Structural issues with BiCon. Or why I’m not returning unless I see some changes.
BiCon is run by volunteers in the bisexual community. Every year the organisers change. If an organiser screws up, often nothing is done, cos they won’t be there next year (usually). Last year an organiser made paedophile jokes during the cabaret, mocked non-binary people & was generally inappropriate. Very little was done, even though lots of people complained & were in tears (including me) at the Paedophile thing. There’s nothing to guarantee the same won’t happen this year or the next, because they’re never held accountable. The same guy who caused the upset last year (breaking several BiCon Code of Conduct rules in the process) wasn’t thrown out of the Con. If an attendee had done that, they’d be told to leave immediately. It’s been almost a year since that incident, but I haven’t heard or seen anything on BiCon website apologising about it, or even mentioning it.
When I’ve brought up problems in the past, I’ve often been told “We’re just volunteers! We don’t get paid to do this!” This is a silencing tactic, which minimises the power that these volunteers have. It’s like saying, “Shut up and be grateful!”
Another issue is the constant lack of engagement with bisexuals of colour. The highest attendance (20+) we had was the year a donor gave BiCon funding to subsidise free places for People of Colour, disabled and working class. The next year there was nothing, and the attendance went down to about 5 bi’s of colour. Nobody on organising teams wants to look at the fact that bi’s of colour are more likely to be unemployed or on low wages – due to racism. If we can’t get subsides places, we simply can’t go. I’ve been saying this since 2008, and nobody seems to listen. At the same time, I keep getting asked how BiCon can become more accessible and diverse. This just feels like the minimum amount of lip service.
I’ve been a bisexual activist for years. BiCon has been the highlight of each of those years. BiCon needs to look at the structure of organising the event. BiCon Continuity could possibly include this in their remit too. Because until things change, and I feel safer attending, I’m not going back.
Trigger Warning: Mentions of self harm & suicide
2015 was not a good year for me. In 2015, I was lied to, gaslighted and let down by people I thought were friends. I was given a new mental health diagnosis. I self-harmed less, but was suicidal more.
There were good parts in 2015: I helped to raise funds for Bi’s of Colour, I appeared at number 58 on the Independent on Sunday’s Rainbow List, and I stood up for my convictions by standing up against the White lesbian and gay PR machine.
2015 was the year when impossible things happened: a fascist hate group (UKIP) had their gay group as part of London LGBT Pride. The head of London Pride appeared on the Politics Show laughing at how he managed to get the hate group safely in the parade (by pushing the African lesbian and gay immigration group out of the way). This is the year that saw me resign from the Community Advisory Board of London Pride (They still haven’t refilled the Black member’s seat).
Other impossible things occurred: The bloody Conservatives got back into power, despite voters knowing how much damage they’ve already done. We as a country decided the best way to help Syrian refugees was to bomb Syria. Steven Universe became even better and queerer than ever. But one of the happiest and most impossible things was being able to meet a bisexual musical icon I have loved since I was thirteen years old. I met Tom Robinson at the Rainbow List Awards Vodka appreciation ceremony. He gave me a massive hug, and didn’t mind at all when I threatened to cry on his shoulder with gratitude.
I sincerely hope that 2016 is better than this year, but if it isn’t, at least I’ll have the hug of a lifetime as something next year can never top.
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BiCon 2015 Inclusivity has always been at the heart of my values. I’ve felt like I don’t belong, been actiely erased, dismissed and ignored for years. BiCon, and the Bi’s of Colour group has helped combat the loneliness and isolation and otherness I’ve felt in a big way. It’s why BiCon is the highlight of […]
This gallery contains 5 photos.
2015 saw the 6th year of Big Bi Fun Day. A suny day in Leicester saw over thirty people enjoying this relaxed, family-friendly event. There was picnics on the grass, games to enjoy and even some free jewellery in the quiet room! Hannah has taken over the running of this annual event, as Sanji, the […]
Stonewall’s historic consultation with the bi communities
I’ve been pissed off with Stonewall for decades. Bi erasure and biphobia hurts twice as much when it comes from a supposedly lesbian, gay and bisexual organisation. I felt like there was no accountability, that the B in LGB (T) was just a letter and not the reality of varied communities of bisexual people. I wasn’t expecting much of the Bi Consultation except a lot of denial and frustration. So I was glad when the day began with meeting other bi activists in a coffee shop in Pimlico, who were full of ideas.
The Etc venue had gender neutral toilets, a variety of food and drink for those who had allergies, and the staff were friendly.
Once inside, I took a discreet look around the packed boardroom: I counted over thirty people present, but only two other bisexuals of colour. I was disappointed that there weren’t more; that events like these either weren’t going after LGBT people of colour, or it was off-putting to black and minority ethnic people. Another issue that affects me personally, was that whenever anyone mentioned the word, “black,” everyone at my table would suddenly turn to me. That behaviour continued throughout the day until the afternoon when I asked them all to stop. I don’t represent all black and minority ethnic bisexuals. I just help run Bi’s of Colour, which was started due to racism present in bisexual spaces.
After the facilitator, Caroline set out some ground rules, Ruth Hunt gave an apology for how bisexuals were treated by Stonewall in the past. It didn’t feel like empty words, but that the charity wanted to move forward with positive intent. We were also told some of Stonewalls early history, which seemed to involve getting lots of gay, cis men to pay attention to lesbians who were being discriminated against. I started to feel irritated; this kind of behaviour was going on in the present day when it came to bisexuals. A quick look at Stonewalls LGBT history page sees a complete absence of bisexual recognition (Fritz Klein’s grid is mentioned, but not the fact that he was bi)
There was a brief flurry of questions and answers. I was impressed that Ruth Hunt was willing to field these professionally and with good nature. One question: Stonewall has been deliberately biphobic in the past, resulted in a statement that Stonewall was not institutionally biphobic. I began to feel uncomfortable once more; as one participant told me later, “Society is institutionally biphobic.” Part of this kind of behaviour is that it is very hard to see from the inside; bisexuals are probably the best people to gauge whether something is biphobic or not. This statement was clarified later, but I still felt on edge.
Ruth Hunt presented several points that Stonewall thought were priorities for bisexual people:
Health, Asylum and Immigration, Employment, Biphobia within the lesbian and gay community, and Bi Visibility. The attendees added the following: Homelessness and housing, Race, Faith, Ageing, Intersections, Parenting, Rural Bi’s
(These are incomplete lists)
We split into groups to discuss these points, and to generate ways that Stonewall could address them. For the first time in the day, I felt really good; that I was being listened to, and Stonewall was taking notice. The discussions continued after lunch, and then each group fed back to the room. It was great hearing so many ideas for moving forward that would be aimed at bisexuals. These discussion points resulted in a declaration that Stonewall may not be able to deliver everything we wanted, but our priorities would be taken seriously. Ruth gave us a list of proposals that would be taken forward from the day. Two of the proposals that really made me smile was that there would be a named person in Stonewall responsible for bi people, and there would be a campaign to fight biphobia from lesbian and gay communities
I came away from the event feeling emotionally wiped out. I may have behaved as if I didn’t really care about what happened, but the sense of hope I had as I left was a surprise for me; after being a part of the bisexual community, starving for attention, a feast was finally within my sights!
Bi History Discussion and Social Space
As part of LGBT History month, there will be an informal gathering to talk about UK bisexual history, share memories and generally socialise. Free entry, but donations welcome, tea and biscuits provided.
Date and time: Weds 18th February, 7pm – 10pm
Organisers: Katy and Jacq
Essex Church (Unitarian),
112 Palace Gardens Terrace
Notting Hill Gate
London W8 4RT
It’s about five minutes’ walk from Notting Hill Gate tube, map here: https://goo.gl/maps/qo4iX