BiMedia roundup – Feb 2008

And so another year goes by, a year which it is fair to say will not go down as a landmark year for bi media coverage, positive or negative. Last years’ media circus surrounding Lib Dem MPs Simon Hughes and Mark Oaten left me wondering why I didn’t pursue a career in party politics (going by some news reports, it seemed there were more bisexuals in the House of Commons than most people ever meet at an LGBT group). And then there was Torchwood, which, although I didn’t watch it because sci fi drama and my attention span are not the best of friends, gave me something to enthuse about on behalf of the other 99.2% of the bi community.

This year, I’m reduced to applauding Hollyoaks for making Craig a bona fide bisexual character. If we ignore what depressing implications this has for the state of the nation for a moment and accept that Hollyoaks matters to a lot of young people, this is worth some credit. Though EastEnders, and in its heyday, Brookside, carried off shopping trolleys of industry awards for their portrayal of social issues, they never went much beyond “let’s make someone on our roster gay for a bit so that our new gay character can have a love interest”. So well done, Hollyoaks – now try not growing your female cast in a petri dish.

Assuming you’ve left school and live this side of the Atlantic, your bi media role models for this year are scarce. To graphically illustrate this, I would invite you to do my job. Type “gay” into a search engine, and sort the results by date. You will find a respectable number of up-to-the-minute about gay celebrities, business people, and inclusion issues.

Now do the same with the word bisexual. If it’s a broadsheet, you’re guaranteed at least a couple of articles by an Oxford professor about a dead poet or philosopher who was or might have been bisexual (December’s Guardian asks whether Simone De Beauvoir’s illustrious sex life and “bisexual affairs” should overshadow her achievements: short answer “no”). If it’s a tabloid, you’ll need the patience to get through a pile of exposes on Big Brother contestants’ “secret affairs” in order to find stories about a “bi vamp” character due to appear in a TV show or musical (like the two of three I have reported in earlier columns).

But the number one search result for “bisexual” in both types of newspaper is problem pages, mainly relating to bisexual men. There’s the classic “Is my husband gay?” where the reply coyly suggests: “Your husband might be bi-sexual” (sic). “My husband is bisexual, what should I do?” (start ogling his female boss, I would). A new one in The Times over Christmas “Should I Open The Closet?” concerns a gay man whose married male friend has made a pass at him. Should I tell his wife? “Leave it, your friend might only be a bit bisexual” is the advice. Well, not quite, but I’m not paraphrasing by much. A New Years’ resolution for magazine psychotherapists: deal with the generic issue of whether you should tell a friend that their partner is hitting on you, without making sensationalist references to the sexualities or genders involved.

And so to 2008, and a few bi media predictions for the year ahead:

1. A Tory MP states he has had relationships with both women and men The Evening Standard headline is: “’I’m gay,’ admits Tory MP.”
2. Lowri Turner moves into a luxury pad next to a mixed-race bisexual family, the basis for her Daily Mail column: “My neighbours are hurting my house value.”
3. A Shot At Love, MTV’s new bi dating show hosted by singer Tia Tequila, in which 15 straight men and 15 lesbians compete to win the heart of a bi female contestant, is watched by 3 people, plus caustic TV critic Charlie Brooker, who calls it “the def con one of imbecility”.
4. Saffron Burrows, one of the most talented, articulate and, yes, attractive public figures to be openly bisexual, actually appears in a film that does her talent justice. OK, that was more of a hope than a prediction.