Iâm a polyamorous reader:Â I belong toÂ – count âem â three book groups.Â Two of these have a queer agenda, but despite my depth and breadth of reading, when asked to suggest a âbiâ book, I was somewhat stumped. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to be asked to read what was billed as a black bi book.
Kieron Blakeâs âYou Canât Have Your Cake and Eat Itâ deals with both sexuality and race/culture in equal measure. Its main protagonist (though possibly not âheroâ), Michael, is a young black buck who, from the start, describes his mixed feelings regarding his own mixed sexuality, compounded by negative media portrayals, internalised cultural norms and bad experiences he encounters during this Bildungroman (aka coming of age story).
Its initial tone is biographical, conversational, begging that most tantalising of questions, to what extent itâs based on personal experience.Â Â This is also a young(er) persons book: not only due to cultural references (who else remembers Andi Peters?), but none of the major characters are out of theirÂ twenties.Â Linguistically, it also employs appropriate street slang, but not to the detriment of comprehensibility (I did have to check the phrase âchirpsâ, but this just probably tells you more about my own sorry life!)
This is essentially Michaelâs story, although the narrative flits between him three other characters recounting their own perspectives in the first person (clearly stated in the chapter headings, to avoidÂ confusion).Â Both male and female voices felt authentic, and whilst the plot was driven by a few foreseeable âconvenientâ consequences (convenient for the story rather than the characters â Blake makes the characters sweat to show us what they are made from), the drama remained believable.Â And there is considerable amount of it neatly packed into these 98 pages of text, broken into 30 short chapters.Â Ideal, therefore, for bus journeys, or other interruption-prone reading scenarios.
âAh, but are there any sexy shenanigans afoot?â Yes there are, and they are not coyly skirted around, but these do not overwhelm the read.Â The charactersÂ have both grey matter and genitalia, even if they do sometimes confuse the two.
As you may guess from the title (âcanâtâ is a giveaway), this isnât what you might call a âfeel goodâ book â the bestÂ any of the leading roles can hope for at its conclusion is contentment, rather than true happiness, but one feels that Michael, at least has come to terms with his own nature, and that of his circumstances.Â And for this, Iâm glad.Â To have a happy ever after ending would have been too pat, and have undermined the reality created within the text.
Overall, it was refreshing to be presented with a character who was not portrayed as âjust having a dabbleâ, or who was âgay reallyâ, as is so often the case â the author credits the reader with the intelligence and ability to be able to remain unconfused by bisexuality (presumably marketing it at that audience).
Editorâs note: this title is available for the kindle by download from amazon.co.uk – and as a paperback from amazon.com. I donât know why itâs like that!
A friend told me about the book “What Makes a Baby” written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth.
Â Â Â It wasn’t out yet: it was a project using “Kickstarter”: an online way of pledging money to a new project to get it started. It sounded like a really good idea to me: a book that answers the general question “Where do babies come from?” for all babies and that leaves space for caring adults to talk to a child about the child’s own personal story of conception and birth.
The project got plenty of backers, including me, and the book is now available for sale from: www.what-makes-a-baby.com The author is working on further books for older kids. This one is aimed from pre-school to around eight years old.
I was impressed when my copies arrived. The book illustrates that you need a sperm and an egg, represented as containing stories, and a uterus for the baby to grow in. What is special about this book is that is says that some bodies have sperm, some do not – illustrated with brightly coloured human figures, and the same for eggs and the same for a uterus. It makes no assumptions of what gender such a body might be or what sort of relationship the people who make a baby might be in.
A couple of pages talk simply about a couple of ways of childbirth and then the book asks who was waiting and looking forward to you, the reader, being born. Here’s a space to add the specifics about the child reading or being read to.
Details of the illustration lead to me spotting different shapes of family in the park – different ages, some visible disabilities, different hairstyles that could be read as likely to be from different ethnicities.
I’ve shown the book to some children and their carers and it went down well. I recommend it and look forward to future books from the same author and illustrator.
Â Â Â Grant Denkinson
For quite some time now,Â Â Â Â Bristol has had a bi night called Greedy, run by members of local group BiVisible. Then the internet noticed…
Recently the members of Bivisible Bristol came across a tumblr blog post discussing our local club night, Greedy.
They had spotted a poster for the night on our venue’s website, The Queen Shilling, which is a gay club in Bristol town centre that we use because of their âno attitudeâ policy and convenient location, not to mention the fantastic support and friendliness of their staff. Somewhat unfortunately, we had dropped the ball and failed to make a poster for this particular event, so the Queen Shilling had made their own (below). Normally our posters are somewhat more interesting (below right)!
At any rate, a rather large tumblr debate was started. The original post was made by tumblr user: genderbenderagenda and they stated:
âI donât identify as bisexual, but I think that especially if your identity is one of the letters in the LGBTQQIA then you should be an ally to the others.Â Anyway, one of our local gay clubs is having a night for bisexual people soon, and it has been called âGreedyâ. There is something about that which makes me kind of uncomfortable.â
They mentioned the negative stereotypes that bi people have to suffer but also suggested the possibility of this night ‘reclaiming’ the word. They then called out for any bisexual followers to comment.
Several people commented that they were bisexual (or pansexual) and that it didn’t offend them, but some saw how it could be offensive. At least two people felt âmixedâ or âuncomfortableâ, but glad that the night existed since they’d never seen a club night for bisexual people before. One said they wished there was something like that in their area. Many commentors said that, though they personally took it as a joke, they feared it would be taken as a confirmation of a stereotype by outsiders. One person said they would actively discourage people from going to a night like this because they felt it was biphobic.
Another commentor (holycheeseandcrackers) was by far the most persistent in their opinion, writing three separate posts on the topic. They felt that the word ‘greedy’ could not be reclaimed and used the example of a lesbian night called âButchâ, to which subsequent comment was made that âbutchâ was very much a reclaimed wordÂ that was used for lesbian nights! They felt this did not hinder their argument, however. They went on to say that the stereotype was so pernicious that the bi community would not want to reclaim the word (to which one tumblr user simply reblogged the post with the added tag âI’ll reclaim greedy all I fucking wantâ.)
Other people making comments added some more info to the story: specifically that the night was run by and for bisexual people, rather than a gay venue’s misguided attempt to cash in on the âbi marketâ and had been running for some time. A Bristol-based blogger mentioned my name, spoke about Greedy when it was in the ideas stage and expressed surprise that people were having negative reactions.
This did not deter holycheeseandcrackers, however, saying that without quotation marks or some other way to show it was meant as a joke, reclaiming the word ‘greedy’ as âa blanket term for all bisexualsâ was a negative thing. They did later admit to falling prey to bisexual stereotypes themselves by assuming that an LGBTQI* group was running the event, rather that an all-bisexual one. (They decided not to be too hard on themselves, however, because they had apparently not seen a bisexual-organised event in 22 years. Clearly not a reader of BCN then!) Indeed bisexualftw made some good arguments pointing out that the original poster may also have assumed it was a gay-organised event, thus contributing to bi invisibility, ending with: âwe (!) tend to forget (!) that bi community exists.â
genderbenderagenda posted a summary of the responses acknowledging that since it was run by bisexual people, the name was meant to be tongue in cheek and was glad that others had recognised that. They wished us success with the night.
I find it curious and perhaps an exciting sign of the times that these blog users, in debating the efficacy of reclaiming a word like ‘greedy’, were completely unconscious of their use of the word âqueerâ – surely the ultimate example of a word being reclaimed. A word that people over a certain age remember as being one of the most hateful slurs to exist against people perceived to be homosexual. One that is so negative that many people still refuse to use it, believing as holycheeseandcrackers does about ‘greedy’, that it simply cannot be reclaimed.
On hearing about the blog post my co-organiser published the following on the Facebook group:
âThanks for bringing this to our attention. I can confirm that the name is indeed tongue-in-cheek. At Bivisible we recognize that some people might find the name problematic, but we also enjoy having a sense of humor about ourselves, and the name Greedy is supposed to be in the spirit of feeling greedy for post-weekend fun (since it’s on a Tuesday night). There is no assumption being made here that bi people are greedy or slutty or whatever. Just as so many queer nights have words like fag or dyke in their names, we are simply trying to make something positive and fun out of a negative phrase. If anyone would like to discuss this further, why not come to our Bivisible meet-up at Cafe Kino this Thursday evening? Xâ
…to which I might only add that we were interested in fitting in with/riffing from the other gay nights around Bristol, which at the time were named Mutiny, Wonky and Liberty. Having heard of other bi nights that “reclaim” stereotypes (such as The Fence-Sitter’s Ball) the name Greedy became completely irresistible. All of this was decided in conversation with our current members, who for now have the burden of constituting the âbisexual communityâ of Bristol.
This issue has made me further realise a rule I always had in mind when advertising Greedy: I wasÂ very careful not to put the word âbisexualâ in our advertising. As any organiser of a bi group will know, bi people have difficulty with the word âbisexualâ and getting bi people to come out of the woodwork is like pulling teeth. If you want bi people to come to a bi event, calling it âbiâ is certain death. It also serves to exclude anyone who is not bi (except for unicorn hunters, and a room full of those is very much not what I wanted to end up with!) I wanted Greedy to seem like a friendly night, one that was safe for bi people but open to all. Many months later I realised I could potentially use the name to draw in the polyamorous crowd too.
When I first approached the venue with the idea for Greedy, the staff were keen for me to tell them if there was anything they should know about organising a bi night. Their motivation was to avoid bi fail, and this might be our first unwitting example. It goes to show just how delicate organising for the bi world can be. It also shows how powerful and divisive words are, and the importance of reclaiming them.
But, as they say, no publicity is bad publicity and hopefully if anyone who was part of the debate wants to see what the night is really like, they should come by and see if we’ve got a sense of humour or not. The bi world will never see more nights like this one until they support the ones that already exist.
Despite the torrential day-long downpours an amazing 12 people turned up for the Bi Cymru/Wales Bi Visibility day so-called picnic. This turned into a friendly chat over coffee, due to the weather, but fun was had.
In Swansea South Wales Police provided a van and free stall in the heart of the city centre on the Friday talking to shoppers about bisexuality and local and national groups and events. Again rain made this a short event, but fun with Ele also being filmed for an internal South Wales video around bisexuality and bi inclusion in the police force, probably the first time a UK police force has filmed a bi groupâs views on how they can improve bi inclusion and visibility for all staff to see.
Cardiff Mardi Gras was also a huge success for the Welsh Bi groups, with no biphobia directed at the stall (although comments and representations on the stage still need improvement!), a lot of interest from bi people and allies, hundreds of stickers handed out, and links made with many organisations.
Weâre now looking forward to BiFest Wales 2012, which we are hoping will be in early March!
For more information on meetings, events, and to be kept informed as we plan BiFest Wales 2013 email: email@example.com
A survey in Scotland throws up some interesting health stats for bi people there.Â The Scottish Health Survey report combined data from four consecutive years (2008-2011) in order to allow more in-depth analysis of smaller populations.Â Of those stating sexual orientation, 97% said they were heterosexual, 1.0% bisexual, 0.9% gay or lesbian, and 1.0% other.
Respondents who identified themselves as bisexual were:
- less likely to report being in good or very good health than the national average (68% compared with 76% for both gay & straight people).
- 10% more likely to drink alcohol at âharmfulâ levels than straight people (gay & lesbian people reported similar drinking habits to bis)
- starting smoking 18 months younger than straight smokers: bis started when turning 16
On the other hand, it seems our teeth are just as good as anyone elses!Â Read more at www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0040/00406749.pdf
As BCN goes to press the government are about to reveal their revised plans for the introduction of same-sex marriage.
The announcement follows last Springâs consultation process, and then a six month delay while the civil service worked its way through a quarter of a million responses.Â BCN was among the organisations and individuals responding – we urged the proposals should go further and include marriage in religious venues. We also proposed that the law should be written in such a way that services could be conducted without any gendered words such that people who do not identify as male or female would not have the awkward moment of being referred to as a wife or husband.
Preâannouncement leaks and remarks in interviews suggest that the proposals will go further than those in the original consultation document, including marriage at places of worship (churches and so forth) where that particular institution is happy to conduct them.Â This frees up inclusive groups like Quakers and Unitarians to carry out same-sex weddings, without forcing it on those groups which are unwilling.
We donât know yet what the timetable will be, though PM Cameron has said he wants to press ahead quickly now the consultation phase is ended: it is probably most likely to be in the next Queenâs Speech in May.
Our survey of BCN readers a year ago suggests most want to have the option of both same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnerships: it seems unlikely the latter will be included in the measures before parliament.
However, from the second episode of Glee there has been positive representation of bisexuality that the creators have at times seemed not to want you to know about and her name is Brittany S. Pierce.
Ever since Brittany debuted on screen as a bit part during Showmance, sheâs been unashamedly eyeing up boys (including Mike who sheâs rumoured to have dated in the first season) and girls (especially but not exclusively Santana, who sheâs now in a long distance relationship with) alike.
There were only a couple of lines delivered by Brittany in the first season which explored her sexuality:
- After Santana said âSex is not datingâ, Brittany agreed, saying âIf it were, Santana and I would be dating.â This had been meant to be delivered as a joke, but after saying that the two of them exchanged awkward glances.
- During Bad Reputation, she wonders why sheâs only fourth in the Glist (a ranking of sexual depravity of the members of New Directions) when âIâve made out with, like, everyone in this school. Girls, boys, Mr Kinney the janitor.â
In the second season when Brittanyâs actress, Heather Morris, was taken on as a regular cast member the show started exploring her sexuality. After a make out session with Santana during Duets, Brittany suggests they sing Melissa Etheridgeâs âCome to My Windowâ for that weekâs assignment for Glee. As Santana was still a closet lesbian at this point, she refused, but the fact Brittany even asked shows she was comfortable singing a romantic song to another woman in front of the rest of the Glee club.
When Santana finally admits she loves Brittany during Sexy, Britt is dating Artie. Although Brittany freely admits she loves Santana back, as she was already with someone else, she says she canât break up with him because she loves him too and it âwouldnât be fair to himâ. This successfully challenges the stereotype that bisexuals canât commit to any one person.
At the time, although it was pretty obvious to me that Brittany was already comfortable with loving people regardless of their gender, the writers themselves couldnât seem to decide what to label her. After giving Santana a âLebaneseâ T-shirt, she asks if the reason Santanaâs upset with her is because sheâs a lesbian and Brittany thinks sheâs bi-curious (pause for groan).
Since then, however, the writers have given Brittany lines to show quite how open she is about her own sexuality:
- During I Am Unicorn, when talking to Kurt about her running as a candidate for class president, she says she realised she was a unicorn too [with Santana's help!], and followed this with “maybe a bicorn”.
- During The Spanish Teacher, she joked that she was “bilingual”.
- In Props, after Santana told a teacher in the teachers’ lounge that they were both gay, Brittany pointed out that she wasnât âtotally gayâ (pause for another groanâ, but that this didn’t make a huge difference to Santana’s point.
Iâll admit that the lines theyâre getting Brittany to deliver arenât always perfect. However, Brittany is now in a long term relationship with a girl, Santana, but the show isnât afraid to point out that she herself isnât gay. In similar situations, other TV series have chosen to identify the character as gay, regardless of who their past relationships were with:
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow had a committed and long term relationship with Oz and also was in love with Xander. However, during and after her relationship with Tara, she said she was âgay nowâ.
- Hollyoaks is a repeat offender:
- When Sarah Barnes entered into a relationship with Lydia, despite the number of men sheâd been with before, she proclaimed to everyone that she was a lesbian.
- Ste Hay was in a relationship with Amy Barnes for years and they had children together but after he started sleeping with Brendan, he apparently decided to come out as gay.
At the end of season three, it was revealed Brittany will be retaking senior year whereas her girlfriend has graduated. Itâs not clear where Santana will move on to but itâll be interesting to see how Glee handles a long distance relationship between the two of them and whether they stay together or not.
Glee is returning to Sky UK with its fourth season in January 2013
Vicky blogs at http://catvix.blogspot.co.uk. Go and say hello!
Bisexual activists’ weekends are an informal chance for new and existing bi activists to network and share ideas, collaborate and compare approaches, and hone best practice. If you’ve never thought of yourself as a bisexual activist they’re somewhere you can get ideas, swap skills, get support, and kickstart your activism. They’ve happened around once or twice a year since 2004, in different locations around the UK.
They are not intended as an introduction to bisexuality, nor as counselling spaces for people unsure about being bisexual. The UK’s BiCon and the regional BiFests regularly feature facilitator-led sessions on these topics.
The next bi activists weekend will be in Edinburgh on 17-18 November 2012.Â The venue will be Princes House, 5 Shandwick Place EH2 4RGÂ Times are likely to be 11am-5pm on Saturday 17 November and 10am-4pm on Sunday 18 November, but will be confirmed nearer the time.
If you’d like to come, please join the UK bi activists’ yahoo group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/uk-bi-activism/Â where further details will be discussed and the agenda set.Â You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to be kept informed (but joining the group is better).
More info on two web pages – tinyurl.com/cux5ngv and bisexualindex.org.uk/activistweekend
After the trials of 2011 in Leicester – fire alarms going off, weevils in the cupboards and a large swathe of the conference having to relocate part way through – it was a much calmer affair.
A notable innovation was a smartphone app for both Android and iPhone which let attendees keep their itinerary for the weekend in their pocket rather than carry round bundles of paper all weekend – also letting the organisers instantly update many attendeesâ copies of the programme for the weekend each day whether they attended plenaries or not.Â To think just two years ago a daily newssheet was the new shiny thing!
Issue 114 of BCN was out and given away to everyone attending the conference.Â It broke new ground for us – it was our first full-colour edition.Â Many thanks to a generous donor who made that possible!Â We also unveiled our new BCN popup display stand, which has already graced stalls at a couple of other events and gives a big splash of purple.
The BiCon wagon rolls on to Scotland next, where it will run from 18th – 21st July next summer.Â See you there?
Pictured, clockwise from top: group photo at the end of the conference; the Ball theme of bisexuals all at sea brought out a lot of creativity – and a request that in future BCN should print tips on cheap DIY costume-making in the run up to BiCon; new group Bis of Colour had their own flat to strengthen links around the country; and our shiny popup display stand, seen since at events in Manchester andÂ Brighton.
Visibility is essential in tackling discrimination and prejudice against bisexual people as well as myths about bisexuality. During the last year, many important events took place in Europe contributing to giving greater visibility of issues faced by bisexual people: the publication of a report on Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity in the UK; the âBisexuals in Picturesâ exhibition in The Netherlands, and the first conference on bisexuality in Spain. There is also a lively bisexual community emerging on the internet and social media.
Unfortunately, there is still significant misunderstanding about bisexuality and even denial of bisexualityâs existence. Bisexual people, similarly to other groups within the LGBTI community, face discrimination and social exclusion. Moreover, the bisexual community often experiences the lack of understanding and acceptance by society in general and the lesbian and gay communities in particular.
ILGA-Europe reiterates its full commitment to full equality and respect of the human rights of bisexual people. Bisexual people are entitled to the same dignity and deserve the same opportunity to live their lives without prejudice and discrimination, develop and fully enjoy their identities and form relationships.
On this occasion, ILGA-Europe calls on the LGBTI communities to take a leading role in tackling prejudice against bisexual people and challenge normative approach to identity and sexuality.
Brussels, 21 September 2012