I'm also one of the people local online news hub Mancunian Matters picked to profile as a local LGBT 'name'. I think the interview went pretty well and gets a pleasing blend of bi and tg/gq things... have a read:
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I'm also one of the people local online news hub Mancunian Matters picked to profile as a local LGBT 'name'. I think the interview went pretty well and gets a pleasing blend of bi and tg/gq things... have a read:
A few things have happened lately that got me thinking about family, friends and the benefits of social networks and connections.
I was visiting a friend in London and was struck by just how much support she gets from her wide circle of family and friends. She has parents, siblings, aunties, uncles and cousins from both her and her partner’s family. Now like any group of relatives they have their share of hard times and fallings out, but in general they all help each other and are there for each other.
This proved to be a stark contrast to my own family, from which I am now almost completely estranged.
It’s not just because I came out as bisexual. Some relatives just aren’t bothered. Some have been affected by the horrific things that happened when I was a teenager. (For example, I came home from school one day to find my mentally ill mother had hung herself in the garage.) So understandably relationships have been strained, broken and tense at the best of times as a result.
I’ve always felt like I raised myself with help from Google and it has been very hard and lonely at times. Especially when I’ve been unemployed or scared or needed advice or someone to talk to. There is also no one to share my successes with, or share my life with in general. These are all moments when I wish I had a family network like my friend’s. Christmas and my birthday are especially unbearable.
So perhaps it was a mistake to come out to my dad as I have made an already difficult relationship much much worse by telling him I’m bisexual, but why should I have to lie and hide who I am?
Initially the magic words of “I’ll love you no matter what.” were uttered by my dad, but the reality is he won’t talk about anything related to my sexuality at all. Once when I summoned up the courage to visit for the first time in eight months, he went on a massive rant about how people of the same gender shouldn’t be allowed to get married over lunch. These days he will barely speak to me on the phone for more than a few minutes at a time. I know things have always been difficult, but they were never this bad or this painful before.
I called him today.
I tried asking him a few questions. Got one or two word answers.
I mentioned my bi group. Silence.
I mentioned going to the Stonewall consultations. Silence.
I told him about my ‘girlfriend’ for the first time. Silence.
I want to cut off all contact with him. It really hurts when he is like this. Not even one single fucking question such as “So what is she like?” or “What does she do?”. Not even one short sentence such as “That’s great!” or “I’m happy for you.” Nothing. What the fuck is the problem!? I wish I wasn’t too cowardly to ask.
When LGBT people come out to their families they risk being rejected and risk losing their relationships with them. Bisexual people have higher rates of mental health problems and are more likely to self harm and commit suicide because of the biphobia we face. We are also more likely to be to be in low income jobs and more likely to be affected by poverty. We suffer from higher rates of violence and sexual abuse. We need our families by our sides. Not having these familial relationships and support networks exacerbates the issues we face.
One of the benefits of becoming friends with other bisexuals through meet ups and events is that the kindness shown by people has gone a long way to heal the sadness and loneliness caused by being estranged from my own family. The support and advice has been invaluable.
I now have people who want to celebrate Christmas and my birthday with me. I have been offered help with things I know nothing about which overwhelm me, such as how to buy a car. I have been offered accommodation and help with moving house. I have been welcomed into family homes for dinner. I have been held when I’ve cried. Friends have brought me food when I was depressed and suicidal and struggled to look after myself, when my family didn’t despite knowing how ill I was. I have been accepted and cared for and loved. That’s why events like BiCon and The Big Bi Fun day mean so much to me. They give you the social support, networks and connections that you were disadvantaged by not having before. Connections and friendships that not only help you get ahead in life, but help you survive life too.
Stonewall today announced it will henceforward be campaigning for trans rights and equality, rather than against them or championing the work of opponents of trans liberation as in the past.
Good. As with their latter-day conversion to supporting bisexual liberation (albeit so far principally within the M25), for all that you may start humming Emma Bunton's What Took You So Long when you hear about the change, it's a change for the better. Welcome aboard, Stonewall.
It seems LGF are next in the queue. Looking forward to seeing how they both do...
Once you’ve decided to start running a local group and you’ve found a venue and set a date, you just need to get some people to come! Below is a list of ways to promote your events.
Bi Community News Magazine:
You can get your group added to the listings in the back. The editor can also put leaflets for your group in the magazines of subscribers who live in your catchment area. You could also write a short article about your new group for the magazine itself.
Search for groups about bisexuality and post links to your group and events. Create your own group and Facebook page. Ask people to like and share content. Find other bi groups around the world and follow, like, share and interact with
Follow other people and organisations tweeting about bisexuality and LGBT things. Every week or two post the date, time and location of your event. State who can come and what it is. E.g pub social, discussion, meal out…
This is essentially a kinky version of FaceBook. It works in the same way. Some bisexuals are into BDSM, and they feel welcome on the kink scene but avoid going to LGbt events because of biphobia or feeling like they don’t fit in at gay and lesbian majority spaces. Setting up a group and creating an event listing on FetLife is a great way to reach these people. Make sure you state that your group is a kink friendly but ‘vanilla’ one though! In my event listings I ask people not to talk about anything BDSM related unless they know anyone who can hear is ok to talk about it/hear it being discussed. I also state the dress code is normal every day clothing and that as the meet up is in a pub, we don’t have the venue to ourselves.
Social Media Tips
Don’t just post the basic info about the group and its events. Find and post cool links, photos, interesting articles, news etc. Give people a reason to like and share. All these things encourages them to comment and will keep them coming back to look at your stuff.
If you can be arsed you can also learn about the best time to post. For example on Twitter more people will see your content and interact with you from 5pm. So you can post around that time or write your tweets when you have time and schedule them through software like Hootsuite.
LGbt centres within a 1-2 hour travel time radius from your location.
For example I emailed centres in Derby, Lincoln and Leicester to advertise. Lincoln and Leicester ignored me…but it was worth a try! Derbyshire Friend we happy for me to post about my event on their website.
At the time of writing none of these areas have a bi group and the centres all neglect bisexual people’s needs so if people can travel, they’ll come from far and wide!
Other places to advertise:
*Stonewall local listings
*Local council listings (I just filled in an online form on the Notts County Council website and it went straight up. However I still can’t get them to change the out of date information, so make sure what you put up won’t change any time soon!)
*Gaydio national listings
*University LGBT Societies
Again these are typically places where bisexual people face biphobia or self exclude because they don’t feel welcome or don’t fit in. Larger universities will have groups with hundreds of members. See if you can contact the group leaders and ask them to post info and put leaflets up on campus.
*Local magazines, especially if there are any LGBT ones.
*Anywhere you can put leaflets!
Libraries, doctors surgeries, LGBT friendly cafes…
I go round the stalls at local prides with leaflets for my group to see if I can get on their list of organisations they signpost people on to! E.g. Local NHS services, counselling services… This is a great time to do it because those organisations are at Pride to specifically promote awareness amoung LGBT people.
Do you know any other bis in your area? Do any of your friends know bis in your area? Ask around! They might know lots of other people who would be interested in attending who you haven’t met yet.
For the braver, more journalisty people out there: you could get in touch with local radio stations and newspapers and ask them to see if they want to feature you/the group. Good times to do this are around Coming Out Day, LGBT History Month or Bi Visibility Day. You can talk about your group and bi issues whilst linking it to something topical that people might have already heard of that already gets some media coverage.
Speak to someone who has done this before to get some advice on the best ways to do it. Read up on bisexual stats and information beforehand.
A note on inclusion:
Are local groups for BME people aware you exist? Or other minority groups such as trans groups? Have you tried to contact them and invite those who might be interested to attend? Do you have anything on your advertising that states people are welcome to attend regardless of race, gender, religion, disability, orientation and nationality? Do you have a code of conduct that outlines what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable at your events, and what people should do if any instances of harrasment or discrimination occur? When talking about discrimination, have you remembered to include things often left out such as transphobia, ableism or fatphobia?
Finally it’s also good practice to include a description of the venue in terms of accessibility on your leaflets and event descriptions. For example are there a lot of steps inside? A step free access? A disabled toilet? Loud music that might affect those who are sensitive to noise?
It’s normal to have a small group when you first get going but it will grow in time. Numbers will vary from month to month and season to season, so don’t panic if numbers drop all of a sudden! Good luck!
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!
‘Are you sure you’re not gay?’ is a question I have been asked at some point by every single straight man I’ve been in a relationship with. When it happened I never questioned it. I never called them out on it. I wish now I’d had the confidence to do so. Instead I just kept quiet and kept my head down and avoided eye contact. My confidence used to be so low. You get worn down when your identity is constantly being mocked and questioned.
I’ve always known I’m bi. I’ve never doubted that. Though I’ve noticed that question gets asked when a whiff of rejection is in the air. I’ve never been sure if it’s being used as a way to pressure me into something I don’t want to do, or if it’s just easier for them to label me as confused than it is to accept I don’t want them, or I don’t want to be sexually intimate with them right that second.
The latter is particularly frustrating for me, because if one person doesn’t want sex, or isn’t enjoying sex at that particular moment, THAT’S OK. Surely it would be better to ask how the other person is feeling or whether something is up, and provide a safe place to talk? Or consider talking about sex and what both parties in the relationship are enjoying/want to do differently? Why does my identity get questioned again instead?!
Here’s what I’d like to make happen in 2015:
- Print off and distribute leaflets advertising Nottingham BiTopia.
- Organise at least 3 BiTalkia events.
- Get this blog featured on Bi Bloggers.
- Find a way to raise funds for the group to do things like pay for stalls at Nottinghamshire Pride and the cost of hiring a room for BiTalkia.
- March in Nottinghamshire Pride again this summer, and maybe run a stall.
- March in Manchester Pride again.
- Have some kind of presence at Leicester and Derby Pride.
- Go to The Big Bi Fun day in Leicester.
- Set up some kind of quiet-cup-of-tea-more-chilled-out social to cater for people the pub social (unintentionally!) excludes. I feel like I’m currently letting those people down by not holding an event that meets their access requirements.
- Get a map of the UK and mark down where bi events happen.
Work on finding a way to set up some kind of bi event in the least purple areas!
- Write a code of conduct/anti harassment policy for the meet ups.
- Learn more about how to do more to include more BME people.
- Run a ‘bi group runners’ and ‘So, you want to set up a new bi group?’ workshop at BiCon.
and last but not least…
- Have a rest!
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
Should you use your real name to run a bi group?
My answer to this is if you feel comfortable in doing so, then yes!
However if you don’t feel comfortable in doing so, or there is a potential risk of being outed to friends, family, a partner or an employer then don’t worry. There are lots of easy and free things you can do to run a bi group to ensure partial or full anonymity. Most of these things are just down to being cautious and careful and changing a few habits and behaviours.
There are several downsides to this:
- The fear and anxiety of someone finding out who you are/where you work. If they do, will they out you? Threaten you? Post the information online where anyone could see it?
- The extra work in setting up dozens of additional accounts and profiles.
- The confusion of having so many additional accounts and profiles. (Hope you’re good at remembering passwords!)
- The extra difficulties it may cause when filling in forms or making bookings if you have to use your real name.
- Group members may constantly ask and badger you to tell them personal information such as where you work, or what sector you work in.
- People feel shocked, surprised, upset or hurt if/when they find out that’s not actually your name.
- People feel shocked, surprised, upset or hurt when you won’t tell them where you work or what you do for a living.
- It sucks that you can’t just be yourself.
- You hate lying, avoiding and hiding all the time.
- All of the above can be emotionally d-r-a-i-n-i-n-g.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Sometimes leading a double life under your super alter ego can be quite fun and exciting! A little bit 007.
So what kind of things can you do to keep your personal information private? (You don’t have to do all of these things, you can do as many as you want or need to.)
- Create a fake name.
- Don’t tell anyone where you work, or lie about where you work.
- If you need to pay for bookings, pay in cash where possible.
- Set up a completely separate FaceBook account, and make sure your original one isn’t search-able. Don’t add anyone as a friend to both accounts. Don’t join any public groups or like pages under your original account if people know that information about you. E.g. Don’t like the Nottingham baseball club if people know that you like to play with that group every Wednesday.
- Don’t use a photo of yourself for your original Facebook account userpic.
- Delete any information about where you work from any social media accounts, blogs etc.
- Avoid putting any photos of yourself online as much as you possibly can, or being photographed in situations where you photo might go online. E.g. a friend uploads pictures of you playing baseball to the public group and tags you without you knowing. Gah. People generally aren’t clued up about consent in this area, and put your picture up anywhere without asking first!
- Avoid publishing any potentially identifying information about yourself or daily activities on social media accounts. E.g. if you tweet about your strawberry allergy one week…and that your cat died another week…someone could see all this and work out who you are just by scrolling down your page for a while.
- Avoid posting the same things to both your accounts at the same time for the same reason, someone could end up seeing both and recognising the information.
- If you make a casual booking (where you don’t have to fill in a form) USE YOUR FAKE NAME! Pubs especially have a bad habit of putting a sign up in your reserved area without asking or telling you beforehand. They’ll say something like: Reserved for Joe Bloggs for the bisexual group! Argh!
- If you need to make a formal booking or pay by cheque or something, you could always ask a trusted member of the group to do this for you.
- Use a different sim card or buy a cheap handset for £10 if you can afford to. Use it for any bi group related contacts, or phone numbers for members of the group. This avoids you giving out your phone number.
- If you decide to stick with using the same sim and phone, don’t answer the phone with your name if you don’t know who’s calling, say hello instead. Save any contacts from the group as something like “Chelsea, Bi Group”. This will save you from accidentally texting a work colleague about BiCon or something.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. If you can think of any other things to add to it please comment below!
Some people might be a bit shocked by this. Why go to such lengths? Is it really worth bothering with? Sometimes remaining anonymous is the only way some people can do bi group work like this. Others prefer this option in order to play it safe. They may risk damaging a relationship with someone near and dear if the other person found out about their sexuality. You may hate hiding who you are from your mum, but if the alternative means never being friends with her again, then it’s reasonable to want to stay in the closet.
Whilst bisexuality is covered by the Equality Act 2010, the reality is you can be forced, bullied or pressured out of work and it can be very hard to prove this was because you’re bi. (If you could, it’s still a lot of worry, hassle etc. to go to a tribunal.) Even if you weren’t forced to leave, you could face discrimination, biphobia, bullying or harassment. Other more subtle things include being looked over for a promotion because your manager doesn’t think you’re reliable and trustworthy any more since they found out you’re bi. (from The Bisexuality Report, 2012)
I always feel pissed off when people make light of someone wanting to remain anonymous. There are clearly valid reasons for wanting or needed to hide who you are, even if it’s a horrible way to live your life and it’s unfair and it shouldn’t be this way.
If you know someone who does some or all of the things mentioned on the list above, whether they are a group attendee or organiser, please respect that. Don’t ask them questions you know they don’t want to answer. Don’t try and trick them into revealing information. Understand they are doing this for a reason. Support them by not sharing any personal information they trust you with.