Badges at BiCon: What are they for?

BCN 127 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 127, October 2014

One major use of a BiCon badge is as an authentication token: this person is a registered BiCon attendee. We usually write on the name we want to be known by rather than having something printed by the organisers.

I don’t remember names easily and like having a handy reminder. I write my name on both sides so when the badge inevitably gets flipped over it can still be read.  Some would prefer everyone did that so they can always see a name. At least one friend would prefer to choose when to be displaying his name and when not.

There are some things I’d prefer to have labeled: if someone is there representing the press or if they are a child since some look like adults. This doesn’t mean people won’t lie.

There are quite a few “unofficial” things we do with our badges to help us navigate the somewhat weird and wonderful space of BiCon which in my experience isn’t quite like anywhere else I go.  The rules

and conventions from other parts of my life may not apply at BiCon.
Some of the more unstructured social space can be used by people just wanting to hang out or do activities near other accepting people. Others want to talk about their lives and loves and fears. Some want to debate ideas or have space to think in a supportive environment. Some are up for flirting with or without intent. Some want to do friend stuff with existing friends. Some want some of those things at some times and not others. It can be wonderful and/or difficult and maybe a few stickers can help and maybe they can’t.

Some of our discussions in the pre Decision Making Plenary workshop session were on whether some badge things should be mandated or recommended by BiCon teams.
Some people might use their badge to help display the gender they would like to be treated as, for example by letting people know which pronouns to use. Others would rather not do that and don’t want to focus attention on their gender at times. (For similar reasons, having everyone say their pronoun choice at the start of a session might feel helpful to some and unhelpful to others.)

We talked about how an event for people on the Autistic spectrum use agreed markers to show whether someone wants conversation with anyone, with just friends or would rather not be approached.   People may feel certain such symbols will help them access and navigate bi spaces. They get mixed in with loads of other symbols used by people trying to connect with others a bit like them or just for decorative and conversational fun. Should some badge symbols be separated out and given more official agreed meaning? Are we seeing an access need that could be met in other ways?

We didn’t come to any conclusions in the time we had.  I hope the wider conversation of how bisexuals do BiCon will continue to flower, whether or not we wear a flower on our badges.

Grant Denkinson – after his 20th BiCon