Sunday, 7 December 2008

Should magazine editions have special launch do's?

The third issue of queer/race forum magazine Race Revolt came out last month. It's a very fine thing and I commend it to any readers I may have here, but what I wanted to note here about it is that there was a launch party for it. Indeed there were two - one in London-upon-Thames and one here in civilised parts. A few titles seem to do that: Canadian bi mag The Fence has launch parties for each edition, even the prim and proper Journal of Bisexuality is having some kind of a launch event for their next edition which is a double issue marking 60 years since the Kinsey report into human sexuality came out. And a few LGBT titles seem to do the same too.

We never make a big song and dance about a new issue of BCN, partly because after 93 issues it no longer feels like a great surprise that we're publishing. Further, we produce 6 or 7 issues a year rather than two or three, and there are only so many launch receptions you can get people along to. But perhaps we should. Or perhaps we* could work harder on the 'BCN Annual' and make more of it as a collection of the best bi journalism of the year, and hold a launch reception for that at BiCon each summer. I'd like that.

* and in practical terms that would probably be "me" not "we", I know...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Because they say these things come in threes...

This month I've learned that both Bi Tribune and North Bi North West have folded. This is quite downheartening, since there are only a small smattering of regular printed bi magazines and journals and to lose two of them means we've lost maybe a fifth of the titles that are out there. North Bi North West had been running for something like twenty years, and though Bi Tribune was a relative newcomer it did have a great mix of material and was more colourful and interactive than some bi magazines. I hope that despite losing it, we can learn from its example.

But for the record, having lost two of our cousins and for all that it's not as frequent as we might like it to be, BCN is still going!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

More students

Another night being interviewed by a student with a bisexual project under their belt - this time a drama student working on a play about being bi and finding a sense of community. It is quite scary how long I can dish out anecdotes and dubious wisdom, including that the Woody Allen line about bisexuals having twice the chance of a date on Friday night can fall down both where twice nothing is still nothing, and at the other extreme on account of the fact that bisexuals don't have twice as many Friday nights as the rest of the world.

Still, it'll be good if it helps there to be another one-woman-theatre type of a play about being bi. The Speed of Dating is very well and good but we could do with there being at least one thing like that a year to look forward to, rather than one in a blue moon.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

bis get a bumrap

There is an unfortunately growing trend among the ill-informed and the ill-intending to mislabel bisexual as being somehow binarist, meaning that people are only interested in (cis) men and women and no other genders.  

Now and then I do worry if I caused it myself, as in about 1996 I did make a remark about being "bisexual, I just haven't worked out which two yet", and who knows who may have been listening and failing to have any clue about humour.  But I'm sure the same wrong silly notion can be thought of in many places at once: after all, just look at the number of Earth-creating gods we have. 

Now, the slightest examination of the bi movement over the last twenty years or whatever would lay this silly binarist notion to rest, but the old adage about a lie being round the world before the truth has finished fastening its bootlaces holds painfully true in the internet age, where copypasta means that the lie can cite itself as its own reference a dozen times over.

Fervent messiahs of internet falsehood explain that pansexual good, bisexual bad, while never touching on how homosexual and heterosexual fit in to this model - despite those being the identities with the strength and power.  As their work dissipates so much attracted-to-more-than-one-gender activist energy, one might ask whose agenda the trumpeters of "bi-is-binary" are serving; alas, they don't seem to think that bit through themselves.  I have yet to find, though will be in a way pleased to, b-word-bashers who are as vigorous and challenging, pro-rata, of the monolithic powers of the Big Two in sexuality identity.

I'm one of the people the binarism supposedly inherent in 'bisexual' oppresses. When the spelling of bisexual is even in the top ten things that cause me trouble in this life, I will be living in such a utopian bliss I won't even bitch about it then.

In the meanwhile, I think I need to get some pin badges made. BUMRAP: the Bisexual Umbrella Movement to Rebut Antagonistic Panevangelists, perhaps?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Tonight's the night

Tonight we - I - have a Celebrate Bisexuality Day event-ette to put on. In past years I've organised a variety of larger local events, with workshops, films, stalls and speakers in 2001, 2002 and 2006.

But tonight will be smaller; I've been busy with party conference season amongst other things. A smaller event is no bad thing - if we had 20 similar local gatherings going on instead of the two or three that are happening this year, how much stronger the bi scene as a whole would be. Maybe that's a chicken and egg problem. If you'd like to try and change these things next year, it's not as though it takes that much doing; but it's worth BCN doing a simple "how-to" guide perhaps.

Either way next year I'd like to be more ambitious with the Manchester event: not just a quiz but a raffle or tombola or somesuch. Donations of, or ideas for, prizes very welcome as comments!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Probed about Pride

Today I was interviewed by a student from a university down South who is looking into the interaction over the past 18 years between diverse communities, community groups, and Manchester LGBT Pride / Mardi Gras / GayFest.

It's a hot potato in some circles, both between moderate pragmatists who wonder whether the event can evolve to become less commercial in its image, and right-wing anarchoqueer hardliners. The former group are only just starting to more visibly seek reform; the latter have such a commitment to conformity that they would rather have no LGBT event in the city than keep the one we have, so they work to disrupt and undermine it rather than contribute and engage in constructive change.

Over here in the B corner, of course, we long ago noticed how excluded from 'LGBT' events we can be and got ourselves organised to create BiCon as an alternative: it's been going rather longer than Manchester Pride.

There is a Pratchett book which starts several times to emphasise that where a story begins is a matter of perspective of the teller, and that's an important factor here. In telling the tale of Little Red Riding Hood would you start when she meets the wolf, when she sets off into the woods, or go back to when grandma first wound up living all alone in a cottage in the middle of the woods away from everyone else.

If you've come to the city or become aware of local LGBT politics since 2003,and have chosen not to get educated about the past, it looks one way. There's a big monolithic Pride organisation which bankrolls lots of money into a couple of big organisations and smaller sums into a plethora of small projects. It's deeply enmeshed with the city council, and hard to see the borderlines where the council, LGF and GHT end and where the separate Pride organisation begins. And they've made the odd mistake along the way, though the main howler (charging individual people for marching on the parade) was retracted after being tried the once. It's very commercial, very much a showcase for big business emphasising its 'gay-friendly' credentials, and the focus is very very L/G, with much less T and practically nothing B.

However, if you remember back before EuroPride in 2003, it looks rather different. I'll come back and say more about that another time, but for now it would help greatly if in debating Manchester Pride's present and future, we could keep in mind its past, and not conflate LGBT pride the concept with LGBT Pride the Manchester event.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Bi Day

A few days ago BiMedia.Org reported
In ten days’ time it will be 23 September, and the tenth International Celebrate Bisexuality Day. What have you got planned to mark the date? It looks like there will be an unprecedented level of activity around the date across the UK and BiMedia.Org would like to have the canonical guide, so get in touch and let us know!
It looks like we'll have more going on than ever before this year; a small reception in Manchester, the big bi consultation event in Scotland, and probably a couple of other places joining in too. The international bi lists also have noticeably more chatter on the subject. After many years in which we stretched to make something happen anywhere, is Bi Day finally taking off?

Sunday, 7 September 2008

BiCon Ltd

BiMedia.Org reports:
Following debate at the Decision Making Plenary of BiCon 2008, the organisation will be formalising its existence with limited company status. The decision was carried overwhelmingly by the conference and further details of the plans will be published in the UK bi community journal of record, BCN.
I think it might actually have been unanimous, that vote.

To shed a little light on it as a past BiCon runner: I think this is a damn good thing.

To shed a little more light on it: since approximately forever, any surplus made by one BiCon is handed on to the next team. This has meant that since the late 90s every incoming team has had some initial funding which they could use for publicity, venue deposits, meetings costs or what have you. Some BiCons run at a profit, some at a loss, but overall we have always had a little bit left in the kitty. Or sometimes a great big bit - £13,000 at one point I think.

This is great and means that for instance people on JSA can get involved in running a BiCon despite not being able to commit financially to it.

However it has also depended on a lot of luck. No-one has ever done a runner with the money, and no-one has run a BiCon that went so badly wrong that they wound up in debtor's jail after getting their sums horribly wrong or deciding to spend the past surplus on an enormous amount of cake. Either of those things could happen - and I stress I am not thinking of any BiCon organiser or potential organiser when I say that! If it did, we as a community wouldn't have any kind of come-back or recourse. We give organisers the money and trust them to behave. If they don't... well, we wouldn't talk to them any more. For some people that might be worth the £13,000.

A pair of limited companies on the other hand gives us some extra hands on the BiCon purse strings, and some protection for the assets built up over the years should things go badly wrong.

So by setting up as limited companies with boards running them we diffuse both the liability if it all goes wrong, and the opportunity to run off with the cash. It is a brilliant idea, and one which I particularly like since - as editor of the free fair and independent bi press - in order to protect BCN's editorial independence I really cannot be nobbled into becoming part of the Board for.

Saturday, 6 September 2008


Something that came out of the Volunteering session I led at BiCon this summer was the dearth of public bi blogging.

Not that we aren't blogging as bis. There are lots of people in the UK bi community blogging their private lives on LiveJournal, to a degree that is really good if you happen to be a part of that 'clique' and potentially excluding if you are not. But that tends to be in "friends-locked" postings that are harder for people to find, and is general life blogging, 98% not about "being bisexual" or bi issues.

Some people are doing bi-life, bi-living, bi-politics blogging. Sue George being the most high profile example this side of the Atlantic. If I tarted this blog about a bit more I might move up in those stakes. But it's fairly isolated, individual thoughts rather than collective noodling and bouncing off one another.

However the blogosphere in other sectors helps to get that kind of community of debate going and can even get things noticed by journalists or spark activism. Might a stronger degree of blogging about bi stuff help lift the community and politicisation of the bi movement? It works in other fields, and the technique the Lib Dems use in LibDemBlogs was cited as a good example.

So it seems we might be set to do something like that, probably on, and BiMedia.Org has carried a call for Bisexuality Bloggers to drum up the first contributors. My inclination is always to make things like this be UK or EU centric: there are lots of US and North America resources compared to the rest of the world and you can feel drowned out in them as someone on another continent. But that'll be down to some further work and noodly discussions.

It won't happen this week, but it could be a very interesting site once it is up and running. It'll probably wind up being the home page on at least one of my browsers...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Stealth counts more than gender

At Manchester Pride the easiest flyer to get people to take from the stall is the Love Counts More Than Gender ones I've produced. They're little more than a reprint of a 2005 bi flyer which promoted that year's BiCon, but the rainbow lettered slogan on a black background seems to get snapped up by people regardless of orientation, despite its implied bi-superiority connotations (to me at least, and perhaps I've over-thought the issue). The back tells you about national resources and events - BiFest, BCN etc, the usual things - rather than about Worcester BiCon 2005 which would look just a tad dated now.

In its great pickup rate across the Kinsey scale, I think this flyer may count as Stealth Bi Propaganda.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Katy Perry: hero or villain?

Topping the charts in the USA and UK this week, Katy Perry’s single I Kissed A Girl has set the queer blogosphere alight in a way not seen since, er, gosh weren't T.a.T.u the last popsters to cause such "it's faux lesbianism to turn on 15 year old boys" delight in the tabloids and outrage in the pink press?

With lines like “I kissed a girl and I liked it… I hope my boyfriend won’t mind it… It felt so wrong, it felt so right” it might be an anthem for the bi-curious girlie. But then singing “No, I don’t even know your name. It doesn’t matter, You’re my experimental game” and a video of lipstick lesbian titillation will reinforce every gay scene stereotype of bisexuals as tourists who run back to the safety of mixed-gender relationships. Hell, at the end of the video, she even wakes up from all the soft-focus girlies to find herself in bed with her boy. And Perry’s track record with a previous single about how her insufficiently macho boyfriend is “so gay” doesn’t leave me wanting to give Perry the benefit of the doubt on her sexual politics.

But perhaps I’m getting overly excited about a pop single: the main market is teenagers and who knows how many bi and lesbian girls may find it gives them an excuse to make that first step out of line from heterosexuality.

Now, the real way that “I Kissed A Girl” could pioneer for bisexual credibility is if we can get Torchwood star John Barrowman to cover it on one of his innumerable BBC appearances. Or perhaps we might get Ben Summerskill to do it for a charity single. How about it Ben - split the proceeds between Stonewall and - oh, wait, we don’t have a bisexual charity. We’ll get back to you.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Manchester Challenge

I'd made some protest flyers but when I woke up, I just wasn't in the right mood for that kind of confrontation action and wanted to build bridges a little instead. So, I sat on a train to Manchester and scribbled on an A5 sheet a question.

“Bisexuals are the invisible majority of the LGB community. But where are they? If your LGBT-sector organisation has moved in name in recent times from being LG to LGB or LGBT, what work are you doing to engage with the bi people you were not previously working with? How are you recruiting and targeting them? And if you have not changed how you are working, is it time you were working with groups like BiPhoria to change that?”

And, at the very end of the segment of the conference where people from local LGBT organisations could talk about their work, I gave a fleeting overview of bis in the city and then read from my script.

So, it constitutes my challenge issued to LGBT organisations represented at Manchester City Council’s annual LGBT Consultation Day today. The council has run an LG(BT) community consultation event annually-ish for the last five or six years, and in theory it draws many of the key activists and organisers in the LGBT communities across the North West of England. In practice, they hold it on a midweek daytime, so what it draws is youth/student groups, council employees, and the organisations large enough to have paid staff.

Manchester City Council has a genuinely good, strong record on lesbian and gay issues, and have made serious and sincere moves on the conservative end of trans issues in recent times, but are still yet to put the B into their LGBT. Really in a way that shows a contrast very badly. I mean, they have council employees who are the gay mens officer, lesbians officer, and gender officer, so the LG and T are now all pretty strongly covered. They have gay mens and lesbians lead spokespeople on the governing party's benches, and have had for at least a decade.

So today's agenda included presentations from L, G and T work and organisations, and I was able to do some really useful networking with them, but spent far too much of the day having to interject "and what about the bis?"

It needs a change of culture at the top that permeates into the rest of our city's LG scene. I fear the homocentric agenda is so entrenched though that the only way to change the embedded power base there is for Labour to lose control of the council... at at the current rate of Lib Dem progress in the city that'll be another 15 years. Bah.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Experimental collaboration

I've produced a shiny new flyer advertising both Manchester BiPhoria and the Birmingham bi group, so usable anywhere along the West side of England from about Kendal to Gloucester!

It's not simply a matter of those two groups working together to produce joint literature though; this is a BCN project so it also plugs Bi Community News magazine. It's a blatant attempt to make promoting BCN be in the enlightened self-interest of local bi groups. If it works, BCN has higher sales and is able to fund more bi awareness resources like the Fancy Men, Fancy Women, Fancy Both? leaflets. In turn we have more people aware of the community, more chance of more successful local groups, more BCN sales... you get the idea. If it doesn't work, it didn't cost much; if it does work, I'll have to start looking at other pairs and threes of local groups who could be put on a joint flyer similarly.

If you are anywhere in that tranche of England, I've a big stack of them so if you've somewhere local you can distribute them - community centre, LGBT project, library etc - give me a shout. Or get in touch with the Birmingham group via their website.

Oh, and they look like this:

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Liverpool reports:

The website of the Liverpool bisexual group, Mersey Bis, has been updated after a long gap.

The sad news is that it reports that the group is wound up, and they are encouraging anyone from Merseyside and surrounding areas who would have been interested in the group to go along to the Manchester bisexual social-support group instead.

The sad truth is, the Liverpool group shut down a long while ago in response to a lack of members. After bravely meeting monthly for a year they still only had five or six people each session, and understandably decided to call it a day. The website has been frozen with out-of-date information including a duff phone number, and a no-longer-existent PO box, as sadly happens often with websites.

It's even more of a problem where the group runners don't know one another through the peer network of the UK bi scene. I have no idea whether Colchester group is still going, for instance, and suspect that BCN was listing the Newcastle group for twice as long as it was running.

That said, I don't know how we can really improve on the situation.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Stonewall at it again

For the third year in a row Stonewall have helped stiffen the resolve of all those fighting the marginalisation and invisibility of bisexuality with a fine report on the problems and discrimination facing LGB people which makes all its recommendations in terms of what needs to change for 'lesbians and gay men' not to expect to face discrimination in their day-to-day lives. Political parties need to appoint lesbians and gay men to positions of high profile, and so forth.

They did the same thing last year on their social attitudes survey, and the year before in their LG(B) in the media report. It has been pointed out to them in many ways; on panels at public LGBT events; by postcard lobbying; in person to staff members. Alas, they remain resolute in their determination to pretend that everyone is gay or straight with none of the diversity of life in the real world.

This survey was conducted as an interview of 1,600+ people and so - given there are more bis than lesbians and gay men put together - there have to have been a fair number of bisexuals unless the sampling methods were so ropey that Stonewall should be demanding their money back from pollsters YouGov.

That could reveal all kinds of interesting things. There might be interesting gender differences in experiences and expectations. There might be evidence that 'bisexual privelidge' does have some statistical impact. It might show no statistical difference between bi and gay people, which would dispel the 'bi privelige' line. Or it might, like MIND's report into LGB mental health, show the impact that receiving prejudice from both sides has on bisexuals.

Alas, Stonewall's research team and statisticians haven't cared to explore any of that.

Monday, 18 February 2008

1,000 years extra free

This weekend I had the pleasure of co-organising a bi-focused event for LGBT History Month.

The misleadingly named “2,000 Years of Bisexuality” was a two hour long exploration of bisexuality in history from 3,000 years ago to present times. Call it 50% extra free. It was academically rigorous as a talk, with slides, which was something that was only possible thanks to having guest speakers who came up from London for the event. There was even an extensive Q&A with the audience at the end which proved many of them had stayed awake the whole way through; and I'm hoping BCN will run a series of profiles of arguably-bi figures from history following on from it.

About 40 people came along despite the refusal of the local council - let's name and shame those perennialy dodgy on bi issues folks at Manchester Town Hall - to provide support by publicising the event in their History Month literature (they did however for example give ample publicity to a lesbian and gay line dancing event 'for LGBT history month').

What I like most about making this event happen is that it is different from the usual run of bi events in the city and around the UK. It's as accessible to non-bis as to bis, and as relevant to people who are just coming out as bi as to people who have been out for years and can recite their Klein grid scores in their sleep.

The bi community, such as it is, is much better at parties and newbie events and lacks that extra diversity and range in what we put on; this means if you are not part of the perceived cliques it is hard to see why you would keep coming back to events. Widening out the range of things we put on challenges that problem, and this has to be a good thing in growing a wider sense of bisexual identity and community.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Captain on Captain action

The new issue of BCN has another great photo to wow the readers - this one is a somewhat homoerotic pose between John Barrowman and James Marsters, courtesy of the BBC promoting Torchwood season two.

We have a regular problem at BCN in that most of the volunteers we have for coverbi status are female (or have more complex gendered identities but tend to look female). It's good to be getting a little bit more balance in there, and as Torchwood is the best sci fi on telly bar the remake of Galactica, even better to have a couple of hotties out of Torchwood to be doing the gender rebalance with.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Stonewall comes clean?

Stonewall has faced much criticism from bisexuals over the years for being an LGB charity that only ever talks about lesbians and gay men.

A copy of the 2007 Stonewall christmas card has made its way to the bimedia team this week, and finally puts that one to rest: on the back it states, “Stonewall: the lesbian and gay charity”.

That sorts that one out then.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

1 in 100?

This weekend's newspapers are reporting - with an undertone of homophobic glee - that an Office for National Statistics poll of 4,000 people found that "only" 1 in 100 described themselves as gay or lesbian. So that's the 1 in 10 figure squished, and the 6% the government used when planning for Civil Partnerships.

Read more closely and it becomes a little clearer.

A further 1 in 100 identified as bisexual and 1 in 200 as "other", while 15% were not recorded because the interviewer chose not to ask the question. Yup, this was not some safely anonymous survey by form with layers of anonymising the interviewees in place, it was members of the public being asked directly by a complete stranger whether they were bi, straight or gay.

The real story here is not "only 1 in 100". It's a remarkable 1 in 40 non-heterosexuals who are so comfortably out about their sexual orientation that they don't feel they have to lie when being interviewed by a complete stranger.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

The votes are in...

...a nation waits with bated breath to see whether BiCon will hold the coveted Fifth Place for Best Gay Event Of The Year 2007 in the Pink Paper awards.

I noticed last time I dropped in at the local LG community centre that they have a framed certificate on their wall that they came third in the category they were nominated for last year. Perhaps there will be a shiny framed certificate for display in the reception area of BiCon 2008.