News like this research story (“Men: Gay, Straight or Liars?“) now travels at the speed of a mouse-click, so the same story was being run in papers and one websites around the globe.Ā However, while news travels quickly and easily, so can our responses to it.Ā There were plenty of people including bi activists writing to the press – and often getting into print – debunking the bad science involved in the report.
LA Times columnist Meghan Daum responded; the study’s lead author, Dr. J. Michael Bailey, is a controversial figure who has been accused of ethics violations in his research practices, has ties to at least one “neo-eugenics” outfit that studies and promotes “artificial natural selection,” and despite describing himself as “very pro-gay,” is a favorite son of gay “recovery” groups. The author of a much-criticized book about transsexuals, Bailey also is associated with the notion of homosexuality being an “evolutionary mistake.”
Lanei from the UK Bi Media network commented āPart of getting a fair press for bisexuals, is challenging the media when it prints blatently unfair commentary.Ā The concept that all bi men are just āfaking itā is crazy.Ā Iāve been really encouraged by the international nature of the reactions.Ā This kind of case only goes to show the need for a broad base for the bi media group.ā
And rebuttals were needed as the queer press from the Pink Paper to 365gay.com and as far afield as Australia ran stories based on the original New York Times article few of which were overly friendly.Ā Both New Englandās Bay Windows and the UK Pink Paper reacted to the news by asking readers opinions as to whether bisexuality was real or not.Ā They would hardly do the same thing if research claimed lesbians and gays were self-deluded heterosexuals.
Only a few of the letters and emails of outrage from bi activists around the globe made it into print, but weight of complaint on an editorās mail tray may help change the editorial tone next time around.Ā Two letters made it to the Pink Paperās letters page: one serious, one short and snappy.
Lanei adds: āRebuttals like this are just one part of getting bisexuals a fair press, but there was a really good international reaction.Ā It highlights the need for a broad membership base for the Bi Media group: itās all very well having people like myself, Gina or Jen responding but in the case of this story the voices of bi men themselves carry that much more authority since they can speak from direct personal experience. Weāve had some really excellent responses from bi men against the articles, but there are some areas that we are really under-represented.ā
See listings for how to join the bi media network.
Local Group Shock
Edinburgh group calls it a day Edinburgh Bisexual Group (EBG) has decided to call it a day. EBG was the second oldest bi group and has been running for 16 years. Kate Fearnley said, āMeetings had dwindled to the point where the group was no longer viable, and rather than let things struggle on we decided to do things properly.ā
They are holding a wake at Nexus Cafe in the LGB Centre on Monday 13 March from 7pm, to which all former EBG members, friends and anyone else whoād like to come are invited.
The Edinburgh Bisexual Phoneline and the Bisexual Penpal Scheme will also end. Theyāre doing their best to let everyone know and the phone will remain connected until the end of March with a message referring people to the London helpline. The remaining EBG bank balance will go to BiCon and the London bi helpline. The future of the bisexual archive is unclear. If anyone has a home for it please contact Alison at BM Boog, London WC1N 3XX, email [deleted old email address from this article - Site Admin]
16… nearly there!
Commons votes for equal age of consent
On February 22, MPs voted 263 to 102 in favour of equalising the age of consent for sex between men with heterosexual acts. This is the third time The Commons has voted in favour of equalising the age of consent, with the House of Lords rejecting the Sexual Offences ( Amendment ) Bill. The Government has hinted that the will invoke the Parliament Act to ensure the act is made law.
Another Step Forward
Europeans vote ānoā to queer-phobia
On Wednesday 26 January parliamentarians from across Europe voted to recommend that sexual orientation be one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination in the European Convention on Human Rights. The ādeliberative bodyā in which these parliamentarians debated has no powers to force their recommendations through, but this is a first step towards having non-straight orientations (but also straights) protected by the European convention. The European Convention of Human Rights will have legal force in the UK courts from 2nd October. How it will be received here has yet to be tested, and the question of orientation will be particularly vexatious, doubtless.
Scots Youth First Scottish YouthCon to take place
YouthCon, a gathering for bisexual, transgendered, lesbian and gay people under 25 in Scotland will be taking place in Edinburgh during the weekend of March 10th-12th. The weekend will include workshops, entertainment and a social space for people to meet. Workshops about bisexuality have been included in the schedule and will look at: W Is there a bisexual community? W What are ābisexual issuesā anyway? W Where do bi people fit into the queer community? The cost for the whole of the weekend is Ā£10 excluding accommodation. For contact details see page 12.
BiCon Goes Global
Jen Yockney, Top Dog of BiCon 2000 (and BCN collective member too!) answers a few concerns about taking on an International BiCon (IBC) as part of the BiCon programme:
What practical changes will it mean?
Thereāll be a stream or two (subject to demand) of international workshops. There will hopefully be slightly more people coming. Weāre making it as clear as we can in all our publicity that the conference will be in English and not a poly-lingual event.
Will the number of overseas visitors spoil BiCon? I doubt it.
Weāre starting too late to do a really big overseas putsch and our approach to what BiCon should involve is driven by UK ones, not IBCās. You can still expect silly games and so on – itās not about to become a weekend of heavy intellectual seminars on research and liberation (though there will perhaps be a bit more of that sort of thing.)
Will it bankrupt BiCon, what with the extra space and promo work?
No. We have some extra spaces for workshops which we can use for free. The drawback is theyāre on the 1st and 2nd floor of a building with no lift, so less accessible. In the past facilitators at IBC had had free registration and suchlike. We intend to carry on the UK BiCon tradition of not doing this, rather than adopt a practice which we think encourages people to lead sessions for the wrong reasons.
It looks good for IBC not to skip a year but are there any benefits to BiCon?
Yup, credibility if nothing else – e.g. we made the front page of the Pink Paper which normally does its best to ignore BiCon. We will also hopefully see what a slightly bigger BiCon feels like compared to the 200-ish attendances of recent years.
…and what about Mardi Gras?
It looks like Manchester Mardi Gras is back on again after talk late last year of it being cancelled. Weāre talking to the people who are making the new festival happen and hope to join up, even if just for a parade or something like that. With it being a smaller Mardi Gras than usual a bunch of bisexuals joining in can make an even bigger impact!
Erotic Art Awards
The 7th Erotic Oscars awards will take place on Saturday 6th May from 9 p.m., presented by Mat Fraser plus Annie Sprinkle, Betty Dodson, Kim Airs and Lasse Braun.
Performance art, striptease and erotic fashion shows will culminate in the awards giving public recognition to people who choose sexuality as their work or medium. At midnight the press will leave and The Sex Maniacs āConfusion Ballā will run until dawn.
This yearās theme will be Victorian and Dadaist and guests will be expected to make the effort to dress appropriately. There will be many areas with different atmospheres including a queer space with a bisexual room, a professionally equipped dungeon, sideshows, dance areas in assorted styles, chill out space and a Victorian street scene. The venue at London Bridge will have wheelchair access and be disability friendly.
The Sexual Freedom Coalition (SFC) will be supporting the event and it will have their etiquette code. Stewards will be on hand to reassure, and deal with anyone clueless. The event will raise funds for The Outsiders club, helping disabled people find partners. Tickets are Ā£28 each for parties of seven or more, Ā£38 for individuals, Ā½ price for concessions including nurses, or help as a volunteer for part of the evening. Tables are also available.
To book or for more information contact The Leydig Trust, PO Box 4ZB, London W1A 4ZB, telephone 020 7499 0808, e-mail email@example.com The charity striptease semi-finals for the Erotic Oscars will take place on Thursday 23rd March from 7:30 ātil midnight in Covent Garden in London. Performers will be from all over the country, professional and amateur, male, female or possibly other genders. Tickets and information are available from same places as for the ball. Tickets are Ā£12, Ā£9 for concessions and nurses, and tables may be booked. The venue will be wheelchair accessible, have a bar and hot food will be served.
Grant Denkinson ā who wears a hat as Outreach Officer for the SFC when not editing BCN
Equality Bill passes in South Africa
The āPromotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Billā has been passed by the upper and lower houses of South Africaās National Assembly. The Bill includes outlawing homophobic bias and hate speech. However, the removal of HIV/AIDS as a protected category due to pressure from insurance companies is a setback for HIV campaigners and activists.
Trans MP makes maiden speech in NZ Parliament
Georgina Beyer, the worldās first transsexual MP, made her maiden speech to the New Zealand Parliament on February 8th. The speech included support for the rights of LGBT people.
County Cork considers group partnership rights.
Partnership rights including hospital visitation, improved placement on housing waiting lists, and the rights to purchase joint graves are to be considered by Cork County Council, Ireland, under a proposed domestic partnership bill. The bill could include two or more people in a committed relationship sharing a household.
Bi mother of three killed
The bodies of Gary and Shirley Allen were discovered by their teenage son at their family home in Milton Keynes. Shirley Allen had been strangled and her husbands body was discovered with a ligature around his neck. Mrs Allen had recently admitted to having an affair with another woman, and it is reported that her husband had become upset by his wifeās confession.
Livingstone enters the ring
As we went to press, Ken Livingstone entered the race for London Mayor as an Independent candidate. In the 1980ās Livingstone publicly argued that āeveryone is bisexual.ā
Iāve been on the London bi scene for some time now and a lot of BCNās London readers will know me, if not all of you. Over the past few months I have opened my eyes to see the alarming facts about whatās happening to our community.
When I started going to the bi group and socialising in our scene I thought the bi community was one of great support, but now I look at it and just see holes. I feel our (London) community has become a big shagging ground and this alarms me greatly. Thereās a strong ring of people and if youāre not in that circle of friends itās very hard, as you feel intimidated. I often wondered why we donāt get a lot of new people on the scene. It doesnāt surprise me now. It is hard enough to come out, let alone walk in to what our community has become.
I have begun to feel that when Iām out with the bi community, all people are out for is to see who they can get off with or whoās shagging who. I feel very uncomfortable with this. Thereās a lot more to life that just sex.
Has our community really resulted in one big shagging group? The thought makes me feel sick and ashamed. Iāve tried to get into this circle of friends but have perceived that I donāt belong there. Iām a very caring person and will be around for all my friends, good times and bad. I like to go out and have fun with them (e.g. cinema, pool, Karaoke, etc.) not just to meet people for a scene or to see who I can pick up.
I know I have hurt a couple of people lately which makes me sad as itās not in my nature. Iām on the edge of changing my sexual identification label, as I donāt want to identify as what I feel we have become. Iām ashamed of the bi label and feel better in the gay scene. Even though I will always be bisexual, I sadly feel more likely to identify as lesbian these days.
Iāve stopped going to groups as I just canāt stand any more. Iām pulling away from my own community, one that I used to proud of, but now itās just too much to deal with. People will not be seeing me around much any more. Iād rather spend my time with people I want to, in the environment I like. Iāll still be around as a lot of you out there are friends even if I feel I donāt fit into the sexual side of things.
I would like to close on a few alarming questions that come to mind:
1. Am I going mad, or are there others out there who feel the same?
2. Whatās happening to our community?
3. How long can the bi community hold up before it folds and ends?
Moving the agenda of equal rights forward
The last eighteen months have seen some significant victories. Laurence Brewer says (BCN Issue 41) that āmost of the campaigns and precedents have been gained in terms of partnership rights and rest upon long term committed monogamous relationshipsā.
In fact this is the opposite of the case – as his list of issues shows. The big hot potatoes have been the age of consent, Section 28 and gays in the military. There have also been advances for transgendered people. None of these have anything to do with committed relationships.
In fact, an individual gay person can already adopt – so the current situation appears to discriminate against couples, who cannot both adopt in law.
It is true that some cases have been about extending partnership rights to same sex couples. But, the most interesting of these – in housing – has been widely misreported. Judges, by a 2 to 1 decision, ruled that a gay manās long-term partner was entitled to his tenancy when he died. But the ruling makes it absolutely clear that they did not rule that the two men were, in effect married. They did not use the part of the legislation referring to unmarried straight couples. What the judges did was to rule that a relationship based on mutual love and support brought the two men into a family relationship.
The judges therefore set an intriguing precedent, that the courts should judge the degree of mutual need and support, in deciding housing rights. Reading the judgement it was clear to me that three lesbians, two straight brothers, or four swingers living together could in theory apply to the courts for the tenancy if the individual holding the tenancy died. In other words, the judgement appears more sweeping than legislation creating partnership rights would be.
This is the way we need to go. The whole idea of marriage rights was defensible only in so far as it was supposedly, in a patriarchal way, about protecting people. Widows got a pension and rights to live in the family house because they had not been in paid work and were supposedly not able to support themselves. The law tries to protect children for a similar reason.
The debate needs to move on from, āthe company gives straight couples Ā£50 in Boots tokens when they marry, I demand that too.ā Corporate and state welfare rights need either to be shifted on a fair basis of need – or given to everybody. Time off for family commitments is good, but single people should have the same rights to flexibility to deal with their own domestic crises. You should be able to nominate anyone to get your death in service benefit. Etc.
As far as I can see, it is only the āfree travel for lesbian partnersā case which rests purely on equating gay partners with straight ones.
UK to host International Bisexual Conference
At the end of November, the organisers behind the 6th International Bisexual Conference which was due to be held in the summer of 2000 in Rotterdam, Holland confirmed the event was cancelled. The Dutch organisers cited problems of finding an affordable venue for the event as one of the main reasons behind the decision to cancel IBC6.
They contacted the UK BiCon 2000 organisers who after much consideration (and debate with the online bi community) agreed BiCon in Manchester would expand to a more international level. There will be more on this in BCN issue 42.
Group Sex Law challenged in European Court
A 51-year-old UK man, who was given a two year suspended sentence for Gross Indecency in 1996, has taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights. His plea is based on Article 8 of The European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that the charge and conviction for his participation in sexual acts with more than one other consenting adult male in the privacy of his own home constituted a breach of privacy, and discrimination on the grounds that lesbians and heterosexuals could do likewise without prosecution.
If the court rules in his favour, this would have an effect on men engaged in group sex in private. It is unknown if a prosecution would occur if two men engaged in sex with each other in their own home but in company of other women or men.
First European BiCon announced
The team behind the cancelled Netherlands IBC6 have announced that they intend to concentrate on running the first European Regional Bisexual Conference in 2001. It is expected that the event will take place in Rotterdam to coincide with the Cultural Capital of Europe event, and incorporate “Pink City” as part of the event.
Section 28 Repeal defeated in Lords
Amendments to the Local Government Act announced in the Queen’s speech included the repeal of Section 28, the controversial law which outlawed Local Education Authorities from “Promoting homosexuality”. However as BCN went to press the result of a vote in the House of Lords was announced, and the move to abolish it was defeated.
Although no Local Authority has been charged under Section 28, its confused wording has effectively lead Local Authorities and teachers to over self-censor from providing advice and support to LGBT students on issues relating to sex education and bullying in school. The Government had earlier hinted that they would dump the repeal if it threatens the passage of other amendments to the Act.
LGB campaigning group Stonewall have developed a campaign and media pack for anyone wishing to support the repeal of Section 28. Contact: Stonewall, 16 Clerkenwell Close, London EC1R 0AA Tel: 020 7336 8860, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Popstarz, the club favoured by London bis on Friday nights, now has a “pre-Popstarz” drinking venue, the Liquid Lounge. Handily located adjacent to King’s Cross Thameslink station (building on the right), its launch was helped by coinciding with the refurbishment of nearby London Friend, where the London Bi Group has its Friday meetings.
Thus lots of bisexuals were in the area looking for somewhere to socialize that was more congenial than Central Station. They’ve found it. Bright colours. Deep, comfortable sofas, and lots of them. Drinks not too expensive. Pool table. Dance space. Music not so loud that you can’t talk, at least early on. Late licence (’til 1a.m. Saturdays, 3 a.m. Sundays, 2 a.m. rest of the week). And free entry, even after 11 p.m.
That was my first visit, when I wandered in out of the rain and found around 30 known London bis there. The second visit was the same, except the DJ was playing with his new toy – smoke machine – and filling the area below him with smoke. Very difficult to play pool when the balls become invisible. Both times the music was generic inoffensive dancy stuff, or as the bar’s policy has it, “no techno, no house, no rap, no trance”. The next week, however, a new DJ was using strobe and smoke semipermanently. Could hardly see anyone, let alone lip-read them. Hopefully though he’ll be sacked, as everyone for once agreed about his music – it was crap.
Still, it’s a large, cosy place to meet, and appears to be being taken over by bis. It’s about time there was a recognised bi pub in a city as large as London. Seeing as London Friend has been repainted in the same smoke-yellowed dirty colour that it was before (I admit the purple woodwork outside is very nice, and the door is now wheelchair-accessible), I predict that LBG will have trouble enticing its members back into the fold.
What Price Fame?
Poppy poses a question for BCN readers:
I have an offer for you: be my subject!
I’m a journalist and I want you to be my interviewee for a piece on bisexuality. What is your answer? Yes? Do you see this as an opportunity for publicity that promises to be more than your Warhol-ordained 15 minutes of fame, but also be a boon to the visibility of the bi community? Or are you hesitating? Are you casting your mind back to all that voyeuristic exploitation that fills many broadcasting hours and column-inches, and declining my offer, dispensing with the āpolitely’ for now too?
If you say yes, what have you let yourself in for? Will I turn out to be a harassed underpaid researcher, on a high-pressure low-budget talk show, who will promise anything just to get the guests on? Do you find that my Springer or Kilroy-Silk, just trying to help the audience to understand, relentlessly applies ‘commonsense’ mainstream small-mindedness to the intimate, soft parts of your lifestyle, and verbally eviscerates you?
You might say ‘No’, and throw in a piece of your mind for good measure. All about how despicable the business of journalism is: a ‘profession’ that sucks its subjects for material, then distorts that material and throws it to the wolves of a prurient public, for profit.
In that case you will never know. Perhaps you passed up the chance to explain your views and experiences to millions of people. You might have struck a blow for bi sympathy and visibility a thousand times more effective than a dozen political meetings and scads of words in a puny newsletter like BCN! (Hey! – Ed)
Or maybe you do know. Might you discover that the journalist did find some willing interviewees, who managed in the coverage to look both outlandish and off-putting, made to look like freaks in a sideshow. Perhaps you might have been able to produce a better image for bi-dom. Drat! There is no going back.
But let me move out of rhetorical mode. As you read this you may know exactly what the answer is, because you’ve been in this position. I’d like to read about what happened.
The fact is that exploratory offers come from journalists, researchers, producers and cranks to BCN and various bi websites all the time. We are living through a period where permissiveness and prurience have come together to provide the media with plenty of cheap subject matter. Weird sex is, in media-speak, “sexy”. We at BCN need to decide what to do with this interest. We feel accountable and protective about you, the community. In most cases, the timescales involved would preclude this newsletter from being a realistic method of reaching potential subjects, but my view is that we should ask you. Just to get things started – my personal preference is to give these offers a chance. The main preoccupation for the community seems to be acceptance. Sympathetic (and, indeed not-sosympathetic) media exposure is one of the most important prerequisites. I would prefer to maximise the chances for a willing interviewee to explore the background of the journalists, and the medium they work for, and see if terms can be reached to achieve some decent bi coverage. What do you think?
Reading Bisexual Group
A new bisexual group will soon be starting up in central Reading, hoping to be a focus for bisexuals in Berkshire and the surrounding area. It will take the form of social gatherings, probably in a Reading gay pub (the Wynford Arms). It will be on a weeknight when the pub is otherwise quiet, probably monthly. There won’t initially be a specific discussion topic each time, but we’ll see what people want. As well as targeting bisexuals who are already ‘on the scene’ (through BCN, Internet bi groups, etc.) we will be trying to reach out to the Berkshire residents who aren’t, through leaflets in the local newspaper, libraries and support phonelines. We don’t yet have a start date worked out, but information about the group can be got from the London Bisexual Phoneline (see listings) and more will be in the next BCN. For more information keep an eye on http://bi.org/~rbg/ Oliver
Bisexual’s Lesbian partner stabs male love rival
A Scottish court heard how Bisexual Natasha Ross’s Lesbian partner Louise McGeoch stabbed Ross’s male lover Jian Carlo Palisco in the leg after McGeoch had found out about their relationship. At the time of the attack Ross and McGeoch were living together in a flat in Glasgow. McGeoch had returned to the flat after a row only to find out that Ross and Palisco had slept together.
French Bisexual murder case
Two French Bisexual women pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a Strasbourg Court in November. Police charged Marie-France Rosseau, and Delphine Ducourneau with the murder of Marie-France’s husband Thierry Villain, after it was revealed that both women had agreed to a have sex with him in an attempt to conceive a child.
It is alleged that the two women drugged Villain’s coffee with sleeping pills and then strangled him with electrical wire. The two women were charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter citing Villain’s unreasonable behaviour.
HIV rates rise by 30% in three years.
Figures recently released showed that there was an increase in new HIV infections by 30% in the last three years with up to 10,000 people unaware that they have the virus.
New infection rates among heterosexuals were almost equal to those of Gay and Bisexual men in the first half of 1999. Nearly a third of HIV infections in the UK are among black communities.
It has been claimed that the high cost of combination therapeutic drug regimes for patients has reduced money for preventative programmes, such as outreach work and education in different communities.
Apart from the peer review project based in the North East, there are no preventative programmes or educational outreach aimed specifically for men and women who have sex with men and women.
Bis Coming Out In Later Life
The mainstream increasingly accepts alternative sexualities, especially in the major conurbations, although there is still a long way to go. This has affected mostly the young who now have growing freedom to say it’s ok to be gay, lesbian or bi. Witness the gay scene in cities which appears to be populated totally by under- 30′s.
But what of those who are older? It is easy to forget that not everyone is aged 18 to 26. There are a plethora of resources available for those in that age group. LGBT (though few specifically bisexual) youth groups abound in cities like London, Manchester and Edinburgh, as well as elsewhere.
Whilst applauding the growth of organisations for those coming to terms with their sexuality at a vulnerable early point in their lives, we must not forget those for whom these services are not appropriate because of age, circumstances or both.
The London Bisexual Helpline has noticed a sharp rise in people contacting the line in their 30′s to 60′s who are surprised and disturbed that their sexual orientation seems to be changing from straight to bi or from gay to bi. This evidence has been corroborated by information from other Lesbian and Gay helplines throughout the country, who have also noticed a steep increase in older callers in this situation.
Because of the sea change in society’s attitudes and the increase in positive images of gay and lesbian people, especially in the media, many more older people are beginning to question their own sexuality. Older people may have grown up in a time when even the mention of sex and sexuality was taboo.
Many of those who seek solace from the helplines are in agony over their situation. Many of those who identify as heterosexual are in long term relationships and have family ties and social networks which the revelation that they were bisexual would irrevocably change. They did what society expected of them, they married, raised families and worked hard.
As they grow older they have matured as people and find that although they love and feel sexually attracted to their opposite sex partners, this nagging doubt about their sexuality – which they probably repressed when they were younger – will not go away but gets stronger. They become tormented by the sexual lifestyle they would like to have and the lifestyle that society and their conditioning expects them to have – heterosexual monogamy within marriage. Some people find it impossible to reconcile the two and resort to sexual, emotional and moral infidelities which can torment them with guilt.
This is only a general view. In some specific situations couples may renegotiate their relationships to take account of the bisexuality of one or both of the partners, though anecdotal evidence shows that this appears to be rarer. Because of many people’s ages and upbringing, glossing over their problems and telling them to be out and proud about their bisexuality is in many cases not an option. 45-year-olds being honest about their sexuality may lose partners, children, employment and social networks.
Older bi people may have to think long and hard about their options in relation to their sexuality. Every action they take may have negative consequences for themselves or their families. We as a community cannot say to older bi people “do this” or “do that” in respect of their situations as we could end up advising people to do something that would not suit their own lifestyle.
It takes older people a lot of courage to contact the bisexual community. In many cases the idea of contacting a local bisexual group is terrifying. Fears of being seen and outed as bisexual keep a lot of them away from the bisexual community at first. However, once they finally do make contact with us they find a supportive environment and in the majority of cases make friends which helps them to come to terms with their sexuality.
Wonderful though it is that older bi’s have found a welcome within the community, this has contributed to there being a post-26 age bias within the bisexual community which has caused a problem of perception amongst younger bisexuals that all bisexuals are “old.”
This particular problem will be reduced if local bi groups and national organisations, either working alone or in partnership with other LGB service providers and groups, don’t lump all bisexuals together. Each age group has diverse pressures upon them.
As a community we must make heroic efforts to make sure that we inform ourselves of the varying needs of different age groups and work to facilitate services appropriate for each age group as well as the community as a whole.
London Bi Group
Life after BCN…
Season’s Greetings to the BCN team and the whole community. Having come across a link to the web site and noticed that you’re still going strong, and with my bisexuality ‘being a theme’ for me again over the New Year, I was prompted drop a line to say that I’m doing well and pleased to see you are too! I’m now living half my time in an intentional community of 70 people in Germany where polyamoury is very much in practice. The community’s focus is peacework on a day-today level – on a relationship level. The basis is an observation that military conflicts between nations are directly related to our inability to live peacefully with other people in our day-to-day lives. The people who live or visit this community are living an experiment known to many who live out a responsible non-monogamous lifestyle – how can we rid ourselves of the fear of losing our lover because they also have love towards another. When we live without this fear, then we have removed a lot of the cause of conflict between us and other people. When we have removed this conflict from our lives, then this reduces the need for fear and aggression between the larger bodies of which we are part (tribe, state, nation…). This might sound a little idealistic (it is) but it is very easy to see practical results in terms of the way that the open relationships here work. And then there are ‘even more practical’ examples such as the related project which led to me first visiting here – Balkan Sunflowers. This is a charity founded, among others, by a couple of people here, and organises for international volunteers to go to Kosovo/a and surrounding countries to take part in psychosocial, cultural, artistic and communitybuilding activities – all part of a wider peacebuilding vision. Thus I spend the other half of my time in Albania. (There is no active bisexual movement there! – but I did have a wonderful time dancing with both men and women at an Albanian wedding in a huge – 20 000 people – illegal settlement there …) So, that’s a little update for all the old friends with whom this nomad has too easily lost contact! Once again – all the best for the time ahead
Editorās note: Krayg was one of the original collective who started BCN. For more information on the projects mentioned above, visit: www.zegg.de or www.balkansunflowers.org
In 1776 the United States of America was formed; in 1976 they celebrated their bicentenary. I was living in the States then and the bicentennial fun extended to yearlong fireworks, or so it seemed to a kid. So what I want to know is, why is this year 2000 hype being called the millennium? It should be the bi-millennium and we should take it over!
Bisexuality and Health
Hi everyone! I’m a medical student doing a small piece of research into the ways being bisexual can affect health and am looking for ideas and volunteers. My plan so far is to speak with members of the bisexual community to find out how things could be improved for them. I’m also going to talk with various health workers, hopefully including lots of doctors, to find out about their views and preconceptions. The aim is to come up with some teaching ideas to go into the undergraduate curriculum and also some information to help doctors and other health workers provide a better service where sexuality is concerned. I am based in Newcastle but am planning trips to Manchester and London. If anyone has anything to offer, please contact me by email on [defunct email address deleted - site admin] or write c/o BCN.
In memory of
(born Helen Joy Hibbert) 1959-1999
Joy was a regular attendee at BiCons from 1987 until 1993. She played a central part in the organising group for Coventry 1989 (held at the then Lanchester Poly, the first residential BiCon). In 1993 she brought along her baby son Lee to join in the Nottingham conference, where there were five small babies (including the performer Claire Dowie’s first daughter) Joy was certainly one of the BiCon peer group at that time. I remember her hanging out with the SF sub-group and joining in with the group chain massage at one workshop we both went to.
Later on Joy became part of SM-Bi’s and was a founder and long-term contributor to the infamous ChainLetter. She and second husband Anthony shared interests in paganism and historical re-enactment and were also regular contributors to Internet forums including the uk-poly mailing list.
Joy was an intelligent woman who had strong views about certain subjects. In print and on the ‘net, she seemed to relish the odd flame war and was a strong character who would continue arguing her side to the bitter end (big men left in tears after run-ins with her).
Joy and Anthony’s search for another man to join their household became a legend in its own time. They appeared together on one of the Kilroy programmes about Bisexuality together and discussed what they were looking for. Joy had lived with her first husband Dave and Lee’s father Haz for many years before they left in turn and she placed an ad which led her to meet and later marry Anthony.
A few months ago Anthony posted a short message on a mailing list to say that Joy was ill in hospital surrounded by tubes. Many members of the list posted their get well soon messages. Even so, the message that Joy was dead seemed to come out of the blue and was a complete shock.
As far as we know she is one of the first (if not the first) of our peer group of early BiCon attendees to die. That she has left a young son and a devoted husband adds to the loss. Her new career as a legal secretary had blossomed recently and she obviously had so much more to contribute to a world in which she had had a difficult start but was increasingly enjoying herself and making her own voice heard and her own unique contribution.
Lisa Lovely & Ian Watters
An obituary by Anthony is on the web: http://www.hilbert.demon.co.uk/obit.htm
What does a bi home look and feel like? We asked an assortment of bisexuals around the UK about their experience of housing
Clays Lane Housing Cooperative (CLHC) is the 2nd largest purpose built co-op in Western Europe with 450 single rooms of different sizes. These share kitchens and bathrooms (a maximum of 3 sharing a bathroom) in houses of 4-10 people. The houses are organised into courtyards, like little villages, together with a community centre and a shop. The whole development is 20 years old. Six people have lived there the whole time.
You can move around and gravitate towards courtyards and houses with those with similar interests or lifestyles. Some courtyards are full of goths, ravers or weight trainers. Some houses welcome women, gay folks, smokers or pets; others are smoke, fur or meat free.
Clays Lane is community oriented. There are always people around after a crap day at work and there is energy and funding for communal activities. A writers and artists collective contribute to an internal newspaper and website. An outdoor sports club is for those into rock climbing or caving. If you think up a project or want to help out with one, the community spirit makes it a good place to do it. If you want to throw a party and everyone agrees, go ahead.
Part of the East London Housing Co-ops Association, CLHC is within walking distance of Stratford town centre, which is well connected, by bus, rail, tube and Docklands Light Railway. There is a degree of insulation from the town (seen as both a good and a bad thing) and little problem with crime. Neighbours include a travellers’ site and student flats.
CLHC is run by its own members. This reduces overheads and keeps rents reasonable. It costs just a pound share and a week’s rent to move in, no deposit is required. Simple furnishings are provided and assistance is available if you want to redecorate. A maintenance crew helps look after the place.
Residents range from 18-65 years of age and speak 50 languages. Professions vary from the unemployed and recently homeless to barristers. A strong equal ops policy protects the mix of sexualities. Five of the bi contingent were at the last BiCon. Bigots of any kind, including those who are biphobic or anti-TS, are asked to leave. Proselytizing religion door-to- door is considered harassment.
The co-op is run democratically by the residents through management and membership committees. Each courtyard elects a representative and meets monthly. Any resident is welcome to attend the meetings and committee members can be deselected at any time. A head of the co-op is elected from the management committee.
Clays Lane isn’t for you if you are looking for short-term housing or to live with a partner. You will need to be happy sharing space and interacting with others and you need to participate, at least at a basic level, with the running of the co-op such as attending courtyard meetings.
There are always a few vacant rooms and advertising is being revamped to include the alternative and queer press (including BCN), The Stage, Talking Stick and local papers and listings. To find our more, call the office on [number deleted from this article - phoneline discontinued] . Prospective new residents fill in an application form and then have interviews. The membership committee are likely to include questions to make sure you understand the equal ops policy. Possible housemates are likely to want to find out if you would get on well with them and their community.
Grant Denkinson, with thanks to Alex, Jackie and Marcus
Flying to the nest
When The Who sang “I’ll substitute you for my mum / At least I’ll get my washing done” (am I giving away my, erm, generation, here?) they were not wrong. The purely expedient – my childhood room in mum’s house when I became homeless and jobless – proved also highly convenient, rather cheap, and altogether too comfortable and mutually agreeable to give up for the expensive unknown of my own London digs.
So there we are flat sharing with a difference. Our respective privacy in this arrangement needs delicate negotiation (OK, I Ā“’fess up – my privacy). No admonition to “Call if you’ll be back after 11″ will be brooked, but advice on whether a vest is advisable is welcome. A message not conveyed (to me, you understand) is sufficient cause for a mini-tantrum, but enquiries about “who is the Francis who rang?” will spark a sullen and accusing silence.
A far tougher time is had by the aged ancestor herself. She has to work overtime on her gargantuan denial – of her children having sex at all, I mean; let alone of unconventional kinds (a revelation since my return to the nest). She also has to be nice to these cuckoos in the morning. This social contortionism is an exquisite torment for her – will she stand the test, maintain her maternal dignity with this stranger without really engaging? Who would have guessed she’d still be sacrificing on the altar of motherhood so late in the game?
It’s maturing for me too, though. Bringing up your parents draws on your reserves of patience, forbearance, and conciliation just as much as bringing up kids. And the education this life-style choice offers about people’s sexual hangups is interesting as well.
Insights into aspects of people’s psychological makeup become available: Who will, and who will only look faintly disgusted at the thought of sleeping with me in the same house as your mother!? (Enlightenment as to what the precise nature of the insights these differing responses actually afford on a postcard please.)
A simple way of short-circuiting all the mindgames though (and a great relief it is too) is to make sure to choose lovers who have their own flats.
Living where I do has always been… interesting. I live in a 3- bedroom terrace in Birmingham with my parents. I’m 19, should be at uni, or working with a place of my own, or at least be able to bring partners home! Not too bad? Introduce 6 brothers and a sister. I am one of 9 children. The eldest brother moved out about a year ago.
I’m the eldest, my two-year-old sister is the youngest. It’s a bit weird, to put it mildly, and a cram. The middle five brothers are in bunkbeds in one room, in theory. In practice, at least one of them moves into my parents’ room during the night, and one of them comes downstairs to sleep on the sofa whilst we’re still up, because he ‘feels lonely’ upstairs. I’m not sure he understands the meaning of lonely! My parents share their room with my sister, and the youngest brother, and I have the smallest room to myself. I used to share with one brother with bunkbeds in my room, but in the end he moved in with the others. I guess he liked the ‘school holiday’ atmosphere!
I often retreat to my room or a friend’s house when things get too much. Sometimes I take books to a local pub and work there! I accidentally managed to procure myself a job by doing this, so I now work weekends and some weekday nights,getting me out of the house! Much fun, if a bit busy.
Living in this atmosphere is a bit stressful. I don’t normally mind largish groups, but if they’re children, it’s a bit different. Especially when you’re around them constantly, it does get overbearing. Sometimes I scream for adult conversation, especially as my college friends are not into the same things that I am, and most of them are a year younger, and it really shows. At times like that, when I’m too tired to go out, or I’ve just got back from work, and it’s late the Internet can be a godsend. Over the weekends, doing e-mail is a lot harder, because, like with everything else, you have to fight with everyone else for computer time!
There are good sides to a large family, although most of them are better for the children, or when you’ve moved out, rather than an adult who likes her quiet time. I wouldn’t be without my sister, for example. It’s lovely seeing her face peering round the door first thing in the morning, or on my lap whilst watching television. It’s almost like having a pet cat, without the moulting! The rest of them can be OK, most of the time, when they aren’t fighting, or being cheeky, or rude, or being too boisterous!
I’m definitely a ‘people person’ when I’m out, maybe because I am used to having to be loud to get some attention, makes my work a lot easier. Maybe, the craving for intelligent conversation means I natter incessantly to random people, or maybe that’s just the Brummie in me! I think I wouldn’t know half the people I know now, if I was part of a smaller family – mainly because I feel the need to escape, much more than my friends have time free!
Who’s to say what makes any of us ourselves? I’m me. Most people like me, and if that’s because of the way I live, and have been brought up, then who can critisise the way I live.
Living with one’s child is not always easy, but it is often considerably easier than living with one’s partner. I think that’s one reason why so many women choose to live as single parents.
I have never lived alone. I graduated from family life to self-catering hall of residence (a corridor of 12 who shared one cooker and one fridge in a reasonable sized kitchen). From there it was shared houses until my partner and I got rehoused in a one bed flat a couple of weeks before our wedding. Living with one’s spouse was much simpler than group living. We only did cleaning when we did it together – a top to bottom about once a month. During my MSc course this became impossible so we employed a cleaner who used to complain about the amount of papers we had everywhere. Over six years we furnished and decorated until the arrival of our child. After a couple of days it felt like he had always been there and I found it hard to remember or imagine life without him.
As a bisexual the main difference this made to my home life before my son’s birth was the regular arrival of bi visitors from other parts of the nation and the globe and holding group meetings in my bedroom or my living room. As a parent I have never particularly hidden or denied my activities. After all my baby son went to BiCon, slept in the same bedroom as me and my lover or me and his Dad, regarded my bi friends as part of the extended family and enjoyed Pride festival as much as any of his peers. I find being matter of fact helps. The time I chose to sleep with two men at home I just told Liam that was happening.
Similarly the time my girlfriend stayed and she shared my bed and my man slept in the spare bed. Now when we have visitors he asks where they are sleeping but isn’t worried by the answer. As he still likes to sleep in my bed (we currently have an agreement that this is allowed twice a week) I guess he’s not surprised that others want to as well.
Moving to a two bedroom house was something that pre-occupied my from when he was a few months old. I didn’t want to be like friends who were stuck in a one bed flat with a five year old. We made the move when he was just one. On reflection I don’t think children need their own bedroom until at least two, but the new location made getting to nursery easier. Living with children involves a lot of organisation, a lot of extra work and lots of adjustment.
I probably fed him bought jars of babyfood for too long – but they were so easy and liquidising was not my forte. Our diet changed to accommodate his pasta loving tastes. As a couple we used to cook for four every other day. He demanded different every day.
Starting a second relationship when he was 2 involved spending more nights away from him than most 2 year olds experience (although it was only one a month till he was well over three) and I have straight friends where the Mum works nights from the baby being a few months.
As we parents already found it easier to take chores and childcare in turn rather than doing it together it wasn’t too much of an adjustment for us until the stage where my second partner and I couldn’t bear to be apart for a whole week.
I now regret not holding out for a three bedroom place – one bedroom per household member does make polyamory and keeping the stream of visitors from bi community and family feeling happy much easier. Perhaps I was too worried about keeping the housing costs low. I also wish we had kept hold of the flat by subletting it for a while. It could have prevented the separation from my husband and it would certainly have made it a lot more affordable. My son prefers to stay at home
and likes Dad to come here to babysit rather than him going to the flat. Fortunately our relationship is still amicable enough for this to work. With three people there are more dynamics than with two. Having a child as one of the three creates more interesting dynamics because the adults have to share responsibilities and caring tasks for the young person.
I often prefer to have one adult with the child – there are fewer arguments, less tension. Also when I’m around I’m the focus of attention. By leaving the other two alone together they get time to develop their own relationship. I have found this as true with my new partner as it was with my son’s Dad. It serves my need for time out and in a household where the amount of labour required has increased it seemed to make more sense to divide tasks rather than doing them together. This could be more faulty thinking from me. Perhaps if we had all hung out together more and shared work it would have been more relaxed.