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  • Traveller_23 1:54 am on November 23, 2014 Permalink  

    Coming Out to…the New Office 

    A Downward Trajectory?

    I recently relocated from London to a small town in Scotland for work.  The move is good for my career - I get to spend time on site and do practical engineering work as my new role is more field-based. Of course, I knew the move would complicate things in other ways - flying to Bangladesh from this place is a logistical nightmare, and trying to get visas to travel to other parts of the world is even worse. I've never actually lived in a small town, so part of me has been looking forward to the experience. But equally, I knew a place like this would have some downsides compared to the UK's more cosmopolitan capital. The posts I've published on the blog so far have mostly been positive, and so in a way I'm almost glad to be talking about something negative for a change. 

    Of course, people in the office are as pleasant as ever. Most of my new team and other co-workers I socialise with know about my male partner, and it's been a complete non-issue. This includes my boss, who has been happy to give me advice on approaching my career and a long distance relationship. I've even tried dropping hints to let them know I'm bisexual, though I'm not 100% sure they've understood. The environment on site, however, has been more complicated. One of the field offices, for example, has a poster up complaining about political correctness and how some people hide behind discrimination all the time. I've been witness to little bits of racism and homophobia, and a more poignant episode of sexism. The racism involved a white co-worker aping a "typical Indian accent" to tease someone about their food choices. He wasn't making fun of South Asians per se, but I'd argue the imitation was inappropriate nonetheless.  The homophobia was similarly casual, where one of the men in a group (all white and aged 40+) seemed to be using "shirt-lifter" as a neutral substitute for the word gay when talking about a gay man. Again, more ignorance as opposed to directed malice. 

    The sexism was a little more elaborate, and involved a group of reasonably senior men on site discussing the attractiveness of women in the office, detailing what they liked or disliked about several individuals. I don't expect a male-only team (a sad but common engineering demographic) not to talk about women, but I wouldn't expect that talk to include women who are colleagues or the conversation to go into such physical minutiae while on the clock. I'd also like to say at this point that I have done site-based work previously, and I haven't encountered anything like any of these scenarios before. The trend on site seems to be something replicated in the town itself. A group of white teenagers decided to have a party at my apartment complex this weekend, and I walked through a bit of "Indian accent" banter on the way to my front door. 

    Of course, nothing that has happened so far is something that couldn't happen in London - in fact I've heard of people having similar experiences down there too. But what I describe here is my experience of Scotland as it currently stands, and if I'm being honest I have to say it's been a mixed experience. Nothing yet has happened that I can't deal with and I'm hoping it'll stay that way. In the meantime, I'm hoping to tactfully bring up some these occurrences at work, and perhaps this will bring about a little bit of awareness and positive change. 

  • Blogging in Shadows 9:29 pm on November 21, 2014 Permalink  

    Older Bisexual Meetup 

    I attended the Older Bisexual Meetup on Monday 17th November. It was held at Age Uk’s Camden Office at Tavistock Square, London. The group meets on a monthly basis from 6-8pm. The venue is very accessible, and the meetup took place in a large airy room on the ground floor. Nickie, the host, said we had to move to that room as the meeting was so well attended that they had run out of space in their usual location! There were eleven people on the night I visited. In a rare event, there were more men present than women, which was a surprise to me. Everyone was friendly, and the attendees came from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities. Kate, who works for Opening Doors, and Nickie had provided a range of refreshments which was very welcome, especially as some of the attendees had come to the meeting straight after work.

    The group is aimed at any bisexual person who is over 50, or who is interested in life for bisexuals over 50. I am not their target audience for age, but I have worries about how my life will be when I’m older. I’ve heard of too many LGBT people who are forced back in the closet when they enter care homes, and of the way the LGBT scene is often aimed at those who are young. When I include elements such as racism, sexism and biphobia into this, I feel justified to have worries.

    The meetup itself was quite easy-going. I spoke a little about my volunteering role at the Terrence Higgin’s Trust project for people over 50 living with HIV. That led to a discussion on safer sex for older people which proved useful to some attendees. Kate Harad was also present; she spoke about the project “Purple Prose” a proposed guide for bisexual people in the U.K. There will be a chapter on bisexuality through our lifetime. Several attendees were excited about the project, and gave some suggestions and comments about how they could get involved.

    The night came to an end at 8pm. There was a flurry of people swapping contact details, and a lot of smiles. I had a very pleasant time, and was thankful that groups like this exist.

    The next meetup will be on 15th December 2014

    Health, Wealth and Happiness
    Purple Prose
    Age UK
    Opening Doors London
    Older Bisexual Meetup

  • Blogging in Shadows 8:39 pm on November 6, 2014 Permalink  

    I’ve recently been voted in as the bisexual people’s rep for London Pride Community Advisory Board!

    I promise to do the following:-


    2 Not be so into myself I will refuse to learn

    3 Listen to bi folks some more

    I hope to count on your support as I take on this new post. Because I’m half overjoyed and half petrified!

    I can be contacted at AT gmail DOT COM

  • Ludy 1:56 pm on October 18, 2014 Permalink  

    BiCon MultiFaith Spiritual Space 2014 

    I actually started writing this post soon after BiCon but inevitably other things and stuff took precedence so it’s only finished now – sorry for the extreme lateness …

    Spiritual is probably not the first word you would associate with a BiCon. The Survey shows that the vast majority of attendees (or at least the ones who fill out surveys!) are either atheist or agnostic. But there will still be a substantial number of People of Faith attending a BiCon. And some, like me, find that the emotional pressure-cooker effect and constant busyness of the Con mean it’s important to make space for some quiet, reflection and getting in touch with the spiritual.
    I have facilitated multi-faith spiritual spaces at several previous BiCons. It’s different each year and no matter how much I plan it advance I find I have to adapt and change it in the moment, to suit the particular group that has gathered in that particular time and space. Which is fun and a little bit scary… Though of course in the end it’s the group that make the workshop rather than what I say and do.
    Anyway, this is how 2014’s multi-faith spiritual space went:
    There was a medium sized group of attendees, who took some time to arrive and settle. The multi-faith spiritual space was straight after Symon’s excellent “What the Bible Really Says About Sex” workshop and there was some crossover in participants, although I thought there would be more. Symon’s workshop was a very thinky and discussion-based – looking at details of texts and comparing different translations. I found it intellectually stimulating and the different points of view were fascinating.My workshop was aiming to be something very different. Most BiCon workshops seem to be largely word based (which as an auditory learner works well for me but doesn’t suit everyone) and I wanted to use different sensory modalities to create a different kind of workshop experience.
    We were a bit late starting, waiting for people to turn up and get comfortable. We sat in a circle of chairs around a rainbow cloth and an LED candle (so as not to set off smoke alarms!) and chatted for a bit which hopefully gave people time to fully “arrive”. Then I did a fairly standard workshop welcome introducing myself and explaining the basic ground rules of confidentiality and respect. I reminded people that there can be a lot of pain around issues of sexuality and spirituality and to be gentle with each other and ourselves. Then we went round in a circle giving our names and one word or phrase about how we were feeling right now (I think it’s important to bring ourselves into a shared space by checking in about where we are at the start of a workshop. It’s hard making people stick to just one word or phrase but my experience is that if you don’t the name round can end up eating the rest of the workshop. I think my word was something like “tired”)
    We came together as a group by chanting the vowel sounds together. I didn’t want to use words associated with any particular spiritual tradition but reckon that all words have vowel sounds in so they should cover everybody’s favourite/meaningful words. We started with the English vowels of A, E, I, O and U and then speakers of other languages shared their vowel sounds with the rest of us (this was quite a challenge for me trying to find the unusual-to-me shapes in my dyspraxic mouth – that’s probably a good reminder of what an almost entirely English language BiCon must be like for someone who thinks in another language.)Next we had another round of the circle briefly talking about our spiritual backgrounds – there was quite a mix, mostly various flavours on pagan and new-age with some Christians (and others having grown up Christian but then found it hard to stay in the church because of attitudes to sexuality and gender) I would have really liked to have some input from people from other traditions too.
    We then talked about whether BiCon can be a spiritual space. My feeling is that it is – if we decide it is. Separating the “spiritual” from “the rest of life” is just another false binary that we don’t have to get trapped in unless it’s useful to us in a particular time and place. We shared a period of silence for everyone to approach their understanding of the spiritual/God/Goddess(es) and be mindful in the way that was most meaningful to them while the sounds of the rest of BiCon and the West Yorkshire rain happened around us.
    The next step was to share blessings. I asked people to think about the blessings they found in being Bi – or an ally – and being at BiCon. And then to think about their hopes and wishes for the rest of the group. I asked for everyone to try to find a movement to express sharing blessing with the person next to them as we went around the circle. Outside of the world of formal dance it’s unusual to share meaningful movement and I found it incredibly power and er … moving … to give and receive blessings in that way. We ended up spontaneously sharing the final person’s gesture of blessing as a group. It was a joyful kind if gesture and it just felt right.
    Finally we brought our concerns for others to the circle (some people would describe this as prayer). I provided some smudgey pastels and some small, textured pieces of paper and asked people to make a mark, a smudge of colour or a symbol to represent their concerns. I had deliberately provided materials it would be difficult to draw accurately with because I didn’t want people to get hung up on their artistic ability or lack of it (when I’ve facilitated “This Is What A Bisexual Looks Like” Life Drawings Workshops I’ve found that most people are far more worried about sharing their drawings than about modelling for each other). Some people’s concerns were about their close people and others were for international political situations (I’d asked people to focus on just one thing so we weren’t there all day – I know everyone’s heart is big enough to contain a multitude of hopes and fears and desires for change). We arranged the piece of paper around the “candle” and spoke briefly about each one. Then we ended the session holding hands in silence around the “mandala” that we’d made together.

    collection of drawings expressing concerns for others around an LED candle on a rainbow cloth

    Spiritual Space “mandala”

  • EsmeT 9:51 am on October 15, 2014 Permalink  

    Being a young bisexual 

    Since I started reading up on bisexuality and getting involved with the online community, it was impossible not to become aware of the great history and legacy that led up to 14yr old me starting this blog in 2007, having realised and accepted my bisexuality seamlessly and without hassle. That would have been an unlikely scenario in the year I was born, 1992.

    I have a lot to thank older bisexuals for. I know they aren't going to like that term, but 23yr old bisexuals are older bisexuals to me! So it's a large group and of the ones I've met, there don't seem to be many bisexuals who act 'old' anyway, so I use the term out of respect that many bisexuals have been working so hard for decades before I was even a twinkle in my mother's eye, and meant I could eventually tell said mother of my swerve away from the norm and not get thrown out the house immediately.

    The stalwarts of the community and pioneers of our campaign for awareness, equality and respect amaze me when I look back at all they have done, and are still doing. The reason for this post is that I was struck by how young I am with only 7yrs involvement when I came across the Bisexual Manifesto. I clicked the link thinking "Oh my God, we have a manifesto??" As a stage manager, the sheer organisation alone was inspiring. And then I read it.

    The 1990 Bisexual Manifesto
    We are tired of being analyzed, defined and represented by people other than ourselves, or worse yet, not considered at all. We are frustrated by the imposed isolation and invisibility that comes from being told or expected to choose either a homosexual or heterosexual identity.

    Monosexuality is a heterosexist dictate used to oppress homosexuals and to negate the validity of bisexuality.

    Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have "two" sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders. Do not mistake our fluidity for confusion, irresponsibility, or an inability to commit. Do not equate promiscuity, infidelity, or unsafe sexual behavior with bisexuality. Those are human traits that cross all sexual orientations. Nothing should be assumed about anyone’s sexuality, including your own.
    We are angered by those who refuse to accept our existence; our issues; our contributions; our alliances; our voice. It is time for the bisexual voice to be heard. - From the wealth of knowledge that is the Bialogue Tumblr (original attribution: the historic Bay Area Bisexual Network publication Anything That Moves)

    And all my inspiration and pride deflated slightly, as I thought "24 years later, and not a lot has changed." However, the one thing that can be said as a positive over two decades later is our voices are being heard. There are more of us speaking, we're louder, we're in the White House for pity's sake, and whilst we're only inching our way to true change, we seem to have got somewhere. For example, my friends' responses to my intense Celebrate Bisexuality Day Facebook output, and my less intense but still visible Bi Awareness Week Facebook contributions, were all positive.

    Sure we still have to make a lot of noise, A LOT, to finally be heard, but our strike rate seems to have gone up. So I stand behind this manifesto because it represents part of a wave that I am part of now when it is bigger and stronger than it was then.
  • Blogging in Shadows 12:56 pm on October 11, 2014 Permalink  

    Rare self promotion post!

    The Independent newspaper Rainbow List is looking for nominations of LGBT people.

    Please vote for ME, or another UK bisexual activist. Some suggestions are:

    Jen Yockney
    Sue George
    Marcus Morgan
    Charlotte Dingle
    Edward Lord OBE

    Thank you!

  • Blogging in Shadows 2:04 pm on October 10, 2014 Permalink  

    From Bi-Visibility to Bi-Inclusion: A Discussion - Jacq Applebee.

    All the other videos can be seen at filmed by Absolute Queer.

  • skibbley 8:32 pm on October 9, 2014 Permalink  

    Photos from the Southwark Bi-Visibility talk videos here:

    comment count unavailable comments
  • Ludy 2:06 pm on October 3, 2014 Permalink  

    end of an era 

    Yesterday evening was my final BothWays Talky Space as a facilitator. It feels very strange – I facilitated the very first one in September 2009 and I’ve been at most of the since (I’ve missed a handful due to other commitments and illness and on one memorable occasion only made it to the last 15 minutes of the two hours because of extreme train problems). I started out as co-facilitator with C and I took over when he moved away – after a while i was joined by Amo as co-facilitator and now she’ll be taking over, assisted by Steph.

    I know I’m making the right decision to re-balance by commitments but today I’m feeling a bit sad and nostalgic…

    (and a quiet whisper of feeling proud of the time and effort I’ve put in even though I’m very aware of things i could have done better)

    Because of family commitments i won’t be at this month’s CoffeeMeet so my final one of those as facilitator will be in November.

    And it’s not that i’m leaving BothWays altogether – after a two or three months break to let things settle down I’ll be back as a regular group member/attendee.

  • Traveller_23 10:43 pm on September 30, 2014 Permalink  

    আমার উভকামিতা: খালাতো বোনের প্রতিক্রিয়া 

    আমার দৃষ্টিকোণ  

    আমি যদি কখনো বলতে চাই যে আমি কারোর সাথে বড় হয়েছি, তাহোলে আমার এই খালাতো  বোনের কথা বলতে হয়। আমাদের বয়সের পার্থক্য মাত্র দু বছর (ও বড়), এবং খুব ছোটবেলায় আমরা কয়েক বছর একসাথে কাটিয়েছি। বাংলাদেশের অনেকটাই আমি দেখি ওর চোখ দিয়ে। আমাদের বরাবর অনেক ঘনিষ্টতা: আমরা দুজনেই পরিবারে বড় সন্তান, সবকিছু অন্য সবার আগে করে এসেছি।বড় হওয়ার পর একে-অন্যের গোপন কথা রক্ষা করে এসেছি। ও বরাবরই আধুনিক বাংলাদেশের সাথে আমার সংযোগ - যে বাংলাদেশের সাথে আমার মা-বাবা, বিশেষ করে আমার বাবা, কখনই আমাকে পরিচয় করিয়ে দিতে পারেনি।

    ওকে আমার উভকামিতার কথা বলতে অনেক দিন লেগে যায় কারণ কিছু মানুষকে এটা সামনা-সামনি বলা দরকার, এবং ও ছিল তাদের একজন। আমি ওকে অবশেষে বলার সুযোগ পাই আমার ভার্সিটি শেষ হওয়ার পরের গ্রীষ্মের ছুটিতে। আমি অনেক আগেই বুঝি যে ওর LGBT মানুষের প্রতি বিশেষ কোন বিরুপতা নেই - এমনকি আমি প্রথম বাংলাদেশী LGBT মানুষের কথা শুনি ওরি কাছ থেকে। যেমন ওর স্কুলে নাকি একজন পুরুষালী লেজ্বিয়ান ছিল যার যৌনতা কারোর কাছে তেমন কোন বড় ব্যাপার ছিল না। আমি ওর কাছ থেকে যখন-তখন এই ধরনের এক দুই কথা শুনতাম, কিন্ত এই কথাগুলো ও যখনই বলত না কেন সেটা কোন ওর মুখে ঘৃন্না বা অপ্রীতি ছিল না। আমি বসে বসে এসব খুব মনোযোগ দিয়ে শুনতাম, কারণ তখন এ পৃথিবীটা আমার নাগালের বাইরে। কিন্ত কয়েক বছর পরে এসে আমার উভকামিতার কথা ওকে বলতে গিয়ে এসব উধারণ নিজেকে মনে করিয়ে সান্তনা দিতে কষ্ট হচ্ছিলো। অন্য একজন ক্লাসমেটের যৌনতা নিয়ে ওর সমস্যা না থাকলেও, নিজের ভাইয়ের ব্যাপারে কি ঠিক সে একই কথা প্রযোজ্য? কাছের মানুষ হোলে অনেক কিছুই মানতে কষ্ট হয়।

    আমার চিন্তার কারণগুলো নিয়ে আমি আগেও অনন্য পোস্টে লিখেছি - ধার্মিক অথবা সামাজিক ভিত্তিতে যৌনতাকে খারাপ চোখে দেখা। আমার চিন্তা ছিলো যে ও হয়তো "ঠিকাছে কিন্তু শুধু মেয়েদের ডেট কোরো" বা এই ধরনের অন্য কোন কথা বলবে। তবে আমি খামাখাই চিন্তা করছিলাম - ও এরক্ষম কোন প্রতিক্রিয়াই দেখায়নি সেদিন। বরং ওকে বলার পর ও বেশ হাস্যকর ভাবে ফ্রিজ হয়ে যাওয়া রোবোটের ভান করল, আর তারপর বলল ওকে একটু ভাবতে দিতে। আমার ছোট ভাই, যে তখন আমাদের সাথে ছিল দরকারে আমাকে সমর্থন দেওয়ার জন্য, অপেক্ষা না করতে পেরে পাঁচ মিনিটের মাথায় জিজ্ঞেস করে বসলো যে ভাবা শেষ হয়েছে নাকি। আমাদের বোন হেসে বলল না, এখনও ৬৬% বাকি। কিন্ত আমি বুঝি যে ওর হালকা আচরণের পিছনে ও আসলেই ভাবছে, এবং এ ভাবনা নিয়ে ও আমাকে বাকি দিন ও সাসপেন্স রাখে। 

    আমার ভাগ্য ভালো যেয়ে রাত হতে হতে ওর চিন্তা-ভাবনা ৯০% শেষ হয়ে আসে। আমরা এ পর্যায় আমার জীবন, প্রেম ও ভবিষ্যত নিয়ে কথা শুরু করি। আমি যেয়ে অন্য ছেলেদের মতন না সেটা নাকি ও বরাবরই খেয়াল করে আসছে - বিশেষ করে আমি যেহেতু আমাদের সমাজের প্রথাগত নিয়ম-কারণ মেনে চলিনা। ও মোটামোটি অন্য বাংলাদেশীরা সাধারণত যে পরামর্শ দেয় আমাকে যৌনতা নিয়ে সেটাই পুনরাবৃত্ত করলো। বলল বেশির ভাগ মানুষ, এমনকি আমার মা-বাবাও হয়ত বলবে যে আমার উভকামিতা মানসিক রোগ। আমার যৌনতার কথা মানতে তাদের অনেক কষ্ট হবে, যদি বা সেটা তারা কখনো মেনে নিতে পারে। আমি ভবিষ্যতে স্থায়ী ভাবে দেশে থাকতে পারব নাকি সে নিয়েও ও প্রশ্ন তুলল, এবং আমি যখন ওকে বললাম যে আমি খোলাখোলি আমার যৌনতার প্রকাশ করে দেশে থাকতে চাই ও আমার নিরাপত্তার কথা তুলল। তবে এসব প্রশ্নের জবাব আমাদের সেদিন যেমন ছিল না, আজও নেই।    

    যতদুর মনে পরে ওই দিনই আমাদের শেষ বিস্তারিত কথা হয় আমার যৌনতা নিয়ে। এবং তারপর থেকে আমাদের সম্পর্ক খুব সামন্যই পাল্টিয়েছে। যেমন আমি এখন যদি ওকে আমার ডেটিং এর কথা বলি ওকে তবে মেয়ে, ছেলে সবার কথাই খুলে বলি। আর আমাদের যদি বাংলাদেশ নিয়ে কথা হয় তাহলে রাজনীতি ও সমাজযের সাথে LGBT বিষয়ক কথা হয়। মাঝে মধ্যে LGBT মানুষের প্রতি অন্য বাংলাদেশীদের বেশ মজার প্রতিক্রিয়ার গল্প শুনি ওর কাছে। গত কয়েক মাস ধরে ও ভার্সিটি আর থিসিস নিয়ে বেশ বেস্ত, তাই আজকাল ওকে আমি একটু কম জালাই। তবে এ বছরের শেষে আমি দেশে যাচ্ছি, এবং আবার আমাদের দেখা হবে। এই কয়েক বছরে আমার জীবনে অনেক অগ্রগতি হয়েছে এবং এর ফল ওকে দেখাতে পারলে আমার খুব ভালো লাগবে। এই সবকিছুর অনেকটার জন্য ওই দায়ী। 

    ওর দৃষ্টিকোণ 

    LGBT - আমি আসলে কখনই এই শব্দটি সম্পর্কে চিন্তা করি নি বা মনোযোগ দেই নি ... এটা অপ্রাসঙ্গিক ছিল। যতক্ষণ পর্যন্ত না আমি জানতে পারলাম আমার নিজের খালাতো ভাই উভকামী!! আমরা একসঙ্গে বড় হয়েছি। সে সবসময় আমাদের বয়স অন্যান্য ছেলেদের থেকে একটু ভিন্ন ছিল। আমরা মুসলিম এবং বাংলাদেশী; সুতরাং, এটা সে যে অন্যদের চেয়ে ভিন্ন ছিল এটা আমার কখনই মনে হয় নি; বরং অন্যান্য ছেলেদের আমার ব্যতিক্রম মনে হত। মনে হত সব ছেলেদের ওর মত হওয়াই  স্বাভাবিক - পোষাক সম্পরকে মন্তব্য, রান্নাএ আগ্রহী। বড় হওয়ার সাথে সাথে ভাবতে শুরু করলাম , আমার ভাই বলে আমার সাথে তার আচরণ হয়ত এমন।


    খুব সহজ ভাবে সে আমাকে বলল, "আমি উভকামী " এবং আমার কিছুক্ষণ এর জন্য স্তম্ভিত হয়ে গেছিলাম । কি বলব ... কি বলা উচিৎ কিছু ই বুঝছিলাম না। আমার প্রথম প্রতিক্রিয়া ছিল ভাল কথা কিন্তু এটা কি করে সম্ভব?? এটা স্বপ্ন না বুঝতে আমার একটি পুরো দিন লাগে। তারপর আমি কিছু দিনের জন্য পুরো পরিস্থিতি সম্পর্কে চিন্তা করি। তারপর আমি বুঝতে পেরেছি; এতে শুধু সময় নষ্ট হচ্ছে।  

    আমাদের ধর্ম নাকি LGBT সমর্থন করে না। কিন্তু আমাদের ধর্মে এটাও লেখা আছে যে যারা পরিবারকে অস্বিকার করে তাদের জন্য বেহেস্তের দরজা বন্দ। অনেক মা-বাবা আত্মীয়-স্বজন তাদের কর্তব্য পালন করতে ব্যার্থ হয় কেন? কারণ যার প্রতি তাদের দায়িত্ব সে LGBT। কিন্ত LGBT তো কেউ বেছে নায় না - এটা  তার প্রানের গভীরের সত্য। আমার ভাই তো সবসময় আমার ভাই থাকবে এবং তা কক্ষনই পরিবর্তন হবে না। সুতরাং, সে যেমন ই হক না কেন; আমি অবশ্যই তাকে সমর্থন করবো। হয়ত একদিন সমকামী শব্দের অস্তিত্ব থাকবে না; বরং সবাইকে সমান মানুষ হিসেবে বিবেচনা করা হবে।
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