Bi News Roundup

Bi Festival Explosion
The coming twelve months are set to have more and bigger bi events than we’ve seen in many years. Three cities are now gearing up to hosting day-long bi community events ahead of Glasgow BiCon.

Manchester
Manchester will be first off the mark, with Manchester BiFest taking place on December 10th. Held in the Thompsons Arms next to the local National Express coach station and a few minutes’ walk from Piccadilly train station, it’s already looking like it will be a packed event with people coming from far and wide for daytime workshops and disco “til very late”. GayTalk, the UK’s only weekly LGBT BBC radio show will be along to cover the day.

Brighton
As BCN went to press it was announced that Brighton BiFest will follow in February, with their event timed to coincide with Brighton’s Winter Pride week on Saturday 11th. Camel from Brighton Bothways told BCN, “We’ll be following the format of previous BiFests, so during the day there’ll be workshops (serious and silly), a bi café and social space (held at the Cowley Club, London Road). In the evening we’re planning a party with DJ’s, live music, dancing, drinking and much more!”

London
London’s plans are a little more tentative at this stage but a provisional date of May 6th is being worked towards.

Good Lords
Days before the “similar but different” measure of Civil Partnerships came into effect, the House of Lords made changes to the Government’s Equality Bill that – if passed by the Commons – will outlaw providers of goods, facilities and services from discriminating against lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

It is now up to the Commons to confirm the change. By the time you read this issue of BCN they seem likely to have done so; and about time too.

On the subject of Civil Partnerships, while the media coverage (painting them as “gay marriage” almost universally) and a plethora of new advertisers in the lesbian & gay media have concentrated on how to organise the most lavish, memorable and expensive civil partnership ceremony and reception possible, many BCN readers not planning to tie the RCP knot may need to know that as part of the legal recognition of same-sex couples, those who do not formally register their relationship will now be treated in the same way as mixed-sex couples for benefits rights. This may mean cuts in JSA, housing benefit or council tax rebate if your partner is earning.

World Record Bid by anti- Homophobic Bullying Campaign
Students, teachers and supporters demanding the government tackles anti-gay hatred in schools handed in a 70 metre long petition to the Department for Education and Skills at the start of December.

Their colourful and unusual petition was made up of thousands of signed and decorated footprints gathered at Pride festivals around the country this summer, and sent in by readers of the Pink Paper.

The pieces of fabric collected at each event have been joined together to form one enormous petition, which currently stands at over 70 metres (250ft) long.

The campaign is going for a world record, and the Guinness Book of Records has been called in to adjudicate whether this is the largest petition ever presented.

Claire Andersen, the campaign’s founder, said “Homophobic bullying ruins lives, just like all forms of bullying. In every school where it is ignored, it affects, not just its victims, but everyone in that school, by creating an atmosphere of intolerance and exclusion.

“This petition was created throughout the UK by the survivors of homophobia, for all victims of homophobic bullying.

The campaign chose footprints rather than signatures since it is a demand for the government to ‘stamp out homophobia in schools’. The petition demands the government works with schools to Stamp Out Homophobia, by introducing a number of changes, including modifying their anti-bullying policy to include homophobic bullying.

NSPCC figures demonstrate that 32% of mal-treatment of children is perpetrated by other under 18s. However, although anti-bullying policies are in place, these are often inadequate when dealing with homophobic attitudes in the classroom.

“People will deal with bullying about red hair, or about being fat, or wearing glasses, or about racism, but the last one which gets dealt with is bullying of children who are perceived to be gay or who are gay,” says Jill Francis of the Anti-Bullying Alliance.

Soho U-Turn
Westminster Council has backed down over the ban on rainbow flags being flown in Soho.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said, “London is making great progress as one of the most lesbian and gay friendly cities in the world. This welcome U-turn by by Westminster follows the decision by Bromley to allow lesbian and gay partnership ceremonies and holdiday firm Sandals to stop discriminating against gay couples after we banned discriminatory ads from the transport system.

“It shows that if you stand up to bigotry you can win in 21st century London. I look forward to welcoming Euro-Pride to London in 2006.”

Insurers to no longer question men on their sexuality
The Financial Times (1st October 2005) reported that new guidelines on the insurance industry’s underwriting of HIV risk mean that life assurers can no longer ask male applicants about their sexual orientation.

Under other changes to the guidelines, insurers will no longer be able to ask GPs about a patient’s sexuality, or engage in speculative underwriting (i.e. linking HIV risk to assumptions made about sexual orientation because of a client’s occupation).

Insurers to no longer question men on their sexuality
The Financial Times (1st October 2005) reported that new guidelines on the insurance industry’s underwriting of HIV risk mean that life assurers can no longer ask male applicants about their sexual orientation.

Under other changes to the guidelines, insurers will no longer be able to ask GPs about a patient’s sexuality, or engage in speculative underwriting (i.e. linking HIV risk to assumptions made about sexual orientation because of a client’s occupation).