Tag Archives: bisexual

People like me at 12-step groups

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People like me aren’t supposed to ask for help when we have problems.  Black people are supposed to be resilient and strong.  According to the Bisexuality Report (Open University, 2012) Bisexual people are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than straight, gay and lesbian people.  Biphobia and racism inside and outside of LGBT+ communities can also lead to worse mental health outcomes than others in the groups above (Bi’s of Colour report 2015).  

When I’m told by well meaning people to “Pray on it,” or “Get support from the family and church,” this advice is not so useful for me.  I’m an ex-runaway who fled their family of origin almost 30 years ago.  Most churches in the U.K are not welcoming towards LGBT+ people, and if by chance they are one of the few queer led congregations, they definitely are aimed at lesbians and gays only.  Detox and Mental health services in the NHS have little experience or willingness to learn about the intersections of ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion: one size fits all is what I’ve been offered in the past, but their little boxes of recovery can’t hold all that I am.  So I looked to group support in 12-step groups.

I’ve attended three 12-step groups in my life: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA), and Overeaters Anonymous (OA).

Alcoholics Anonymous is an organisation I had heard about in media growing up, but I had never heard of the other two groups until I was floundering around in libraries for information, long before the internet really existed.  The AA groups I attended were always overwhelmingly straight, white and male.  S.I.A and OA were very much straight, white and female.  I was usually the only black person in the room, and I was often made to feel unwelcome, but I persisted with each group, sometimes over the course of years, until I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I exist at the intersection of many marginalised identities.  People who are in the cultural majority often find it difficult to understand why this affects everything I do, including how I heal and work through issues.  In most 12-step groups, differences are ignored in the most part, and the baseline is simply a “desire to heal”.  But I can’t heal if white straight people talk over me, ignore my hand when it’s raised in meetings, or laugh when I share about how oppression affects me.  

In the last AA meeting I attended, I shared about racism I’d faced in previous meetings I’d attended in various locations in London.  As I left the building, a white man approached me and said, “Maybe we should all wear boot polish next week, then we’ll be the same.”  He walked away quickly after my retort of, “I can’t believe you just said that!”  

At many OA meetings, people had the tendency to hug each other before leaving.  As a survivor of sexual violence, it has taken me decades to be comfortable with hugging people I don’t know well, unless they ask if it’s okay to do that first.  At the end of my last OA meeting, a man launched himself at me with arms wide and a big grin on his face.  I stepped back and said, “No thanks.” 

The man looked at me with eyes wide in shock and said in a very angry tone, “I wanna hug you.  I’m not gonna hurt you!”

At a different OA meeting, someone brought their dog, and left the animal free to wander around the small room.  When I asked them to keep their dog away from me, as I’m scared of most animals, I was met with an aggressive white woman spitting words at me, and stating I was at a ‘dog-friendly’ meeting, and I should ‘get used to it or just go’.

These outbursts left me scared and upset.  We all have different ways we interact with the world, but because of how I look and am perceived, it’s assumed I can handle everything thrown at me without a word of complaint; the ‘Strong Black Woman’ trope is alive and well it appears.  I’m rarely seen as a human with feelings, but just a jumble of stereotypes.  Also, I’m nonbinary.

Disbelief, silence, a lack of respect toward boundaries, sexism, biphobia and general racism before, during and after meetings, were an everyday occurrence in the groups I attended.  London is a multicultural city, but when I went to meetings, I may have well been in the most isolated rural settlement.  There was nobody to speak to about my problems I encountered in meetings, as 12-step groups don’t operate with a system of leadership or even culpability.  I simply found myself alone and unwanted everywhere I went.  I no longer attend any group and it saddens me, because I can see how much they have helped white people; I can see the potential that could exist for me too, if I wasn’t the person I am. But I know I should never feel forced to change or ignore who I am, in order to get the help I desperately need.

Speculative (and erotic) poem

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(Image: Intersex flag)

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After the great session at WorldCon on Speculative poetry, I was reminded of something I wrote a few years back – set in Chislehurst Caves, just outside London. Caves feature in my work an awful lot: I’m sure there’s something psychological about that, but I’ve never found any relatable meaning in my research.

This is a long rhyming poem, but one I love to reread often.  I hope everyone (over the age of 18) enjoys it too!

Stain upon the floor

Li Shang – Mulan’s bisexual icon is missing!

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Here’s some more info on the removal of Li Shang if anyone needs it: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/04/18/mulan-disney-bisexual-icon-removed-from-new-film/

Mimi Launder is looking for opinions from bisexual People of Colour on this character being written out of the live-action version of Mulan.  Please answer these questions below, and email  them to Mimi.Launder@independent.co.uk

If you feel happy to comment or know much about the film: 

1: How did you feel when you heard Li Shang, a bi icon, was erased from Mulan live action remake? 

2: What are your thoughts on Disney’s decision and do you think it says anything about Disney’s attitudes to LGBT+ characters? 

On bi erasure more generally:
3: How and in what ways does bi erasure impact your life?
4: Do you think the conversation on bi erasure/bisexuality excludes or ignores bi people of colour?
5: How important do you think it is to increase the representation of bisexual (and all LGBT+) people of colour in the media? Why is that important to you personally?

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TW: Sexual Assault, Biphobia

Long-term Victim Blaming & why it sucks especially bad for Bisexual women.

This post refers explicitly to women and femmes who have been victim to sexual violence from men.  There are some very different things male & masculine victims have to deal with, when violence comes from other genders.  Also women and femmes who are victims of violence from other women, deal with even less understood/talked about effects.

Most people are aware of victim blaming that comes up shortly after a traumatic event where sexual violence is reported.

“What was she wearing?”
“Why didn’t she fight back?”
“Why did she leave it so long to report it?”
“Why was she so quick to report it?  She must be doing it for attention/money.”
“She must have led him on.”

All of these things are hurtful, damaging and designed to put the blame on victims, and deter other victims (regardless of gender) from coming forward.  But what is not often considered or spoken of, is the effect of long-term victim blaming.

“She said she was raped, but she’s out there going to clubs!”
“Her boyfriend’s in prison for attacking her, but look at her kissing someone else!”
“How can she be so happy, after what she said happened?  She must be a liar!”
“She ruined his life by reporting him for sexual assault!  Now she’s always smiling in photos!”

The above examples all reinforce a nasty myth: once something bad (sexually) happens to a woman, she must remain in mourning for the rest of her life.  No smiles, no sex, no new relationships (especially not lesbian or bisexual ones).  It also plays into the myth of the ‘Almighty Dick of Power.’ And of how it can affect you permanently.  This is the same myth that states “One dick can turn a queer woman straight!”

The truly sad thing is, many women believe these myths too.
“How can you go out to a party/Wear that short dress/Talk about positive sex?  Do you want to be assaulted again?”

And when these women are lesbians, it sometimes colours their view of bisexual women and other lesbians who have been raped/sexually assaulted too.  The “Almighty Dick” means that if you’ve been with one man, consensual or not, you’re tainted for life.  The Almighty Dick is partnered with the Gold Star Lesbian.

Bisexual women have higher rates of sexual assault than either straight women or lesbians. See Bisexuality Report 2011, Open University.  https://bisexualresearch.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/the-bisexualityreport.pdf But when long-term victim blaming is aimed at us, we have few places to turn to.  Racism, Fatphobia and Disability definitely makes things worse, as respectability politics comes into play as well.

As a bisexual femme, and survivor of multiple rapes and 20 years of sexual abuse, I implore EVERYONE to think before they say hurtful things like the above.  I still have nightmares & flashbacks to awful things that happened to me, both as a child and an adult.  Biphobia is toxic, just as victim blaming is toxic.  If I have fun or wear a short dress, it doesn’t mean all the hurt has gone away.  It doesn’t mean I was lying or exaggerating about my experiences.  You have the power to make the world less shit for me.  For God’s sake, do the right thing.

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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.