Fair-weather Friends

BCN 129 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 129, February 2015

One of the oldest sticks bis get hit with is that bisexuality is very “in” now: you’re just doing it to be trendy.

And it’s pretty much never really been the case: David Bowie may have made it fashionable for a fortnight in the seventies, and Suede singer Brett Anderson likewise for fifteen minutes in the early 90s, but the other options have always had better PR.

It feels like that has turned over the last two or three years.

Organisations that gave us lip service at best are starting to give repeated nods.  In part because the internet has been day by day breaking down isolation and giving voice – if not always constructively – to more and more bi people both around the world and here in the UK. The bold lonely voices that challenged bisexual erasure on the part of groups like Unison or Stonewall in the 90s look far less lonely when their complaints get retweeted, retumbled and suchlike by many more people today.

Another factor: the evidence changed. The Bisexuality Report was a turning point in putting the information together in one place, but time after time research has shown the differences between bi and gay life experiences. That has debunked a peculiar idea which was popular when I was new to the queer scene, that biphobia was a kind of “homophobia lite”, and the closet was an empowering place for bisexuals despite being a harmful place for lesbians and gay men.

Third, we have coalesced around the pink, purple and blue bi flag. A flick through old bi propaganda from local groups or BiCons (every year with its own specially invented logo) shows an inconsistency in the “secret signal”, which made it harder for people to join our gang. Now – we don’t care what it is, so long as it’s in those three colours.

Between all that and the economic downturn providing a financial imperative, whether thanks to a growing group of bi people to market your goods to, or a demographic whose needs your LGBT organisation can mention in order to pull in funding – for once, bisexuality does seem to be remarkably “now”.

Yet there’s a lack of recognition of what came before – for example from Stonewall’s Bi Visibility Day tweeting this year, you’d think they invented it and it was mostly a thing for Londoners. Diva suddenly have a bi tumblr.  And they’re not alone in having invented bisexuality in the last year or three.

It’s not universal: at my work’s LGBT network, for instance, the active bisexual engagement programme with speakers from outside and suchlike began in the 1990s. Whatever my cynicisms I can’t put that in the Johnny-come-lately category.

Yet I can’t help but think as I look at  some of those who had power, profile and influence in the past who are at last rallying to our cause, albeit still without the fervour that they approach LG&T: where the hell were you all that time?

Jen Yockney
Jen blogs here