Rewind: Bisexuality, 1996
One of the joys of BCN having been publishing for quite so long is that we can dig into the archives and see what bis were talking about back in the day.
Twenty years ago
Back in 1996 a bill to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was proposed. It fell but eventually became law a decade later. In the House of Lords debate, Lord Monson declared there was no such thing as a bi person:
‘I questioned whether genuine bisexual orientation existed. 100% homosexuals who are unable to have relations with the opposite sex fall into a different category. One has to feel sorry for them.’
‘Bisexuality is a matter of choice, of taste. The Sunday Telegraph described a left-wing university in California where bisexual experimentation was almost compulsory as a result of peer pressure.’
At which point I like to think a nation of BCN readers cursed applying to the wrong university.
‘The cynical bisexual sensualist to be found in the novels of Simon Raven. Few such characters exist in real life. The Ancient Greeks had a word for it, hedonism.’
‘In a free society people have a right to be self-indulgent if they choose, but in return they should not expect the law to force other people to welcome them with open arms. If, and only if, medical evidence can be produced to demonstrate that bisexuals cannot help their behaviour then I might be prepared to change my mind, but not otherwise.’
He went on to declare that
‘The fact that James I had relations with men and women does not show that he was bisexual. It shows that he was self-indulgent, spoilt and hedonistic, and could get away with it by being King.’
If he didn’t fancy people of several genders then it’s a bit of a mystery why he would use his Kingly authority to have sex with people he didn’t find appealing.
London’s main Pride festival had just rebranded itself from “lesbian & gay” to “lesbian, gay, bi and trans”. Jo Eadie wrote wondering if bisexuals pressing to be part of a gay event reflected the average bi’s desires or just those of an activist fringe: “many of us feel a deep affinity to the lesbian and gay community […] but for many – or even most – bisexuals, it never has been a home”
Back in ‘96 the project Bisexual Action on Sexual Health, or BASH, was drawing to a close. It was a rare bi organisation with funding and a paid worker: there was a heated debate about whether it had used its funding to best effect, and whether the recruitment process should favour bisexual candidates over non-bi applicants. With no legislation in place to prevent employers discriminating against gay or bi people, there was equally no legal reason back then why you couldn’t discriminate against anyone gay, straight or asexual.
London Bi Group’s bisexuals-in-the-gay-press debate drew speakers from the Pink Paper, BBC and Channel 4. One panelist from the Pink Paper argued the problem was the lack of content from bisexual sources:
“I have press releases an inch thick this week – none of them are bisexual stories. We cannot report on events we don’t know about.”
It was a remarkable event to have made happen, probably only possible in London given the media’s geographic bias. Afterwards though attendees seemed unconvinced: one of the quotes picked out by BCN at the time observed, “I was amazed that they came along – that was very positive. I’ll be even more amazed if anything changes because of it.”
Well, we did start appearing in the gay press, but it took quite a while.