Bi & Proud Worldwide

This originally appeared in BCN issue 113.

As Pride season kicks off we caught up with one of last summer’s Cake Award winners and quizzed them about Pride events – with one eye on London hosting World Pride in July.

Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name’s Sharon Langridge; I’m 33. I’m a queer, bisexual woman living in London and working in charity IT.
I’m heavily involved in the bi community: I’m part of the team running the London BiFest a couple of weeks before World Pride. (Sadly just before BCN goes to press – Ed)

I’ve been out since I was about 15, and involved in LGBT communities on and off since then. I set up the Sheffield bi group when I was living there, in order to have a visible bi presence at Sheffield Pride. I’m coordinating the bi walking group at World Pride in London.

You’ve been to Pride before; what are your anticipations and expectations?
I’m not sure how many times I’ve been to Pride in London. My first was in 1996 when I was 17: my best friend and I come down by coach from Bradford and took part in the parade. We stayed the night at my auntie’s, who thoughtfully pushed the single beds together in the spare room, assuming my friend and I were a couple. A very sweet example of the opposite of homophobia! The last few years I’ve marched as part of the bi group.

I’m also a Quaker and am proud of Quakers’ positive stance on marriage equality. I was very happy the year that the Quakers and the bi group were placed next to each other in London’s Pride parade, so I could march with both groups.

I’ve also taken part in Prides in Sheffield, Manchester and Leicester.

What does Pride to mean to you?
It’s an opportunity to celebrate the freedoms that we’ve gained as LGBT people in the UK: since I started coming to Pride, Section 28 has been abolished, civil partnerships have been introduced, the age of consent has been equalised and anti-discrimination legislation has been vastly improved.

It’s also an opportunity to push for equality where we’re still discriminated against; for example to campaign for equal access to civil and religious marriage and civil partnerships for all couples regardless of gender and sexuality; to campaign for trans people to be as protected in law as other LGBT people, and to campaign for human rights for LGBT people around the world.

It’s an opportunity for bisexual people who are often invisible (perceived as either straight or gay, depending on their partner) to be visible as a group and to celebrate our existence.

It’s an opportunity for different groups under the LGBT umbrella to see each other and celebrate together.

It’s an opportunity for our allies to make themselves known and to show their support visibly (such as public services, political, community and religious groups, and businesses).

This one’s World Pride. What’s it like being bi (or, given it’s LGBT Pride – LGBT) in the UK?
Significantly easier than in other parts of the world! But we still have a long way to go in improving equality legislation and reducing homophobia, biphobia and stereotyping.

I’ve experienced homophobic abuse – probably fewer than ten times in my life? – but half of those have been in the last couple of years and that’s still too much.

I also feel strongly that the LGBT community needs to improve equality and solidarity within the community: transphobia, biphobia and sexism are all problems that shouldn’t still exist but do.

I recognise that we are lucky compared with many other places, though. I could mention a girlfriend at work and they can’t legally fire me for being queer. In some parts of the world people are still executed for being queer.

What are the things you celebrate because of your sexuality?
I’m not sure, because my sexuality’s the same as it’s always been so I don’t know any different. I guess I celebrate the fact that I have close friends of all genders because people aren’t divided into “the gender I fancy” and “the gender I’m ‘just friends’ with”. I don’t think that’s an exclusively bi phenomenon, though.

I celebrate the diversity of LGBT culture, art and history and the freedom of expression that being seen as ‘different’ has given us.

Do you face challenges as a bisexual / queer woman living in the UK?
One challenge I face is that people hear “LGBT” as synonymous with “lesbian and gay”, and so either think I don’t count or assume I’m straight or a lesbian which erases large parts of my relationship history (including my current partners) and of my family.
I’ve experienced homophobic abuse in public, sometimes from people who think I’m a gay bloke at a glance (I’m quite butch) and sometimes from people who see me as a queer woman.
I’ve also experienced biphobic abuse both from straight people and from gay men and lesbians – the worst time for this is during LGBT Pride events! The bi group at Pride in London is often met with renditions of Bucks Fizz’s “Making Your Mind Up”.

Who are your LGBT role models?
I’m a big fan of Susan Calman (from Radio 4’s News Quiz). Also Sarah Brown, who’s an out, trans, lesbian Councillor in Cambridge Council. And Tom Robinson (of “Glad to be Gay”… and then bi… fame).
Really, anyone who demonstrates that being out as L, G, B and/or T doesn’t prevent people from being very successful in their field.

What does love mean to you?
Um… lots of different things depending on the time and the person? Some mixture of friendship, companionship, supportiveness, sex, intimacy, lust, continuity, teamwork… and probably other stuff I can’t articulate.

Thanks Sharon. Have a fab time on the 7th!