Pushing at open doors

Issue 81

This originally appeared in BCN issue 81, Sept 2006

Europride Mayor’s Reception report from Meg Barker

I was excited to receive an invitation to the Mayor of London’s reception in July to mark the beginning of London Europride. Much pondering of whether this meant that I was now a ‘famous queer’ ensued and I decided to venture down to city hall to see what, if anything, the mayor and others had to say to the bi community.

On arriving I was lucky enough to bump into another bi immediately: a woman who works for Rainbow Network (it was the New Rock boots that gave her away!)  We grabbed some drinks and sat on the rainbow cushions that had been placed around the outdoor amphitheatre next to City Hall. The place soon filled up with about 250 people drinking MorganStanley’s free wine and eating canapés. That was without counting the many tourists and others who watched the event from above the rainbow flag which was tied around the whole outside of the area.

The speeches were hosted by Ben Summerskill: the chief executive of Stonewall. He started by thanking the mayor, Ken Livingstone, for his London-based partnership register which paved the way for civil partnerships. Ben also highlighted the continued homophobia faced by many people in the UK and internationally. He mentioned the violent outbreaks in Moscow and Warsaw as well as the murder of the UK barman Jody Dobrowski.

He also spoke about the new Stonewall campaign addressing homophobic bullying in schools. They have a survey on www.speakoutonline.org.uk which they are encouraging school and FE college students to fill out confidentially. Ben told us that Stonewall come across almost daily incidents of homophobic bullying in schools and mentioned some who had committed suicide as a result. He gave the following example: ‘not long ago we heard from a young girl aged 14 who had told a teacher that she was a lesbian, ever since then she has been forced to sit outside the changing rooms before and after games lessons until the ‘normal’ children have finished.’

The only problem with Ben’s speech was that he didn’t mentioned bisexuals once, only ever using the term ‘lesbian and gay’. Don’t bisexuals ever have civil partnerships or experience bullying on the basis of their sexual orientation? Stonewall’s website (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/) is very consistent in referring to lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. However, this unfortunately didn’t come across at the Europride event. Hopefully they will address this in future.

The next person to speak was Ken Livingstone. I was happy to note that he used the term ‘LGBT’ throughout his address, although I was sorry that I didn’t get the chance to catch him at the end to tell him about all the bi events that have happened, and will be happening, in London (BiFests 2005 and 2006, BiCon 2003, Bi Undergrounds, and potentially an international BiCon in future).  Ken concluded his speech by saying ‘There will always be a Mayor of London standing here representing the LGBT community because you cannot govern London without defending all its people’.

Following these speeches we also heard from Khi, who highlighted the minority status of black and minority ethic people within LGBT communities, and a man from MorganStanley who argued that companies like theirs should become more diverse and embrace people from LGBT communities.  After that my new friend and I became rather too excited as Sir Ian McKellen walked right past us to take the microphone to publicise some of the events taking place at the Europride festival.

After the speeches I grabbed that chance to talk with Katherine, the Stonewall policy and information officer. She was keen for BCN readers to contribute to their regular e-bulletins with news about bi media representations or community events. Please see their website for details.  (and be sure to copy your notes to the bi media group – Ed.)

Finally, thanks to all the bis from London and beyond who attended the Europride march on our behalf on 1st July. I hope you had a fantastic day. Apparently over half a million people attended altogether.  Hopefully there’ll be a good turnout at the other pride events later in the summer too.