Down Your Way: Steel City Bis
It is a sad fact of life that the B in LGBTQ+ is chronically under-represented in the community. Finding Bisexual/Pansexual plus focused groups is a rarity, especially outside of London and other large cities.
Here in Sheffield we had a small social group that for years was organised through an email list. Sadly, when the key motivator moved away, the group fell into decline. Several members – such as F, G and myself – tried to keep the spirit alive, we migrated to Facebook and tried to keep things ticking along, but still we were losing the fight.
Then a lightning bolt hit in the form of Amber, who has a passion and motivation that I have seldom seen. In the past eighteen months or so she has worked tirelessly and we have gone from a group that met seemingly when the planets all aligned, and even then never in the same location, to one that is meeting regularly, at least once a month and in a fixed venue. We continue to expand, both with member numbers and meetings (so much that we may need a new venue!) and we now hold semi-regular special events to give members the chance to socialise other than over a coffee or tea. The first two of these have been Games Days, where members bring along board games, card games and more so that we can relax and have a few blessed hours where we get to “Not Adult”, which can be a welcome reprieve in a world where pressure and stress seem like constant companions.
From fun and cute games like Sushi Go (first introduced to us by one of our members) to a new purchase of my own, Tsuro, where you guide your dragon along the path to victory, the games have brought people together over laughter (Exploding Kittens providing immense entertainment) and challenge. Between the escapism offered by these games, we still find time to discuss more serious topics, especially as some members have had encounters with biphobia and bierasure – even from prominent figures in the local LGBT community. Just because we are there to have fun does not mean such subjects are taboo. These Games Days have proven incredibly popular and we have every intention to continue to expand the choice of activities for these special events – possibilities put forward include film nights at a local cinema, attending theatre productions and many more, with suggestions from the community welcomed with open arms. This, after all, is their group – Amber and I simply manage the boring details!
Through it all though, we continue to pursue our main goal which is to increase the reach of our group. Amber has already visited local schools as part of their LGBT events to help the next generation as they struggle with understanding who they or their friends are.
Continuing from last year, we will have a presence both at Sheffield Pinknic and Sheffield Pride – we will even be marching in the parade this year. As a purely self-funded group (although we gladly accept donations at events such as Pride), our options remain limited and the representatives of both events have graciously offered us, once again, a place in the community tents.
So now we are planning exactly how we will present our group at these events – I am working on remaking something I first created five or six years ago for the group when it had a Pride stall, a little game of “guess the celebrity sexuality”, which has images of celebrities and their sexuality on the back. The idea is to demonstrate just how easily people overlook and ignore our community, to create an opening for discussion – as I’m sure anyone reading this knows, many perceive Alan Cumming as gay because he is married to a man, but he’s actually bisexual. Of course, we will shake it up and throw in non-Bisexual+ people too – don’t want to make it too obvious!
Last year we ran a competition to name the mascot we take to meetings: Amber found a stuffed Bison, who is now known as Biyoncé. The choice of a mascot and not little flags was deliberate – we use it to identify the group without the risk of outing people who don’t wish it.
After years of seemingly sliding into obscurity, the Bisexual/Pansexual plus community in Sheffield and the surrounding area is finally making a return. It’s slow going, but honestly I think that’s better, if we expanded too fast I think as organisers we would become overwhelmed. But the future for the Bi+ community here in the Steel City is looking promising.
If you are in the area, find us on Facebook (Sheffield Bisexual/Pansexual Social Group), Twitter (@SheffieldBiSoc) or email the admins (email@example.com) and join us for a coffee!
Check the Resources page of the BCN website for our A-Z guide if you are thinking of getting a group up and running in your area.