BiCon & Prides

We caught up with Andre from Wolverhampton, Android fanboy, sex educator (amateur class), sometime local bi group organiser – and the bi rep to a national conference on LGBT Prides.

Hello Andre!  So what’s this Prides conference all about?
Hi there. It was a kind of Prides networking event in Manchester – which I came to be involved in through BiCon volunteering.  It all started at last year’s BiCon when I volunteered for the 2017 team. Since then I’ve had to drop out but even so I was asked if I would represent BiCons at this conference.

So who else was there?  
The big prides – Manchester, London, Leeds, but also a lot of small ones like Cumbria all sorts – plus regional prides and a delegation from trans pride event Sparkle as well as myself for BiCon.
The idea of the day was to have all the big and small Prides getting together to share ideas and discuss the future of Prides as well – where we are going. I was kind of the token bisexual.
In this age of austerity a lot of Prides have lost some of their funding from local authorities, and so more so can be competing against other prides for sponsorship. So for instance Birmingham might sign up a corporate sponsor to make up for loss of council funding, but then that might mean its harder for say Walsall or Wolverhampton.  So part was building connections and part trying not to do harm to each other and find access to funds.
Also we talked about what Pride is, a protest, a celebration, a bit of both, about visibility or what.
And trying to put the B into LGBTQ as well.
It was a good opportunity to share ideas about where we can go for funding. For example I didn’t know, you can actually ask the European Union for funding, it’s knowing where to look. Also networking on things like sharing resources and equipment, rather than separate prides all owning their own PA equipment for instance.  One company or one lot of travelling stuff could help keep the costs down.

Can the wider bi scene take anything from it?
I was involved with the Wolverhampton bi group and maybe bi groups can learn from that collective buying kind of thing too.
Two things I raised – the first bisexuality obviously but the other was people of colour and different faith groups, because a lot of Prides are organised by a small group of people, often white gay people, and people – bi, people of colour, the trans community – can feel forgotten.  In some areas that’s not reflecting the local queer population which is more diverse, and how to get that in there, in the marketing, and in who shows up.  It’s not like I want quotas but bearing in mind the queer community is more diverse than the organising team.
For me as a black person who is queer, it’s a challenge – I often say I’m a minority in a minority in a minority. It can be quite scary, like the only black person in the village. Often people don’t want to be the pioneer, the first person who will get more trouble. But I know, I don’t want to have the responsibility on my shoulders as a person of colour to be the mouthpiece for the whole bi community but I think it’s important to speak out, to say we exist and we have needs and desires too.

Did you get to teach as well as learn through the course of the day?  
Yes – I was surprised how receptive different pride organisers were to bisexuality. I gave a bit of a speech in the Q&A session about the importance of bisexuals in LGBT pride. I gave my two cents about the use of gay as an overarching label for pride – calling it “gay pride” and because of that it being read as gay men or gay men and lesbians.  It’s all about interpretation but I think it’s important to say that we’re welcome at Pride.
I think it’s important to realise other things within the LGBT the BT is still a bit of an afterthought, in planning stages and at pride. Its important they know we exist and in fairness that it’s not easy as the bi community can be very underground. I appreciate not every pride can guarantee representation from every corner and nor should it do or most pride events would never happen. But they need to know we exist and I found they were very receptive to that.

One thing you mentioned – the range of Prides from Carlisle to London. Were there areas we can learn from them for BiCon in its role as almost Bisexual Pride.
Its interesting, BiCon is a conference, a dedicated group in a dedicated space. Whereas Prides tend to be more public, even if in community centres and pubs.
Should, could, BiCon have a parade in a host city or reach out to local media and do things beyond the campus where its based?  I think the visibility is important bit. But how we would do it I don’t know.  It would be good if the host city, the community or queer community there were reached out to and to know that it was happening.  BiCon is here, in your town.

Where does it go from here?
There’s another such event coming up soon to progress the ideas from the first one but the problem is that some prides are constituted, some aren’t, organisers come and go.
I think it’d be useful to have some continuity at our end, to keep being involved with this pride networking event if it keeps going so we are there to keep pressing.  It might have costs but one or two people being there year after year.
Its a tough one, a bit of a chicken and egg paradox for the bi community – until more of us are open and visible its hard for Pride to reach and engage us or to have the impetus to feel they have to.  It’s a bit like, growing up I didn’t see many black queer people growing up, so I assumed they don’t exist.  To get more people out and confident you needed more people out and confident.
So it could be from the Pride end, the pride organisers working to get them on board. But it will be hard work.  It may be a challenge, but I see so many young people at prides – with bisexual and pansexual flags – things are changing for the better.
But there is biphobia, and people in committed relationships, for example in what to the outside looks like a gay couple, where maybe a bi partner is pressured not to connect with bi groups or be openly bi.

Thanks so much. Keep pressing them for us!