Friday 28 December 2012

What do you want to read in BCN next year?

Should Bi Community News borrow from the style of other magazines and have themed issues in 2013?

And if it should, what should the themes be?

Wednesday 19 December 2012

It's in the post...

The latest issue of BCN is back from the printers, stuffed into envelopes (thanks to the BCN stuffing possee!) stamped, labelled and off into the post.

Overseas ones will have to wait til I'm well enough to make it to a post office though. I do wish overseas mail was easier.

This issue has two major chunks of wordyness: one, the report back from decision making at BiCon 2012; the other, two articles talking about bisexuality and language. These relate to the Bristol bi club "Greedy" whose name flared up into controversy among a few ill-informed defenders of Teh Queer, and the wider question of sloganeering: what can you stick on a banner or flyer that bisexuals will unite around?

Sunday 9 December 2012

Getting Bi On Film

One of the "I'll get around to it" things on my to-do list this year was to take Getting Bi In A Gay/Straight World and make it into an mp3, so people who find sound easier than vision could get the benefit of its distilled bisexual wisdom.

But mp3 hosting is even more of a mystery to me than video hosting, so with the aid of Holly aka Bisexual Wombat, here is a video version, with the images from the booklet and an audio track.
Getting Bi in a Gay / Straight World from Bi Community News on Vimeo.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Even the BNP have learned to be classier than this

Sometimes it's hard not to look at the national student movement and despair.

The National Union of Students' vice president has called for Conservatives and Lib Dems to be burnt to death. That would of course include thousands and thousands - at least - of her own union's members.

In an email Vicki Baars encouraged students to shout "Build a bonfire, put the Tories on the top, put the Lib Dems in the middle and burn the f***ng lot!", at a nationally-organised day of protest against the new student finance settlements - which have improved the financial support for mature students and charge poor students less and wealthy students more.

While she has been pressed to issue a public apology, the neo-fascist ideological values of the clique at the top of NUS means that calling for the killing of thousands of its members will probably not lead to anything as dramatic as being expected to no longer be national vice president. A quick "sorry for mentioning that I wish thousands of my members would die in a terrifying and brutal fashion" tweet will probably be deemed enough.

To put it as mildly and calmly as I can: what an embarassment.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Brighton's Bi Celebrations on film

Back in September I was along (and a fleetingly brief speaker) at Brighton Bothways' event to mark Bi Visibility Day. This was a lavish affair at the city's main library, with lots of food and speakers.

They also showed a fistful of short films from YouTube about bisexuality, which were (I think) all from the USA due to the lack of good bi short films from the UK suitable for such an event. Partly to help start changing that, and partly to document the Brighton event itself, I filmed several of the speakers on the night and have since had to learn a few tricks to get the best out of the footage.

Four of those people have now given their permission for us to use the videos I made so here are four short clips of people talking about being bi in Brighton and the UK. I do hope you enjoy them.

Klara talks about growing up bisexual:

Arwen reads a poem she wrote about being bi:

Andi from the local council's LGBT workers forum:

Jak talks about growing up bi:

Sunday 21 October 2012

Creatively wrong

I've come across lots of interesting redefinitions of bi and definition pairs of bi and pan before. However - and I can't give you the link as it's one of the million web pages I've read this weekend - this weekend I came across a genius new one. I paraphrase mildly as I read it a short while ago...

Bi is if you have sexual relationships with any gender, pan is if they are romantic relationship

Wow. How brilliantly creative is that? There are these two words, right, and we know that 'bi' is the untrendy one that means you're not in with the cool crowd, but they seem to mean the same damn thing... it must be possible to come up with some kind of definition that splits them apart!

These kind of "bi is not the same" definitions always seem to involve pan being somehow morally superior. I think that might be the tell that gives away an attempt to make yourself more acceptable, the sad old theme of putting another group or identity down in order to raise yourself up in the social rankings.

Bye bye Pink Paper

The Pink Paper has closed down.

The Pink meant a lot to me: when I first came out onto the LGBT scene, there it was: a tabloid sized newspaper, free and available in big piles in bars, in the foyer of the students union, on a display rack in the library ten miles away when I needed a lifeline to the real world in university holidays.  It started publishing a few years before I came out, at what became a crucial time in queer politics when shortly after its launch the Conservatives unveiled 'Section 28', the Labour-endorsed law which sought to wipe out homosexuality by making the mention of its existence illegal.

So a campaigning national weekly free newspaper must have been a shot in the arm for the mobilising queer campaigners (all the talk of the era is that it was 'lesbians and gays' but I am sure there would have been a good fistful of bis and transfolk and allies in the campaign too).

Bankrolled, as I understand it, largely by its more advertiser-friendly sister paper Boyz, the Pink was worthy, communityish and newsy.

It wasn't always the friend of the bi reader. From its aversion to admitting to the b word in editorial (one that stuck with me was a caption that said "[name] who described herself as bisexual, [at some do or other]", a contortion of words that would never have been used about a gay person) to its personal ads pages with a plethora of lonely hearts wanting a GSOH but "no bisexuals". Looking back, 'no bisexuals' was one of the few requirements in lonely hearts ads in the Pink Paper that never got turned into an abbreviation: you wouldn't want one to slip through the net saying they thought NB meant Nice Bum.  But until you got deep enough into the community to find out about BiFrost or BCN, it was the queer press you could find - and it was every week, not every month or three.

I'm told it highlighted the commitments of each party to lesbian and gay (yes...) rights at one general election with a front page quoting the three manifestos' commitments to the gay community. Each got equal space: a third of the page was full of text from the Liberal manifesto; one third was blank bar a paragraph for Labour; the third column had nothing to spoil its emptiness.

Some time in the 90s, presumably as income from 08x premium rate chatline ads waned, there was a brief relaunch as a paid-for A4 magazine. They knew they had oodles of readers who read the  paper every week, surely as a nicer-looking magazine it would fly off the shelves? It was an enormous flop, and the publishers beat a hasty retreat with a re-relaunch as a free A4 magazine soon afterwards.

The Pink had annual readers awards, in a growing list of categories (think "best redheaded barmaid in a lesbian bar in East Anglia goes to...") and a few times I took it upon myself to try and rock the vote to get the bisexual community noticed in the Pink.  When it worked, that got BiCon listed as one of the five best queer events of the year two years running - once coming third ahead of Glastonbury and London Pride. Manchester's BiPhoria took fifth place in best LGBT community group too.

As the web appeared in every home and every pocket, the Pink Paper's time as a print title came to an end. I still have half-a-dozen or more old issues knocking about my home, and when I pull them down from the shelf they are fond reminders of a harder time, charting the progress of LGBT rights as the news becomes less sharply political as the locus of political debate became less sharply hostile, bringing memories of long-lost friends and dancing til dawn, of who I was dating or of aching for that first lover to come into my life. It's a sensual thing: you won't ever get that with browsing an old web page.

The Pink Paper was at times frustrating, on good days it gave a warm nod to bisexuality on page 17 and on bad days it erased us out of all existence; but then we would all run things a little differently if it was our own choice. In its time it was a force for good, and among all the "no bisexuals" notes in the personal ads there were a host of TLAs that taught me a lot about the dos and donts of dating.  Bye bye Pink. Thank you for having been there.

Saturday 20 October 2012

A happy little grump

While putting together BCN issue 114, I wanted to focus a lot of attention on Bi Visibility Day. The magazine was coming out in mid August so there would be about four weeks for readers to make something happen for the 23rd: past experience says that with the wind in your sails that is only too acheiveable.

So the back cover got a full-page and colourful advert for the day, seeking to encourage people to come up with plans and share them with a "what will you be doing?" tagline.

It worked a treat. Well, to be fair the momentum's been building for years - this was a helpful nudge at the right time.

What was intriguing though was that the advert took off - I keep finding it (see image) on things around the world, usually like this with the september23 URL frustratingly clipped off. Facebook, blogs, the Advocate and more.

It's pleasing to see it being used all over the place. It'd be nice if more places credited it to BCN though.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Bi Women article

I wrote a little something for Boston's bi magazine Bi Women. As the issue is now out and online as a pdf for people to read it seems fair to crosspost it here too. I've not tried to write for an overseas audience before... for a UKanian audience I'd've used phrases like Yes Prime Minister.

cover of "bi women" magazine
Meanwhile, from “across the pond” in the UK...
A Downing Street Bi Breakthrough
By Jen Yockney

On July 24th I had the unexpected honor of being the first person invited to represent the bi community at the annual LGBT Garden Party held by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

A few days earlier I had received an unexpected note: “The Prime Minister Requests The Pleasure Of Your Company.” Well, if he was putting it like that who was I to say no? So to London and to Downing Street. First you meet charming yet obviously armed police at the entrance to Downing Street who check your passport and check if your name is on their list. You pass through scanners and suddenly you’re past the security point and stepping onto one of the most filmed places in England, normally the preserve of senior ministers and visiting dignitaries. On the TV it looks like a grand sweeping arch of space but it’s a surprisingly small road: they must keep the TV cameras on wide-angle lenses to get the feeling of space.

In through the door of Number 10 (and as a politics geek from a young age, you cannot imagine how hard it is not to bounce off the walls with excitement) and Number 10 staff direct you along corridors lined with portraits of premiers past, down stairs and into the garden of the Prime Minister.

Cue endless canapes and staff making sure your glass stays topped-up; I was wise to go for the fruit juice as I might have had to be carried out if I’d drunk that much wine. There was about an hour of milling about, meeting and talking with around 100 other people from around the UK who do fantastic things in other parts of the LGBT community. As a bisexual genderqueer woman it was good to spot a couple of familiar bi faces and a couple of familiar trans faces; they were invited for non “bi activist” briefs though. There were many religious figures, all of Britain’s senior out-LGBT clergy: the theme of this year’s gathering being the UK government’s plans to legislate for same-sex marriage.

And then here’s Cameron. He speaks for about ten minutes off the cuff, praising the work of many in the crowd, and talks about “gay marriage” and how he thinks the churches are making a big mistake in opposing it. For US readers, imagine a Republican President condemning the church for not supporting same-sex marriage and saying his party had been wrong to be against LGBT equality in the past. He may not be word-perfect on his queer terminology, but this is a man elected seven years ago on an anti-gay rights ticket, so it is great to hear him having come so far in that time.

Then more drinks and mingling and—about 45 minutes after the official end time—the Downing Street staff usher us out. Of course being outside Number 10 means spending half an hour on the doorstep taking photos of one another. This time there was just me; a great honor to be the first, but the UK has many brilliant and vibrant bi projects: BiUK, Bisexual Index, BiPhoria and more. I do hope next year there are three or four of us.

So that was my 39th birthday. I’m a little worried how to top it for my 40th next year!

Jen is the editor of the UK magazine, Bi Community News and has been a bi activist for a very long time

Friday 28 September 2012

'Boss' kept in his place?

This one is barely a blogpost, just an incredulous note.

Mark Pack writes here that Labour bosses responded to Ed Miliband's swapping of occasional texts with Vince Cable by confiscating his mobile phone.

I'm not the most butch and assertive person in the world, but really, if I were leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, I like to think I'd be bold enough to say "Who's Queen Leader?" when one of my underlings tried that kind of a trick.

Maybe they used a magic word that Ed's obliged to obey, in a 'Simon Says' kind of a way. TUC says hand over your phone.

Monday 3 September 2012

18 years of BiPhoria!

As published recently in Bi Community News under the headline "Manchester's 18".  A few reflections on the story of eighteen years of a local bi social & support group; it would have been more navel-gazing and reflective without the word limit on the article!

BiPhoria emerged, like so many bi groups, from Manchester bis meeting up at BiCon and getting talking, and deciding they wanted a bi group back home.  There were already bi groups in the city - one for men, one for women.  However it seems the penny dropped that meeting in separate groups when the uniting factor was that you were people for whom gender was less of an issue was a little peculiar.  At the very least there was room to get together as well.

The model used took organising ahead of each group meeting: every month’s meeting had a defined topic with workshops planned out for months ahead. That seems to have been the case with most other bi groups at the time.

The group started out meeting at Manchester's Lesbian & Gay Centre on Sidney Street. It was a good central location close to bus and train routes, and familiar to people attending the men’s or women’s bi groups.

The first few years were quite energetic, as seems to often be the case where a new bi group forms in an area with pent-up demand.  The monthly calendar had clubbing nights, cinema trips, a bi hill-walking group and more.  Among the spin-off projects was one to lobby the city council, whose equality policies and monitoring firmly declared everyone to be either gay or straight, and to challenge the “no bisexuals” door policies of several gay venues in the city in the 90s.

But after a time early impetus dies out, people find their lives are taking them elsewhere and in the odd case the realisation that you don’t get paid for running this puts people off too.  Planning meetings saw a diminishing pool of people willing to run the group. This was a crunch point - I wound up running the group and if I’d stepped away too there would have been no volunteer base left. 

Groups have momentum and this downward arc continued; for about six months we had typically 3 people a month to meetings, where the group would consist of me, someone who had last been to the group a year or two earlier asking “where is everyone?” and a new member who would never come back on the grounds that it clearly wasn’t the place to meet bi folk after all.  It is hard work summoning up the energy to go back again each month at times like that.  But the steady grind of small publicity work (flyers and posters) and luck of the draw meant eventually breaking out of the cycle - you get a month where four ‘occasional’ members and two or three new people means the mood in the room changes and things start to grow back up from there.

This slow build included bidding for the 2000 BiCon to come to the city.  For years BiCon had moved around the country from year to year without ever landing in Manchester. This turned into a bit of a joke - with Queer As Folk all over the TV, that Manchester was too busy partying the night away to host a BiCon.  The team were mostly not part of the group though: hosting BiCon 1998 had torn apart the Cambridge group, and Manchester wasn’t strong enough to face that kind of stress.
While all eyes were on BiCon there were changes afoot: the city's Lesbian & Gay Switchboard and gay men's sexual health project HGM were merging, and once again the dilapidated Sidney Street building was under threat of closure.  Most groups meeting at Sidney Street merged into this new Lesbian & Gay Foundation, but BiPhoria stayed at arm’s length, meeting in the new LGF building but remaining independent.

This meant finding funding: previously group costs were met by a quick whip-round at each meeting and room hire was free.  Now room hire cost £30 a time so some of the energy that would have gone into group work had to go into funding bids and accounting to these.  But that also meant a greater engagement with other LGBT groups in the city, and a slightly higher profile. 

That profile and more members getting involved again with organising aspects of the group’s work meant the tide was now flowing with the group; we had day-long events to mark Bi Visibility Day in 2001 and 2002, were drawn into the city’s Local Strategic Partnership work and in 2003 published a research report on bi needs in the city based on funded qualitative interviews.  The shape of group meetings changed, with a three-stage evening that starts with half an hour new members’ induction, 90 minutes of discussion normally without a pre-assigned subject, and then adjourning to a nearby quiet pub for chatter over drinks.

Another BiCon in 2004 was our last big blow-out, since when there have been small to mid size events each year - a BiFest or something to mark LGBT History Month - and things have balanced out with structured group meetings and pub / cafe meets.  We’ve had a consistent profile elsewhere too at local LGBT conferences and at Prides in our wider catchment area (which goes right up to Carlisle!) - something that can only happen with enough volunteers making time in their lives to do that outreach and visibility.  In the end the local council even admitted bisexuals exist.

And here we are 18 years on, inheriting along the way the mantle of the oldest bi group in the country as other groups from the early 90s have folded.  Join us to celebrate our 18th birthday downstairs at Taurus, 1 Canal St on September 1st (from 3pm).  Bring cake!

Binary Greens

Some confused people and some biphobic people like to throw around the idea that the "bi" in bisexual means that bisexuality props up binary thinking.

This is of course delicious piffle and has been taken apart for the oblox it is many times, though being an internet story it re-emerges frequently, just like the imaginary £6bn Vodafone are supposed to have stashed down the back of the sofa or Barclays' 1% tax bill.

Today's news has a proper example of binary thinking though. The Green Party have elected a new leader and deputy leader. One has to be male, the other female; there is inevitable outrage as this meant a low-polling male candidate for deputy leader was elected in preference to more popular female candidates.

One male, one female. Neatly keeping intersex and genderqueer people away from the levers of power in your organisation?

Now that's what I call propping up a gender binary.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Selling to bisexuals

The first (that I have seen) market research about the buying habits of bisexuals has been published in the USA. In the fine traditional comedic trope, I hereby present the next 12 months' bi news.

October.  With polls still close in the Presidential election, and polling showing bis split 12:1 in his favour, Barack Obama railroads the "Bis Vote Twice" bill through Congress.  The plan comes unstuck in November when bisexuals with a preference are nonetheless allowed to vote both ways.

November.  Prof Debunked of the Dodgy Research University publishes his latest findings about bisexuality.  He explains that subjects were shown gay and straight porn on different smartphones while sensors attached to their genitalia recorded whether that type of phone was doing it for them.

December.  The New York Times retracts its "iPhoneite, Androidite or lying" headline admitting the findings related more to how attractive the research assistant looked in a white lab coat.

January.  Apple announce their response to the findings that bisexuals are more likely to buy £100 android phones than functionally-similar £400 iPhones. "Clearly the problem is in our marketing feeling excluding to bi people," says a spokesPad, "and so we will be updating our rainbow striped apple logo to include a pink stripe next to the purple and blue ones."  The new biPhone will cost just £75 extra, and is available in five shades of purple.

February.  Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne slaps 20% VAT on valentines cards purchased by bisexuals, thus milking the Purple Pound for all it is worth.  "Woody Allen told me the bisexuals have twice the chance of a date on Friday night, and that means they must be buying twice as many valentines cards" he explains in an emergency budget statement. 

Stung by Apple's cornering of the bi market, Google releases a customised version of its phone operating system called pandroid.

March.  Not to be outdone by cheap pandroids, Apple launch the new biPhone2, with an extra button that speed-dials the complaints department at Stonewall. A new app for smartphones lets biphobic people automatically block calls from biPhones.

April.  After the quarterly economic figures reveal the valentines card ruse failed to raise a single extra penny, on account of the bis all being far too busy playing on their biPhones to remember to send one another cards, George Osborne goes on television to admit he's not the real Chancellor, just to be a schoolboy on a really long Jim'll Fix It.

May.  Apple takes Google to court over pandroid phones, claiming they are a blatant rip-off of the biPhone.  Google's lawyers defend the clear and vast difference between the two: "it is not just another word for the same thing. The pandroid phones are a touchscreen with a suffusion of purple, whereas biPhones are a suffusion of purple with a touchscreen".  The judge listens carefully and throws the case out of court on the grounds that everyone knows there is no such thing as a bisexual.

June.  Concerned that it is missing out on the purple pound and that the bi- and pan- prefixes have already been snapped up, Microsoft launches Windows Mobile Omnishambles.  Following the flop of a youtube 'viral' ad campaign where Gerald Ratner observes "people ask me how Microsoft can sell a phone this cheap, and I say: it's because it's total, totally purple" it is reviewed as both completely unusable and the best implementation of Windows yet.

July.  At a star-studded television awards ceremony, the heads of Sky, BBC and Virgin make a joint statement on the findings that 73% of bi women and 44% of bi men regularly see biphobia in the mainstream media. They pledge to make the negative portrayal of bi men that bit more obvious to help the boys catch up.

August.  Despite the market research claims of a year earlier, sales figures of biPhone, pandroid and omnishambles handsets reveal the purple pound to be as yet a myth and the bisexual community resolves to go back to taking all research about itself with a pinch of salt.

September.  Market research work begins to find out what kind of salt bisexuals find most reassuring.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Chez Dave

"BCN magazine editor Jen Yockney was among the guests at last night’s LGBT garden party hosted by David Cameron at 10 Downing Street." reported BiMedia last week.

Yes, dear reader, it's true. After about five years of Prime Ministerial Downing Street LGB&T receptions, at last someone finally got invited on behalf of one of the projects that focus on the "B" thread.

I've no idea quite how I got on the guest list, but the invite dropped into my BCN email account so I have to conclude it was for my work on Bi Community News as editor for a decade and more of the main UK bi news source and journal of what the bi movement's been up to and talking about. 

It could have been someone from one of many other projects who got picked though: for example BiPhoria is 18 this year, the UK's longest running bi group these days. They might have picked a veteran of the London Bi Group which ran for longer but closed down a few years ago. Bisexual Index and BiUK are doing fabulous work. And BiCon is I think the longest-running LGBT festival / pride / whatever in the UK, with 28 years of track record and never a year skipped or new organisation formed following a tricky financial implosion.

Whichever of us were to be picked though, it was high time the bis were invited to the LGBT party. And the White House's LGBT receptions have shown that one person the first year can grow to be a sizeable bi caucus over time...

But to Number 10.  It was so damn exciting to be there: I grew up watching Yes Minister and listening to Week Ending and here I was walking through the black door into the epicentre of power, among so many people who have done great things for the LGBT communities – and in blazing sunshine after weeks of rain it was a lucky date to have picked. I'm told last year it bucketed with rain and the attendees were crammed inside. Garden drinks in warm late-midsummer sun much better.

Cameron spoke for a few minutes about how the anti-equal-marriage wing of the faith groups is making the same mistake of pushing away their natural friends just as the Conservatives did in the 80s and 90s (and 00s) with their homophobia and biphobia. He kept referring to 'gay marriage' but in a politician who just seven years ago was campaigning to get elected by attacking his opponents for the scrapping of Section 28 that's a very healthy amount of travel. I want more, but I'll settle for that much progress. What matters is not the Prime Minister getting the nuances of LGB&T identity and debate, but that the 'gay marriage' legislation that ends up coming forward reflects how the current partnership law particularly makes life peculiar for bi, trans and intersex people. You did include those things in your submission to the equal marriage consultation, didn't you? Good. Me too.

Outside in the twitterverse a few people errupted in the "oh my, how can LGBT people go there?" type remarks. Because the way round that the lustre of shiny importance travels when a big ole lefty genderqueer bi activist like me goes to 10 Downing Street is that it improves Cameron's image... riiiiight. Pish. It says that the kind of policymaking people who have spent years and years ignoring bis are starting to change their tune, starting to acknowledge our work, our existence and particular needs - which is what we as bi activists were working for all those years and what work like The Bisexuality Report has been building the focus towards more sharply of late.

That aspect of it was a bit frightening though - being the first one through the door means you have a tiny sense of carrying the future of better bi representation here on your own shoulders.

So? It was a pleasant gathering of a bit over a hundred key people in LGB&T community work: from groups like Pride Sports, Manchester Pride, Albert Kennedy Trust, TREC, GIRES and so forth, grassroots and policywranglers alike, alongside various clergy on the side of the angels, and only a very small smattering of politicians. Like many LGBT conferences I've been to down the years, it was a chance to swap news and ideas, to find out what we're all up to, only this time with fewer workshops and speakers between those conversations.

And it's going to be a long slow grind towards equal marriage legislation, but I think Call-Me-Dave is as committed to it as the rest of us there. Which is going to be an important part of the battle.

Tuesday 31 July 2012

BCN Summer Special

The BCN Summer Special has gone to the print shop. 

It's not very summery, but even so this one will be a little bit special... fingers crossed and all will be revealed in a week's time.

Hopefully as we have gone to a different printers from where we got the last summer special done, it won't be trucking round the country all summer when people should be flicking through a copy at the bar at BiCon! You have no idea how frustrated I was to open a boxful of Jimi Hendrix zines the day before BiCon as the delivery truck pulled out of sight down the road.

The best bit about BCN going to press is that I can then stop, breathe, catch up on emails and even start to worry what to wear to the Ball.

Monday 30 July 2012

Canada setting a healthy standard

How deliciously awesome is this Canadian CAMH video seeking to draw in bisexual people to talk about their health needs?

All the bi* labels you can hope for, no fighting over them, just cutting to the chase: health services are failing us, the stats say.  They are failing us moreso than gay, straight and lesbian service users, we need to assemble data on our lives to build the pressure for health providers to take the time to 'get' us and get over their biphobia and hetero/homo normativity.

If you're reading in Canada and are bi, or any of those mishmash of "fancying more than one gender" labels in the purple arc, please follow through on the plea for input this video. For the rest of us it's just lovely viewing, and hopefully might inspire something over here some day   :o)

Friday 8 June 2012

Northerners won't marry

Want to meet someone and get hitched? Head to the Midlands. 

That's the most interesting finding of a survey ComRes have conducted for the 'Catholic Voices' website into attitudes to same-sex marriage.

Their own presentation of the findings plucks out the anti-equality messages and spins them as best as it can against the tide of history - heavens! 26% of gays think civil partnerships are as good as marriage! we don't need to do anything then, and they just hope that no-one mentions the implied inverse figure of 74% having seen through 'separate and lesser is equal' in our stretched newsrooms. And only bisexual, lesbian and gay people are asked whether same-sex marriage is a good idea, perhaps for fear of finding that other people aren't that threatened by the issue after all.

But fair play to them, they include a reasonable amount of the analysis data. The most interesting bit for me is the page looking at bisexual, lesbian and gay people and asking - are you in a civil partnership, would you get married if it were an option?

This breaks down not by my first choice of sexuality identity but by geography. Would you get married?
South East 26%
Midlands 38%
Northern England 19%
South West & Wales 29%
Scotland 24%

I wonder if the numbers are big enough to have any statistical significance? Fun if they do - we've just found that Brummies are twice as likely to marry another woman or another man as Mancs and Scousers. It's queer up north, we're just not the marrying kind...

Read the stats here as a pdf. You're bound to find something interesting that I've missed :)

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Bis at Pride 2012 - Looking Ahead

BiPhoria's pub meet last night in Manchester included a dollop of discussion about upcoming Prides.

The group has quite a selection of banners already: I should probably take and post a series of photos of all our different designs, but they go, in sequence...

1995 banner: for the first Manchester Pride after the group was formed, this one is a simple blue spray paint / old white sheet affair reading "BIPHORIA!" on one side and "Manchester Bisexuals" on the other. Signed by the original banner makers and dated (aww). Where are they now?
1999 banner: a brilliant idea with one small flaw. This is about 10' by 6' of hand-stitched bi flag and infinite bisexuality logo, took ages to make and looks amazing. The only thing is, it doesn't anywhere on it actually say what it means or who we are, so it works better as a backdrop on a stall. As a banner, you have to hand out flyers to the crowd explaining who the heck you are.
2006 banner: "Bisexual Recruitment Army". For our pride theme that year and tied in to the making of the B*R*A website.
2007 banner: "Manchester Bisexuals". Basically a version of the 1995 banner for the intermaweb age. Hand sewn letters on a meshy sort of white fabric.
2008 banner: "Some People Are Bi, Get Over It". The most political banner, both a challenge to mainstream and gay society about their biphobia, and highlighting Stonewall's deliberate bi-erasure.
2010 banner: "Bisexuals Everywhere, Out & Proud". The only professionally printed one, as part of the national Bis@Prides project

However, I think we should make one that is mostly just good for this summer. BiPhoria is 18 this year, and a celebratory banner along the lines of "Challenging 'it's a phase' theory since 1994" would tie in with Manchester Pride's sciencey theme. With a URL, since the internet still hasn't gone away.

There's only three months left to make it in. That slogan needs honing :)

Thursday 26 April 2012

Words can have several meanings, get over it

I've grumbled this particular angle about the "it must mean either one thing or the other" nonsense for years but finally cracked and made a tumblr-esque version of that blogpost! Honestly, so many words you just look at the context and you get it or you ask for any nuance you might actually need...

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Bisexual men health stats from Gay & Bi Men's Health Report

Stonewall have a chunky new bi & gay men's health report newly out, which seems to be the counterpart to the pale-blue bi & lesbian women's report you may remember from about 4 years ago.

There's lots of good stuff in there, by which I mean lots of quite bad stuff but important data to have available for NHS planning and so forth.

Mostly it combines bi and gay data together, however two snippets:
"In the last year, 27 per cent of gay men thought about taking their own life even if they would not do it. This increases to 38 per cent for bisexual men" (p9)

 That's a bit of a jump - what, about a third higher?
"One in five (21 per cent) gay and bisexual men aged 16 to 19 have deliberately harmed themselves in the last year. One in six (15 per cent) gay and bisexual men aged 16 to 24 have deliberately harmed themselves in the last year. Seven per cent of men in general aged 16 to 24 have ever deliberately harmed themselves.
"Rates of self-harm are also higher among bisexual men; eleven per cent of bisexual men have self-harmed in the last year." (p11)
That one feels like one of those simultaneous equations lessons in  maths when I was at school - we don't know how many gay men they have or how many bisexual men but the scores are 7%, 11% and 15%, solve for x and y... but it makes for about 50% higher rates of self-harm among bi men than among the male population as a whole. A sobering thought.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Quentin Letts: Zombie or Vampire?

Quentin Letts. Moderately high-profile "journalist".

I've just stumbled across his description of a woman in the public eye as "aged 60 (and counting)". Now, one of the things I tend to just take for granted about anyone's age, indeed most time-related things, is that it is "(and counting)". My age is hem-ha-hem years old (and counting). The amount of time since the Labour party was one of the three most influential parties in British politics is 711 days (and counting). And so on.

The only time when we stop counting with someone's age is when they are dead. At that point, your age becomes a fixed thing; no longer is it "(and counting)".

So if Letts thinks it's something worth noting in others that they are still alive... that suggests a baseline view of the world in which being alive marks you out as different.

Keen minds raised on Buffy will naturally want to know: is he a vampire or a zombie? Zombies have an endless hunger for the brains they lack. So that's quite a promising possibility there. On the other hand, vampires suck the life out of others and have nothing to offer the living.

Vampire or zombie? Too close to call.


Wednesday 11 April 2012

"LGB" charity Stonewall fails us... yet again

By Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Trans 'sector' standards, Stonewall is a great big organisation with a turnover in the millions of pounds. It proclaims its mission as equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and attracts flak from a number of directions: not least for being almost entirely focused on lesbians and gay men, and only remembering the existence of bisexuals now and then. Usually, they remember the bis when there is the prospect of money involved.

This has been going on a long time; when I first dipped my toe into queer activist circles in the early 1990s, I fast learned why Stonewall were widely and rightly seen as a joke among bisexual people and activists. They never mentioned the "b word" on their materials except when it came to the bit asking you to donate, when suddenly, bis were very welcome too.

In 2003, when Ben Summerskill took over the helm, my first conversation with him was about bisexual inclusion. A change at the top could be a good opportunity for cultural change throughout the organisation. Alas, it was not to be.

Report after report, press release after press release, soundbite after soundbite, Stonewall 'forgets' bisexuals. Oddly it's the only one of the LGB strands they miss out: I've yet to see them issue a correction to a press statement where they, say, mentioned lesbians and bisexual people and completely forget to refer to gay men. Come to that, they have yet to issue corrections for the times they miss out the bis.

There is a notable exception: their report on the experience of bisexuals in the workplace. When commissioned to do specifically bi work, they remember us. Just as on those donation appeals in the 90s, where there's brass...

And so, as the government's consultation on how to implement same-sex marriage rolls out, Stonewall publishes its response. To one of the questions they say...
Question 8: The Government is not considering opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?
Stonewall's Answer: This is a matter for heterosexual couples and Stonewall would recommend that the Government consults with them and stakeholder organisations representing them.
The thing is, lots of people who are in mixed-sex couples are not heterosexual. Perpetuating the myth that your relationship defines your sexuality helps perpetuate bisexual invisibility: it is a classic piece of bisexual erasure as identified in The Bisexuality Report (pub. 2012 Open University, endorsers including... Stonewall... talking the talk but not walking the walk). 

Now, I can imagine some voices at the back suggesting that maybe this was a bit of a slip-up: that anyone can read a question, fail to spot a certain angle, and so miss something. Most of us at some point have done that in an exam and got back a mark noticeably lower than we thought we were going to get. Didn't Stonewall just make a bit of a boo-boo and we should let them off?

Fair question. But on this one... no. As long ago as last August, Stonewall published their draft of what they would have to say when the marriage consultation began. That ran with the same "being in a mixed sex couple means you're heterosexual" line.

I challenged Stonewall over their bisexual erasure then, here.

What I said then still applies now:
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. 
Now, I know from comments elsewhere that the relevant people at Stonewall read that. If this were an accidental oversight last summer, that defence no longer applies. It seems to me that this can only be read as a deliberate and premediated pretence that there is no such thing as bisexuality from an organisation that soaks up the lion's share of funding for LGB work in the UK.

If you're thinking of donating to an LGB cause any time soon, I suggest there are far better alternatives. And if you haven't responded to the marriage consultation, please make sure you do so. And make your submission better than Stonewall's.

Saturday 7 April 2012

Marriage and Civil Partnerships: Not Quite The Same Thing

With a hat-tip to the Neue Politik blog, this is a good succinct video about some of the differences for people in the UK between marriage and our system of Civil Partnerships. The talk's all about lesbians and gay men, but of course this is an issue that affects a hell of a lot of bisexual people too: there're trans, genderqueer, nonbinary angles as well.

I'll be writing more on this subject here quite soon ;)

Thursday 15 March 2012

Same-sex marriage in sight?

The Home Office's consultation about same-sex civil marriage has gone live this morning.  Please - bisexuals, liberals, friends, partners and allies - head over there and give it both barrels with how important to you, to us, to our friends, this change happening is. It'd be good to balance out the tidal wave of myth and misinformation from the anti- lobby.

The remit is another small but important step forward coming straight after a church in Manchester became the first place in the UK licensed for conducting same-sex civil partnership on religious premises.

The Home Office says,
This consultation sets out the government's proposals to enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage.
The key proposals of the consultation are:
  • to enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage i.e. only civil ceremonies in a register office or approved premises (like a hotel)
  • to make no changes to religious marriages. This will continue to only be legally possible between a man and a woman
  • to retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert this into a marriage
  • civil partnership registrations on religious premises will continue as is currently possible i.e. on a voluntary basis for faith groups and with no religious content
  • individuals will, for the first time, be able legally to change their gender without having to end their marriage
Current legislation allows same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership, but not civil marriage.

The consultation page is here.

A useful website highlighting some of the issues you might want to talk about is here. (Read through the "What To Say" page).

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Spending a Penny.

Today was Manchester City Council's nearly-annual LGBT Consultation Day. They didn't have one last year but that was a blip: it's been annual otherwise since about 2006, and the last two or three have been titled "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans" rather than the 80s throwback "Lesbian & Gay".

There are many other things I want to say about it, but the first needs a post all of its own I feel. About four such conferences ago, I raised the problem of the loos. There are male and female toilets marked... but an LGBT event in this day and age will bring not just cismen and ciswomen and transwomen and transmen, but other trans folk too. Genderqueer, fluidly gendered, nonbinary, whatever your choice of term. And, like everyone else - especially after slurping down town hall coffee - they will at some point in the day need to go to the loo.

Alas, as I say, I've raised this one on feedback forms and in person several times with regard to Manchester Council. They're still not getting it.

It's one thing I'm delighted about within bi circles: wherever they can negotiate such things with venues (which, after all, can be run by people who are a bit lacking in clue on this) the bi events around the UK have for the last many years had ungendered toilets. Happy little signs on the doors "cubicles & urinals" or "cubicles only", or suchlike. There was a bit of a stir at 2010's BiCon when such signs weren't up: it was simply that the desk team had not yet had enough people there long enough to get round to ticking that one off the long to-do list that setting up a transitory bi space can involve.

Bi events, with no staff, no access to the site beforehand, and so forth, can manage this. It's no longer cutting edge stuff. So when we put on events aimed at the LGB&T communities, and in particular given the huge space of the venue and resources at the disposal of a Town Hall putting on its long-planned own events - if we are calling them LGBT, seriously, can we make them LGBT? Not LGB-some-T-and-some-hopping-on-one-leg.

That'd be good.

(Naturally, I'd like it if other spaces were accomodating of the need for a wazz too, but if you actually put the "T" on the label...)

Monday 27 February 2012

Caption Action

Meg Barker made a video for the Open University talking about The Bisexuality Report.

I ripped it and added subtitles last night for all the people those help when it comes to videos.  Here it is:

I'm hoping this won't be the last of the video material about the report - I'm having a few teething troubles with the footage from the launch in London ten days ago but hope to have something up online soon :)

Thursday 16 February 2012

It's Real!

Eight months in the making, The Bisexuality Report is finally here.

Pictured above, 6 of the 7 authors at the launch in London at the Open University: the launch also heard from the Metro Centre, Stonewall and the Government Equalities Office about their takes on the report and why they were variously pleased to receive or endorse it.

Proper writeup soon... honest!  

Meanwhile you can read about it in a series of stories at

Monday 13 February 2012

Having our cake and eating it

It's good to see as a new wave of Lib Dem subgroups present themselves to the world that Lib Dem Friends Of Cake has now reached 76 supporters. 

The other ginger groups may say they have cookies, but we have cake. Mmmmm, cake... ginger cake. Definitely winner of the Best New Lib Dem Faction Award at the 2012 LDV Bloggies.

Saturday 4 February 2012

LGBT History Month 2012

As a foolish thing to do for the BiMedia bisexual news website, I'm trying to mark LGBT History Month this year by giving a little dash of visibility to a different bit of bi history each day of February. 

Like a lot of LGBT work, History Month resources and events in my experience tend to be good on the LG bits and frequently good on the T strand but often the B is weak. But there has been plenty of bi history:albeit sometimes things we need to (re)claim. I have an assortment of ideas of things to highlight, and at one event a day that's just 26 more to go...

All that said, I could use your help, dear intermaweb people. I don't really want a calendar that is just about the things that seem important to me. For all the obvious reasons I remember less about bi men's projects or BME stuff. I never watched This Life or Queer As Folk. So a calendar all of my own would be skewed toward lefty things, Northern things, Radio 4 and suchlike.

So please do suggest – whether a person or event – a little bit of bi history you think a bi history timeline should include. It might just be a name or an event, it might be you could add a paragraph or two about what it was and why it mattered (or who…) – and whether you want to be named yourself or keep it an anonymous submission.

Hopefully by the end of the month we may have quite a Bi History timeline getting going, which can then be built on as a resource for bi visibility in LGBT History Month in years to come. Drop us an email on

Thursday 19 January 2012

Maler (not Paler)

I see Diana Wallis has just stepped down as Lib Dem MEP for Yorkshire. In a "time to move on" way, before anyone thinks this is a defection or what have you.

This follows fairly close on from Liz Lynne's move in West Midlands recently, halfway through the parliamentary term giving her successor a fair amount of time to build a profile in the region.  As in Liz's case I suspect this means we get the number 2 from the Yorkshire 2009 list and so gain a male MEP in Diana's place?

In 2009 we saw 6 of 11 Lib Dem MEPs were women. That's now down to 4 of 12.

Can I get a lolcat of "becoming less 'male and pale': u r doin it wrong"?

(Seriously: that's zipping for you!)

How much of the "elected in 1999" team does that mean we still have in place?