Spring’06 Bi Activist Weekend

BCN 79 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 79, June 2006

The bi activism weekend returned to Manchester this Spring with 18 people taking part from Leicester, London, Birmingham, Manchester and Yorkshire.

Tomorrow’s Chip Wrappers
The report from the bi media group covered ground that BCN readers will be familiar with – Lowri, Simon, Mark – and the way that these recent stories had provoked a response to the initial media presentation. While we might want a more bi-friendly mass media, at least this time there had been corrections in language on the part of some sections of the press and in particular the Simon Hughes story had given people the chance to get involved in taking the media on through letters pages and complaints to editorial staff.

In future we do need more accessible ‘experts’ to counter the ‘experts’ who dismiss bisexuality, and some work was done on what the common questions and misconceptions in the media are and writing stock answers.

It would also help to not re-invent the wheel with each new BiFest, BiCon etc – they should share past press release archives and co-ordinate publicity timing so that there is a bi story from the movement for the media every two months, month, fortnight or what have you rather than in a glut. The best way of countering the negative stories is to lead with our own positive bi stories.

There have been many “wouldn’t it be lovely” project ideas circulating among the Bi Research Group for some time now, but the amount of time and expertise required to deliver them is often more than members can give (as the way the BiCon 2004 survey results were published just in time for BiCon 2005 reflects). That said, things are really starting to happen on this front with a bi stream of workshops at this winter’s BPS L&G conference and a special bi issue of the L&G Psychology Review next summer.

See the next edition of BCN for news of the areas of work that Bi Research Group are looking at.

Pride Events
Each year BCN sends out a rallying call for people interested in organising bi stalls and resources at their local Pride festivals and no doubt there will be just such a piece elsewhere in this edition. One of the problems in putting together a good Pride stall is the lack of national bi resources – supplies of BCN’s “Fancy Men, Fancy Women, Fancy Both?” leaflet produced back in the late 90s have long since run out, so if there is no local group in the area then there may only be BCN subscription forms and that year’s BiCon flyer. Several new glossy bi resources are being produced however which will mean that by next year at least (and for the later Prides this year) there should be a much wider selection of bi resources. BCN will be acting as the distribution centre for these.

Helping the Helplines
Something that often comes up at activist weekends like this is the issue of lesbian and gay helplines not providing much support on bi matters, in particular when it comes to referring callers to bi organisations and events like BiCon, BiFest and the local groups around the country. Part of the problem may be how much we as a bi movement are talking to them in the first place – if they have never heard of us, or have not heard from us in several years and so assume that local groups have lapsed (or worse are still going and so refer callers to non-existent organisations!)

This really is one for each local group to tackle as well though. Experience of the Manchester group, which while ruggedly independent has a close working relationship with the local gay and lesbian switchboard, shows that if you are seen to be a real, thriving local group there is often a wide open door to helping refer people to your project.

At a national level, especially in areas where there are no local bi groups as such, the organisers of BiCon and BiFest type events need to be more active in providing regular updates about what they are doing to those local services that do exist.

This website was a fantastic resource in the 1990s but as the net has moved on, has come to look a little dowdy in recent years. The reconstruction of bi.org as a major bisexual community web hub is gathering pace. Expect a relaunch later in the year and in the meanwhile, keep your eye on it for developments as new sections are being quietly added and existing ones undergoing extensive spring cleaning.

Charitable Works?
Some of the burgeoning new wave of bi activism in the UK could benefit from being built into a wider organisation than the local groups can offer. While the previous attempt to establish a national network (newer readers should google BCN’s archives for the story of the BBF) failed to reach a consensus, things may now have moved on enough for a national charity to be established to serve as an umbrella organisation. In the longer term the scope for this might be large but realistically it would most likely be taking on production of such things as an updated “Fancy Men, Fancy Women…” type leaflet, with the economies of scale that production for a national audience rather than a regional or local audience could provide. The discussion on this project will be returned to at the next BiCon but it will specifically not be a BiCon-owned project.

Sexual Health
While the bi movement has been working on reinvigorating the local groups network, expanding the ambitions and range of BiCon, and building BCN’s subscription base over the last couple of years, we have not been doing much work on matters of sexual health.

More importantly (given they are paid to do it and we are not) neither have the major sexual health charities and health service bodies.

One opportunity for registering protest over this would be at the annual CHAPS conference, which is free to attend (being in March, we’ve just missed it).

This year’s BiCon team were unable to make it to the weekend so while a few suggestions were made and passed on to the team afterwards. Even the best publicised BiCons seem mostly to work on word-of-mouth promotion with most people who go along having originally heard about the event through friends or from the local bi groups network.

Our subscription levels have risen sharply in the past two years (albeit from a sadly low point!) and no doubt related to this, the BCN website has been completely revamped.

Bi Woes
One of the other things that came up is that, as many people on the activism weekend were ‘old hands’ with tales of biphobia in years gone by to share, one of the things we need are stories of problems today. Readers – this is where you come in!