Friday 30 May 2014

Bisexual or bi-sexual?

One question that's cropped up many times in my 20-something years of bi activism and bi volunteering is this:

Should bisexual and bisexuality be spelled with hyphens, as bi-sexual and bi-sexuality?

I say, down with the hyphen! Two reasons:

1) We don't hyphenate homo-sexuality or hetero-sexuality.

2) Generally when words get hyphenated like that it's because they aren't real words or are just getting accepted into English as a single word (think of old films where to indicate the passage of time they have a flipping calendar with "TO-DAY IS" on it -- or how early on people tended to write email as e-mail). As bisexuality is real and definitely not something invented earlier this week, I think the hyphen sends out all the wrong signals on that front too.

I wrote this in a thread somewhere else but thought it was worth copying over here :)

Friday 23 May 2014

England swings Right

With almost all the council election results in (there seem to be far fewer seats up than in 2010 which I'm a bit puzzled by) we've got a fair idea of the outcome of this year's May council elections, over which to ruminate wildly while waiting for the European election count this Sunday.

Across England the shift in seats is rightwards: towards the fear of your neighbour and the promise of a "better yesterday"-ism from Tory to UKIP, and similarly toward a more authoritarian, monocultural society in shifting from Liberal to Green.

Labour have picked up seats but their vote seems to have stalled. Like some of the county council seat results last year, when looking ward by ward at different councils today I kept finding find someone had got in not because Labour support has risen but because the voters seeking to oust them have shuffled between other parties and the famed 'split opposition' aspect of First Past The Post has done its work.

Monday 19 May 2014

Chwarae Teg

Fair play to the BNP*, normally when I get a bit of paper through my letterbox with racism on it, it's from the Labour Party.

Hopefully despite going for the same values as Manchester Labour, Griffin will nonetheless be out on his arse come Sunday.

* not a phrase that comes easily

Saturday 17 May 2014

My speech for the Manchester IDAHOBIT vigil today


Why ram in the B, people ask. It is controversial, even with the international IDAHOBIT committee.

In Australia today there's a film festival to mark IDAHOBIT. In their publicity they have said it is an LGBT event, challenging homophobia and transphobia and a celebration of lesbian, gay and transgender life.

Colleagues from the equivalents of BiPhoria down under have challenged this, not surprisingly. Is the B in that LGBT just there to make up the numbers?

And they were told: biphobia is just a subset of homophobia, it doesn't need mentioning.

I understand how people come to say that - it has long been the accepted idea of bisexuality. Half gay, half the oppression. Growing up and coming out into queer culture 20 or so years ago it was the received wisdom that I received too.

We didn't know better because bi voices had not reached that critical mass. And that connects to the wider world issues that IDAHOBIT draws to our attention, because then we similarly just couldnt know what was happening for queers in other nations.

And just as we have started thanks to the internets to learn of how things may be good or bad abroad, we have come to understand a lot more of life here in the UK too, and to have research on bi life rather than just the odd bit of anecdote.

Because when we started to learn from one another, it all got a bit more frightening.

Across Europe, 50% of lesbians and gay men are out at work. Fifty percent. That's great! Except... when we think of the maths adding up to 100. That means 50% aren't, often because they don't feel it would be safe or wise.

But then: only 27% of bi women are out at work
And 14% of bi men.

86% of the men in my community keeping themselves in the closet because of prejudice in the workplace, even in countries like ours where the law offers some kind of protection.

Just yesterday I got an email to BiPhoria from someone who had sought support at their LGBT staff network, "employee at national law firm... Weird how lgbt groups, like mine at my work can make me feel less included than not having one at all." Because biphobia comes from inside the gay community too.

Three years ago a report on queer people's health found one in five bi women rated their health as fair or worse than that. For gay and straight women it was one in ten.

When it came to their mental health, four per cent of straight women reported a long term illness. 12% of lesbians. But 21% of bi women.

And the statistics on women who experience rape, physical violence and stalking: straight 35%, lesbian 44%, bi 61%.

Not that 35% is a number any of us can be happy with.

Double the violent abuse. Five times the levels of mental health struggles.

So biphobia, it's not just a milder version of homophobia. A Manchester Labour councillor told me a year or so ago, bisexuals aren't part of LGBT because they don't experience oppression. The facts just don't bear that belief out.

And yet, this isn't that the world is getting worse. It is, in places, as the voting in Eurovision last weekend showed sometimes it can feel like the world is becoming more polarised for or against us. We have to stop and remember 20, 30, 40 years ago it didn't seem as polarised because it was even more one-sided. Slowly the tide of history is flowing our way even if sometimes it ebbs and flows

So, thank you for inviting me, it's a slightly scary privilege to speak alongside some of the colleagues I am here with today, and thank you for standing with us in the ongoing fight with homophobia, biphobia and transphobia

Friday 16 May 2014

Why the Greens wouldn't get my second vote under AV

As a vaguely unaligned lefty voter back in the late 80s and early 90s I wandered between Plaid Cymru, the Greens and the Liberals. If you're of the left and grow up in a Labour heartland you rapidly learn how little care for anyone or anything but their own self-interest Labour have, so they weren't ever a serious contender.

Back then the Green Party looked like a plausible alternative to vote for. Indeed I've argued that if we were starting our political system from scratch in the UK, with parties based on the key issues of the coming century rather than the vested financial self-interest politics of the old century, the two main parties would be the Liberals on the left and the Greens on the right (and no doubt UKIP as a third party to soak up the ever present blame-someone-else vote).

The trouble is as they've gained the proverbial oxygen of publicity the Greens look less and less appealing.

There was Iraq, obviously. Before the 2003 invasion the Greens stood alongside the Liberals and a motley assortment of others (Respect, the BNP... look, never blame an idea for those who share it!) as against the invasion. There was some debate within that broad coalition as to when or whether it might be OK to go in, but right up to the day America and her allies rolled in conditions like UN backing were never met.

When war was declared everyone against the invasion needed to reassess their stance given the "there must not be an invasion" boat had sailed. The Liberals said they hoped for as short a conflict as possible with the minimum of civilian casualties. The Greens immediately and loudly condemned that stance. The trouble is, with no option for "war never happening", the only place that being against a short and comparatively bloodless battle leaves you is calling for a long and bloody war and / or as many civilian dead as can be piled up.

It's not that surprising: after all, a long war which forced up the oil price is better for forcing the pace of change to alternative energy sources or reductions in energy use. A painful war in Iraq fits with a (the?) central plank of the Green Party's agenda.

Yet because they get so little attention most of the time they've been able to keep a swathe of anti-war votes from internationalist and humanitarian voters, despite their real and bloodthirsty position.

And their money-tree solutions to so many things... great for bandwagon jumping, terrible for actually having to put promises into action as the unravelling of their Brighton council administration reflects. Making the numbers at least broadly add up was something the Liberals learned from the 1992 election; the Greens still have to go through that uncomfortable stage.

Then earlier this week I had the dubious pleasure of hearing the Greens' national spokesperson on Human Rights (Peter Tatchell, who whatever you think of his tactics down the years has a broad and long history in LGbt campaigning) repeatedly use "straight" as the antonym of "trans" at an LGBT public meeting. We've had "cis" as a proper word for such purposes for a good long while now, we aren't stuck with the clumsy language of the 70s any more.

As Carter would say: I turn on the box, it's like punk never happened.

They'd like to get votes by promising a money tree to everyone, when we're more aware where that leads than ever. They like to get votes from seeming fluffy on Iraq, when they were bloodthirsty hawks. And they would like to get votes from the LGBT+ communities, but even their out candidates have no interest in listening, just preaching.