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  • Traveller_23 12:11 am on May 27, 2015 Permalink  

    Making Progress or Losing Ground: LGBT Asia 

    Being Bisexual: Navigating Invisibility & Practicality


    Level 5 Function Room, Royal Festival Hall


    Last weekend I spoke at this Alchemy Festival event in the Southbank Centre. Organised by Bobby Tiwana, it was a brief look at South Asian LGBT communities in the home countries and the diaspora through the perspectives of various speakers. It was an intimate affair attended by around 40 to 50 people, with short talks followed up with café-style discussions among the audience and facilitators. I am posting the text of my speech below, which touched upon both bisexuality and the wider environment faced by LGBTQ people in Bangladesh. 

    "I didn’t know the Bengali word for bisexual until I Googled it while I was at university. I didn’t actually even know the English word 'bisexual' until I was thirteen or so. Before then, I’d thought I was the weird gay kid who liked girls on the side.

    I thought it would be good to start with some humour, but honestly I’m telling you this because it sets the tone for the rest of what I’m going to say, about how bisexuality is often not discussed or mentioned, or misunderstood.

    I think bisexuals make many heterosexual and homosexual people uncomfortable - often because they’re confused by us. Maybe to an external monosexual observer, it can look like I’m pursuing men one day, and then the next day I flick a switch, become straight, and am pursuing women. And I guess this can be quite disconcerting, especially for a group of people who’ve built their activism around the slogan that sexual minorities do not choose to be attracted to who they’re attracted to. 


    I think their discomfort is misplaced though, as in reality I do not choose the gender I am attracted to - it just to so happens, because I’m attracted to more than one gender, that I’m able to choose the gender of the person I pursue. This is an important distinction to make, but perhaps a tricky one to wrap your head around unless you’re willing to have a full-on conversation about bisexuality.

    Of course, these dynamics can give rise to other potentially loaded questions. When I came out to my youngest aunt, one of the first things she asked was couldn’t I just date women? Wouldn’t that be both be safer and easier in Bangladeshi society? My answer was that I had tried to only date women, but doing that had meant I had to cut away and bury part of my identity - it was like I was pretending part of me was dead. She understood and could sympathise - and I think she was only trying to point out the practical.

    But my answer isn’t the whole answer, as far bisexuality is concerned. What I described is just my experience as someone who is attracted quite strongly to men and women. But have a friend who, in her own words, is 'mostly straight'. She’s experimented with women but doesn’t feel as strongly about them as she does men. Her answer to my aunt’s question would probably have been quite different.

    I come back to having full-on conversations. Communication is key - and talking to each other means we know where exactly we each stand. We all avoid making ignorant assumptions leading to uncomfortable situations. I’ve been asked by gay men if I’m just having fun with guys till I get married. I’ve also been asked by straight women if they’ll be enough for me - because they think physically they can’t offer me everything I want. Now the exact physicality of sexual intimacy isn’t that important to me, but the judgement is passed before I can say that. Popular culture doesn’t help - a bisexual is often someone who cheats, or bisexual porn as a genre is often about threesomes.

    Apart from the presumed promiscuity, as a Bangladeshi I worry about the other misconceptions parents, family or society can have of sexual minorities. People often ask me if being Muslim complicates my situation. It does, but not necessarily the way people think. The prevailing form of thought I have seen among folks across all demographics in Bangladesh is that they believe same-sex attractions are an illness, and condemnation manifests in various ways from this source. Islamic criticisms are but one of these manifestations. Of course, we need to have a rethink of why we interpret our religion without compassion for gender and sexual minorities. I know there are scholars who are working in this area now, and folks in the UK can go to organisations like Imaan or Safra as a first port of call. But in Bangladesh, I have atheist and humanist friends and family who aren’t fully comfortable with my sexuality either.

    The root cause for a lot of this is ignorance. Things are getting better, however. We haven’t had any large scale movements, though you’ll be seeing photos behind me of a rainbow rally, which visibly includes hijras, held by Roopbaan, a newish group that promotes the freedom to love and brings out various LGBT publications. Their current profile picture on Facebook mentions biphobia, and the inclusion of bisexual factors in the conversation, something that is often missing with activism nowadays in the West, makes me happy. There’s also Project Dhee - which works to network and empower LGBT people themselves, most importantly including women, hijras and people from beyond just Dhaka. Obviously, poverty and literacy remain notable obstacles. Dhee is also successfully building allies from wider society, which shows people’s mindsets aren’t all stuck in the it’s-an-illness mode. I also know non-LGBT youth organisations are quietly gauging attitudes and educating, though I am unsure if they’re comfortable being named.

    All said, the truth is Section 377 does hang over our heads. No case under it has ever made it to the Supreme Court but it’s also important to realise that 377 isn’t the only section of our penal code that can be used to stifle pro-LGBTQ action. And as with any big change affecting society, it’s important to note nowadays the state isn’t the only actor we should be wary of."


    Thank you for reading. I spoke to a number of people following the event, and the content of the talk triggered some very interesting discussions. I'm hoping to do a follow up post on this soon, so watch this space. 

     
  • jen 9:55 pm on May 25, 2015 Permalink  

    200 

    BiCon 2015's bookings have just passed the 200 mark with 11 weeks to go. Rah rah them, etc.

    But it does take me back to the first time I ran a BiCon, in 2000. When we hit the 200 mark, which in round numbers was about a month out, we had to drop the remaining publicity plans on account of having no additional capacity at the venue we could expand into.  The final tally of 265 attendees was fab, but with the frustration of knowing it could have been more like 350 if the rest of the planning grid had worked out.

    Sometimes you just get lucky with your venue and who else wants to be there that week :)
     
  • bisexualblogs 7:00 pm on May 24, 2015 Permalink  

    Convert and Compress Video Files 

    Sometimes doing bi group stuff throws up new challenges that you have to figure out. A recent one for me was how to shrink a video file so it was small enough to email or share online. I’d filmed a friend give a speech on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and didn’t realise my phone was capable of making such astonishingly large clips. Over 1GB for just a few minutes!!

    Solution: Use this software called Handbrake.

    How to guide: http://www.howtogeek.com/199618/how-to-use-handbrake-to-convert-any-video-file-to-any-format/

    Good points: Free. Easy to use. Can convert your files to a universally playable format so people you send it to don’t have to download any software just to watch it.

    Bad points: Files that are several GBs in size can take HOURS to compress and/or convert. It raises CPU usage to 99% so I can’t do anything else on my laptop at the same time. (But this might be because my laptop is very old!)


     
  • Blogging in Shadows 3:46 pm on May 24, 2015 Permalink  













    It’s the start of the 2015 LGBT Pride season. Here’s a request from me to all of you who like to take photos of these events (especially if you’re a journalist).

    Old people who are LGBTIQA belong at Pride

    People of Colour who are LGBTIQA belong at Pride

    Disabled people who are LGBTIQA belong at Pride

    TAKE THEIR PHOTOS TOO!

    Year after year, all I see are pics of white, cis gay men and lesbians, or white Drag Queens. Every bloody year!  We are out and proud and happy to be part of Pride. Please reflect that.  Pride shouldn’t just be pale and stale.

    For a list of many UK LGBT Pride events, see http://prideinlondon.org/pride-uk-2015/

     
  • Blogging in Shadows 12:31 pm on May 17, 2015 Permalink  











    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 original organiser has moved out of the area.  I am really happy that this great day will continue.  So next year, why not come along to Big Bi Fun Day?  It really does live up to its name!

     
  • bisexualblogs 9:56 pm on May 12, 2015 Permalink  

    Raising the Flag at Notts County Hall 

    Yesterday morning I attended the first event held this week in Nottinghamshire for IDAHoBiT 2015.

    Representatives from the council, police, emergency services, unions, colleges, universities, and local LGBT groups and organisations made their way to Notts County Hall to watch the rainbow flag being raised by the river.

    It was wonderful to see so many in attendance and to see people of all age ranges there too. The organiser Richard Townsley did a great job in bringing together a diverse range of people from the LGBT community from all over the county. A lot of us ended up doing some speedy networking and swapped emails whilst we slurped tea before we all walked outside to the flag poles for the speeches, flag raising, and photo taking. 

    Thankfully it was a windy morning so the flag was flapping merrily whilst it was being hoisted to the top. Very photogenic.

    IMG_3091

    The short ceremony was quite a moving and auspicious moment for me. One of those speaking (Sorry, I’m terrible with remembering names!) mentioned the launch of a new anti-hate crime campaign run by the police, as well as how any homophobia, biphobia and transphobia would not be tolerated. Another also spoke of how the LGBT community needs to unite and stand together to support each other.

    I’m sure these kinds of sentiments get mentioned every year at these kinds of events. :P But it felt particularly relevant to me as the LGBT community in my area does feel very fragmented at the moment. Lots of smaller groups exist in Nottinghamshire/the East Midlands without ever working together, talking to each other or, in some cases, being aware of each other’s existence at all.

    After the flag had been raised, the leader of Notts Trans Hub and I were discussing these things, along with how so much prejudice and discrimination exists between different groups of LGBT people. How discrimination and prejudice causes LGBT people to turn on each other. One thing that we talked about was how some pansexuals have appropriated the meaning of bisexuality, then wrongly labelled bisexuals as transphobic and upholders of a gender binary.

    Yesterday made me glad BiTopia, QT Notts and the Notts Trans Hub support each other and are forming close relationships. It also encouraged me to overcome the fear caused by previous biphobic incidents of discrimination and harassment at LGbt events and engage more with LGbt organisations in the future.


     
  • bisexualblogs 12:17 pm on May 4, 2015 Permalink  

    Something Simple I Learnt From Stonewall’s Bi Consulations 

    Since I attended the Bi Consultations held by Stonewall in February 2015 I’ve wanted to do a write up of my thoughts and feelings on how the event went. I deliberately waited a few weeks for the adrenaline, excitement, and euphoria to wear off so I could write something more balanced. However by that point I felt really hurt and angry at the charity again and still haven’t been able to face doing a blog post about it yet.

    However once thing that has stayed with me was something Ruth Hunt (chief exec of Stonewall) mentioned, which was this idea of what sucess looks like at the end of the day. An example she gave was an experience of going in to speak with a large construction company. This is not a quote, just my recollections of what she said! On that occasion sucess was getting them to realise that some people are gay or lesbian. Some of their staff could be gay or lesbian. That it’s not ok to call another man a poof when they do something like drop a load of bricks, and even if there were no lesbian employees it is still offensive to have a calendar containing lesbian porn hanging on the wall.

    Now this was obviously a humoristic over-simplification of what she discussed with the company (though I’m sure the B word would’ve been left out a lot. : p) but the idea stayed with me. It reminded me that whilst some people are clued up on LGBT issues, most people aren’t. That for some it will take a long time to change their prejudices and negative attitudes. Others never will. You might want to walk in and talk about LGBT rights and issues and have everyone on your side, but sometimes you have to start with the basics such as what LGBT actually means.

    One memory that came to mind was when I came out to a close Japanese friend. She had no concept of bisexuality at all, and after I had explained it to her, and then explained that I am one of those bisexuals, she told me that it was very interesting but there are no bisexuals in Japan. “Well when I lived there for two years, there was at least one!” I quipped before explaining that there are many LGBT people in Japan, but because it’s not socially acceptable most LGBT people don’t come out so live their lives in secret. It was a lot for her to take in, and I had to leave it there and tell her about other bi related things in my life later on. At that point sucess was just being able to come out, and being able to tell her what I was coming out as.

    Another example comes from when someone new turned up at my group, and I unintentionally overwhelmed them by speaking about bi related things too much. They were at a bi meet for the first time, and just realising that they might not be straight for the first time. Sucess should have been me not making any assumptions about them and remembeing how scary it is when you first venture out into the bi scene.

    Remembering these things has helped me recently, such as when I called up prisons in Nottinghamshire and asked them to display a rainbow flag on 17th May. I only had a few minutes to explain the whats and whys of my unusual request to people who had never heard of IDAHOBIT. It has also made me realise how little I know on topics such as racism and white privilege. That I will get things wrong sometimes. Do stupid or hurtful things sometimes. That people will have to explain things to me and/or correct me (if and when they want to).

    However one simple thing I learnt from the Stonewall consultations is that some people are confusing bisexuality with complexity. So they are either mis explaining it or not including it at all as a result and this is a really harmful and hurtful thing to do. I didn’t consciously realise people were conecting the two until then. In addition it was great to hear an apology for doing it from Ruth/Stonewall during the consultations. One of the many reasons why the consultations were a sucess for me was being able to hear the apologies that I’d waited years for. (Along with statements that in time, Stonewall would change and do better in the future when it comes to bi issues and bi inclusion.)

    I think it’s fine to simplify if you need to. Sometimes the sucess of your goals depends on it. However bisexuality it itself is not too complicated to talk about or understand!


     
  • Blogging in Shadows 7:03 pm on April 28, 2015 Permalink  



    There are no funded bisexual groups in the UK.  There are also no LGBT organisations in the UK that has a paid staff member that works solely with Bisexual people.  This is a pretty shameful state of affairs, and once again it leads to the B in LGBT being silent.

    I have been delivering short talks and presentations on bisexuality and People of Colour for almost 5 years now.  Most of the time I don’t get paid for doing any of it. In fact, if I get my train fare refunded, I’m happy!

    I lost my job in 2014 after having a breakdown.  Things that seemed affordable are now often beyond my reach.  So I’m asking all you good people for some money.  See that Donate button below?  Well you can use it to donate as little or as much as you like.  Your money will help me to continue to give talks, travel and have an easier time being a bisexual activist.

    Thank you!
     
  • Blogging in Shadows 7:03 pm on April 28, 2015 Permalink  



    There are no funded bisexual groups in the UK.  There are also no LGBT organisations in the UK that has a paid staff member that works solely with Bisexual people.  This is a pretty shameful state of affairs, and once again it leads to the B in LGBT being silent.

    I have been delivering short talks and presentations on bisexuality and People of Colour for almost 5 years now.  Most of the time I don’t get paid for doing any of it. In fact, if I get my train fare refunded, I’m happy!

    I lost my job in 2014 after having a breakdown.  Things that seemed affordable are now often beyond my reach.  So I’m asking all you good people for some money.  See that Donate button below?  Well you can use it to donate as little or as much as you like.  Your money will help me to continue to give talks, travel and have an easier time being a bisexual activist.

    Thank you!
     
  • Blogging in Shadows 4:07 pm on April 27, 2015 Permalink  



    I have a range of zines available on Etsy. https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ApplestoZines?ref=hdr_shop_menu

    Subjects include 

    Gender questioning,

    Vegan and Gluten free cooking (with TWO vegan erotic stories included)

    Body Image, fatness and blackness

    Surviving Child Abuse

    Polyamory Love poems

    Ageing as a bisexual person.


    All of these zines are at a low price.  I can post out all over the world!

     
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