BiCon: First time…

BiCon was amazing, I’m so glad I let myself be talked into going. I thought I had good solid reasons for not going before – after all, I’m quite happy being bi (and indeed poly and kinky) without any need whatsoever to talk about it. I’m not short of information or people I can share experiences with, because an awful lot of my friends are similar to me. I also didn’t have a traumatic time coming out or redefining my identity; everything has been as simple, straight-forward and easy as it could possibly have been. I just could not imagine what BiCon might be for, and my experience of attending meet-ups didn’t exactly help: they were nice enough and all that, but still, sitting in a pub with people I don’t necessarily have anything more in common with than how I like to have sex has always felt strange.

Over the last 12-18 months, though, things have been gradually shifting for me. I have abandoned at least one group of acquaintances and related activities, and I’ve taken my focus off events and behaviour I’d been enjoying for many years, towards a much more introverted way of life. I can’t say it’s always been easy; changing habits is hard, and quite often I worried I was missing out – and yet, I would feel out of place when I returned to old pastimes. However, it’s been the right course of action: rather than rushing to fill the emptiness, I’ve sat with it until people and/or events have turned up that I could say “yes” to with my whole heart. As a consequence, my life contains a much, much higher calibre of those things than ever before. There are people around me who don’t merely tolerate me, but who actively encourage me, and even push me to reach ever higher: having waited years, I can’t tell you what an absolute privilege it is to finally get there. While I worry about making pronouncements that may come off as grandiose or turn out to be untrue, I have a feeling that BiCon will turn out to have been a watershed moment in that process.

It seems there are several kinds of BiCons, all taking place simultaneously: the activist one with lots of talking in workshops; the sex bunny one; the sociable one where you sleep all day and party all night; the high-drama version. I dipped my toe in some of them, and I’d add another one: the solitary BiCon. I found it necessary at times to retreat to my room, and really appreciated having a space all my own and a door I could lock on the outside world. That isn’t something I have at home, and as someone who’s never relished the idea of living alone, it’s a new and fun experience to try out on my holidays, and I had fun working out the balance between solitude and company. It was good to listen inwardly and act on what I learnt moment to moment.

But by far the biggest discovery, and the one that surprised me the most, was the feeling of community. I’ll be the first to admit that I have great trouble with community: it feels as though all my life, I have been on the outskirts of them or outright excluded, and I learnt early on not just to be ok with it, but actively make it a feature and pursue it. I try not to be contrary for the sake of it, but I’m always more interested in that which is “other”, rather than that which is “same”. It was therefore an incredible experience to be in a space where bisexuality is the default setting, and where a whole swathe of assumptions that are normally made fell away. It felt like freedom and acceptance rolled into one. My mind kept poking at the rules, codes and conventions that make this possible: I sort of rebel at the idea that these things have to be spelled out, they seem too obvious to me, and I rarely feel that “more rules” is the answer to anything, but I can recognise that it’s useful to have them, and it plainly works. One of the most-used phrases was “would you like a hug?”, and I came to love its mix of respectfulness and directness. How better to show someone that you like them, while simultaneously accepting they might not feel the same, and that it might be for reasons that have nothing to do with you?
I was also told about the “BiCon comedown” (and have been wondering ever since whether knowing of its existence has caused me to feel it, or whether it was merely reassurance that something I feel is totally normal). We do not always live with this level of acceptance and joy, and returning to our everyday lives, surrounded by “people who are genetically beige” as one person put it, can be tough. It’s not vastly different from attending music festivals in this: whenever you find a greater concentration than usual of like-minded people with nothing better to do than have fun, going back feels terrible. Nevertheless, it’s been my experience at festivals that eventually I get tired of that particular kind of fun, and I’ll start looking forward to doing something else again. Not so here: because you can make BiCon what you want it to be, because there are almost always people who want the same things as you do, and because so many kinds of fun are on offer at the same time, it felt like I could carry on forever. It felt very sad to know I’d have to leave, and that I would be missing this community for a solid year until the next one. Not bad for someone who didn’t see the point before, right?