Friday 31 December 2021

That was 2021 in bisexual

 I wrote this round-up of the year's news for Bi Community News. That was 2021...

The original is here


It was another COVID year so the bi review of the year is a little different than usual – but here’s our roundup of 2021!

We start in January, which seems both a moment ago and a million years. New US President Joe Biden got off to a good start. Getting Lady Gaga to perform at his inauguration was only a part of it. New Zealand had fascinating research on bi experience of crime, and there were rumours of a new Sex And The City series that might have some bi representation – though that took a whole year to transpire. And Star Trek:Discovery star Mary Wiseman (who plays Tilly in the show) came out as bisexual.

February‘s news included research showing more bis than ever in the USA. The head of MI6 apologised for decisions his predecessors made while the MOD said they were going to start returning medals to servicepeople who had been stripped of them for being bi or gay. Angola decriminalised same-sex love at last. Big Bi Fun Day understandably announced it was skipping a year again. And actress Adelaide Kane (of the recent remake of Teen Wolf, This Is Us and Reign) came out as bisexual on TikTok. 

During March  Bi Health Month – London’s largest Pride event was thrown into disarray amid complaints over racism. Other Prides announced plans to return despite the pandemic. Leeds’ bi group declared it would shortly be closed down. In politics, the LGBT groups of eight parties united to call for action on conversion therapy while pan MP Layla Moran launched a campaign to put pressure on Poland’s “LGBT Free Zone” districts. Caroline Noakes MP attacked her own government’s failings on LGBT rights after three advisors on LGBT issues quit.

In April there was a chorus of disapproval over a homophobic, biphobic and transphobic lobby group getting charity status. Northern Ireland voted to end “conversion therapy“. And tickets went on sale for a second virtual BiCon bi conference. And Jason Ellis talked about being an openly bi MMA fighter yet not feeling welcome in the LGBT community.

One popular internet claim this year was that “lesbians are becoming extinct”. It’s a weird idea but in May the ONS proved it a lie. Eurovision was won by a band with a bi member – after it was won in 2020 by a bi singer who then held the title for an extra year, that trophy has been in bi hands for a while now. LGBT organisations attacked the UK’s EHRC equality commission for its inaction on LGBTphobia. The annual Rainbow Map of European LGBT rights reflected the reasons for this as the UK slid down the league table once again. Up until 2015 we topped the table. Blood donation rules were changed to remove bias on the grounds of orientation. The Queen’s Speech had nothing for us. Brighton was one of many prides deciding to skip a year rather than try to work out how to hold a safe festival in a pandemic.

June saw the Methodist Church vote by a huge margin to conduct same-sex weddings – a welcome step. Bi’s Of Colour closed down and the 2021 BiFi online festival was cancelled. Abroad, Hungary added to its stock of LGBTphobic legislation. In the US, out-bi Senator Kyrsten Sinema found herself under pressure for voting against the support LGBT people need. Also in the US, the Lammy book awards and Bi Book Awards were announced. Our last issue as a bimonthly print magazine came out, as we were about to move to being quarterly. But the big bi story was a donation of £80,000 to London’s Bi Pride.

From the USA there was research in July that showed a decline in LGBT representation in films in 2020 from GLAAD. Given everything else in 2020, perhaps not one to reach much into. Other research showed a perhaps equally unsurprising finding that non-binary people are more likely to identify as bisexual. A Spanish court overturned a dubious ruling about married bisexuals. Bristol council heard a proudly bi speech, as part of a discussion on LGBT people’s mental health. The NHS reported on the differences between gay, bi and straight people’s health. The Foreign Office apologised for its historic ban on bi and gay staff. And overseas Prides were under attack.

In August we moved to being a quarterly magazine due to spiralling print and postage prices in recent times – and in the nick of time as our longtime editor was involved in an accident that stopped her working on the magazine for months. Research showed the strength of the bi pay gap, whereby bi people earn less on average than our gay and straight colleagues. London’s main Pride festival, mired in controversy, cancelled its 2021 event. They weren’t alone as Manchester’s Pride found itself in a different scandal – this time about money. A new coalition in Scotland between the SNP and SGP meant little for LGBT rights as there is wider consensus in Holyrood on those issues than at Westminster. And as the COVID vaccine rollout spread across the world, we had heartening news of a vaccine for HIV.

September is Bi Month, centred on Bi Visibility Day. Despite much of the world being in kinds of lockdowns and with many people in areas without them nonetheless wanting to stay home or socially distanced due to the pandemic, there were more than 100 events noted around the world to mark the date on September 23rd. Most notably, in the USA Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania issued a statement recognizing September 23 as Bisexual Pride Day. Australia’s bi organisations hosted a huge joint event across the whole week. Switzerland voted overwhelmingly for same-sex marriage, and the first of Poland’s “LGBT Free Zone” counties abandoned that label following international pressure to respect human rights from the EU. In the Midlands, the annual Bi Camp added an extra date for Hallowe’en – dubbing it BooBiCamp. A Labour MP laid into bi men for co-opting the gay rights movement, showing her blissful ignorance of the history of the story of gay and bi men’s liberation in the UK. Gay and sometimes bi men’s magazine GT printed its final copy. And in weird science news we learned bis are more likely to be asthmatic than straight people.

Coming Out Day is marked each October. This time Superman came out as bi, and so did Conservative MP Dehenna Davison. On TV we had bi poly dating on new dating show The Triangle. The month wrapped up with a Westminster government announcement of action on conversion therapy – more than 1200 days after it had last been announced and with a further delay to follow before the year end. Overseas, Portugal ended blood donation discrimination and France inched toward a Conversion Therapy ban. The International Bisexuality Research Conference released videos of many of its speaker sessions, while long-running US bi conference BECAUSE was held in a mixed online-and-in-person format.

In November Google launched a dictionary of LGBT without the “B”. The BBC and Netflix both got caught up in problems with LGBT staff no longer feeling they were safe places to work after management decisions. Long-running bi conference BiCon announced an in-person event for next summer. Abroad, the new German coalition government had a packed LGBT+ equality programme. In the USA a fresh round of elections brought more out people in public office than ever before – and GLAAD reported an increase in anti-LGBT hate crime. And we learned that Lady Gaga wore a bulletproof dress to sing the US’ national anthem at the Presidential inauguration.

December saw some progress on issues of gender recognition, outlawing conversion therapy and blood donation laws. All that abroad though – here in the UK gender recognition reform for Wales and England got delayed yet again while ending conversion therapy had a vital “except in the places where it actually happens” change of direction, alas surprising no-one. On the upside, Chile voted for same-sex marriage and in the UK, people with HIV can at last serve equally in the armed forces. Our final BCN issue of the year snuck through customs and into the post with a change of house font after 20 years. And as the latest version of COVID ran rampant the year came to an end.

As the dad joke has it: last year was 2020, and next year is twenty twenty, too. Hang in there: maybe 2023 will be better… Happy new year!