Tag Archives: QTIPOC

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.

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Zine Fairs, or a Blizzard on a trestle table

I started making zines on Christmas Day 2014.  There was no snow, no blizzard then; that was reserved for later wen I started selling zines at fairs.  Zine events are white; really white, no matter where they happen in the U.K.  With a couple of exceptions* I’m often the only black person tabling, though there are usually a some POC attending as shoppers. The Blizzard Scale explained: http://j-applebee.tumblr.com/post/160014567848/the-blizzardscale

I’ve had discussions recently with a few organisers of zine fairs held in different parts of the country about the lack of diversity at their fairs.  Their responses showed a powerful ignorance of the needs and issues facing zine creators who are marginalised or oppressed (POC, Disabled, Working Class, Older, and LGBT+.  All these groups are likely to be poorer, so costs for tabling, production and travel to the events will be difficult to budget for.

Issues and Solutions:
Finding out about zine events is another issue, as plenty of fairs attract tablers by word of mouth or invitation only, so marginalised creators are unlikely to find out about these events until the publicity for attendees goes out.  I’ve been told by a one-woman zine fair organiser, “We can’t force marginalised creators to approach us for tables!”  This way of thinking is plainly ridiculous.  If organisers truly want diversity, then they have to make an effort to attract us.  This could be as simple as doing a general call for tablers, but stating you’re looking for marginalised creators too; having a quota, or offering tables for a reduced fee (even if that reduction is small).  These things show that you’re aware of us and want us at your zine fair.

Access:
I’ve tabled at zine fairs held in the basement of a pub, where zero customers visited.  The space was down a steep staircase, making it inaccessible to creators and customers with mobility issues.  This lack of consideration made me despair.  Accessibility isn’t just just for those in wheelchairs – I’ve also tabled at a fair in the back room of a noisy pub where my tinnitus played havoc the whole time.**. On one horrible occasion, a zine fair was held in a London bookshop which had a racist book prominently displayed there.

The U.K is a place with marginalised and oppressed people living in every part of it.  Zines are at its heart a tool created for these groups whose voices are often ignored and silenced.  Nobody would know that from the makeup of most zine fairs though.

*Thanks to:

NW Zinefest https://northwestzinefest.wordpress.com

Weirdo Zinefest https://www.facebook.com/events/865940280157674 (2017 event)

 DIY Cultures http://diycultures.tumblr.com 

Penfight Distro https://penfightdistro.com/zine-events/ has a calendar of Zine fairs throughout the year.

@POCZines http://poczineproject.tumblr.com is a mainly U.S based group that supports Zinesters of Colour

for actively encouraging marginalised zine creators.

**There is NO REASON to hold events in a pub nowadays.  Yes, pubs can be cheap or even free, but the majority of pubs are also very unfriendly/off-putting/inaccessible for:
Women & Femmes
LGBT+ folk
Disabled
People of Colour
Religious people (esp if they wear religious dress)

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New Update to Bi’s of Colour Book, edited by the Bi’s of Colour Collective

Bi’s of Colour Anthology: call for contributors WORLDWIDE!

Are you a bisexual/pansexual/fluid-sexuality person of colour?
Are you sick of having everyone else speak for/over us?

If you answered YES, then read on!

We are making plans to write a book about the lives and experiences of bisexuals of colour.

This is part of our longer term project to document and celebrate the richness of our lives; to connect us with one another.

It will be built on the foundations of the Bi’s of Colour History Report. We previously had confined this call for submissions to Europe, but now we are opening this up to bisexuals around the world.  We plan to have the following chapter headings, but this is just a guide.

Creativity and the Arts
Visibility and Erasure of Bi’s of Colour – where we are welcome, and where we aren’t
White Academics versus Activists of Colour
Dominant culture gaze – hypersexual, fetishes, imperialism and colonialism
Dating and Relationships
Isolation, exclusion and loneliness
Health – Sexual health, Mental health, Disabilities
Bi’s of Colour and BAME organisations
Bi’s of Colour and LGBT organisations
Families, Carers, Acceptance and Rejection
Racism
Religion, belief and spirituality or lack of
Body image and fashion
Class
Ageing
Violence
We are open to other headings, so if you think of something you can’t wait to express, let us know. We are also interested in non-fiction, art, photography or things we haven’t thought of yet! You can always contribute using a pen name if you want to be anonymous.

All contributors will be paid – we’ll be crowdfunding, so everyone will get an equal share – the amount will depend on how much we raise and how many contributors

If you are interested in contributing, email us at bis.of.colour@gmail.com .

THIS IS A BIG FLIPPIN’ DEAL!

Please reblog widely.

Thanks

Bis of Colour Collective

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Help me attend this bisexual conference!

I’ve been a bisexual activist for over 20 years.  I’ve campaigned widely across the UK and Continental Europe for better treatment and visibility of bisexual people of colour.  I’d love to go to BECAUSE, but airfare is ridiculously expensive from the UK to the US.

Please donate at Paypal.me/ACrystalGem and help me go!  However if I don’t raise enough, all money will be put toward the B’is of Colour book fund http://bisofcolour.tumblr.com/post/152552451453/bis-of-colour-book-edited-by-asha-jacq-and-nila.

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