Bicon: The Next Generation

This originally appeared in BCN issue 102.

Thoughts on bringing your teen to Bicon by Darelle K Bunny

You may have heard of ‘bring your daughter to work day’ …well, 2010 will be, for me, ‘Bring your Teenager to Bicon year’.
As the UK Bi Community continues to grow and mature, more and more people are asking very pertinent questions about accessibility for bi parents. The practicalities of bringing children to established events such as Bicon are frequently discussed and we have also seen the advent of more events specifically designed to be family friendly, such as this year’s highly successful Big Bi Fun Day.
Much of this debate centres around the need for crèche facilities, family friendly accommodation, early finish times, outdoor play space and the like. But what about those of us who started our childbearing a decade and a half ago? What are our parenting needs? The needs of my fifteen year old at an event may not be any more or less difficult to accommodate than those of my nearly 5 year old – either for organisers or for myself – they are merely different. I know I can’t be the first one to realise that the idea of bringing your teen to Bicon raises some interesting questions, but I’m the only one I know of. So, in the absence of other bi parents of teenagers to talk to (there are precious few other parents of teenagers in my social circle at all) I’ve taken the step of foisting my worries on the BCN readership instead.
The easy answer would seem to be that this doesn’t constitute an access need at all. The child is 15 … just don’t bring him, surely? OK, that’s fine in principle, although still not possible if there’s no-one else to take care of him that weekend. Leaving a teenager for 4 nights is not wise, given the possibility of wild parties (for him not me, although he might just tell me off for it yet!) even if it weren’t for the fact that he still needs supervision of other types. This is even more true with teens who have any kind of need for special care.
It is more pertinent than that though. This particular teenager identifies as bisexual himself and so he has a desire to experience Bicon (albeit less the 18+ panels or the bar) prior to attending in his own right in the 16-18 age bracket next year. Perhaps he has an unfair advantage in this, having a parent who is supportive, informed and involved enough to even know of the existence of Bicon, let alone be prepared to bring him (and buy him a Bisexual Index T-shirt but not, to his disappointment, New Rock boots). I know I’ve had to tell his girlfriend that I can’t take her without parental consent, which sadly is very unlikely to be forthcoming. But yes, I would like him to have access to a community, my community, which I didn’t have at that age, or actually for over a decade afterwards.
Despite the fact that he doesn’t need a crèche, the possibility of bringing him does raise some of the same questions as it does for parents of younger children: Where will we stay? What will he do if/when I’m in the bar or in an 18+ workshop? Will there be anyone else there for him to hang out with? Do I have other family going who can share the care? But the question that always comes up in these discussions and one that I feel is more of an issue for parents of teenagers than those with tiny tots, is the issue of whether we want to divide our attention between parenting and socialising in such a sexualised atmosphere, and one where we only get to be, and to express ourselves, once a year. This inevitably leads to the question of whether we want our children to witness the more flirtatious behaviour and sexualised dress sense of other attendees.
For this year I’ve compromised and will be bringing him for the last day and night of the weekend. In terms of my teen himself, he’ll hopefully have a con badge that clearly shows him to be under age and, being as he doesn’t necessarily look underage, there are always the red ‘not available’ stickers (lots of them). However, there still remains the question of whether my Bicon experience will be marred by having to be in ‘mummy mode’. Almost certainly I will have to modify my wardrobe. Mummy in a corset when you’re a baby or toddler isn’t an issue past possible breast feeding access. Mummy in a corset when you’re 15 can equal terminal embarrassment and possible social death. That’s why on Sunday night you’ll be seeing a far more muted outfit than during the rest of the weekend.
Of course, when you’re fifteen, most things constitute terminal embarrassment and social death! Probably up to and including having a parent writing a piece for BCN.  Wish us both luck!