Saturday 22 September 2018

The 20th Bi Visibility Day is here!

...well, Bi Visibility Weekend then. I'm going to be rather busy the rest of the weekend so I thought I better get my blogpost in early: the Big Day is tomorrow.

It’s the 20th annual Bi Visibility Day this Sunday, September 23rd.

The date highlights bisexuality and the challenges posed by biphobia and bisexual erasure, as well as celebrating the work of a growing number of local, national and international organisations around the world which champion bisexual visibility and equality.

Last year there were around 130 events marking the date, from exhibitions, talks and film screenings to picnics and socials in bi-friendly bars. A host of public buildings around the world flew the pink, purple and blue bisexual flag. So far this year that tally has already hit 160.

Since 2001 I've been running as a listings website, and I try to note everything happening to mark the date around the world. We usually get some 'late arriving' listings to add that we didn't get to hear about in advance so that 160 will most likely rise further.  They are spread across 31 countries, with some welcome new additions - I always love uploading a new flag to the website.

It's not just a numbers game though. I’ve been organising events marking Bi Visibility Day since the start in 1999 and the transformation in that time is huge. We are more talked about and more heard as bi people than ever before; yet also the challenges and particular needs of bisexuals have been thrown into sharper relief over that time.

Back then, bi was often seen as a kind of ‘gay lite’ with bis experiencing less impact from social homophobia, but research increasingly shows bi people have greater mental and physical health challenges than gay or straight people. We’re more likely to experience domestic violence from our partners, too. And just as there's a 'pay gap' between men and women, bi people on average earn less than their gay and straight friends.

So, far from the ‘best of both worlds’ cliche, the challenge of either persistently reasserting your bisexuality or having part of your life erased proves wearing for many bi people. Where lesbians and gay men have one closet to escape, many bi people find that leaving the one closet leads to being put in another.

Greater bisexual visibility is the best solution to that problem, so in the many many forms that this year's Bi Visibility Day events take I hope they will all be helping more bis find a space where they are neither in the ‘straight closet’ nor the gay one.

Thursday 20 September 2018

Reporting back on Cake

For anyone who was unable to attend the Liberal Democrat Friends of Cake Annual General Meeting last weekend, here are the notes the Underbaker circulated on Facebook a couple of days ago:

CONFERENCE POLICY IN FULL: at our AGM in Brighton, the following composited motion was passed reflecting the current values and direction of the party, including the proposed "friends of friends of someone who once met a Lib Dem at a train station and she seemed fairly nice" system of selecting party leader.

This AGM Notes:a) CAKE;
b) biscuits;
c) tarts;
d) pies and what have been termed "other sundry Liberal Carbohydrate groupings" by writers for the website Liberal Cakeocrat Voice;
e) that these now form the so-called "broad church" of Liberalism, despite many of them (and we mean the biscuits) coming from separate and fundamentally illiberal ideological traditions.

This AGM is Proud of our Record:
a) That the Old Age Pension was devised by the Liberal MP and part-time Prime Minister David Lloyd George after young Megan pressed him to ensure that our nation's elderly would be able to afford a nice bit of cake now and then.
b) That the NHS was invented by the Liberal MP William Beveridge to assist anyone who needed help in having their cake and eating it.

This AGM Believes:
a) In licking your finger and using it to pick the last crumbs up off the plate when no-one's looking, as first publicly proposed by John Stuart Mill to be the logical conclusion of Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism.
b) But that it was most likely Harriet Taylor's idea as she was a very sensible woman.

This AGM Recognises:
a) The fine tradition of Moist Liberalism on which this Party was built.
b) Our traditional membership system, which consists of sending a cake not less than six inches in diameter to the Treasurer annually, who brings any leftovers to executive meetings for the rest of the team to polish off.

This AGM is Deeply Troubled by:
a) The entryist Biscuitty Tendency, who have sought to annex the Jaffa Cake and redefine Liberalism from its Moist roots, and the implications this has for what will be on the menu at Betty's Tea Rooms at York Spring Conference.
b) The status of Brussels And European Friends Of French Fancies And Danish Pastries in a post-Brexit world, and whether it will still be entitled to send voting representatives to Federal Conference.
c) The Party Leadership's suggestion of a "friends of neighbours of close personal acquaintances of Friends Of Cake" supporter scheme, under which eating a cake without first offering the Executive a slice would still count as showing somehow adequate commitment to the cause, which to us is frankly about as convincing as the adding up in a Labservative Party manifesto, I mean CRUMBS.

This AGM resolves:
a) To put the kettle on and have a worry about it all over a cuppa and a lovely bit of velvet cake at the first opportunity.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Interview-ette for Foundation

A little piece Foundation did with me about BiPhoria and Bi Visibility Day 2018...

How can people get involved with your services?
BiPhoria does lots of things all through the year – social spaces, sending speakers to events, running bi outreach and visibility stalls.  The best place to start is at our monthly “talky space” meetings which are at LGBT Foundation on the first Tuesday of each month at 7.30pm – so the next one is on Tuesday 2nd October. Or drop us a line on

What events are you holding this year for Bi visibility day?
By the time people read this we’ll have unveiled our bi visibility banner on Canal Street – on Sackville Gardens roughly opposite Via.  Go take a look! 
On Saturday 22nd we’ll be at LGBT Foundation from 12.30 having a chatter and making #StillBisexual videos – bring along your bi story to share! 
On the day itself – Sunday 23rd – we will be in Bolton running a street stall as part of Bolton Pride, and joining Salford Uni as part of their freshers week student programme.  And we’ll be all over social media about the date alongside the @bivisibilityday team.

What are your hopes for the day?
It’s the twentieth year and we’ve seen so much change in that time, including many more organisations and institutions marking the date as a part of bi inclusion and challenging biphobia – back in 1999 it was just BiPhoria! 
I hope the attendant publicity and things like the bi flags flying and Canal Street banner will prompt conversations that help bi people feel more able to be open about who they are and find one another, because invisibility and the resulting sense of isolation is one of our greatest challenges.
And that we remember our comparative visibility now is built on the work of generations of bi and LGBT+ activists who worked when things were so much more difficult.

Sunday 16 September 2018

The LGBTphobic Tory 'stalking horse'

With the party conferences season in full swing there is open plotting and rebellion in both the Conservative and Labour parties. Today an implausible MP has broken cover as a potential "stalking horse" on the Tory benches, offering to run against Theresa May for the party leadership should his colleagues back him.

George Freeman, a venture capitalist who became an MP in 2010, was a trenchant opponent of same-sex marriage. His opposition extended not just to opposing the right to marry but also that the Treasury should cover the minor costs of the legislative changeover.

Of course, research has confirmed in recent years what we knew all along - that discriminatory marriage laws have a huge impact on young LGBT people growing up.

So while his record signals George to be a supporter of higher rates of teen suicide and self harm we should remember that Theresa was a late convert - championing similar causes through laws like Section 28 up until the formation of the 2010 coalition government, when as Home Secretary she was persuaded of the case for same-sex marriage by junior minister Lynne Featherstone.

We can only hope that, if George's career suddenly acquires some momentum, there is a similar voice nearby to drag him towards the 21st century too.

Monday 10 September 2018

Anti-fascist surge in Sweden

The clickbait media narrative is all to predictable in this weekend's Swedish elections.

The fascists are up, and that it is by less than presaged doesn't matter: they "won the election" declares the internets. Funnily all those times I watched the Liberals come third in votes and seats here they never said that. 1997 wasn't "Ashdown sweeps to power", Roy Jenkins wasn't hailed the victor in '83. Clegg swept up 24% of the vote in 2010 and was declared a busted flush.

But no, from the same journalists as cheerled the BNP to their Euro-seats it's they have "doubled their vote at every election". Which is sad news, naturally, but also says they have started to stall and hit a glass ceiling as their vote rose by half rather than 100% this time around.

But while the fascists did well, you can't helpe but notice that there were almost the same number of seat gains for their diametric opposites.

It's the wishy-washy parties, the Swedish counterparts of our inbetweeny Jeremites, Lucaseenies and Maybottles, who lost ground.