2009 Prides, Part One

Birmingham Pride
It was a dark and stormy night… well, not really.  For a start it was a Saturday morning in May.  The weather did however match the start of the day for our group of intrepid bisexual activists.  The clouds were grey and some of us were more bleary eyed than others.

As with any big event, there was a lot of waiting around, trying to find our allocated stall and having to talk with other people about Things Bisexual.  Oh, the hardship!  We found yet another bisexual within a few minutes of talking with others (see the banner, we’re everywhere!) and the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds.

If this had been a story written especially for us, then it was timed perfectly.  No sooner did we lay out our stall and set up the chairs, than the sun began to shine.  People began to appear and the wind got busier.  So busy in fact that we had to send out for environmentally friendly paperweights to stop the precious leaflets flying away.  (That’s “stones” for you and me).  Given that the theme of this year’s Birmingham Pride was Pink and Green, it seemed apt to use what nature had given us to support the bisexual cause.

Now you might think that supporting the bisexual cause at a Pride event would be unnecessary.  After all, aren’t we all one big friendly LGBT minority together?  Sadly, some people proved that to be wrong – even at such a large and inclusive event.  From the start of the day, we encountered biphobic comments and attitudes.  Ranging from people walking past making remarks such as “Ewww bisexuals, that’s disgusting” and “fucking bisexuals” to one woman’s girlfriend strongly trying to encourage her to not find out more about her bisexuality.  As you can imagine, this didn’t deter us, but confirmed just how important it was to have the stall, to be present within the LGBT community, to show that it is okay to be bisexual.

Before, it all sounds like doom and dismay, I’d like to remind you of the fact that despite the cloudy start, the sun came out in force.  This really did mirror the many positive reactions we received which far outweighed the handful of negative comments.   Firstly, the “Bi?” and “Bi!” stickers were a huge success.  People who didn’t identify as bi were willing to support the need for bi visibility and wear a “Bi?” sticker.  People who were bi were able to let the world know that they were by wearing a “Bi!” sticker.  It was a win-win situation.  As with last year, we didn’t see any of them lying on the floor – always a good sign.

Secondly, we talked to so many people who were really pleased that they could pick up information about local support groups.  One gentleman explained that he identified as bisexual but hadn’t been aware of BiCon or that there was now a local bi group.  Hopefully he will now use the option to get that support, to meet the bisexual community and to not feel isolated.  Another lady explained that she was bisexual and worked in a very LGT company but felt very much like the token bisexual.  She expressed her frustration at people assuming she was a lesbian and not even considering that she might be bisexual.

One group who came to our stall were proudly wearing Bi Pride flags and were delighted to get information about the Brum Bi Group and BiCon.  Hurrah!   Everyone wanted the Love Counts More Than Gender flyers, regardless of whether they wanted bi information.  Perhaps the message will slowly start to reach out to all communities through a slogan that most people can identify with?
Speaking of communities, BiCon 2009’s Community Day was promoted to many organisations who were at Birmingham Pride.  All of them expressed interest in coming along and were delighted to be invited.  They were also visibly shocked when they heard about the biphobic comments we had received at what should have been an inclusive event.  It was great to see how supportive they were and how much they wanted to work with the bi community.

As the day went on, the team labelled flyers, passed leaflets to interested passers-by and chatted as we caught up with one another.  When the crowds of people got progressively drunker and began to congregate down near the bars, we decided it was time to pack up our stall and say goodbye to a very successful and a very sunny Birmingham Pride.

Thank you to all of us who helped on out the day and gave their time and energy!

Sanji

Sheffield
This was the first Sheffield Pride event I’ve been to, and it was good to see the event expanding in scale but retaining a relaxed atmosphere. We lucked out with good weather too, as I judged over the afternoon watching the bald pate of a press photographer go from ‘fleshtone’ to ‘salmon’ and finally ‘magenta’ beneath the sun.

A variety of musical flavours on the main stage did something to forestall any cliches about queer culture. I particularly enjoyed Smokers Die Younger, but was a bit less interested in the Ibiza DJ with his ‘You Go Gurl!”/Woop-Woop routine.  The less said about Scooch the better.  The one thing missing from the stage was a decent backdrop, to anchor the whole thing visually and broadcast the reason for the day a bit more. Instead we had to watch the awning at the back of the stage flapping in the breeze.

Elsewhere on the site, the drummer from Hull band Jesus Stole My Girlfriend was in a tent giving drum kit tutorials, and I had a clatter for the first time in years. Did anyone else witness the tent take off from its moorings in the wind, and land on top of the dance marquee?  Actually, that was the other amusing thing – a huge tent nearby with DJs spinning tunes for all they’re worth to an empty space, while their audience supped pints out in the sunshine. Maybe if the next Pride extends after dark they might even get a few people inside!
Another thing: no march/parade yet, but then again is that a necessity? I’m in two minds really: on the one hand it would be fun and good for visibility, but are pride marches a hangover of campaigning from the old days?  Does a march just look angry and hectoring, serving only to alienate people?  On my way home afterwards I heard – presumably – straight people debating why gays get a Pride day, when hetties don’t. The obvious answer is “because straights get the other 364”, but as with other issues, the justification for events representing minorities can be flipped 180 in public perception and painted as special treatment, rather than what it is, a way to even up of the playing field.

Finally, good to see the bisexual stall getting a lot of visitors, and hopefully next year we’ll get invited rather than having to threaten a guerilla campaign.  The stalls in general were OK as far as they went, but it was less bustling bazaar and more Friday market.  Needed more variety and more people to reach critical mass.

Did anybody go to the after party at the hub?
See y’all next year then….

Andy


This article originally appeared in BCN magazine issue 96, June 2009.

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