Tracey Plowman from BiUK overviews the latest issue of the Journal of Bisexuality (Volume 11 Issue 2-3)
This double issue takes last year’s BiReCon event as its focus. BiReCon is a conference attached to BiCon every two years and is designed as an overlapping point between bisexual research and bisexual communities. Brian Zamboni introduces this issue by noting the importance of increasing the audience for conferences such as BiReCon and thanking guest editor Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio and Meg Barker and colleagues for their contributions. In a preamble to the issue, Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio outlines the historical and social background to current discussions about sexuality; she notes, for example, that in the UK people are often expected to fit into the categories of either ‘gay’ or ‘straight’. Anderlini-D’Onofrio argues that bisexuality is as natural as any sexuality and that there is no evidence for the superiority of certain kinds of love. The articles in the issue are introduced with an emphasis on the power of bringing together many diverse voices and an assertion that plurality is no bad thing. Because it’s such a large issue, I have selected a few articles to describe here in moderate detail rather than giving only a superficial view of many papers.
Meg Barker, Christina Richards, Rebecca Jones and Surya Monro give an overview of 2010’s BiReCon event. Over 100 people attended from around the world and there was a huge variety in the topics covered by the presentations, from bisexual readings of Shakespeare to LGBT work in local government. The American Institute of Bisexuality are thanked for their support, along with the Open University who funded the recording of presentations to go on YouTube, where videos of talks are available. BiReCon aims to bring together researchers, academics, the public, members of communities and activists, as an example of good practice.
In one paper, Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio compares the relatively limited sexualities of human beings with bacteria, who reproduce with any neighbours in order to exchange genes. She asks that we imagine a society in which our romantic and sexual appetites are appreciated in as diverse a way as we understand and sate our appetite for foods. Anderlini-D’Onofrio suggests that human sexuality is incorrectly seen as a need or an instinct alone rather than also being an art and draws comparisons with nature, emphasising symbiosis and collaboration over competition.
Christian Klesse’s paper talks about individuals who identify as bisexual and how binegativity impacts on their relationships. Klesse gives examples of the problems that binegativity can cause, for example the reluctance of some people to start a relationship with a bisexual person. This is usually due to negative stereotypes of bisexual people, which might include the idea that we cannot be monogamous, that we are hypersexual, or we are immature. These traits are not intrinsically negative, rather the common perception of them is negative. These attitudes can lead to issues once in a relationship such as scapegoating problems onto the bisexual partner. There is often also pressure from outside the relationship, including difficulty gaining acceptance of a relationship from close friends and family. This can add stress to the relationship. Klesse also points out the importance of recognising that the intersection of certain identities often increases problems for bisexual people who are also, for example, black or in a minority ethnic group, working class, and/or disabled.
Relatedly, Robin Ochs writes about “Why We Need to Get Bi”. Her paper, a summary of her talk, argues that popular stereotypes of bisexual people arise from the times when bisexual people are most visible. This includes people who have many partners in quick succession, or when someone leaves a person for somebody of a different gender, and also when people have concurrent multiple partners. Ochs is not criticising any of these behaviours, she is attempting to explain where the stereotypes come from. She suggests that people are only aware of bisexuals at these times, so the view emerges that these are the only bisexuals that exist and these are the only actions they do. Ochs uses this as the basis for the case that further research into bisexual lives and realities is essential. She calls for an increased need to embrace complexity and to continuously struggle against binaries, in particular those of gender and sexual identity.
Rebecca Jones, who has previously summarised her work on ageing and bisexuality for BCN, writes about the workshop she conducted as part of BiCon 2010. The workshop was on imagined futures for bisexual and other non-monosexual people. As Jones discusses in this paper, previous studies conducted by Gotz, amongst others, have found that people who are not yet ‘old’ or ‘older’ find it hard to imagine themselves old and often imagine a negative future for themselves. This is particularly true of gay men and lesbians in Gotz’s study which also found that the more normative their imagined futures were, the more likely they were to be positive. The outcomes of this workshop contrast with Gotz’s findings as most people imagined positive, non-normative futures for themselves. It was suggested that the alternative normativities of BiCon as the setting for the workshop may be responsible for this.
BiReCon is a biennial event and happens in conjunction with BiCon. The next BiReCon will take place in Bradford on 9th August 2012 and will focus on Mental Health. See www.BiCon2012.org.uk
Videos of BiReCon 2010 talks can be viewed online free of charge by going to www.youtube.com and searching for ‘BiReCon 2010’.
All references Journal of Bisexuality, 11(2-3).