That was 2017
The chimes of Big Ben may come as a surprise (after months of silence during refurbishment work they are being turned back on specially) but the year is nearly at an end. What were the bi stories of 2017?
It was good news for older queers in January as historic offences were granted automatic pardon where laws used to unjustly treat gay and bi people less fairly. The Post Office tried to win our affection with David Bowie stamps. Getting in there ahead of the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland saw a snap election called for March – that election led to a stalemate caused by the DUP, and the Stormont Assembly would meet for the rest of 2017.
February may be the month of Valentine’s Day but there was no love from the Court of Appeal who rejected a bid to open up civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples. We wondered whether bis would want to retire to LGBT “old folks’ homes” , and American TV show the Real O’Neals got in a pickle over biphobia. LGBT History Month in the UK didn’t have much bi on its agenda, but Bisexual History Project did its best to counter that. A smattering of LGBT history events with bi focus included Tom Robinson speaking in Leicester and bi MBE Jen Yockney in Manchester. Abroad, actor Evan Rachel Wood blew us all away with her speech receiving the HRC Visibility Award. Also in the US, President Trump’s plan to strip away LGBT rights was leaked.
March saw the government announced all secondary schools in England would have to teach about sex and relationships – but would it cover bisexuality? Google got in trouble about blocking LGBT content on Youtube, and the National AIDS Trust published stark figures on cuts to HIV support provision. The creator of the rainbow flag died at the end of the month.
A former bi icon fell in April as onetime bi online hub LiveJournal updated its user terms and conditions to fall into line with Russian law. Given the state of LGBT rights and liberty in Russia, much of the remaining queer groups on LJ shut up shop in response; many are now on Dreamwidth. In Scotland the NHS approved use of PrEP to reduce the rate of new HIV infections. The European Parliament condemned acts of torture on bi and gay men in Chechnya, and new research showed that younger people in the USA are far more likely to have bi friends than their older compatriots..
June brought a snap General Election in the UK and another hung parliament at Westminster – the second in seven years. Again the DUP managed to delay the formation of a government, though not for the many months they’ve managed at Stormont. The two out-bi MPs from the 2015-17 parliament held their seats on June 8th, and while the tally of LGBT MPs rose, the increase was amongst the Ls and Gs: there were no new out bi MPs. Similarly the first openly transgender candidate ever to have been put forward in a winnable Westminster seat for their party, Helen Belcher, was unsuccessful. Abroad we saw only the fourth and fifth openly-LGBT prime ministers of modern times take office, respectively as leaders of Ireland and Serbia.
Although there were probably more bi groups at Prides across the country this year than ever before, no bi group registered in time to appear among the 350 entries in the London LGBT Pride parade, one of many factors prompting a call for a review of the event by its Community Advisory Board.
In July UK Prime Minister Theresa May talked at a Downing Street reception about homophobia and transphobia (but not biphobia) and how her own attitudes had changed. Malta followed Germany in legislating for same-sex marriage. For marriages here in the UK, the Supreme Court declared the current pension discrimination against same-sex couples could not stand. Over on the BBC, Owen’s Story explored coming out as a bi teenager.
In August big annual bi bash BiCon returned to Leeds – next time it’s in Salford. London’s bi meetup group celebrated their first ten years (a few months ahead of Birmingham bi group doing the same), and the Crown Prosecution Service started talking seriously about biphobia.
September is the month of Bi Visibility Day though this time there was no celebration of the date at the White House (though many of us were probably grateful for that this time). A worldwide bi visibility tweet reached around 4 million readers. Stonewall launched bi visibility posters while Manchester’s BiPhoria draped a bi banner across Canal Street. A huge range of activities marked the date across the UK and in 35 countries.
October gave us the frustration of yet another bi representation on screen that is canon according to the people behind the show but unseen on screen, as Valkyrie in the film Thor was declared to be bi. In our frustration, we asked whether My Little Pony is the only place you can be visibly bi without being a love-rat.
November saw a surge in LGBT representation in elections in the USA, while here in the UK the restrictions on blood donations by bi and gay men and their female partners were relaxed, as had been signalled in the summer. The strange anomaly that had seen a longer ban on female partners donating was removed at the same time.
It was also the month of a short but furious battle with social media site Twitter, which had blocked bisexual searches on images and video.
And in December the UK government declared that if people are daft enough to think they can be cured of being bi or gay they are free to spend their money on such therapy, prompting debate about whether such services being available gives licence to biphobia and homophobia. Birmingham announced 2018’s Bi Camp, while Austria and Australia made their moves to join the same-sex marriage club – now 25 nations strong. We celebrated 19 years of the bisexual flag. Over in the USA, Brooklyn Nine Nine had a brilliant pair of bi coming-out episodes: sadly that’s six seasons down the pipeline from being on E4 over here, but we did get an Emmerdale hour-long Christmas special all about bi character.