Here is a very belated post to share photos from our third time participating in the Nottinghamshire Pride Parade in July. I started the morning by arriving early to meet people who wanted to join BiTopia for the parade through the city centre. I know there are reservations and criticisms regarding the commercialisation of Prides […]
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Earlier in the year I met a really cool woman whilst out and about in London. We got chatting and went for drinks and to my delight got on so well we agreed to meet up again later in the week . However as far as I was concerned this was only for friendship – and I hadn’t said or done anything to indicate otherwise. So Friday arrived and I was looking forward to another night of hanging out with my new companion. She knew I was bi and I knew she wasn’t straight so I was also happy to get a chance to relax, be out of the closet, and be myself.
After getting some food we went to a bar in Soho. We had drinks. We talked more. We laughed at how these kinds of places always seem to be the size of your living room.We grimaced at the leaky ceiling and shook our heads in bemusement when a member of staff tried to staple napkins to it to stop more bits of plywood from dropping to the floor. Later we got up and went for a dance. I can’t remember what the questions she asked me next were exactly but it went something like this:
“So have you been in relationships with women, or just men?”
“And were those, like, proper long term relationships or just short term things?”
A minute or so later she slammed her lips against mine. I was very surprised! Maybe I should have said earlier that I just had friendship in mind (but then she didn’t say she was thinking of more either). And maybe I could have picked up on her intentions at some point in the evening and subtly clarified. But I’m not very good at this socialising with other people thing and low self esteem means I struggle to comprehend how anyone can want me romantically. I honestly had no idea she might have assumed otherwise. Oh well. At least I know now for next time.
But all that is beside the point really.
I hate how my sexuality comes with so many assumptions and negative connotations. I hate how she only wanted to kiss me after she had assessed that I was ‘gay enough’ and had ‘dated women enough’ to be a suitable recipient for her affections. If my answers had been different, would I have been judged unworthy? As someone ‘too straight’, too unreliable, and too untrustworthy to be intimate with? It was a really unpleasant experience.
I am bisexual. And I am ‘bi enough’ thank you very much.
I remember what it was like to come out to my family. I know what it is like to still not be able to tell all of them. And in the past I’ve written about what it’s like when a bereavement takes away the chance of ever being able to say.
I remember all the time spent as a teenager and as an adult, not knowing whether the people in my family would accept or reject me or fall somewhere in between. Agonising year after year after year about whether it’s safe to come out and if so, when and how to go about it. For me it’s painful and stressful and a slow form of torture you have to carry with you every single day when all you want is to be wanted and loved unconditionally for who you are.
For many of us deaths, divorces, and new relationships change the shape of our families and people can find themselves having to go through all off the above for a SECOND TIME. This was the case for me when a step-family came into my life. (Although I wouldn’t wish for things to be any different because I’m happy that my dad and step-mum have been able to find love and happiness together.)
Now from a very young age I’ve known that my dad was adopted. I never thought much of it because I was told never to mention it and I loved the grandparents I knew. It was a shock at the time, but as far as I was concerned my adoptive grandparents were my family and the mysterious biological relatives out there somewhere was something I never really had a concept of anyway.
When I was in my early 20s my dad decided to look for his family and some time later contact was made. I’m delighted to say it was a positive reunion for all involved. However it was still a huge thing for me to try and get my head round as after my birth grandma was forced to give my dad up for adoption she was sent to America and went on to have four more children. This means I have many aunties, uncles, and cousins (plus their babies) in another continent.
Part of the reason putting off flying out to America to meet them for so long was because for me that means having to go through the above for a THIRD TIME!! And this time having A LOT of people to get to know and work out whether it’s safe to come out to them or not. And if it all ends badly I will be alone and nowhere near home.
I am sat a plane to America as I type and I feel a lot of things; happiness, excitement, sadness. Grief for the time we never got to spend together. Grief for the grandparents I never knew. (My birth grandma passed away over a decade ago. Birth grandad remains unknown.) However most of all I’m afraid that my recently discovered biological family will be biphobic. I feel very vulnerable and emotional right now and unable to face any negative reactions or rejection that might arise. I wish I could just dance out of Arrivals singing “I’m beautiful and bi!” whilst doing jazz hands or something and they’d go, “Awesome!” and we’d hug but sadly life is never that simple. Or stylish.
But one thing I’ve realised is that if I fear or expect any biphobia then I am being just as prejudiced as I fear they might be. I would be judging them before I know them and thinking less of them. That’s not it’s not a nice thing for me to do and it’s not very nice or fair for them. So despite being utterlynterrified and emotionally exhausted I am doing my best to have an open heart and an open mind as I fly over the Atlantic.
Post 1: Practical things, how the day went, an overview of content.
At first I felt really apprehensive about attending the Stonewall Bi Role Model Day. We had been emailed over some booklets in advance to get us thinking about role models beforehand. Whilst they served this purpose well they also triggered a lot of negative feelings for me and I grew weary of what Stonewall were planning to do. This was down to the fact that the booklets only seemed to contain one token bi story each. (Several people featured didn’t label their sexuality.) So it left me wondering why they couldn’t have made any bi specific resources to send us? I was afraid that the day would involve non bi staff telling us how to be role models without listening to our experiences or addressing issues which are specific to our non-monosexual lives.
Thankfully I needn’t have worried. After a brief introduction by Edward Lord (who funded the event), the chief executive of Stonewall stepped forward to welcome us and begin the day. After a short speech Ruth explained she would be leaving so it could be a bi safe space. I was really grateful for this action and I thank her for it. She got up early and gave up her time on a Saturday morning to show the event had full support from the organisation, and then recognised that it needed to continue without her. I also liked the way she specifically said that trans people were welcome and had a place there.
The three facilitators were absolutely brilliant. The fact that they were bi staff put my anxieties at ease. The event was well run and well planned. All the sections flowed really well together and the content was clear and concise. The facilitators led the day with the right mix of professionalism, warmth and humour. They contributed experiences from their own lives where appropriate. They listened and took on board people’s ideas and suggestions as the event went on. They let attendees speak and contribute.
Practicalities first. The layout of the room didn’t quite work for me as we were all sat in one large | _ | shape and the chairs were very close together in order to fit everyone in. The seating arrangement sadly meant anyone on the sides couldn’t see the other people in their row and it was a struggle to hear what was being said at times. Also having seats without any tables meant you couldn’t lean on or support your weight for comfort so my limbs started aching quite early on in the day. Drinks were frequently knocked over as people had to put them by their feet on the floor so I often accidentally stood or put my stuff down in wet patches.
I feel like these are minor points to raise – but I know others struggled with this arrangement too. So much must depend on what room they are able to acquire, and I guess this layout was chosen to facilitate communication and moving around but I feel like a different format might work better in the future?
However on a positive note the location was right in the centre of London and (as an able bodied person) was very easy to get to by public transport. It was also close to many major train stations. Food and drink were plentiful throughout the day and the facilitators didn’t mind me constantly standing, sitting, standing, and going for walks in the corridor to ease discomfort. Dietary requirements were catered for too. People could write their own name labels. The event was free and transport costs were reimbursed.
People had travelled from all areas of the U.K. to be there, both urban and rural. There was a mix of trans and cis gendered people. BME people were also present. Those in attendance had a wide variety of life experiences. For example:
Some people had not come out to any/many people. Some were well known activists or people who’d been out for a long time.
Some people had known they were bisexual for decades. Others had recently realised.
Some were writers, or LGBT network members at work, or leaders of organisations. Some were none of these things (and that was ok).
As is often the case with these kinds of events, one of the main benefits is that everyone can look round the room in awe and think, look how many of us there are! In the same place at the same time! For a lot of people it was their first experience of being in a room with so many other bis. It’s a powerful, liberating, and validating feeling. Especially for those from smaller cities, towns and rural areas who don’t know any/many other bis and don’t have a support network.
Another plus for me was the chance to feel safe in public. It’s so rare. I feel unsafe and anxious nearly all of the time when I leave the house. So when I step into bi friendly environments like the one on Saturday I feel like a huge weight has been taken out of my heart and off my shoulders. I almost just wanted to lie on the floor and sigh in relief. Then take a nap.
I wish it were possible to write everything talked about during the day.
Below is my failure to summarise!
Content wise the day started with setting guidelines of how we could navigate through the event together whilst keeping it a safe and comfortable space for everyone.
We were then asked to think of role models in our own lives (which could be anyone) and the idea was put forward that no one person encompasses everything. We look up and want to emulate different aspects of different people. After we explored the idea of what a role model is. Who can be one? What does it mean to be one? How can you be one?
Role models don’t have to be perfect or get it right all the time. Nor do they have to be super heroes doing super duper things. For me one theme of the day was thinking about the power of ‘small’ actions. A lot of people in attendance felt they were not role models. Or that they couldn’t be unless they did x, y or z. However something like coming out to one other person, or challenging someone on something they’ve said can all be radical and empowering acts. We shouldn’t discount how much of an impact ‘small’ actions can have on the world and on other bis.
Often just seeing someone being bi and comfortable in their own skin can be life changing. I know it was for me when I met Jen Yockney. And it still is so affirming when I meet others who comfortable/confident with their own bisexuality.
We also looked at bi specific things related to being a role model. I found it really interesting how the words people associate with role models such as honesty, trustworthiness, and being genuine can be a burden to us. As these are often things bi people feel they have to spend their lives trying to prove to monosexuals that they are! So we don’t need additional pressures being added to this when we are trying to empower ourselves and others. Instead we explored other ideas of what a role model can be. E.g. Curious? Learning? Fragile?
We were also encouraged to focus on the things we can do and the things we want to do. And not to feel guilty if can’t or don’t want to do something.
Self care isn’t selfish!
Finally one person mentioned the burden of when you are out and bi and are trying to do x. Others automatically expect you to know what you’re doing and expect you to do the heavy lifting.
Later on in the day we looked at what barriers prevent us from reaching our potential as role models either internally or externally. Then we looked at potential solutions.
In the afternoon we did an exercise in threes where one person spoke uninterrupted for 5 minutes about things they wanted to start, things they wanted to stop and things they wanted to continue. After there was an additional five minutes where the other two could ask questions and offer their thoughts or advice. I found this helpful as it meant no one could dominate the group. You often don’t realise things until you speak out loud and have a sounding board. People offered me some very useful pointers to take going forward.
The event was wrapped up by getting attendees to write our 3 key themes of the day in our own notebooks and then completing a statement provided. Anyone who wanted to share their statement to the group was welcome to in a circle at the end, and it was very moving and empowering to hear people’s answers.
Finally it was group photo time then home!
I do have one last thought to share with regards to content. One thing which I felt could have made clearer is the effects of bi erasure. It was only because someone pointed this out that it even got mentioned. Some in the room were aware of bi erasure but I know others weren’t. It needed to be said that our invisibility is not our fault. Being a visible role model and taking action no matter how big or small does help and as I mentioned before it can have huge impacts. But it will never solve the issue of on its own. We need others in society to recognise us, support us and stop erasing us. Just knowing about erasure is a really empowering thing in itself! It means we don’t blame ourselves for our invisibility and suffer the effects of believing that.
But that is a minor niggle from a wonderful event. Others may well have left feeling very different and I would love to read other people’s write ups to compare experiences. But as you can tell I found the day to be very useful, affirming and empowering. I learned so much which I will have to blog more about later.
I’m really glad Stonewall is offering programmes like this for bi people. It is vital that they continue to do so. I know they will run another one of these days in September.
One day doesn’t erase years of hurt for me. Though it has made me feel less weary and afraid about engaging with them in the years to come. I even signed up for more information about volunteering!
I look forward to seeing what else they do for bi people in the future. Lots more I hope.
This year has seen a lot of changes as I’ve moved house, moved cities and found a new job – no wonder I haven’t had the time or energy to write anything here since January!
I was very fortunate as I had enough money in the bank to last through a short period of unemployment and pay for the cost of moving. I also had enough to give me 1-2 months to find work/start temping so I had the privilege of being able to be out on my CV and take a higher rate of rejection. If it took longer to get work I would be able to cope for a while.
There were a few reasons why I chose to do this. One is that I can no longer bear to hide my sexuality, even if I know the results of coming out will be damaging. I want people to see ME and not something I’m pretending to be. Another is that BiTopia and bi activism took up so much of my life there was little time for anything else. (Clearly wasn’t following my own advice on avoiding burnout!)
In the UK there is an expectation that your CV must show examples of employment, volunteer work, AND some kind of skill building, teamwork based hobby. (Way to discriminate against all the bi people who are just struggling to get by, and can’t do some/all of the above.) So if I didn’t talk about my bi group on my CV, it wouldn’t fit the unspoken criteria for being short listed without lying anyway. Besides, it was all relevant experience to the jobs I wanted to apply for so it made sense to put it on.
Another reason was that as I was moving to a much bigger city, there would be a better chance of finding an LGBTQ+ friendly employer. The people who saw queer stuff on the CV and immediately rejected me because of it would be the people who never got in touch – hurrah!
Finally, I wanted to share what I’d achieved because I felt proud.
It felt very scary talking about it out loud in the job interview in response to questions like, ‘Do you have experience using social media?’ or ‘Can you work with a wide range of people?’ I felt very vulnerable and afraid. I kept reminding myself they could be LGBTQ+ too, but mostly I was waiting for them to shoot me looks of disgust or call the interview off early. (Not that they did of course.) My voice did wobble at times despite my best efforts to keep it steady and talk naturally.
In the end I got the job, and I also had another interview lined up that I cancelled once I heard the news.
I’m not going to end this with some sappy “You can do it too!” sentiment. Everyone’s situation is different. You might not be in a financial position that allows you to leave a job, take longer to find one, or pick and choose amongst them. It might be damaging or dangerous to come out in your field of employment. But bi activism and organising groups and events can equip you many relevant skills and experiences. And these can aid you in applications and interviews. If being out on your CV is something you are thinking of doing then I wish you good luck!
Recently I mentioned an LGBTQ+ issue to a colleague and was immediately met with the words “But that’s not really a problem any more.”
This happens to me a lot.
I can understand the (false) reasoning behind the sentiment. There is a pervasive feeling amongst people with privilege in our society that, in this modern day and age, things have improved and people are now tolerant and accepting. Like we’ve reached and crossed a finish line and there is nothing else to be done. It’s 2016 you know? That stuff just doesn’t happen any more! I can also understand how the ‘I don’t see it, so it mustn’t happen’ way of thinking an take hold. For example if you are white, and your life doesn’t intersect with any/many BME people, then you wouldn’t see any violence, prejudice or discrimination against them taking place. So you could reach a false conclusion that it barely occurs. (I sadly, wrongly used to be that person.)
I think the British media also exacerbates this, as issues such as racism in the police force or the fight for equal marriage in America often get more coverage than UK issues. Or the UK issues barely get mentioned at all. So people think it’s not much of a problem here. E.g. many people have heard of how all the Oscar nominees are all white this year, but they might not think about the lack of diversity in British film and television. And BME people are more likely to die in police custody in the UK too. In terms of general knowledge, a lot of people will know who Caitlyn Jenner is, but could they name a British trans person?
A lot of people don’t want to think about these things because it makes them feel uncomfortable. So it’s easier for them just to say it’s not an issue, and suppress other people speaking up about it. “Just live your life and be happy.” they say. “Stop making everything into a big deal!” Or they do things like make you hide your (perfectly reasonable) posters for a protest in case you upset other people, who aren’t even affected by the issue you’re protesting against!
And yes things definitely have improved a lot over time. But saying that things are still bad isn’t disagreeing with that, it’s acknowledging that something is still happening that people shouldn’t have to deal with. That something, like violence against trans people, or LGBTQ+ homelessness, or the fact that women are more likely to be raped if they’re bisexual needs to stop NOW. ASAP. We can’t improve anything if people won’t even accept it’s happening. It’s a powerful tool of oppression.
It’s really frustrating when people who are not affected by an issue, or are not a member of a minority group disproportionately affected by something, insist that it’s not really a problem. Putting salt instead of sugar into your tea by accident is an example of something that is not really a problem. Saying something doesn’t make it so, and I wish people would at least listen for a few minutes before opening their mouths in these situations. If they meant well and honestly didn’t know it was an issue in society, then why can’t they take a step back and think, “Well by Jove, I’m so lucky. I was so unaffected by that awful thing I didn’t even know about it! I should learn about it, and see if there is anything I can do to help stop it.”
On this occasion I didn’t know the exact figures, so I just mumbled quietly that it is still a problem before the conversation moved on. I have just looked it up for next time. We shouldn’t have to be walking encyclopaedias of depressing statistics, but other people often force us into that position by insisting things aren’t important or that they aren’t happening. Then they get into arguments with us when we have the audacity to point out their false beliefs.
Life makes me tired, and I am tired of banging my head repeatedly against brick walls.
Fanfiction is usually viewed in a derogatory way and is likely to be dismissed as badly written, childish drivel produced and consumed by “fangirls“. However people of all genders and ages write it. Some fiction will be published by the most talented authors you’ve ever encountered, whilst others are so bad you can’t read past their first paragraph but ultimately I don’t think ability is the point. Whatever their sexuality people are being inspired to write and create and I think that’s wonderful. Even if you never post any yourself, fanfiction improves your writing and editing skills just by reading it. It also builds friendships and community as people comment, critique and come together to recommend and discuss stories.
Fanfiction is important to me for several reasons. One is that there are so few LGBT+ characters in film, books and television it allows you to input something else into a monosexist heteronormative world. With hindsight I’m no longer surprised I’ve consumed so much fan fiction over the years. If writers, producers and television networks aren’t going to portray it then fans are certainly going to take their creations and write their own LGBT+ characters and storylines with them. Hell sometimes we even give them a happy ending too! It makes a nice change from all the character deaths we get lumbered with. I suppose you could view fanfic as some kind of creative, literary wish fulfilment.
Fanfiction also allows us to have stories where other character’s reactions to someone’s gender or sexuality isn’t the plot. In TV & film the story for an LGBT+ character always seems to be about rejection, discrimination, bullying, violence, fighting for rights etc. If it’s not that then it’s a negative portrayal which, for example, sees bi people as hypersexual, greedy, murdering, cheating secondary characters to be used as a plot device to further someone else’s story.
For bisexuals, even reports on piss poor representation in the media are bi erasing and biphobic. Yes Stonewall, I’m looking at you!
So as you can see fan fiction has been invaluable for me. When I was a teenager I devoured it. I was addicted to it. I would do things like pretend to feel ill on family holidays just so I could ‘rest’ in a public library and read it on the Internet whilst my relatives went sightseeing.
For most of my teenage years I didn’t know anyone else who wasn’t straight. In my small town I had nowhere to go to meet other people like me. There was no LGBT centre or youth group where I could get support. I didn’t even know those things existed. So fanfic showed me that there were other queer people out there looking at their computer screens too. Thanks to fanfic authors and websites I knew I wasn’t alone. More importantly, fics taught me that life would get better. It wouldn’t always be about loneliness and isolation, combined with feeling terrified that your parents might find out about your sexuality whilst you were trying to cope with being bullied at school. It taught me that when I would be an adult there would be a scene, a community that I could join. Fics gave me hope I could find happiness and relationships in the future.
Fanfiction was also one to way to find out answers to a curious teenager’s questions. What was it like when two women kissed or had sex? How did two women have sex?! As I’ve written before, my education certainly didn’t provide any answers.
Of course it’s not all positive. When people post LGBT+ fanfiction online (or even just link to it) they face harassment, abuse and bullying. You’re also not going to get a safe, accurate sex education from reading fanfiction! In addition unquestioning minds can absorb the attitudes of the writers of what they read and they might not find, or there might not be, any alternative view points to counteract it. If they only find fanfics saying x, they might begin to think is x true.
Fanfic, like the media, is a reflection of the dominant beliefs and attitudes in our society. One example of bi erasure is that stories involving two women getting intimate are nearly always tagged ‘lesbian sex’, even if the characters in the story are bi. Biphobia might take the form of someone writing a character that pertains to the aforementioned negative stereotypes. People also tend to do things like take straight characters and write them as gay/lesbian. Yes fans are welcome to write whatever they like, and that’s the point I made in the second paragraph isn’t it? Though I guess what I’m trying to say is when the majority of fiction is gay/straight as it reflects our monosexist society, this sucks as it reinforces biphobia and bi erasure both internally for any readers attracted to more than one gender and amongst readers in general. I long for more bi fanfic and bi friendly fanfic!
However at least you can (for the most part) choose, control and contribute to what you read on the Internet. In film and television you don’t have a say about content. Nor can you stop people showing endless hetero kissing and sex yet cut to a shot of lady legs behind a metal shutter because showing two women so much as brush lips will…erm…cause the viwers’ eyes to burn? Send us all to hell? Yes The Good Wife, I’m looking at you!!
So yes, fanfic definitely fills the gaps of what you rarely/will never see onscreen.
So what is being an avid consumer of fanfiction like? How have things changed over time? 10-15 years ago before Google took off it was really hard to find any LGBT+ fiction. Search engines were so crappy! So when I did find some I always quickly copied and pasted it into Word documents. If you wanted to read it you either had to be in front of your own computer, or save it to a floppy disc in order to read it on a different computer. The only alternative was printing it off on A4 paper. This was easily done with a short stand alone story, but a bit more difficult and time consuming when it was written across 70 chapters all posted on different pages of a website!
Closeted teenage life also meant having to delete all your browsing history and saving documents to floppy discs hidden in your bedroom so parents wouldn’t find anything on the computer. I certainly enjoy the freedom having my own laptop brings now.
As the web grew and grew so did massive archive sites like Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own. It soon become a lot easier to publish on sites and blogs through creating an account rather than through having to make your own website from scratch on somewhere like Geocities. As those older sites disappeared offline over time anything you hadn’t copied and pasted was lost forever. Now you can download nearly anything and put it on your phone or kindle to read anywhere you go. Some fandoms even have communities where people record themselves reading fics out loud (not necessarily their own stories) so others can listen to them instead of read them.
Experiences of finding fiction varies greatly depending on the popularity of the thing you’re interested in. The more well known and liked something is, the larger the fan base and the more fiction produced as a result. I’ve been lucky as the things I love have always had huge online fandoms. It’s nice to know you’ll never run out of anything to read.
I can’t imagine a life without fanfic. My favourite stories will always stir up emotions along with the memories from the period of my life when I first discovered them.
When promoting a monthly event I’ve found ‘the rule of four’ quite an efficient way to get my message across. Part of me used to worry I was promoting myself too much, but over time I’ve realised that most people will only see one of your messages. Or, they will read it and forget the date by the time it comes around!
What’s this rule of four then?
It’s not really anything special. Just tell people about your event/meet up at least four times; thrice before the big day and once afterwards.
My monthly schedule looks like this:
1, Post about the next meet up a few days after the last one, four weeks in advance.
2, Post about the meet up during the week leading up to it. (A Sunday evening or a Monday morning is a great idea as a lot of people log into their emails and social media then, and are thinking about the week ahead.)
3, Remind people about it the day before.
4, After the event, either during the same day or the day afterwards, post to thank everyone for coming. I usually post a photo or add some kind of comment to say it was a great night, well attended etc. This is to cultivate a desire in people to attend the next one, but also to celebrate and share our good times and successes.
Then back to step one for the next month!
I’ve found if I don’t do steps 1-3, attendance can drop by up to half even though the pub social for Nottingham Bitopia is always on the second Thursday of the month! Normally for me, BiTopia falls around 10th-14th of the month. However there are a few times a year the second Thursday falls on a single digit date (e.g. 9th) and this really catches people out. Posting is therefore a lot more important during these times.
My technological skills aren’t advanced enough to make one post which automatically shows up on all social media accounts, but I’m sure that will save you time if you want to go down that road. However I’m not a great fan of this because I prefer something more personal and am put off from following a group on multiple sites if their messages all say the exact same thing.
However I do find software like Hootsuite very useful for scheduling posts in advance. That way messages can still go out at key times of day even when I’m at work, on holiday etc.
After spending a lot of time faffing around resetting passwords I finally wrote them all down on one piece of paper and thankfully haven’t lost it yet!
Recently I gave my first Bisexuality Awareness Talk to a County Council LGBT Network group. I was a little nervous as I’ve never done one before; normally I delegate all training to @unchartedworlds! However everything went fine and it turned out to be the perfect starting point for a newbie. There were only a handful of people there and everyone was very welcoming and friendly. We even went to the pub together afterwards! Everyone listened well and respected what I had to say, and it was nice to see the penny drop for some of them with regards to busting bi myths and why it’s important to know about bi issues. I hope my training has some kind of ripple effect across services provided by the County Council, even if they’re just teeny tiny waves.
I thought I would post a rough break down of my talk here as it might be useful for anyone who has been thinking about accepting invitations to give training but isn’t quite sure where to start.
Please consider this a starting point rather than any kind of definitive list or a guide of how it should be done!
Hannah’s SourcesI just picked out a few things from each resource when I emailed over my sources but there is of course much more contained in each one.The Bisexuality Report http://www.open.ac.uk/ccig/files/ccig/The%20BisexualityReport%20Feb.2012.pdf
- Talk about my bi group BiTopia, what the group does, how it helps people and what kind of issues we face, why we need the group.
- Definitions of bisexuality, from The Bi Index and Robyn Ochs.
- Run down of myths about bisexuality – then busting them! E.g. greedy, can’t commit to relationships, disease carriers, 50/50 attraction to men and women, are transphobic, on the way to gay, everyone is bisexual really…
- Bi erasure, what it is and what the effects of it are.
- Linking the above points together to describe how the prejudices against bi people result in discrimination, erasure, harassment and violence in our everyday lives in the areas below.
- The workplace
- The Media
- “LGBT” Spaces
- Accessing healthcare
- Asylum Seekers
- Internalised Biphobia
- Talking about experiences of Bi POC/looking at racism in LGBT spaces.
- Why it’s important to include bi people, and why people should look at bi issues separately instead of lumping them together with L&G
- How to include bisexuals
- Bi Groups, Events and Media in the UK, handing out leaflets and resources.
Complicated? report from The Equality Network – http://www.equality-network.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Complicated-Bisexual-Report.pdf
- The story of an employer discriminating against a colleague/not considering them for a promotion because they’re bisexual.
- Bisexuals have significantly higher rates of mental health issues and substance misuse than gay/straight people.
- Also quotes the US study which found more bisexuals than the number of gay & lesbians put together.
Bisexual Resource Centre
- Stats about bisexuals having to deal with discrimination and harassment when accessing health care.
- Guide on how to include bisexuals can be found from page 8 (http://www.equality-network.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Complicated-Bisexual-Report.pdf#page=8)
Bi Women Stats on Violence
- Bi people are more likely to be on the receiving end of violence from their partners
BiPhoria and The Guardian NewspaperThe National Lesbian & Gay Taskforce (now renamed to LGBT Taskforce)
- Bi women have highest rates of rape/sexual assault (It’s a tumblr acount but it cites reputable academic sources.)
- Bisexuals have poorer rates of mental, physical and sexual health www.brown.edu
Steve Ratcliff of The Co-Operative
- US Study: number of bisexuals is a slight majority over the numbers of gay & lesbian people. http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-lgbt-demographics-studies/how-many-people-are-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender/
- Talk about bisexuality, and mentions how in the last staff survey there are more bisexuals than lesbians in the Respect Network for The Cooperative Group http://bicommunitynews.co.uk/2890/visibility-work/
- More people identify as being on some scale of bisexuality than homosexuality. http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/survey-one-in-two-young-brits-say-they-are-not-100-straight/
- and Jen Yockney’s response to the news: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/this-is-why-more-young-people-say-they-are-not-100-straight-or-gay/
- Bisexuals are more likely to be poor http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11712792/Bisexual-people-more-likely-to-be-poor.html
One unexpected positive side effect of doing the talk was learning the stats around bisexuality helped me combat some of my internalised biphobia. The facts clearly show we are not bad people who are the cause of all of our own hardships; our societies are to blame. The world isn’t an accepting or safe space for us. It’s not us that needs to change.
Now whenever someone has the audacity to tell me bisexuals have it easy, I start reeling off the stats until they get point!
Huge thank you to @unchartedworlds and everyone in the BiCon Facebook Group for coaching me before the talk and giving me lots of tips and advice.
As always, feedback and suggestions are welcome.
Activists and group leaders are always going to be prone to getting burned out. We do so much work in our own free time. This is often done on top of full time work or family responsibilities. It might also be done under the pressure of unemployment and living on a very small income. As there are no funded bi groups in the UK and no bi groups run by a LGBT centre or organisation, this means that we run them using our own energy and resources too. We have to start and set up all of them. We have to keep them running.
This is all in addition to the poor rates of mental and physical health bisexuals suffer because of biphobia and bi erasure too.
The thing that I find the worst about bi group work is that the constant erasure and biphobia is exhausting. Nothing comes easily. I feel like we have to fight ALL THE TIME for bisexuality to be included or even mentioned. It makes me sad, angry, fed up, and frustrated. It wears me down over time.
This piece by Psychology Today provides a really good introduction to what burnout is and what the tell tale signs are: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them
Their summary looks like this:
- physical and emotional exhaustion
- cynicism and detachment
- feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
The article elaborates on what these three things look like, e.g. forgetfulness, anxiety, isolation, depression, increased illness, irritability…
Here are a few examples of how it might manifest in terms of running a bi group:
- you don’t enjoy running the group any more
- it’s starting to take up more and more of your time
- it’s difficult to stop thinking about your plans and to do lists
- you want a long break from it all, yet struggle to switch off and stop logging into your social media accounts for even a short amount of time
- you notice you are starting to accidentally say or do stupid and hurtful things, and maybe even burn bridges and damage professional relationships (because you feel so tired, frustrated and fed up all the time)
- your group work is starting to come before other important life priorities, such as finding a better job, or attending friends’ social events.
I’d also bet money that perfectionists and people pleasers are especially vulnerable. For example, I personally can’t bear to let people down so I have to work hard to make sure I don’t commit to things others want or need at my own expense.
As the article I linked to says, burnout doesn’t just appear out of nowhere and go BOO! It’s a long and slow process that builds up over time. For ages you feel down but can’t figure out why. Everything seems “fine” right? Sometimes when I’ve been burnt out I haven’t really felt anything at all – just awful! Lots of tears at the smallest things. Everything feels like a hurdle to be overcome. Exhaustion all day every day. Not listening or concentrating on anything. Sometimes feeling suicidal during the worst moments.
It can take a really long time to put the pieces together and realise you’re burnt out. It can take even longer to get your life back to normal too. It won’t happen overnight, but little by little you can take the steps you need to find the right bi group-life balance for you. Or maybe take a break for a while. Or maybe stop what you’re doing altogether.
If you’re burnt out:
- Can you delegate some or all of your tasks and responsibilities? (Perfectionists, you can trust other people to do the things you do!)
- Can you arrange fewer events, such as holding a meet up every other month instead of once a month?
- Can technology help you save time? E.g. I used to retype out a Facebook event for every pub social until I found the “copy this event” button!
- Self care by eating and sleeping as well as you can. Make uninterrupted time for YOU and uninterrupted time to do your favourite things. Treat yourself.
- Schedule time to spend on bi group work…and stick to it! Do whatever works for you, such as only doing work on a Sunday or only doing 15 minutes a day.
- Assert your boundaries, needs and wants. I used to be terrible at this. Lately I’ve learned I can just say no and I don’t have to give a reason! I’ve also learned I can change my mind! (Eg. “I know I said I’d make a bi display for the library for next month, but for personal reasons I’m going to have to pull out. I’m so sorry.”)
- If you are feeling emotionally burnt out, redirect the person who needs support to speak to someone else, or some kind of organisation or listening service. For example, I will no longer talk with people who are feeling suicidal, but I will give them phone numbers to call and will check in on them later.
- If you use the same smartphone for your personal life and bi group life (which I don’t recommend!), it might be worth buying a second £10-20 phone if you can afford to (or using an old phone if you have one lying around). That way it’s easier to keep the two things separate. You can switch off the bi group phone and be free from messages, calls and emails instead of getting sucked back in through real time alerts.
- If a second phone isn’t an option, log out and/or remove email & social media accounts relating to your bi group from your phone and only look at them during your allocated bi group time.
It can be really hard to take a step back, especially if taking a break or stopping altogether means the bi thing won’t happen any more. Try not to feel guilty if this emotion is affecting you. We live in a world where bisexuals have to struggle and fight just to get by. Doing activism or bi group work is great but it’s not a requirement or a necessity. People who don’t or can’t do activism & bi group work are just as awesome and worthwhile. So do as much or as little as you want. Do as much or a little as your are able. You come first. You are the most important thing.