Wednesday 23 December 2015


I came across this old film poster, from a film with a bi theme. You can almost hear the trailer-voice explaining how a woman ends up sharing university accomodation with two men - with hil-ar-ious consequences. I can hear it so well that I'm not going to look up the real trailer on youtube for fear I'm right.

But allow me to focus in on that tagline. One girl. Two guys. Three possibilities.

Will he date (or shag, or whatever you want to call it) her? Or will she date him? Or (gasp!) will he date him?

And I know it was a fair bit daring at the time, as the film came out in 1994 and I remember the state of queer cinema back then, but I'm so disappointed at the maths. The film itself breaks it down a little, pointing out that thanks to the extra dimension of time all these possibilities can come to pass, and end in delight or disaster. But as a tagline itself...

They could all not date each other. Four.

She could date him and him (but the guys not date one another). Five.

He could date him and her. Six.

He could date her and him. Seven.

They could all date each other. Eight, and possibly a trip to buy a bigger, sturdier bed.

And then, as I say, time allows for any permutations of the above you choose.

In short: Hollywood needs better maths teachers.

Monday 21 December 2015

That Force'd Duality Of Star Wars

As it's (kinda) topical again, let's have this old graphic that I ran up a few years ago...

No spoilers here. Film v good though.

(For new readers, the New York Times a few years ago headlined some duff research with "Gay, Straight, or Lying". After some time there was an embarassed "yeah, that story was complete cobblers" follow-up.)

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Clubbing Improved

There's uproar in some quarters that the government plans to ban 'poppers' from the end of the year.

Good thing too. All my encounters with them were in clubs where they served a similar role to cannabis smoking - they smelled bad, made me ill, and they were non-consensually forced on people through proximity.

Good riddance. The freedom-to/freedom-from principle about the right to wave a fist and it connecting with another person applies.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Bi Visibility Day and politics

It's fab to see that once again bi activists were invited to a roundtable debate at the White House this Bi Visibility Day.

But what about here?

I took to twitter to see the engagement from political groupings

Lib Dems: Now a long time ago - in the 90s I think - the Lib Dems LGBT+ group got me and some other folk in to help with bi inclusion and representation. It's well reflected with about ten tweets on the day including photo and video content.
Tory: Their LGBT wing had nothing of its own but retweeted a couple of other bi tweets.
Plaid: One tweet, but well crafted.
Labour: Not a peep
Greens: Not a peep
UKIP: Not a peep
SNP: Can't find anything there either

Elsewhere the Government Equalities Office had a couple of tweets and the junior minister for Women and LGBT equalities tweeted a message too.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

The Dead Hand of the One Party State

I was kindly invited to write a guest post for another blog. Here it is...
“You’re from Manchester?” I was asked at an equalities event down south. “Your city’s always been miles ahead on gay rights, you must have done all this ages ago there”.

It was a well-meant question at a reception following the raising of the bisexual flag over Brighton Town Hall, which I’m reminded of today because it is again Bi Visibility Day, September 23rd. 
At moments like that you get an odd mix of wanting to rush to civic pride and feeling exasperated at what your city is really like.

“No,” I said. “We were quite good in the 80s, but it sort of… stalled.”

I wondered whether to explain how the non-existence of bisexuals used to be a matter of council policy and how embarrassingly long it took for that peculiar notion to be unpicked.

As a city we were a leading light in gay and lesbian equalities, but we got lost along the way, and I think that the one-party-state problem is an important factor in why.  For more than forty years Manchester has been run by one party with an absolute grip on power.  In Brighton, meanwhile, majority and minority rule has ebbed and flowed, and different coalitions have taken their turns.  As different issues of bi and trans inclusion became clear the council was able to respond to them.

Nothing at Manchester town hall had gone backwards: just the changeover in council spokespeople and in who was engaged with the council that changes in political power bring never happened.

Which meant we got stuck listening to the same set of voices. If you were content with the simple binary of “we’re all either straight or gay and both are okay” you were fine.  If you didn’t you were probably not going to fit in with binary thinking of Manchester’s ruling elite, and so they were never going to wind up listening to you.

So Manchester ossified as an example of what had been best 80s practice on gay rights, while elsewhere councils caught up and then overtook it.  For all that in the days of Section 28 coming into law Manchester was one of the places that were “good on gay issues”, by the 90s it was a bit of a laughing stock and by the 00s became literally a textbook example of failing in the era where “gay rights” had matured into LGBT+.

Which for a proud Manc is terribly frustrating when you have to admit to people in another city that they’re doing equalities better than your place.

There’s a similar effect nationally, by the by.  As a grassroots campaigner for bisexual and transgender liberation and equality since the 1990s, the five years of a formal Tory / Lib Dem coalition at Westminster was the one time in my life where the central government made public its plans for LGBT issues.

The LGB&T Action Plan that Lynne Featherstone published in Manchester in 2011 let every small group know month-by-month what was going on for the rest of the parliament: who to lobby and when about what area of LGBT equalities.  Before and since that kind of information has been the preserve of the wealthy, Westminster bubble groups like Stonewall, but for a few brief years the pyramid of power was brought low and whether well-funded or not, London, Manchester or the sticks, we could all have our voices heard.

So here’s to coalitions, oppositions, and (political) uncertainty. They make for a council that listens and keeps up with the times.

And happy Bi Visibility Day.

Sunday 9 August 2015

De Montfort makes eyes at Dave

De Montfort University* has got in a kerfuffle after awarding its highest honour to David Cameron in recognition of the importance of same-sex marriage and its impact in social progress.

There's a petition here which has that rare quality of being an online petition I can entirely sign up to the sentiments of despite not having written. Far too many throw in peculiar delusions along the way.

How I feel about it all though is a little complicated. 
Dave was sticking his neck out in backing the marriage bill: it cost him support within his party (who were divided 50-50 on it in Parliament in the end: slightly against in the Commons and slightly in favour in the Lords) and it surely handed Tory votes to UKIP without which he'd now be sitting on a much more comfortable majority. That does deserve some recognition, though it's sad to say that we live in an era where politicians who spend their political capital on doing something of benefit to others deserves special credit. 25 years earlier if such a law had been enacted his party would have been promising to repeal same-sex marriage the moment they got in. Now it's something they boast, somewhat misleadingly, of having done, and so we can feel more secure of it staying law regardless who runs the country in the years to come. As someone who wants liberation and equality, getting the Tories to 'buy in' to same-sex marriage is a definite plus.

But the bill came not from Dave but from Lynne Featherstone, following the resolution at Lib Dem conference proposed by the party's LGBT+ wing and opposed by Stonewall. As the Liberals have been on the right side of every LGBT rights question since forever on account of their ideology, often on their own, that is seen as a less bold move.

I feel parallels in how I've seen for example Unison's LGBT wing getting praise for bisexual engagement work. Which they have been doing well over the last five years or so and I've been glad to see. Yet my work's LGBT network was pulling in bi activists to do equivalent engagement work in the 90s when LG Unison were telling bisexuals to get stuffed. It's a bit galling for people who did heavy lifting long ago, when it's the comparative latecomers to the party get the praise...

Which is a roundabout way of saying I'd have a lot more time for De Montfort if they'd been giving similar recognition to Lynne and e.g. one of the early pioneers who got us here like Bernard Greaves. 
That'd feel like celebrating the change rather than buttering up the PM.
* - me neither. Turns out it's in Leicester

Monday 3 August 2015

My speech at Leeds Pride

I had the delight of being among the speakers on the main stage at Leeds Pride yesterday.  Here's  what I had to say to the crowd:

"Hello Leeds!  Are you having a good Pride?

​"​My first Pride was in London in 1993, and in those days it was called Lesbian and Gay Pride. I thought: I'm not a lesbian, I'm not gay, I'm bisexual and genderqueer, am I wanted and included in this?  I went along and hoped bisexual would be "gay enough". I didn't know it back then but Pride was invented by a bisexual woman, Brenda Howard, so if you're still in any doubt about the bisexuals being here - at this party, we're definitely on the guest list.

​"​I'm delighted to be here on behalf of Leeds Bi Group, which celebrates its first birthday this month having been formed at the national bisexual festival BiCon a year ago.  If you're bi and in or around Leeds join us at Mesmac, 7pm the second Wednesday of every month.  They say bisexuals want to have their cake and eat it, which is a strange slur, but if you want to bring us cake we're good with that.

"​Pride can be an exhilarating event, and I remember the tears I cried at my first one just being surrounded by so many other queer people for the first time.  But it's just one day.

​"The rest of the year there are groups all across the country like Leeds Bi Group making a space where it's OK to be bisexual - in a world that still wants us to fit a simple box of gay or straight.

"And we sadly need it. Half of gay and lesbian people think they can't be out about their sexuality at work.  Bi women are only half as likely as lesbians to feel they can be out at work.  For Bi men that falls to just one in eight.

"We may have nearly-equal marriage but in mental health, in experience of violence and more, we have so much still to do. Bisexual, transgender, lesbian or gay, we still die younger than our heterosexual cisgender friends, and that has to change.

​"But that's the fight for tomorrow and the rest of the year. Be proud and have a wonderful Pride today."

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Co-Op MPs more Tory than Labour

Because the co-op model is closer to the Liberal visions of business structure than to either the Labour or the Tory equivalents, I tend to assume that the 24 Co-Operative party MPs (who have sat in coalition with Labour for many years) will vote more like the Lib Dems than like the Tories.

Monday's welfare vote figures go the other way though.

Of the 208 Labour MPs, 45 - 21.6% - rebelled when Harriet Harman decided the Labour party shouldn't have an opinion on welfare cuts, and voted against the proposed changes.

But of the 24 Co-Operative MPs, just 3 did - 12.5% - making them more obedient to the Labour whip than actual Labour MPs, and readier to acquiesce to the Tory plans.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Sighing for the Summer

Remember how a few years back Katy Perry earwormed everyone for a couple of months with the titillating "try-bi" fluff that was "I kissed a girl and I liked it / hope my boyfriend don't mind it"?

It seems we're there again with a hyped new single from Demi Lovato, a multi-award winning 22 year old American singer whose message for another woman runs:
Take me down into your paradise
Don't be scared cause I'm your body type
Just something that we wanna try
Cause you and I
We're cool for the summer

Cool for the summer? Damnit. It's just the stick bis get so often - that we are "tourists" of same-sex desire, there for the fun of a fling but without a commitment and with the exit door to the safety of passing as straight always open.

The reality of supposed "heterosexual privilege" for bis being misread as straight is rather different, but this song just seems to play into that outdated notion.  My sexuality is not a seasonal fashion.

P.S. It's a bit of a waste of "I'm your body type" to just make it about girl/girl. Can this get picked up and appropriated for some other "similars"?

Tuesday 7 July 2015

NME for free

Music weekly newspaper-turned-magazine-wtf-is-that-about the NME is to become a freesheet from September.

When I was 16 to 20 it was such a staple of my life. Most of the time twinned with Smash Hits, which was mostly aiming for a younger demographic but if you wanted to read about Kylie and Fugazi that was the press combo for you. My dalliance with the NME only ended when long-term unemployment alternating with scant bits of part time low paid work that amounted to the same kind of wage as dole became so entrenched as how I live that I stripped it from my list of priorities - about the same time buying records dwindled from a weekly browse towards an occasional "oh do you think any good bands are still recording?"

I'll have to make a point in September to pick up a copy and stare blankly at the names of all the artists now on the build-em-up knock-em-down mill.

Back when it Mattered to me, the NME did do good things in making a young queer feel less isolated - for some reason I think of David Quantick as the responsible journalist but probably most of the people there were in the good things camp. When Guns n Roses and Happy Mondays went off the rails on gay issues* the NME gave lots of space in letters pages and opinion pieces to saying that the artists were wrong, that this would not do them favours in the long term, and to giving voice to readers who were doing things like smashing up Happy Mondays records they owned and sending in the bits / photos of the bits.

When you - we - didn't have the internet, that kind of thing being in print made a lot of difference. So even though I would hardly ever feel the urge read that paper now, because I'm just too out of touch with what's new and shiny and will probably never prioritise the time it takes to get back in touch: thank you NME, and good luck still today in your latest incarnation.

[ refers]
[* there wasn't much LGBT nuance back then]

Monday 6 July 2015

Hoist by its own, etc

The BBC has had the slap to the face this week of the suggestion it might have to pay for the licence fees of elderly pensioners. The move would knock out apparently 20% of the BBC budget, albeit with the option opened up to charge for specific content (like using the iPlayer) that the Beeb currently provides for free.

An unpleasant surprise perhaps. "You must pay for this from your budget" is really "We are taking away a fifth of your funding, good luck making up the shortfall".

While I'm troubled for the impact on the quality of radio / telly / journalism, a bit of me can't help thinking that the BBC has made its bed and now has to lie in it. The endless spin and narrative in favour of the Labservative Establishment and its Purple and Green puppets finally comes back to bite the BBC on its arse, with the Liberals removed from power and unable to come to Auntie's aid.

Sunday 5 July 2015

"It's like bronzey and silvery only made of iron"

The Bi Women of Color (it's American) blog has a very fine post about the comparative whiteness of bi spaces here that I'd recommend for anyone wondering about that issue.

The fifth point crosses over into a general thing about bi activism though, and one which probably applies to many people who step up and volunteer for these things, in particular who have what some popular parlance calls intersectional or multiple oppressions.

Twentysome years ago in a proverbially gay/straight world I started creating bi spaces because they were something I needed. Ironically, by being the person who turns up every time, who is asked all the questions by the newcomers... that supportive, accepting space becomes something you give, more than something you get.

Those statistics about bisexuals having poor mental and physical health? We are those bisexuals. Those statistics about bis feeling isolated and lacking support and community? We are those bisexuals.

Friday 12 June 2015


Last week was Volunteers' Week. I was being a "bad volunteer" as some I know see it - too busy being ill, and in bed for a couple of days, so I didn't do much beyond day job, eat and sleep that week.  Oh, I ran a bi social/support group for an evening.  I knew there was something.

But I tweeted:
I could have named more projects and expanded on the theme a little but, y'know, 140 characters and all that.

I prefer "bi volunteering" to "bi activism" as a phrase at the moment. It sounds a bit more... accessible?  Anyone can be a volunteer, but activists must have sekrit superpowers.

The main lesson I've learned on volunteeringy activist doodah was from Natalya, whose wisdom is that you should do the volunteering that you enjoy and find least taxing. It is the one you are most likely to still want to do when doing it involves the equivalent of standing in the sleet at a bus stop on an evening in January when you could be warm and dry at home.

What bi volunteering would you like to do?

Thursday 11 June 2015

Bye bye to the great Lib-Lab lie

I see that right-wing rag the New Statesman is flying the kite for Lib Dem / Labour merger. The magazine's columnists alternate between talking about that and Lib Dem / Tory merger as a distraction method to try and prevent conversation opening up about reunifying the historic Labour-Tory schism.

From Labour's point of view perhaps combining with the Liberals makes sense. Labour already have two puppet parties at their disposal, to variously neutralise anti-Labour votes and scare recalcitrant Labour voters to the polls. That's probably as many outlier parties as any election winning strategy needs.

What Labour need is a grouping that produces policies more progressive than Labour's own, to offer the positive social change many of Labour's supporters wish it represented. It turned out Labour's plans to introduce and then extend the bedroom tax, put ATOS in charge of disability benefits, charge citizens for mistakes the state made on their records, slash benefits for young people and so forth reminded voters so much of the Tories that they went and voted blue instead.

The Libs have kept coming up with proposals that Labour felt it had to leave untouched for a while before co-opting: the NHS, the welfare state, tax-and-spend economics, the mansion tax, opposition to apartheid, LGBT rights and so forth. Left to their own devices Labour spent tens of millions of pounds on policy development between 2010 and 2015 and still wound up borrowing Liberal proposals at the last minute. Moving that policy development unit in house looks to be a lot more efficient.

From the Lib Dem perspective though, never mind the gaping philosophical divide: the Liberals already did merging with a party to their right thing in the 80s, and it took ages to recover. Whyever would they do it again?

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Another legal inch forward

Colombia, which for everyone who enjoys the Weekly Show with John Oliver running joke about maps is the country top left of South America that joins the continent to Central America*, has just decided to join the small coterie of nations that respond to trans identities with "OK, carry on" rather than "Ew" or "Yeah yeah whatevs shutup".

As of once-the-law-is-implemented, you'll be able to amend your gender records on identity documents on the basis of "this is who I am" rather than based on dubious psych or surgery criteria.

Given how many flavours of wrong the gatekeepers can and do get it, taking away gatekeepers is surely a step in the right direction.

* I suspect more UKanian readers see the nation's name and think of the Rocky Horror audience par-tic-i-pation joke about drugs, but there we go.

Monday 25 May 2015


BiCon 2015's bookings have just passed the 200 mark with 11 weeks to go. Rah rah them, etc.

But it does take me back to the first time I ran a BiCon, in 2000. When we hit the 200 mark, which in round numbers was about a month out, we had to drop the remaining publicity plans on account of having no additional capacity at the venue we could expand into.  The final tally of 265 attendees was fab, but with the frustration of knowing it could have been more like 350 if the rest of the planning grid had worked out.

Sometimes you just get lucky with your venue and who else wants to be there that week :)

Monday 11 May 2015

What We Have And Why

How the Unions handed the Tories power

In 2010, when the dust from the election settled, the Tories were fewer than 20 seats away from taking power. Labour, on the other hand, were around 70 seats away from the same goal - four times as far. 326 is the magic number in the Commons, and the Tories were on 307 while Labour were on 258.

At this point, the Trades Unions and Labour made a conscious decision that not only would they stay in opposition for the 2010-2015 parliament, but that they wanted to throw the next election - or even the next couple of elections.

To have the next government be Labour rather than Tory, whatever they did during the 2010 parliament had to shift power toward Labour four times as fast as it shifted it toward the Tories.  Gain 20 seats for each of Red and Blue and the Tories would be in power with a slender majority. Gain no more than 17 for the Tories but 68 for Labour and you could, just, overtake them and get the keys to Number 10.

Yet they aimed their campaigns at demonising and demolishing the Liberals, and ousting Liberal MPs from Parliament.  The trouble with this strategy being that of the 57 Liberal MPs around four out of five held seats that would otherwise go Tory.  For each seat where the Liberals were punished for the coalition by losing to their local challenger, the Tories were moved toward power four times as fast as were Labour: the very opposite of what was needed to give Labour a chance at government.

Events exacerbated this with the rise of UKIP and the SNP taking ground from behind Labour while on their intended battlefront they were actively handing seats to the Tories, but that plot twist was yet to come.

This is not to say I don't understand why Labour and their wealthy owners in Unite, Unison et al did it.  The coalition gave them three possible sets of targets to aim at.  They could aim their fire at both Liberal and Conservative groups; or at either one.

Aiming at the Tories was their default position, but might allow the Liberals to underline the measures they were blocking thanks to the hung parliament. Labour, the Liberals and the Coalition all agreed on cuts of around £80bn; pointing out that the Tories on their own wanted to slash £96bn instead would highlight the positive impact voting Liberal had.

Aiming at the coalition as a whole would open Labour up to charges of hypocrisy, as most of the things the coalition was doing that were unpopular were Labour's own ideas. The extension of the Bedroom Tax, hiking up Tuition Fees, ending EMA, giving ATOS huge power over the lives of disabled people, curbing public spending by £80bn... these were all in the existing Labour plan - so whilst criticising them would be populist, it would also ring hollow if the media paid attention.  Where the coalition differed from the Labour plan - levying higher taxes on the best paid, taking the poorest paid out of paying income tax - attacking that was not a message that would play well to Labour's core vote.  Worse yet, the rate of privatisation of the NHS had fallen under the Coalition compared to what it had been under Gordon Brown.

So there was the third option, to blame the coalition on the Liberals and focus fire on them. A really emotionally tempting opportunity - after years of the Liberals attacking Labour from the left, pretend that everything the Coalition did was the will of the Liberals rather than the result of compromising between Liberal and Tory positions, five parts Tory to every one part Liberal. It gave a fine sense of revenge for the way the Liberals had taken Labour apart over the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq, creating massive youth unemployment since the early 00s, flogging off the NHS, blocking LGBT rights measures and so forth.

But the quid pro quo for that sense of vengeful satisfaction was consciously choosing to give the Tories absolute power. The gains Labour made would be outstripped four-to-one and the sixty seat advantage the Tories had would only increase.  Of course, the SNP then made the maths even worse, stripping out a slew of seats Labour had taken for granted as safely their own.

So why do we have a Tory government?  Five years ago the trades unions decided to give us one, and Labour collaborated in delivering it.

Greens deliver for Labour

Going over the election results it's interesting - by which I mean "what anyone with any sense could see coming but went sadly unreported" - how the Greens' target seats programme has delivered for Labour. 

The vaunted ten seat programme, had it panned out, would have leapfrogged the Liberals to fourth-party status. Instead it just resulted in a hold in Brighton, and the shifting of seats from left to right in Norwich, Bristol and the like. They took the opposition to Labour's ATOS assessment programme and Labour's bedroom tax and used it to enable... the election of more Labour MPs committed to those very social welfare slashing values.

Just as the BNP were an excellent front organisation for Labour over the years, it seems the Greens have become their puppet. It's a shame as the Greens' authoritarian plan for a poorer, greyer, monocultural Britain ought to be standing apart as one of the two serious approaches to the challenges of the 21st century: the Right to the Liberals' Left.

Saturday 9 May 2015

It'll be a blast

One of those riskier posts that may be proven right or wrong by the sands of time.

The story of the 2010 parliament was of how the Liberals saw a grenade ready to explode, threw themselves on it, and thus spent five years being attacked for lying on the floor by people who couldn't see the grenade. 

Those people have now carefully removed the Liberals.

Here comes the explosion.  It's a shame we're all going to have to live through it.

Friday 8 May 2015

Majority Rule

So here's... fun... as we watch the formation of a single-party government for the first time since 1992. After the claims from vested interests that Clegg got nothing out of the Tories but a seat in a ministerial limo, let's see what difference the Liberals were making. My money's on "rather more than the junior partner in the previous coalition".

(More immediately, a terrible night for those of us on the left, with one of the two UK left parties wiped out and the other falling back badly, but that's going to be very well covered elsewhere - along with the fact that for the first time in my life the 'Blukip' parties won a majority of the overall vote, which will put the lie to any claims that Cameron lacks a mandate for a sweeping cuts agenda).

Saturday 25 April 2015

More Out MPs in 2015?

It was pleasing to read research that suggests we may have more LGBT MPs in the coming parliament than the old one.  I'd been worrying the academics were all busy and I was going to have to do the maths myself.

The 2010 parliament had 27 out LGB members - 13 Conservative (4% of their parliamentary party), 9 Labour (3%), 4 Lib Dem (7%) and 1 Plaid Cymru (33%).  Of these, two were bi men (one Lib Dem, one Tory) and two gay women (one Tory, one Labour): the remaining 22 gay men.  In the interests of multi-party balance I should add that the DUP are probably most emphatic that none of the 26 are theirs.

27 is a significant slice of the 36 out bi or gay MPs we've ever had. If you were ever an out-LGB MP, the chances are you still are one. There haven't been any openly trans MPs in the UK yet, and though there are trans candidates for most of the mainland parties - indeed one of them currently being splashed over the papers as trans, queer and poly - alas none look likely to break through.  Sorry Zoe.

For all that the polls suggest another hung parliament, they also suggest one with a swing to the right: we will have a different bunch of MPs running the show. It looks like fewer Lib Dem MPs and more SNP members, and a huge switcharound of Labour MPs as they lose a swathe of seats in Scotland and gain others in England. Probably quite some turnover of Tory MPs too.

All sides, pretty much, have out candidates. There are 38 for the Liberal Democrats, 35 Labour, 28 Tory, 22 Green, 5 UKIP, 3 Plaid Cymru, 1 SNP and 1 Alliance.  The latter three parties only stand in 40, 59 and 18 seats respectively.

That said, in UK elections most candidates don't get elected. There's not many openly-LGBT potential new MPs in Tory-gain or SNP-gain type seats, but there are a few in Labour-gain seats. If the polls turn around for the Lib Dems, the seats they'd gain would add a little to the tally too. So we can look forward to fresh queer faces on the green benches after May 7th.

To keep bisexual geeks on their toes, both existing seats with bi MPs - and the one that might gain a new out bi MP - are seats that might change hands.  The Conservative seat of Shrewsbury and Atcham has been in blue, gold and red columns in the last fifteen years, while the Liberal seat of Southwark and Old Bermondsey has been a Labour target at every election since 1983. Labour hope to gain Stockton South: on current polls they should do as it's a very Labour seat that flipped blue in 2010.

Friday 24 April 2015

The Daily Record is confused

In the Scottish Daily Record this week (24th April, publication stamped 3pm though so perhaps online only) Nicole Heaney writes about how we live in terribly modern times where,
"having an attraction to the same sex in some eyes does not make you homosexual and it does not make you bisexual. Thus meaning you can be in a relationship with a female and be attracted to males but not necessarily be bisexual. The reason for this is because you could simply not envision yourself in a relationship with the same sex."
Woah there. This is a special redefining of bisexual to mean "attracted to more than one gender and interested in relationships with everyone to whom you are attracted".

Let's consider that "not really the sexuality in question" clause applied for gay or straight people: if you were, say, going out clubbing, pulling people and having casual sex seven nights a week, and happy with this and not wanting anything "more" in your life right now... you're just kidding yourself about having a sexuality at all.  Hmmm. No. Those people are definitely gay or straight. Once you stop having a double-standard for bi, Nicole's definition of non-bi-bis comes unstuck quickly.

Then she turns to the future, which will be...
"A time when sexuality won’t be pigeon holed. A time where gay, straight, male or female will not matter and we will just have sex with whomever we are attracted to regardless of their status."

Uh-oh. We've seen this one before, haven't we? It's the same future fairytale with which Peter Tatchell invents bisexuality every couple of years without ever using the B word. (I'm skipping over the lack in the original text of whether the other person is consenting. Subeditors can do terrible things to hone down a word count, after all).

I think it conflates two ideas, one which is useful, one which is not. Some day, yes, I hope whether you are bi, gay, straight or asexual won't matter: we won't need safe spaces as an escape from biphobia and so forth. That way that the first gay pubs I went to had blacked-out windows for the safety of patrons will be a long forgotten horror. If you find out someone fancies you, you'll only have to think: do I fancy them back? Are we both single or otherwise available? Great! Let's do something about it then!

The other idea, though, is the idea that when prejudice and queerbashing are behind us as a society, labels - bi, gay, straight - will no longer be needed. I think that's a duffer. Just because it's safe to be bi or gay won't make all the people who never experienced same-sex attraction suddenly realise how attractive the people they never fancied before are. We'll still be bi, gay, straight, asexual. We just won't be raised to beat ourselves up about it. And when someone turns you down because they just aren't into girls, they'll still need words that express that. Terms like bisexual may lose their loaded values, but they are still vital concepts about how humans and human sexuality work.

Then again, the Daily Record article begins by observing that "It’s hard to believe that only some 20 years ago it was a crime to be homosexual".  It is indeed.  Not least because it wasn't - even though Section 28 had sought to make talking about it a thought-crime, homosexuality was decriminalised in Scotland in 1980, thirtyfive years ago. 

We should probably have stopped reading there.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Whose fault is it anyway

Why did the economy tank? Whose fault is "the mess Labour left us"?

The soundbite from the Tories is "the Labour government did it"

The soundbite from the Greens is "the bankers did it"

The soundbite from the Labour party is "a big boy dun it and run away"

The soundbite from UKIP is "a big foreign boy dun it and run away"

The soundbite from the Lib Dems is "can we get a word in here... no? damn"

Well, Labour did it, and the bankers did it, and loads and loads of you lot did it. Cheap loans, stupid mortgages, house price super-inflation, the bankers couldn't do it on their own: they needed millions of complicity borrowers to make it happen. And while that happened on the edge of government control, Labour's tax and spend was based on the pretend money the bankers were creating for assets that were not really any greater than they had been before the hot air boom: when the balloon went pfffffft, we were left with the 'real' tax take but an expectation of what government could afford to spend based on all that imaginary cash being there too.  Suddenly what had been passed off as foolish overspending was a humungous £400m a week more going out than was coming in.  The 'mess Labour left' isn't the economy as such, it's the massive overestimate of how much the government could afford to spend given general economic activity and taxation levels.

But the politicians won't be heard saying that between now and polling day, as it has far too many home truths to be acceptable to the press and the voters alike.

So that's fun.

Monday 23 March 2015

Coalition, please

Doing the bisexual community info outreach stall in Sheffield last weekend, one of the conversations I had with quite a few stall visitors was about the Bisexuality Report. What was it; why it was useful; how it came about.

Each time I started along the lines of, "think back to 2010 after the Coalition Government was formed? One of the good things was, because it was a formal coalition, they laid out on paper what they were going to do. On LGBT issues there was an LGB&T Action Plan. It was incredibly helpful for people outside Westminster, outside the well-funded London clique groups like Stonewall. Because now we knew broadly what to expect and when, so we knew: this thing should come up next May, we have time to prepare and know what to look for, and what to chase up on if it doesn't seem to be happening." That then led onto talking about how the LGB&T Action Plan lacked a bi strand and evidence base, which gave momentum to the "Bi Life 2" idea and led to my proposal for the Bisexuality Report in 2011.

Having a coalition government meant a written plan with a timeline both parties had broadly signed up to.  Prior to 2010 there was never that kind of open agenda: to know what was going to happen next you had to be part of the Westminster bubble. You had to already be in the clique in order to influence the clique. Here instead was an open plan for all to follow.

Of course it hasn't meant that as grassroots community group organising types we magically have gained offices, staff and so on. But within what unfunded projects can do it has been massively better.

Which parties are involved in the next government will affect what winds up in any new five year agenda for action, but from the perspective of the less cash-heavy end of the third sector, I do hope it's a coalition. That way we all have more chance of engagement with what happens from here to 2020.

Thursday 19 March 2015

I've Stalled

After going to the Sheffield ZineFest the last two years as a participant (writeups here and here) this year was the big leap into the unknown of taking a half-a-table to share my goodies with the world for the first time.

It was also the first time going in a car - with my strongarmed co-stall-volunteer - which is just as well with having to be there on time instead of roll up when the train network feels like getting you there, as well as there being someone else to guilt you into getting up and setting off at the right time rather than having a lie-in.

The zinester fun room was back with a different typewriter

It's a different day out as a stall-holder.  When you're away from your stall, like a nervous parent, a quarter of your brain is doing radar pings of your stall: do I need to go back and talk to whoever's visiting the stall now? Have I made sure the person looking after the stall has a nice hot cup of tea? You get to be jealous of the other stall holders who are definitely getting much more attention (it's a bit of a red herring, as you only notice this in the bits of the day when your stall isn't busy).  And you really notice the different styles of interaction of people who come up to the table.

My usual frustration at zinefest stalls is a lack of labelling - something that looks artsy and has an enigmatic name on its own is intriguing, in a room of 100 such things it's just annoying - so slap bang in the middle of the BCNs was an explanation of what it is and what kind of reader might like it, and similar notes for other things on the stall.

The fabulous BCN / other bizines / bi info stall
To step back though - the Electric Works remains a very pretty building and as in the last two years there were loads of stalls sprawled out over the ground floor. My impression was that there were slightly more stalls again than in 2014.

It was sad this time to find fewer workshops going on and no equivalent to the "100 years ago" display and "Sheffield history" live artworking of the past two years. The art and bigger workshop schedules were fab things to have and helped the less outgoing attendees' participation, I think, but they take some finding and instigating - it's not meant as a big criticism of the organisers who finessed a whole host of stalls into place. I umm'ed and ahh'ed about putting in a workshop offer but didn't quite feel I had enough of the right roots to run a session at Zinefest, and also thought tabling for the first time was enough of an adventure. Baby steps.

We didn't take enough to cover the cost of having a stall. While it would have been good to do so, that wasn't the real aim: this was about getting the word out and sharing info with people who would benefit from it.

You're in the right place...

A pile of BCNs went and my stockpile is about 70 copies of Getting Bi lighter. Lots of my hastily-made Northern Bis flyers were taken with the aid of "where are you from? ah, there's a bi group there, here are the details" conversations. We're in a weird uptick time in bi group organising in the North: two years ago such conversations would have gone "Manchester's nearest to you then" almost every time, but now we have a bit of a blossoming with meets in Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool.

There must have been some political thingy or other on nearby - some people showed up wearing Labour pin badges, and were were noticeable for making sure they got seen without actually giving any support to what was going on, and avoiding actual eyecontact or conversation.  A (I googled and discovered Lib Dem) council candidate who was not badged and stickered up came by too, did actual talking in order to learn about things and find out what she could pass on to appropriate people locally, and gave us some money for some of the things she was taking.

Being a bit ziney and a bit strand-of-LGBT-community-info, ours was a stall with specific niche appeal, but there were really good conversations with perhaps 25 people through the day, and only one visit that could be described as consisting of "eww bisexuals are icky hahaha".

So quite a good day out...

Sunday 15 March 2015

Welcome U-Turn

I see on my newsfeed that is no longer going to kick out the more "sexually explicit" blogger blogs.

Good, and thank you for taking a more sensible approach, dear hosts.

Sunday 1 March 2015

More media bis

It's been another good week for bisexual representation: in case you missed them, Catwoman came out on the weekend while the lead in trashy sci-fi fun The 100 was outed as bisexual between an on-screen kiss and a producer's tweet. And of course I was in the local news.

It all inspired this happy graphic:

It'd be good to get some people who aren't young, white and cisfemale* next week though. Still, a half-full glass is better than no beer and no glass.

* I'm figuring catpeople are still cis or trans...

Thursday 26 February 2015

Trendy bisexual

Thanks to Swansea Uni's LGBT staff network for letting me know...  it seems I'm currently trending on Google as the thing people wanting "LGBT Q&A" must be looking for.

A facebook friend says that it also applies to "LGBT Manchester".

Scary! :D

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Mapping bisexuality

I used to do a little map of the UK in BCN with spots where the local bi groups were.

It filled up some space on the listings page to mask how little social and support space there was out there.

It's grown a bit lately.  Now it goes something like this...

(The map is actually from the BiCon 2013 Survey Report; purple splodges are where there were bi groups at the time, pink where they have emerged since. Gold for Edinburgh which hosted that BiCon and has had a bi group since that weekend)

The main population centre missing out is the North East coast - somewhere round Newcastle, is surely crying out for some bi space by now.  Yet we haven't had a group in the NE since whenever ComBiNE was meeting - around 1998 I suspect without combing the back numbers of BCN to check.

The other noticeable gaps are round Oxford and - now that the Northern England population belt has broken out of "just Manchester" perhaps Liverpool.

Profile for LGBT History Month - MM

A few weeks ago I was featured by the Co-Op in their intranet bulletin for LGBT History Month, which was fab :)

I'm also one of the people local online news hub Mancunian Matters picked to profile as a local LGBT 'name'. I think the interview went pretty well and gets a pleasing blend of bi and tg/gq things... have a read:

Blogging platforms

Sad to see is clamping down on 'sexually explicit' content.

While this journal doesn't really go there it does make me start thinking about where to migrate to.

Monday 16 February 2015

Stonewall U-Turns On Trans

A mere 20 years behind the key sections of the bi movement, counterparts in the lesbian & gay strands of LGBT are catching up on trans and gender diversity inclusion. Stonewall today announced it will henceforward be campaigning for trans rights and equality, rather than against them or championing the work of opponents of trans liberation as in the past.

Good. As with their latter-day conversion to supporting bisexual liberation (albeit so far principally within the M25), for all that you may start humming Emma Bunton's What Took You So Long when you hear about the change, it's a change for the better. Welcome aboard, Stonewall.

It seems LGF are next in the queue.  Looking forward to seeing how they both do...

Saturday 14 February 2015

Armchair Valentino?

For all that it's sometimes been a stressful or sad date in the year for me, I like Valentine's Day.

I especially like making cards like this one in the days beforehand to send to the awesome super special people in my life.

Happy Valentine's Day, them as are celebrating it.

For all the unrequited valentines...

...let's have a song for all the unrequited valentines messages I've sent and received down the years. What might have been?

In other places I've blogged photos of one of my valentines card designs for 2015. I thought this might be a good little bit of balance...

Thursday 5 February 2015

Me and Alan

Delighted, honoured & a bit surreal to be one of the Co-op LGBT bulletin's two featured LGBT 'names' this week for History Month... me and Alan Turing!

Sadly can't link to it as it's on an intranet, but thank you to the Co-op person who forwarded me a copy :)