starting at "I think your survey design is awful" but at "have you looked at this established resource on designing research in this area to acheive effective results?"... then if they blithely carry on regardless, it's their own lookout!
It got a fairly positive response as an idea but no-one picked it up and went with it, so recently I had a first stab at drafting it.  Does the below make sense?  Is it any use?  Bear in mind that at BCN magazine and at my local bi project, we get undergrads doing BA work as well as PhDers and so on, so it's to my mind more worth talking about basics like accountability to the community than one would perhaps like to think of as needed with PhDers.

Feedback from all quarters welcome!
"Researching and reporting (bi)sexuality - well"

**Why we have written this**

As bisexual community activists and / or academics working in and around issues of sexuality and bisexuality, we come across many researchers seeking participants for, guidance or, or peer review of work. There are some common questions, and unfortunately frequent errors that people make when first embarking on research around bisexuality. 
So we felt it would be helpful to have a fairly simple "FAQ" to help you get the right start.
We think it's important because we've run into issues like:
- whether researchers feel they are accountable or not to the community
- problems where badly planned or implemented research fails to distinguish sexuality (and particularly bisexuality) well - situations where those problems in turn lead to poor evidence
- this damages academic rigor and reputation
- it also damages the wider bisexual community through misleading findings, reporting, and through impacts on policy making and public discourse.
- and it poses problems for a researcher whose work may be less highly reviewed, or who may gain a reputation that makes it harder for them and others to find willing participants for future work.

**Poor Practice**

Among the issues we've come up against are problems:
- in definitions and research assumptions
- in defining the group of people surveyed or researched
- and with analyses that group or equate "all LGB", "all L+BW", "all G+BM" where it may be that bisexual and homosexual experiences differ in important regards.

**Why It Matters**

- better research is in everyone's interests
- a better understanding and modelling of sexual orientation leads to more honest findings
- it helps in building an evidence base on bisexuality and bi experience
- in turn funding academic work
- and also the results of research that distinguishes bi experience and bi needs helps with funding of nonacademic work of direct impact on bisexual communities

**Good Practice**

(this is where I'm just not an academic and it shows!)
- there are a number of print and online spaces where you can advertise for participants, and a number of groups and events which you could attend to talk to people.
- however, use these spaces appropriately and with respect; remember you are working with people not some kind of exhibits or reference books.  State who you are, have the option of people contacting your institution / tutors, be clear what the research is for and if people are not comfortable with you being in a space as a researcher respect that they may well need to be in that bi space more than you do.

- respect of the diversity of labels, beyond straight and gay
- diversity of labels vs practice: bi, pan, omni, and how these are all imprecise 
(aside: what I want to get over here is what I tend to phrase as "bi is to pan as lesbian is to gay woman" - there are not neat discrete boundaries - someone can probably explain that better)
- "bisexual"/"bisexuality" not "bi-sexual"/"bi-sexuality". You wouldn't write "homo-sexuality" or "hetero-sexuality"; similarly the "b" words have been around long enough not to count as neologisms and so there is no need for a hyphen to impart meaning.

**Considering your target research subjects:**

Bisexual People Are Not All Going To Be
- polyamorous / non-monogamous
- white
- academic or comfortable and familiar with academic terms / language
- out as bi
- taking on or owning the label
- in the lgbt scene
- in agreement
- in the bi scene / spaces
- willing to be interviewed

**Question Structures**
- this bit I really am over to you Proper Academics out there, with the textbooks and the library access! Can we have some good and iffy examples to help people?!

**Getting Further Help And Advice**

- this is only a sketchy guide because of trying to fit so many areas of research into one document
- engage with groups like biuk and academic_bi e'list and seek peer review of your questionnaires etc before going 'live', or if that has already happened, be open to positive critical examination of wordings and engagement
- talk to bcn & bimedia or equivalent groups in your own country / catchment area
- commit to sharing your findings with the wider bi community both academic and nonacademic e.g. through submitting articles or precis in Journal of Bisexuality, Bi Community News, etc, so that others benefit from your work as well as you.
- deliver on that sharing of findings when your research is done.
Like I say: feedback very welcome.  And when the polished version is written I shall link to it from here so y'all don't try and use this early attempt!

Friday 17 June 2011

Shiny shiny

Yay, a few days after one of my magazines comes back from the print shop, here comes the other one. 

First 200 stuffed and stamped and ready to mail :)

This time they do look very good and shiny. I think I might have to do some photos!

Sunday 12 June 2011


Sometimes it amazes me that this big ole monster of a zine is still going. The lovely fresh ink on the cover says it's issue 106; when you add in the ones with funny numbers that's more like 116.  Since some time around #32, it's been my baby.  By now we should've all moved on, and I should be doing something more grown up than throwing together zines,

Sometimes, like this week, friends come crashing up against the biphobia in the queer communities that reminds me why it, and spaces like biphoria, still have to be there.

Also, I love making these inky things happen.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Trickle down punishment

Over the last couple of decades, lots of people in the UK chose to live beyond their means.  They borrowed money that didn't really exist from banks on the promise that the boom times would roll and they would find enough money to pay for it all in due course.

They borrowed oodles of cash on credit, as loans mortgages and card debt, and used it to buy houses and cars and electric guitars and designer clothes and holidays in ghastly places and so on and so forth.

And on most of those transactions, the government took a little slice of the pie in tax.

And while this led to a huge explosion in the sale of crap people didn't especially need at markups they couldn't really justify, it was accompanied by a diligent refusal to build enough homes for the people to live in.  So the laws of supply and demand kicked in, and the price of a place to live went up, and up, and up.  Even though they were the same crappy houses they had always been, only a bit older and more tumbledown than when you bought them, so should surely be decaying in value.

And each time one of those homes swapped hands for a pretend amount of money the government took a slice of the pie in tax.  And they did the same with the booming sales of fancy tat.  And the tax revenue blossomed and kept going up, so the government went to the money markets which act like its own equivalent of the nice man at the bank who will fix you a mortgage for 125% of what your house is worth, and the government said: the money's bound to come in, lend us another fiver til payday.

And then one day - about the same time as the iPad made a lot of the consumer tat history by replacing plastic tat with virtual tat - someone in a queue at Northern Rock cried out loud enough: this is bollocks this. Where is all the money you're pretending exists?

And the banks admitted: we don't have it. We were hoping it would come in from these amazing houses that just get better and better the more old and decrepit they get.

And the government admitted: we don't have it. We were relying on the money coming in from all the houses and other crap that the people pretending to have money were pretending was worth a lot.  Because a nice slice of a lot of money is a nice bit of cash, and so long as no-one asked any questions we reckoned we'd probably be OK, or the other lot would be in office by then which is even better as no-one ever asks who was in power when the whole thing began.

And the people said: we don't have it. We were relying on the house prices going up and that the bills would come down over time, even though the bills are all kind of tied to the price of oil which is in general just going to go up and up as it runs out.

The banks said: it wasn't our fault, we had to compete with each other, and no-one was made to take out a loan, they just all chose to because they wanted shiny things.

The government said: it wasn't our fault, we only did what the voters all wanted in their own short-term selfish interest, because getting elected and hang the consequences was in our own short-term selfish interest.

So everyone was humungously fucked.

And as the imaginary money dried up, the government found it had been spending money in advance that it hoped to get in one day, which it would now definitely not get, and had been spending imaginary money that it was getting in that now dried up as the whole emperor's new clothes saga came unstuck.  The money that it needed for all the nice things it wanted to give its voters tomorrow had already been spent yesterday.

And the people divided into three camps.  The first camp said: "we never joined in this whole pretend money stuff, though we did kind of benefit from how the cheap money helped keep down the price of taxis and food and subsidised the council tax".  The second camp said: "we joined in this whole pretend money stuff, and it all seems a bit silly now, but we all got ourselves into this mess so we are all going to have to try and get out of it". And the third camp said: "why should we have to stop having nice things, just because there was never any money to pay for the nice things and the money that ought to be paying for the basics today is money we already spent years ago on having nice things? It's so unfair! We blame the banks and we blame the government and we blame anyone who isn't us because nice things are nice and someone else should have to pay for us having them."

And so we get to where we are now, with a tanked economy that isn't the fault of the bankers or the people or the government or business or the unions, but is the fault of almost everyone collectively as just about all of you joined in the pretence that got us here, and even the few who didn't benefited from some of the upsides.

Yet just as it's always popular to blame bad times on immigrants or The Gays or colour television, there's a massive denial movement going on.

Right at the moment it's manifesting itself in amazing playground bully tactics as people who can't get their heads around fairly simple maths, linear time or cause-and-effect gang up to blockade high street banks.  Not the big investy institutions which every bit as responsible for the mess as the protestors are themselves: no, the high street banks, the ones where you pop in to deposit your wages or ask for a cheque book so you can send your nephew a tenner for Christmas and have less chance of a shifty postie swiping it for themselves.  Where there's a loans clerk who helped the farrago errupt, but also four tellers who help you change your holiday pounds into euros and transfer your savings into your current account when your washing machine blows up.

What's frustrating is the thought that "UK Uncut" - alas a political front for preserving the power base of those who have hogged the money, power and influence for decades - could develop its limited analysis of what's gone wrong. Instead it has either been highjacked by playground bullies, or else that is all it ever contained. 

Stopping people going into their local bank will not change the past.  It won't change much about what happens now.  It can't raise the profile of the whole issue any higher than is already the case - we all know the economy has tanked and that it's particularly broken here where the state is about a trillion in debt and the people are another three trillion in debt and turning it around is going to be hideously painful whoever is given the role.

Stopping people going into their local bank will, however, mean people's wages dont go in, bills don't get paid, and overdrafts run up higher charges.  The government won't get hurt. The banks won't get hurt. Individual people on low pay or no pay will get fucked over.

That's who UK Uncut has decided needs to hurt. The poor, the workers on long hours, the unemployed trying to juggle things to keep their heads above water.

If there was ever any doubt, let's be clear. They are acting solely in the interests of the established order, neutralising our frustrations with fake targets.  Compared to the 1930s they've learned to not blame it on The Jewish Bankers but to blame it on The Bankers. The scapegoating bollocks is exactly the same otherwise in its scapegoatyness and its bollocksmithery.

UKuncut. BNP, UKIP, call it what you will. It's a neofascist ruse and it's sucked in some well-meaning people along with a bunch of spoiled playground bullies who only ever wanted to cause pain for those around them.