Changing BiCon: A rewrite of the BiCon Guidelines

BCN 116 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 116, December 2012

At the big annual bi conference BiCon this summer, the Decision Making Plenary (DMP) proposed changes to the guidelines underpinning how the event is run.  Here is the revised text.

BiCon Organisers’ Guidelines – Section B DRAFT approved at 2012 DMP; pending approval at 2013 DMP

Statement of intent
B1.    BiCon should have an unashamedly forthright stance on the inclusion of people of all marginalised or oppressed groups. Every effort should be made to increase the accessibility and inclusivity of BiCon for all attendees; this is the case whether or not their particular marginalisation or oppression is covered by current UK or EU legislation. BiCon does not, however, endorse or support behaviour which interferes with the rights of others.

Policies and systems
B2.    BiCon should have published policies which include anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and confidentiality. People who consistently or seriously breach these policies – for example by harassing others, for any reason, including sexually or on the grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender or sexuality, or by breaching another attendee’s confidentiality – should be required to leave and may be banned from future BiCons. BiCon should have a system in place to allow people to report harassment, discrimination and other incidents anonymously.

B3.     BiCon is for bisexuals, their friends and allies.  Many people who are members of multiple disadvantaged groups and have intersectional identities e.g. bisexual and Christian or bisexual and Black or lesbian and disabled, experience multiple discrimination. Organisers should be aware of intersectionality and do their best to balance meeting the needs of people in different groups and combinations of groups whilst minimising further marginalisation of anyone who is already marginalised.  Where an “either/or” decision has to be made, organisers may choose to decide on the side of the group most marginalised in BiCon spaces.

Responsibility for inclusion and diversity
B4.    The responsibility for inclusion and accessibility for members of oppressed and marginalised groups should not be automatically delegated to people in those groups. Organisers should be encouraged to seek opinions and recommendations from people and organisations representing relevant groups without over-burdening individuals. Organisers should publish contact details for themselves. They should also publicly encourage individuals or groups to approach them for assistance with making arrangements related to marginalisation-related needs, rather than putting in place ‘one size fits all’ solutions.

Inclusivity of spaces and sessions
B5.    Organisers should consider the inclusivity and accessibility of all parts of BiCon to people from oppressed and marginalised groups, from planning onwards. This includes session spaces, social spaces and in particular evening entertainments and the appropriateness of any themes chosen.

Restricted and safer sessions and spaces
B6.    BiCon should facilitate, if requested, the provision of session and social spaces which are only open to a restricted group e.g. bisexual, Black and minority ethnic (BME), trans or disabled people.  BiCon may also offer sessions restricted to specified gender(s). In accepting sessions with restrictions on who may attend, care should be taken to avoid further marginalising already marginalised groups.  Where restrictions exist, these should be very clearly advertised.

Race, Ethnicity, Nationality
B7.    BiCon should take a proactive approach to reduce and minimise its institutional racism and aim to become a more accessible, inclusive and welcoming place for black and minority ethnic (BME) people. Ways in which BiCon may do this include, but are not limited to: having specific race/cultural awareness policies which are communicated to all who are attending; seeking out facilitators to provide awareness and education sessions for BiCon attendees during BiCon itself; encouraging organisers to seek out and access training and education on race, ethnicity and nationality.

B8.    BiCon should be accessible to and positively support people of all religions and faith systems, and people who have none. Organisers should recognise and challenge discriminatory language, behaviour and attitudes towards people of all religions and faith systems and towards people who have none. Organisers should bear in mind the enormous diversity of belief and expression amongst people broadly described as religious. Organisers should be aware that religious identity is often closely tied to cultural identity and that anti-religious expression can be problematic within any space that wishes to be diverse and culturally inclusive. At the same time organisers should also recognise that many people who attend BiCon have had difficult personal experiences of religions.

Gender and trans
B9.     BiCon should be an accessible and inclusive place for people of different genders and none. BiCon should accept people’s self-identity as any gender(s) or none. Sessions with gender restrictions should be open to all people identifying themselves as belonging to the gender(s) that the session is open to, with an effort being made to ensure that those who identify as other than ‘man’ or ‘woman’ are included where appropriate rather than being excluded from all gender restricted workshops.

Where some facilities e.g. toilets, are restricted on the basis of gender, efforts should be made to provide non-gender specific facilities (for these purposes single occupancy facilities are considered to be non-gender specific facilities).  Non-gender specific facilities should not be the only option available, where possible. Whatever is available should be clearly advertised.

B10.    BiCon should be accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities, including those with invisible impairments. BiCon literature published before the event (including the website) should give a clear description of the accessibility of the site being used, details of adjustments BiCon can make on request, as well as details of how someone can contact BiCon with specific accessibility requests. Accommodation should be provided which is suitable for people with mobility or sensory impairments. BiCon literature should also be made available in alternative formats on request. In planning the programme, consideration should be given to the need for adequate breaks between sessions. The Equalities Fund [see B15] is available to fund additional costs of attending BiCon that may be incurred by people with disabilities (e.g. carer’s costs) and this should be publicised appropriately.

Age and young people
B11.     BiCon should be accessible and inclusive for adults of all ages. BiCon should have a published policy relating to the attendance of unaccompanied people under the age of majority attending in their own right, or as the dependants of adult attendees.

Parents of children
B12.     BiCon should aim to be accessible to parents of young children. Where there is not sufficient demand for, or it is not possible to provide formal child care facilities, BiCon should consider what alternatives it may be reasonable to provide instead e.g. giving a parent a reduced cost BiCon, or putting parents in touch with each other to share childcare responsibilities.

B13.     Whilst being the UK’s national bisexual conference/convention, BiCon should be open to people of all sexualities. Hetero/homophobia should not be tolerated.

Social class
B14.    BiCon should be accessible to people regardless of social class or socioeconomic background. The use of pejorative language about people’s class e.g. ‘common’ should be challenged in the same way as other pejorative language, as should any attempts to define people’s class or socioeconomic background.

Financial access
B15.    BiCon should be as accessible as possible to people on low incomes. Means should include a variable price scheme, an Equalities Fund and one-day tickets. These methods should all be publicised. The Equalities Fund should be used to remove or alleviate barriers that may prevent people from otherwise attending BiCon. The Equalities Fund should not be something that is usually used to enable unwaged people, with no other barriers, to attend BiCon, as the unwaged price band should account for that.

Alcohol free spaces
B16.     There should be provision for alcohol-free social spaces during the day and evening. Where alcohol is permitted in daytime session spaces this should be clearly indicated in the programme. Daytime session spaces are usually not suitable for people who are intoxicated. People who are intoxicated, whether through alcohol or other substances may be asked to leave public BiCon spaces and are likely to be asked to be leave daytime session spaces. BiCon attendees are still required to comply with the Code of Conduct if they are intoxicated.

B17.     All outdoor space at BiCon, with the exception of designated smokers’ areas, will be non-smoking. Smoking areas should be advertised clearly.

B18.    Organisers should provide as much detailed information about how attendees can manage food and eating as possible. This should include details of the kitchen facilities and equipment available, if any, where food can be purchased and information about what kind of food this is.  Where possible, the food requirements of people with differing dietary needs should be considered.