Guest Post by @Angreebindii
People of Colour at BiCon: Are we really welcome there?
@Angreebindii works in Higher Education. She has a background in political activism and social justice campaigns. She is QTIPOC, disabled, a trade union organiser and is mostly angry about inequality.
Bicon is the UK’s largest and most consistent event dedicated to the bisexual community. It is the amalgamation of both a conference and a convention, hence the name Bicon. Bicon explores a whole spectrum of issues relating to bisexuality, kink and sex positivity. It came about in the mid-1980s after an event titled ‘The Politics of Bisexuality’ was the first to be organised in London, 1984. What followed was a series of similar events after fully concretising into Bicon shortly after. It is a yearly event where the management and delivery of the event is democratically run.
This year’s event was the second I attended. And it may well be my last. In fact, my first Bicon was on the cusp of being my last. My first Bicon was rifled racism. I found myself swimming in meagre attendance of people of colour in an oppressive sea of white attendees. It was an unsafe space fraught with white dreadlocks and well-meaning pretty white bindis. It also consisted of culturally appropriative events organised and led by white people. These included meditation mornings and tantric sex type of sessions. This year’s Bicon was pretty much of the same old white thing. Even with Bicon’s sponsorship of first time Bis of Colour attendees, this year’s event was quite white.
There have always been ongoing Bicon issues with whiteness. However, this year took more than an uncomfortable turn and it shook me. The organisers booked in Spectrum, the LGBT arm of the Home Office and praised the presence a uniformed Police Officer at the event. Many members from the Bis of Colour were uncomfortable and felt unsafe. I took to Twitter to highlight the issue. The response was mixed. At one point, it got very frustrating. My ‘views’ were disputed however, those of white people were not. For example: I, a migrant of colour got whitesplained about the police & the Home Office. However, ex-employees of the Home Office received support and compassion for stating the same thing as I did.
The very same weekend the police were aiding racists to attack people of colour in Charlottesville, Bicon was sharing pro-police & Home Office tweets. At the event, organisers and attendees were friendly and complicit with their presence. The lack of sensitivity, disrespect and outright racism at the expense of people of colour was hurtful. It certainly felt that our bisexuality counted less than white queers.
The presence of organisations linked to institutions such as the Home Office and the police is not only racist due to how the people of colour are treated but how our sexuality is discriminated against. Bicon organisers decided to defend their presence. That was racist as well a biphobic, classist, ableist and sexist. Their discrimination towards us were intersecting. The Home Office’s abhorrent treatment of queer, disabled, and women refugees cannot be ignored. The same is with the police. In fact, the police are responsible for killing people of colour due to the colour of their skin. These facts are not ignored by white queers at Bicon – they are debated then negated.
Following from these debates I had about Bicon, I decided that enough was enough.
Bisexuals of colour are told to engage in the event’s organisational processes. We are encouraged to attend, to contribute, and to make complaints within the existing structures. And when we do, we are thanked and our ‘views’ appreciated. However, those views, which in stark reality are in fact outright experiences of discrimination, are only ever just acknowledged. Racism becomes diluted to ‘microaaggression’ and ‘cultural appropriation’ almost as if that is an optional form of being discriminated against. It is as if we, queers of colour, choose to feel discriminated, hence actual change to create decolonised queer spaces become optional. That is all too convenient to white LGBT types. It suits them that we have done our job and contributed. And they have done their bit, they have acknowledged us. So the matter is closed.
Except that for us, queers of colour – the discrimination is ongoing. So each year, we have to do the same, contribute and be muted. It goes on until it becomes all too much for queers of colour. Then sometimes we let the less worse things slide. At other times, we get traumatised, burnt out and angry. Or just angry. Often we need to distance ourselves and take breaks whilst we carry on being racially discriminated against. All the while the racism never stops and nor do the white excuses. Hence, for us the racism never ends.
If we demand our rights, we are told that we are insensitive and unreasonable. We are told to appreciate that Bicon ‘is run by volunteers’. We are told that it takes a lot to organise an event. We are told that organisers get burnt out. We are told that it is a structural issue. All in all, we are told many things and are reduced to feel like misunderstanding children. At the end of the day, all those things we are told are white excuses for racial bias. Respectability for the structure and the ‘volunteers’ outweigh our struggle to exist safely as bisexuals/queers of colour.
Bicon has been going for over 30 years, yet people of colour still face the brunt of bi-racism. I have been involved in political work since I was seventeen years old so I understand the dynamics of oppression. I have experienced such exclusive behaviours far too much. So for it to happen again, for me, is unacceptable.This is why I have made my decision.
Bicon and its white apologists are not worth my time. In an act of decolonised queer self-love, Bicon will never be graced by my powerful and important presence. Not until, real action occurs. By that I mean at least 1) a consistent increase of Bis of Colour year on year 2) a stronger decolonised code of conduct 3) the proper enforcement of the code of conduct 4) the end to cultural appropriation 4) POC focused session *run* by POCs 5) intersectionality.
I encourage other queers of colour and their allies to demand the same. We need to stand up and own our power. It is an act of self-love to break an abusive relationship. People of colour everywhere deserve to be respected and valued. Until those changes in Bicon happen, we should stand up and demand change. Bicon’s reward would be our presence. And until then we will thrive by organising together our own events as queers of colour – in a decolonised act of self-love.