Thursday 31 December 2020

Bi Review of the Year: 2020

 A piece I wrote for Bi Community News wrapping up the news of the past 12 months.

Original is here:

At the start of the year very few of us realised what might be ahead as the COVID-19 virus was still thought to be far away and most likely confined to a corner of China. So for those first ten weeks or so of 2020 things were happening as normal.

So it was at the start of January when Layla Moran became the first UK MP to come out as pansexual. Courts compensated a worker who had been told to pretend to be gay rather than bi in the workplace and returned confiscated medals to an ex serviceman. Northern Ireland started to consult on same-sex marriage while we learned women are more likely to divorce one another than men. There was good news on HIV figures and from the European Court declaring that government inaction on LGBTphobic hate was no longer acceptable. And the Welsh Government declared it would go a step further than merely repealing Section 28 with active work to ensure children are making informed choices on sex and relationships.

In February Bi Pride got a mention in the House, while LGBT History Month saw many more bi-related talks than usual. Overseas Switzerland voted to recognise LGBT hate crimes. There were bis on TV in Doctors and I Am Not OK With This as well as a new season of Atypical to look forward to. And new research showed peculiar findings about bi people and skin cancer.

With the pandemic seeing the start of lockdown in the UK during March events started to be cancelled like Birmingham BiFest and BiFest Wales. As Prides started to fall like dominoes, Eurovision announced its first ever rollover winner. In the USA a St Patrick’s Day parade barred a beauty pageant winner from marching on account of her bisexuality.

We had more bi representation on TV in Love Is Blind’s demonstration of double-standards over bisexuality, BBC polyamory drama Trigonometry, and Batwoman. The House of Commons held its first ever debate on LBT women’s health while Canada declared its intention to outlaw so-called “gay cure” so-called “therapy”. And new figures showed more people identifying as bi in the UK than ever.

In April many of us were starting to get used to life indoors and wondering how much a loo roll could fetch on eBay there were sobering thoughts about how the lockdown meant a lot of bi and LGBT people were now trapped in unsafe situations. The USA responded by relaxing its limitations on bi and gay men donating blood with Australia contemplating the same shift. The first LGBT club closure of the pandemic was announced in Brighton. On TV we had a raft of fresh bi viewing with the return of Flack, Killing Eve and Harley Quinn. But the big bi drama of the month was away from TV as BiNetUSA abruptly tried to claim copyright over the public domain bisexual flag.

Most LGBT magazines stopped publishing for the time being due to the pandemic but we took the decision to keep BCN coming out as one little strand of bi life we could keep fairly normal, so our April edition was the second of six in 2020.

Staying indoors gave people some time to organise and so in May there were online campaigns about the blood donation ban and conversion therapy. Being indoors also meant people could virtually visit museums worldwide. New research showed bi men were the most closeted group across Europe.

As the Black Lives Matter movement drew headlines worldwide in June dating app Grindr dropped its race filter. One of those “how did that take so long?” moments. There was a big victory in the US Supreme Court, while over here a new faux LGB equality campaign group came out against same-sex marriage, for anyone who hadn’t already realised they weren’t on the side of any queer folks. The BBC nonetheless carried on quoting them as if they were a serious human rights campaign. The annual Bi Book Awards winners were announced, though without (for now) the usual glamorous awards event. The Grammys got their tongue tied online. In good news, Gabon decriminalised sex between women and between men and Scotland opened up civil partnerships to any couple regardless of gender. BiCon had a bumpy month with two organising teams quitting in the space of a week.

In July we had more happy news from abroad as Montenegro recognised same-sex civil partnerships and South Africa changed its rules on how marriage ceremonies are conducted. It was less good elsewhere as the budget for PrEP was cut in the UK and in Poland the presidential election came down to a knife-edge before going the wrong way. We learned bis have worse experiences of crime than other people and the GLAAD annual review of film releases noted cinema was getting Whiter and gayer, with no bi male representation in major film releases.

We are used to a host of Prides in August so it was a hot summer with so much less to do every Saturday! However some ran online and BiCon happened in a very slimmed-down online form. The run-up to Bi Visibility Day began with more Town Halls deciding to fly the bi flag. New US research showed bi youth experience of bullying.

It’s Bi Visibility Day, Bi Week and Bi Month in September and among the delights was improvements in dictionary definitions. Northern Ireland inched further forward on equality while the UK courts rules that the Equality Act includes nonbinary people. Coming-out guide Getting Bi came out for the Kindle. In the USA we saw the first research on how the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting the LGBT communities while here Stonewall had research on how many bis are out to their families – not many.

In October we learned there would be a biopic of former US Congresswoman Katie Hill. Netflix dropped GLOW. In good news for millions the Pope made a small shift toward a better attitude to LGBT lives on the part of the Catholic Church. And in bad news here, a BBC which was veering increasingly far from balanced and responsible reporting of LGBT issues warned staff they should not attend Pride events even in their own time and private lives.

All eyes were on the USA in November as Donald Trump lost by a huge margin in the election there – albeit not as wide a margin as many opinion polls had predicted. Biden won with over 80 million votes in the end – more than any previous candidate. Biden’s speech missed out the “B”. Europe considered its next five year plan on LGBT work without the UK, and in Poland there were symbolic protests against the hateful “LGBT free zone” populists. We all realised we had been too distracted by COVID to notice that the LGBT inclusion work in schools that had started under the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition had been quietly dropped by the new minister for Women and Equalities.

Most important, COVID vaccines started to be approved. After a very hard year, change was at last in sight.

In December the three month ban on blood donation for bi and gay men and their partners was completely rewritten – for better and for worse – though the new rules don’t come in until a few months into 2021. Kyrsten Sinema rocked a great wig and coat in Washington. There was divine justice as a homophobic MEP got caught breaking COVID rules at a gay party. And Switzerland – whose good news on hate crime kicked the year off – decided to let same-sex couples marry. And so ILGA’s annual world map of LGBT rights showed a ripple of changes. And our fifth edition of the pandemic landed on subscriber doormats, more or less in time for Christmas.

That was 2020. To our most sincere delight, it is in the past. Here’s to a very different year ahead.