1999: bisexual year in review

Bi Space 1999: Odyssey or Oddity?

In future years, I wonder how 1999 will be perceived, and how much will be forgotten? I would guess in answer to the first question will depend upon whether one sees a glass as being half full or half empty and in reply to the second, will depend on how many glasses were emptied during the year.

In brief relocation 1999 was the year that bigotry and intolerance resulted in bombs exploding in Brixton, Brick Lane and the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, war in Europe, the Eclipse, Queer As Folk, Assemblies sitting in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the madness of Millennium fever.

UK Bi Community

1999 has been a busy year for the Bi Community, with some new additions to the Bi calendar which we hope will continue in 2000. February saw the first UK Bisexual Festival at ULU in London, and an accompanying Parade through the streets of central London. April saw the London helpline affiliate to National Friend, as well as Fritz Klein, Merl Storr and Sue George participate in a set of talks on Bisexuality at the London Friend. Local Bi groups kept the Bi Flag flying at regional pride events.

In July around 200 Bi’s and friends attended the 17th Annual UK BiCon in Edinburgh. The British Bisexual Federation was announced, although the official launch has been postponed until 2000.

September saw a handful of Bi’s attend the UK Bi Camp.

Local Groups

1999 has been a mixed year for local Bi group organisation. BCN received confirmation that Birmingham, Dundee, Glasgow, Plymouth, Newcastle Bi Women, Leeds Bi Group and BIG had folded, while Cambridge has been relatively quiet following BiCon 1998. However on the positive note a new Glasgow Group Bi Group has formed, as well as BI-G in Leeds, Wild in Manchester reformed for a time, and Manchester Bi Youth has been relaunched. A new London social group East Bi South east has arranged a few successful socials.

London Bi Women’s Group change of admissions policy raised much debate in BCN. 1999 also saw the LBWG move venue from the Drill Hall to the Vespa Lounge, the second move in the space of two years, as well as launch a email discussion list.

SM Bi’s relaunched their newsletter “Ungagged”, and had a change of committee, as well as providing Bi presence to SM Pride and Sexual Freedom Parade. London Bi Group also had a change in committee, members were also involved with organising BiFest, Bi Camp and the BBF.

BI-G (Leeds) innovative transpennine meet up with Biphoria (Manchester) showed how local groups can network. Will 2000 see other local groups meet up and network, and arrange regional events? Bifest North? BiFest Scotland? BiFest South West?

Bi Community News

Despite fears that BCN would fold in 1998, it has reached Issue 41. Although slightly erratic in terms of delivery, 1999 had features on Race, Gender, Intersexuality and Size, as well as other features, reviews, letters, news and articles. BCN still remains a vital resource for Bi’s in the UK.

Virtually Bisexual

Bi.Org the massive electronic web resource celebrated its third birthday in September, since 1996 the site has counted over 15 Million hits, and it’s no underestimate when it says it serves the world bisexual community.

Bi email communities are growing all the time, with new groups emerging on the many Internet providers. A number of Bi electronic communities have arranged successful meet up in 1999, although the internet is limited in terms of access it is a useful tool for isolated Bi’s to contact other bisexuals.

1999 saw introduction of Bi-Men- Britain, a men only list which has up to 400 members across the UK, will we see a similar development in 2000 for Bi-Women-Britain?

Lost and found

In March, influential pop icon Dusty Springfield died from cancer. In November existential writer Paul Bowles died aged 88.

In January, married Conservative Euro MP Tom Spencer is outed when Gay porn, a present from his lover Porn star Cole Tucker, was found by customs.

Labour MP and architect of the Welsh Assembly Ron “moment of madness” Davies admits he is bisexual in June following revelations by the tabloid press. Davies confirms that he is suffering from a condition which leads him to seek out “high risk situations.” He is a keen birdwatcher.

In September married golden boy of the right Michael Portillo reveals the secret of eternal youth by confirming he had”homosexual experiences as a young man”, which apparently lasted up to eight years.

November saw more tabloid revelations, outing ex page three model Sam Fox as bisexual, stating that Sam had lived with a woman for a year. In Elle’s May edition actress Joy Brooks from The Bill talked about her bisexuality.

Could try harder

1999 also saw media commentators get their knickers in a twist over bisexuality.

Gay columnist for the Pink Paper Marcel Wiel coined the term “flexi-gay ” to describe his intimate involvement with a woman.

Stella Duffy’s article in the Guardian entitled ” Fancy a flirt with a bit of skirt” started ok, then berated “half way dykes”.

How Amanda Sawyers space filler article in Vogue entitled Bi-try, about the fashion for bicurious experimentation, elicited replies by Deborah Orr in the Independent, and Libby Brooks in the Guardian is anyone’s guess. Both Orr and Brooks failed to address the possibility or legitimacy of sexual fluidity and experimentation from a heterosexual starting point, or that bicuriosity or bisexuality were authentic.

Campaigning / Politics

1999, also saw a number of key legal precedents being set in terms of LGBT equal rights.

Most of the campaigns and precedents have been gained in terms of partnership rights and rest upon long term “committed” monogamous relationships. Although welcome the effect would still produce inequality for those who do not have the above type of relationship to benefit from any legal change.

LGBT rights in 1999

  • March: House of Lords ruling welcomes LGBT Asylum seekers
  • June: Change in Sex Discrimination Act to protect Transgendered people.
  • June: Age of consent bill rejected by House of Lords, Government to invoke Parliament Act in next session of Parliament.
  • July: A High Court upheld a ruling that a Health authority’s refusal to pay for gender reassignment surgery was “Unlawful”.
  • Sept: European Court on Human Rights rule that human rights were violated as a result of ban on Gays in the military.
  • Oct: Top family Judge backs Gay adoptions
  • Oct: Court ruling sets precedent for tenancy rights.
  • Oct: Rail company gives partnership benefits to Lesbians who had lost case in European court.
  • Nov: Plans to repeal Section 28 announced in the Queens speech
  • Dec: Group Sex case taken to European court of Human Rights
Bi related music of 1999

  • Ani Di Franco Up Up Up Up Up Up (LP)
  • Blur 13 (LP)
  • David Bowie Hours (LP)
  • Dusty Springfield Box set ( LP )
  • Gene Revelations (LP)
  • Madonna Nothing really matters (Single)
  • Placebo & David Bowie Without you I’m nothing (Single)
  • Skunk Anansie Post Orgasmic Chill (LP)
  • Sophie B Hawkins Timbre (LP)
  • Suede Head Music (LP)

Laurence Brewer