Cancer in the bisexual communities

BCN 123 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 123, February 2014

Nickie reports on working with the Macmillan Cancer Care and Lesbian and Gay Foundation Joint Task Force

I joined this task force last year as the sole bi representative in a group of around 12 LGB people, all of whom had experience either of having cancer themselves or of having it in their families.  The aim of the group is to explore whether and how being LGB or T affects our experience of cancer and how we are treated, with a view to improving patient experience.

I myself am a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed and treated almost five years ago with no recurrences, thank goodness.  I can take my own experiences to the group, but they are just my own experiences, and I really do appreciate it every time someone shares something with me that I can pass on (anonymously!) to the task force.  One of the tasks we are engaging in with Macmillan at the moment is compiling an “Emerging Picture” document to be used with hospital staff and patients, documenting the issues that arise for LGBT people affected by cancer. The more feedback we have the richer that emerging picture can become.

We have met twice now and meet again in February.  At our last meeting we discussed creation of an LGBT group in the Macmillan Online Communities.  We have already discovered some issues unique to LGB people – issues which might not be understood in general groups, so if this initiative interests you, please keep a lookout for the new group when it emerges.
We also discussed our roles and remits – and bringing involvement from others in our communities is, for me, an important part of this.

There was some talk of possibly recruiting further members – so if you would like to get involved in that way it may not be too late.

For further information about the Task Force, please contact Selina Mehra:

If you have personal stories/issues you would like to share without passing them via me, please send them to Robin Maginn:

Alternatively, please do get in touch with me,, and/or join the Yahoo Group I set up to help us at

Thank you to all who have already been involved in this work. I know from personal experience that I don’t like having to think about it when I don’t have to, so I am really grateful when anyone does feel able to pass things on that will help others in the future.


June 10, 2014 · news · Comments Closed
Posted in: BCN 123: February 2014, Nickie

 Yes to same-sex marriage: whither civil partnership?

BCN 123 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 123, February 2014

The Scottish Parliament has passed the Same-Sex Marriage (Scotland) Bill by a huge 108 to 15 vote margin at the start of February.  The vote to pass the bill at third and final reading was not unexpected as the previous stages had also passed by significant margins.

The Scottish bill is different in a few respects including lacking the ‘spousal veto’ on application for Gender Recognition Certificates for trans people.  It provides for belief organisations such as the Humanist Society to conduct marriages and civil partnerships. In England & Wales, there are no humanist marriages, but there will be a review of the possibility of allowing this, scheduled to report at the end of 2014.

Westminster voted through its same-sex marriage bill last summer which comes into effect at the end of March, with the first weddings on Saturday 29th, so it is expected a similar length of delay in implementation would mean the first same-sex weddings in Scotland this autumn.

The debate in England & Wales now turns to the question of civil partnerships: to abolish, keep, or extend them to mixed-sex couples?  The consultation phase on this runs until 17 April 2014, and you can read more and respond to it here:

June 10, 2014 · news · Comments Closed
Tags:  · Posted in: BCN 123: February 2014

 Last BiCon… 2013′s accounts

BCN 123 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 123, February 2014

BiCon 2013 has published its accounts, which are summarised below.  With 311 people taking part there was a turnover on the annual bisexual conference of over £33,000.

It should be noted these figures do not include donations to the Equality Fund. Administration of the Equality Fund was handled separately by BiCon Continuity Ltd. “Donations” in the table refers to a couple of small independent donations to the event.

A range of stalls from organisations like Stonewall Scotland, the Equality Network and the Scottish Transgender Alliance brought in over £1000 as well as building BiCon’s engagement beyond the bisexual community.

Sam from the BiCon 2013 team told us, “I hope that the budget inspires future organisers to look at different ways that events can be used to raise money or cut costs.

“If we had not charged for stalls; provided sponsorship opportunities and got in kind sponsorship we would have ended up making a loss. But all these things added up to a small profit.”

Meanwhile we have news from the annual BiCon attendees survey.  With 79 responses in for the 2013 survey, the data entry is complete and the number crunching has begun.

There are already some pretty graphs reflecting how the demographics of BiCon have changed since the first such survey in 2004 – or in some aspects stayed very much the same!  The word is that the report will probably be out in time for the next issue of BCN.  In the meanwhile you can still read the 2004 report on our website; intervening years have mostly not yet been processed and published.

BiCon 2013 also had a survey on experiences of biphobia.  Watch this space for more news from that (in other words, probably next BCN, otherwise the one after!)

In and Out: BiCon 2013’s Summary of Finances      


Contribution from Bi Con Continuity Ltd
Accommodation and registration payments and donations          32,569.55
Stalls payments x 7                1,150.00
Scottish Transgender Alliance Sponsorship of Film Room               450.00


Refunds                        467.00

Venue and accommodation costs        30,833.73

Equipment (including dance floor, PA and lighting)                       1,615.20

Postage, Printing and Stationery (including craft materials)                     428.50

Committee and meeting costs (including travel)                    229.68

Amount to hand forward            5,595.44
Surplus after contribution from BiCon Continuity Ltd is returned                               595.44

June 10, 2014 · news · Comments Closed
Posted in: BCN 123: February 2014

 The strange case of the missing bi award

BCN 123 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 123, February 2014

Last year ShoutOut, local LGBT radio programme for Bristol and areas nearby, ran its first ShoutOut Listeners’ Awards. Unlike most LGBT awards there was a bi category, which local group BiVisible won, with their spinoff club night Greedy the runner-up.  In December 2013 they opened up nominations for this year’s awards, but when it came to announce the shortlists in January there was a bit of a shock for bi listeners as they announced the bi category would no longer be going ahead.  Only BiVisible had been nominated by listeners!

BCN got in touch with presenter Andy Thomas to find out what had happened:

“(Last year we) started with an initial set of categories based on what the team and others said they’d like to be able to nominate and vote on. Last year worked very well and was extremely well received. Our listeners seemed to love voting for people/groups/organisations they felt deserved the awards, and likewise those receiving them were extremely flattered to be recognised.

“After the awards had closed, we did review how it went and what the feedback said from people who contact us. It did lead to some changes for the awards this year – we tried to broaden the categories a bit more, realising that our community perhaps isn’t quite as big as we thought. By doing so it meant more nominees fell into the categories, making the award more meaningful.

“We will admit that we didn’t do this with the “Best Events” categories (best mens/womens/bi/trans). Last year we didn’t have any issues with filling these categories so we didn’t think we would this year. Running them has always seemed very natural as an LGBT show and we thought our listeners would nominate enough in each category for it not to be an issue.

“We did however set rules stating that it should be (ideally) the top 5 that go though. In a few categories we took the decision that 4 was ok, but sadly with only BiVisible Bristol nominated in the best bi event category it meant that we couldn’t run a vote as there was no one else to put forward too. I’m not sure we can answer the question as to why other events weren’t voted for but it is something we will be looking into. However, it was also very pleasing to see BiVisible Bristol receive all the nominations. The situation with the women’s events was similar, only two events were nominated and both were run by the same people.

“What we will do though is, when the awards have been closed and awarded for 2014, we will look at what worked and what didn’t and the feedback we’ve had about them so that we can make next year’s even better. We want our listeners and the nominees to enjoy the awards experience and, as is the remit for our entire show, we want them to be inclusive of all the LGBT community. If when we look at this year we find that it would be beneficial to add or remove some categories, or even rename the existing ones, we will do so. We are though, very interested in hearing views from the Bi community about how best to be inclusive.”

So there we have it: BiVisible is just too successful for its own good.  Let BCN have your thoughts by emailing and we’ll pass them on to Andy!

June 10, 2014 · news · Comments Closed
Posted in: BCN 123: February 2014, Jen Yockney

 Manchester bis lead parade

BCN 123 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 123, February 2014

The UK’s longest-running bisexual community group led a 1,200-strong protest march in Manchester in solidarity with LGBT people in Russia as the Winter Olympics opened in Sochi.  There were a number of similar events elsewhere but we believe the Manchester event was the largest such in the UK.

BiPhoria shared honours in leading the parade, taking half the parade route as lead group under their “B Is Not For Invisi-bi-lity” banner.

A ‘human chain’ was then formed creating a circle of locked hands all around the city’s queer quarter, centred on Canal Street.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi were the focus of controversy due to the Russian government’s growing biphobia, homophobia and transphobia, both legislatively and in ignoring attacks on LGBT people and venues.

June 10, 2014 · news · Comments Closed
Posted in: BCN 123: February 2014

 Activists Assemble!

BCN 123 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 123, February 2014

In January volunteers from a variety of bi projects, individual activists and those simply interested in what we’re doing to challenge bi invisibility and biphobia got together in London.

The topics under discussion during the day included
-    BiCon Continuity Ltd – the company that holds BiCon’s assets from one year to another.
-    Annual bisexual conference BiCon & the every-two-years research conference BiReCon
-    Families
-    Sport
-    Intersectionality – in particular bi & class
-    Local & specific groups, including local bi social and/or support groups and bi groups targeted at particular groups such as the new London over-50s bi group.
-    Pride and bi presences
-    The BDSM Bisexuals weekend in Birmingham
-    Bisexuality and Mental Health

There was a London focus with several of London’s bi groups represented and an awareness that last year there was no organised bi presence at London Pride.

The full minutes of the gathering are on the UK-bi-activism yahoo group, which is an email list.  You can find that here:

These gatherings are held from time to time and it had been a year since the last one so this one came together rather quickly.  This time it was too quickly for BCN to be able to give readers notice in our last edition, alas!

June 10, 2014 · news · Comments Closed
Posted in: BCN 123: February 2014, Jen Yockney

 Eloping from Gretna?

For a while it looked like Scotland would introduce same-sex marriage before England and Wales.  We’d see queer couples flocking across the border to Gretna Green to marry.  As things worked out Westminster voted back in the summer, while the first vote in the Holyrood Parliament didn’t come until November 20th.

This isn’t where it all started though.  In June, the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee invited written evidence, and received around 1300 submissions from individuals and groups. BCN was amongst those putting our opinions forward, based in part on the readers poll we ran a while ago, and we were the only bi-specific organisation to put in evidence.

In September and October, the Committee invited a selection of LGBT organisations, religious groups, lawyers and others to give evidence in person.

Only after that process did we get to the first reading bill in November.

Around a quarter of all MSPs spoke during a well-mannered debate lasting about three hours. At BCN we live-tweeted through the debate giving some flavour of the discussions for those not able to watch the whole thing, though the Scottish Parliament’s streaming video servers kept falling over in response to perhaps the greatest level of demand they’d yet faced.

There was support from all five parties in the Parliament.  Third to speak was Ruth Davidson, Conservative leader, who gave a powerful account of why marriage mattered to her as a lesbian.  Green leader Patrick Harvie also made it personal:
“my personal circumstances place me in what I regard as impeccably neutral territory on the issue: I am single, I am bisexual, I have no idea whether I will have a long-term relationship with a man or a woman in future and I have no idea whether I would want to get married.”

We got a sly bi cultural reference when Labour MSP Elaine Murray quoted Tom Robinson’s “Glad To Be Gay”:
“I remind people who say that civil partnerships should be enough of the 1976 hit by the Tom Robinson Band “(Sing if You’re) Glad to be Gay”, which, despite its cheerful title, spoke of police harassment, beatings, and insults, and ended with—I will not say the word—the b’s
“are legal now; what more are they after?”
Well, like most people, they want equality.”

The debate concluded at a civilised 8pm or so, and after a short gap it went to a vote: 98 votes in favour to 15 against, with five active abstentions and a handful of MSPs unable to attend.

At the time of writing the Bill is about to go into its committee stage, which it will probably complete in January, followed by a final vote in February.  Royal Assent might then be given in March 2014.

The Scottish Government then has to draft regulations to enable the provisions of the Act to be fully implemented. For instance, setting out the procedure for changing a civil partnership to a marriage. There may be a public consultation on the regulations, and then they must be approved by the Parliament. Typically the process of drafting, consulting, and approving regulations takes about 12 months: perhaps some of Westminster’s parallel work might be copyable?

Quite when the law then comes into effect remains to be seen – Westminster has passed same-sex marriage into law and announced the first weddings will be allowed at the end of March.  It might just be possible for Scotland to bring their marriage law into effect on the same date, but it’ll be a tight squeeze.

Still to fix? Mixed-sex civil partnership, left out of the marriage reforms north and south of the border. The Scottish Equal Marriage campaign has always been for the opening of both marriage and civil partnership to couples regardless of gender, as were BCN readers when we asked you. Both Westminster and the Scottish Government are to review this in the near future so further legislation may follow.

Still to fix? Pension equality – this issue is reserved to Westminster, so cannot be dealt with by the Scottish bill. The UK Government have promised to review the remaining discrimination against same-sex couples in private sector pension benefits. The review is due to finish by July 2014, so there might be legislation to end the discrimination in the second half of 2014.

Where does this leave Northern Ireland?  The Stormont Assembly has used its powers to block same-sex marriage there, but will recognise GB same-sex marriages as if they were civil partnerships.  Northern Ireland took 15 years to catch up with England and Wales after sex between men was decriminalised in 1967; at the moment the political balance in Stormont looks determined to repeat its record.

June 4, 2014 · news · Comments Closed
Tags:  · Posted in: BCN 122: December 2013

 ‘Curing Homosexuality’ in 2013?

Conversion therapy: the idea that a little time with a shrink can help you talk out your same-sex attractions and be won round to heterosexuality.  The rhetoric around the treatment is surely one of the most neatly polarised binary notions still current in talk about sexuality.

From one side: people are gay and are being ‘cured’ of their homosexuality into being straight, whether because they don’t like being gay or because there’s something inherently wrong with it. From the other side: people who are really gay are being pressured to delude themselves and given a placebo therapy after which they can imagine their same-sex attractions have gone away.  Sexual orientation can change but there’s no evidence that therapy triggers such changes, they just seem to happen unbidden.

Breaking the fixed binary model of sexual orientation breaks the idea underpinning the ‘cure’.  Treat enough people and there will be some whose sexuality happens to shift anyway at about the right time. If sexuality is in shades of grey rather than simple black and white, it makes more sense that it would work for a few people and not for others according to whether subjects had enough attraction to the opposite sex.
So it’s dodgy practice but should it be illegal?  As treatments go it seems to me that it is hokum underpinned by dubious moral judgements and people who take it are deluding themselves.  But if we used that as a basis for deciding what activities should be lawful, we would ban an awful lot of stuff out there.  How many diets would survive?  Hell, where would it leave the advertising industry?

In the UK nothing currently prevents conversion therapists from freely operating or practising in the psychotherapy sector, and there is some evidence of NHS patients being referred for such treatment despite it not being recognised by the Department of Health.

The whole subject came before Parliament in November as Sandra Osborne MP led a Westminster Hall debate – in the House of Commons but not the main chamber – on the topic of gay-to-straight conversion therapy.
She told BCN, “My aim in arranging this debate is to raise the profile of the surprisingly-prevalent problem of conversion therapy in Britain, and to force the government – who have so far only said they do ‘not condone’ conversion therapy – into making a bolder statement against this heinous practice.

“I am concerned about the links between professionals in the NHS and conversion therapists, particularly in the under-regulated psychotherapy sector. Like many MPs across the political spectrum, I think it’s about time that Parliament properly discusses this problem so that vulnerable LGBT people aren’t forced to undergo ‘cures’ that hurt and don’t work.”

Many other members chimed in to support a ban.  Julian Huppert MP said, “So-called psychotherapists who believe they can ‘cure’ lesbian, gay or bisexual people with therapy are not only harming individuals but our society as a whole. We need a change in the law to stop anybody setting themselves up as a psychotherapist and to stop ill-informed health professionals referring patients to these people.

“A person’s sexuality is part of what makes them an individual in the same way as the colour of their hair or their eyes. It’s a fundamental part of their character and should be celebrated as such.”
Answering for the government, Health Minister Norman Lamb said: “The Department of Health does not condone the concept of therapists offering ‘cures’ for homosexuality. There is no evidence that this sort of treatment is beneficial and indeed it may well cause significant harm, to some patients.

“If someone is suffering a mental health problem, clinicians will try to help patients with whatever is causing them distress. This could involve helping someone come to terms with their sexuality, family arguments over their sexuality, or hostility from other people.

“We know from research that the incidence of depression, anxiety and suicide within the gay community is significantly higher than within the heterosexual community and this is why ‘No health without mental health’ identifies lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a specific group for whom a tailored approach to their mental health is necessary.”

A big supportive build up to be followed by a promise that the government intends to do… Well, nothing for now.

Sandra Osborne tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament earlier this year calling for a ban on the provision of ‘gay-to-straight’ conversion therapy for under 18s.  An amendment to the motion proposed by Swansea MP Geraint Davies would remove the “under 18” limitation.  You can check the EDM’s progress online at

June 4, 2014 · news · Comments Closed
Posted in: BCN 122: December 2013