Booming in Southampton: BiWessex

It’s been 7 years since BiWessex last made it into BCN so I thought it was high time for a much-needed update! In October 2010, Aimee wrote an article entitled ‘how I accidentally started a local bi group,’ which you can still access in the BCN online archives. Her article explains how BiWessex first began from informal meetings in a pub in Winchester and how, subsequently, the group has continued to grow.

When Kevin, the last coordinator of BiWessex, left Hampshire, I was asked if I would take over the running of the group since I was the most regular attender of BiWessex at the time. I agreed and have been organising meetups since April 2016. Around that time, up to 8 people were turning up to socials, but attendance was quite sporadic and there was one occasion when nobody turned up at all and I ended up looking like I’d been stood up!

In August 2016, Southampton had its first Pride for 10 years and so I promoted this event to those on the mailing list. Pride seemed to bring back enthusiasm to LGBT+ groups across the city, and so I decided to ‘relaunch’ BiWessex in September 2016 with an event focussed on BiVisibility Day. I was pleasantly surprised when around 25 people came along, and since then, meetups have generally been once every 4 – 6 weeks. Now, usually about 10 – 20 people attend each time. Meetups have included informal drinks in cafes, bars and restaurants, meals out, a karaoke evening and a picnic.

Interest grew so much that we had a stall at Southampton Pride this year to raise awareness of bisexuality and to gain more momentum for the group. Prior to the event, we had a sign-making social.

On the stall, we had bi-specific resources from Bi UK, BiPhoria, Bi Community News and Stonewall as well as general LGBT books, cards and postcards from October Books, an independent co-operative bookshop in Southampton. Some Pride-goers voiced their excitement to see a stall at Pride that was specifically bi, as it was the only one. We encouraged everyone who came to the stand to participate in the #StillBisexual campaign by taking a selfie with the sign that I had prepared and tweeting it. A group of ‘BiWessexuals’ took part in the Parade on the day, which was a very positive experience.

I have connections with other local LGBT groups and this means that I have been able to network with them and promote other local events to BiWessex subscribers too; for example – Reclaim the Night, World AIDS Day, IDAHOBIT, LGBT History Month, other Hampshire-based Prides and Stonewall events. I have also been able to circulate requests to participate in LGBTQIA+ research to ensure that bi voices are included and heard.

Regular BiWessex attendees commented:
‘I feel like the people at BiWessex understand and accept me much more than other LGBT groups. I don’t feel like a fraud for being bi or in straight relationships. The group is laid-back and inclusive and its members very quickly became valued friends.’
‘Great great group and definitely a warm and welcoming place where we all understand what it is to be bi and know there is support. Meet ups are always fun and something I look forward to hugely!!’
‘Warm, welcoming and open minded. A solace for anyone Bi and seeking others who understand. On a lighter note there is also lots of fun to be had :)’
‘Much needed source of community support for Bi+ people! Fun and friendly meet ups.’
BiWessex now has 85 subscribers on its mailing list, 130 likes on Facebook and 987 followers on Twitter. Our next event is a quiz for BiVisibility Day 2017.
Jayne

How to contact BiWessex:
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BiWessex
Twitter: www.twitter.com/biwessex