Emerging from the chrysalis: Bisexual Butterfly

A new national bisexual organisation appeared in February this year.  Where some bi projects like BiFest and BCN have emerged from people already known and involved in the community this was something more unexpected bringing new people into things.  So as soon as we could, we got James from Bisexual Butterfly into BCN Towers for an interview…

BCN: For a start, where did the initiative for Bisexual Butterfly come from?  And who is involved?
James: I first came up with the concept of setting up Bisexual Butterfly when I was coming out. I did quite a bit of research on sexuality, but was appalled by the lack of good quality websites out there. Most seemed more interested in giving a list of opinions rather than facts or just simply mentioned bisexuality rather than looking at specific bisexuality related issues. The majority of websites I found provided social networking solutions rather than basic information or a bisexual identity.

Around this time I started giving presentations based on my research on bisexuality, biphobia and the differences between homophobia and biphobia.  These were at first almost always in front of LGBT groups.  I was shocked and surprised by the amount of confusion and prejudice towards members of the bi community. I was also warmed and spurred on by the positive responses given. It was clear that there was a need for greater awareness of bisexuality and biphobia.  Bisexual Butterfly arose out of the wish to fill the gaps that many organisations had forgotten to include and to provide support for people in raising awareness of bisexuals and bisexual specific issues and combating biphobia.

We are currently a voluntarily run national charitable organisation. We are not a registered charitable company yet. We are currently however putting a number of feelers out for trustees and are recruiting for volunteers. We plan to organincally develop in line with public expectation, demand and our capacity to do work. At present, the demand for links, information and support has been overwhelming.

And the name… “Butterfly”?
We pride ourselves on being just that little bit different and a little bit quirky.  We do not want to be seen as yet another organisation that campaigns for change, but one that cheekily challenges viewpoints and stereotypes in a fun, thought provoking and approachable fashion. Our focus is not on your stereotypical type of activism, but on providing a recognisable face, providing support and starting to fill the gaps in-between the work of other organisations so that work becomes more effective.  We are more of an energy within the bisexual community. OK, we have campaigns, but we also hope to denigrate biphobia and raise awareness without having to give boring speeches and get stuck into a routine of waving banners.

With the wide range of people labelled within the term “bisexual” I wanted to choose an image and name that people could identify with the sexuality.  I also wanted an image/name that would identify with our work, goals and personality.  To me, the life cycle of a butterfly represents change and transition.  Just like the transition from a caterpillar to a butterfly, Bisexual Butterfly hopes to develop and change organically and be involved in changing views of society, increasing awareness and making difficult to accept views more attractive.

There were many more reasons for selecting the butterfly, but I’m sure they can be figured out with a bit of creative thought and a slight sense of humour!

So, in February you got in touch with a number of bi organisations – and others too – what was the response like?
We contacted many organisations within the LGBT community to create links for both us as an organisation and for members of the public.  The response rate has been much better than expected.  We have received a large number of responses ranging from small community groups, commercial organisations and large charities.  We have not published our links list but we plan to do it very soon.
Check out our website to see whether your business, organisation or group is listed. If it isn’t, please get in touch at [email protected]

It would be very wrong of us to set up an organisation that steps on the toes of many other organisations who do fantastic work. We hope that by linking to organisations and showing links that we can help to stimulate friendly alliances.  We also hope that this will help grow/support our community from the inside as well as support those viewing our community from the outside.

There are a number of bi projects out there – when you went through those, things like BiWales, bisexual.com, BCN, Bisexual Underground — what did you feel was missing?
I did not feel necessarily that anything was missing in these groups. Many do fantastic work. I felt, however, that our community needed more cohesion, more information and research and a more zesty iconic presence.

Bisexual Butterfly is different from many current bisexual groups in that we are not only catering only for one type of audience or focusing only on one piece of work. We would like it if we could do something to reach most if not all sections of society.
I can not deny that we have great ambition, but with mutual support and recognition from within our community, I am positive that we can all benefit from the hard work and determination that is going into Bisexual Butterfly as it emerges fully from its chrysalis.

As an organisation what are your aims and objects? And practically what will that mean BB doing in the next year, two years, three years?
We are a charitable organisation in that we are working in accordance to a constitution and founding documents to a charitable end. We are a not-for-profit organisation; we are not a registered charity.

We have the ambition to develop into a registered charity using the documents that are currently our bible and are helping us to time manage ourselves through the demand for our services.

Perhaps it is best that I read directly from our current constitution. Our primary objectives are as follows:

“1) To educate/ raise awareness of bisexuality amongst members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender… community and members of the straight community.
2) To educate/ raise awareness of biphobia both amongst members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (hereinafter called “LGBT community”) and members of the straight community.
3) To provide support / links of support to victims of biphobia.
4) To liaise with LGBT organisations in order to raise awareness on bisexuality and bisexual issues separately to the issues of other sexualities.”

It is difficult to explain what we will be doing in the next few years. We have a strategic plan formulated, most of which is finance and support dependent. It is an exciting time for us.

This year saw the creation of our website, our first press releases, our first campaign (targeted on two issues: biphobia within the LGBT community and diversity of the bisexual community) to name but a few activities. We are currently very busy organising our presence at London and Brighton Pride this year. Once this is all done and dusted we are to be focusing on getting funding and more of a legal identity so we can achieve our goals and grow more efficiently in the future.

What ways can people get involved and assist?
At present we are welcome for any help that people can contribute. At present volunteers are doing activities such as admin work to pride appearances. If you want to help we are almost certain to have something for you to do at present!
We would be very interested in people helping us with fundraising. (I believe quite a few other bi organisations would like that help too – Ed)  As a quirky energy we are looking for people who are creative: People who can take an impressive photo, organise an event, do some research…

We are grateful for letters and email of support. If you cannot volunteer with us, visit our website regularly and cheer us along whenever we make a public appearance.

Your website update tells us that, “Bisexual Butterfly will be present at both London and Brighton Pride events. We hope to be present at several other events this year. Something rather special is lined up!”  Come on, give us a little exclusive here, what is up your sleeve?

My Arm!

Our presence at London and Brighton Pride should be quite memorable.  If not for you, it certainly will be for me.  Come, see us and let us know what you think – we would love to hear from you and get your views.

We plan to attend several other events this year to represent bisexuals and bisexuality, however we can not confirm our attendance at such events at present – check out the news page on our website for updates.

Thanks James.  We look forward to seeing your campaigns grow and develop.

This article originally appeared in BCN magazine issue 96, June 2009.

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