This weekend I was invited to take part in the 2x panel discussions about bisexuality at EuroPride in Oslo.

Of seven panellists, three were bisexual people.

The remainder included representatives of LGBT organisations with the usual generalised remit to support bisexual people as part of LGBT. One of these admitted that they didn't do enough to engage with bisexuals and said they would commit to actively seeking out bisexual engagement in the future.

The rest were rather non-plussed as to why they didn't meet bi people, the stand-out star being the university professor who presented a slideshow entitled "The Invisible Bisexuals" based on the fact that in 30+ years of being an LGBT counsellor she had never (as far as she knew) met an out bisexual person.

Not that after 30 years she decided she was doing something wrong and went out and educated herself or sought out the bisexual community. No. If we're not wearing bisexual pride t-shirts it's our own fault if no-one thinks we might be here.

I am unbelievably tired of this crap.

I am tired of LG(T) organisations adding the B and then sitting back and thinking it's the bi community's duty to engage them, rather than seeking us out and asking us our priorities.

I am tired of LGBT charities that fight homophobia and transphobia and that's the whole list isn't it?

I am tired of "but when we say gay we mean gay and bisexual, so other than this sentence we'll never say bisexual".

I am tired of "gay and bisexual means we cover bisexuals. We'd never need to say 'bisexual' or 'straight and bisexual' because we're only interested in the gay issues facing bi people"

I am tired of hearing that biphobia (if it's acknowledged at all) is an entity entirely contained within homophobia.

I am tired of institutional biphobia.

And I wish I was more surprised that this is still going on.

Bisexuals are not invisible. We are erased. Invisibility is an active effort - making oneself hide or taking on a disguise. We aren't doing that. We're being deleted.

But what can be done about it? I'm not sure the solution is just to encourage more and more people to be visible - as this just reinforces the idea that the visible bisexuals are the only bisexuals, and that bisexuals are a tiny minority that exists within the LGBT community. There's a role for visibility increases, sure, but it reminds me of the way that sharing photos of starving children on Facebook may well raise awareness, but doesn't cook anyone a tasty and life-saving dinner.

It's not enough to be seen in the crowd. We have to be on the platform, in the boardroom, among the patrons.

And although I wish it wasn't up to us to shoulder our way in, history shows us that these structures will generally not suddenly realise their oversight. We shouldn't have to, but I've realised if we don't they won't.

Nonmonosexuality

Recently I was up in Sheffield delivering some bisexuality awareness training at the university there. I tried out a new exercise I'd only just thought up.

One of the problems with explaining bisexuality to people who aren't bisexual is that to a bisexual person their sexuality most likely seems simple and uncomplicated, and the reasons why it is confusing to others don't seem to make sense. I'd started to think that maybe bisexuality isn't about who you're attracted to, so much as heterosexuality and homosexuality are about who you are not attracted to.

I divided the page of the flipchart into two columns, one topped with a tick and one with a cross. What things, I asked, turned people on or off about others? Not you personally, of course - that'd be awfully intrusive, but what things in general, or what things your friends have told you that they (and of course not you) find positive and negative about others.

I started the chart off with a few suggestions, like "good teeth" and "snoring" and as the columns filled some things went in both columns, like "arrogance" and "sense of humour". When we got to the bottom of the sheet I turned to the room, and asked if they could tell me what was missing?

Blank looks.

What, I said with a grin, given the subject of this session and the undoubtedly ulterior motives I have for asking the question of what goes in which column, might be missing?

I could see a couple of people's eyes widen and heads tilt, but no-one would say it aloud. So I wrote "gender" on the sheet, at the bottom.

In the "negatives" column.

Isn't it interesting, I said slowly, that in a room of mostly gay and straight people, no-one has said that a person's gender is a reason they wouldn't fancy them?

Someone protested. I was being unfair, after all I'd asked for qualities or attributes about people that others might find attractive or not attractive and gender wasn't one of those it was um, er, ah, oh....

I thanked them and said, yes exactly! Gender, to people who are only attracted to one, is such a big turn off that it's hard to spot. It's too close to the observer and so it's like it's out of focus. By the time you find out that Lee is into football and tickling and martinis it's too late - the fact that within seconds of meeting Lee your brain categorised them as male means they were out of the running. This is why society finds androgyny a threat - some people don't want to start fancying the lead singer of Hansen and then only later find out he's not female. Slipping past the big exclusion startles people.

A straight guy, or a lesbian woman wouldn't find all women attractive. A gay guy or a straight woman wouldn't find all men attractive. Of course not - they'll all have some things that turn them on and other things they don't care about. But having a gender turn-off is perhaps what makes them not bisexual. Bisexuality isn't about what we find attractive, because that's going to be different with every bisexual person (and sometimes will be based on preferences around anatomy or gender presentation, sure) but perhaps it is about not having a blanket turn-off based on the big two genders.

Bisexuals don't find everyone attractive. Have you met everyone? They're just not that attractive! But although you see Chloe leaving her girlfriend for a man, she sees herself as going from one person who shares her interests to another, possibly another who isn't cheating on her.

Heads were nodding and clues were being taken in, and the rest of the session went very well, especially when they realised that I really did mean it about answering absolutely any questions. I got to recount my coming-out-to-my-parents story (recently reprised for the recording of a show on Radio 4) and other useful anecdotes. It's handy not to need to preface with "some people have said that when they..." because a lot of it has happened to me personally.

Sheffield was a lot of train travel for only a short workshop in terms of time, but I think we all learned a valuable lesson. They got clued up about bisexuality and I found another way to rearrange the explanation to help people get it, and came home feeling very rewarded by the smiles, thank yous and eurekas.

Even if we wanted to (and I don't personally), I think it's too late to rename our sexuality. But I'm definitely going to re-use this exercise, and I heartily recommend it if you find yourself struggling to explain just how amazingly simple bisexuality really is.

Friends, Let's Get Better Together?

On Wednesday I was at the "Speaker's/Signer's Corner" event organised by Kairos. I'd not heard of the event before they invited me to speak there, and very much enjoyed the evening. The format is that there are presentations followed by discussions around the tables, a sort of cross between the usual set of speeches form and a workshop model. Everyone seemed to be very positive and interested in what I had to say and it was interesting to go on only second and then listen to the subsequent presenters fall into some of the traps I'd hope I was pointing out. Here's what I said...Collapse )

Arimaa

A couple of weeks ago (or was it sooner - ah: link) XKCD did a comic about the likelihood of computers beating humans at various games, noting the dates computers first beat human chess champions (and the last time human chess champions beat computer ones) and concluding that Calvinball was pretty safe from AI conquest for a while.

I recognised most of the games mentioned, apart from Mao and Arimaa. So I looked those up. Mao is the sort of game you need your social circle to grow up with, I think, as it's a secret rules game that relies on everyone apart from their victim being in on the joke (like Mornington Crescent if played maliciously). Arimaa though sounded like fun. Read more...Collapse )

I'm enjoying playing it a lot. I'm going to have a go at teaching it to Holly next.

Tags:

Good

Some time ago I made a post about the afterlife, and what I was expecting as an atheist. That post is here and the poem (sorry, but was feeling moved) is here.

This is a continuation of that theme.

I don't believe in God, though I believe God exists.Read more...Collapse )

A Tale Of Three Cities. Made Of Cola.

On the train into work, I asked my wife suddenly "What's the third cola?"

I explained that I was trying to come up with an analogy for bisexual invisibility. Some people assume everyone they see is straight, unless they look gay. Others would look around the carriage and think "Straight, gay, straight straight, gay, gay, god knows". But few people look at a stranger and when they think "Straight" or "Gay" actually mentally add "or bisexual", especially not to both cases.

It's like Coke and Pepsi, I said. The big two are so well marketed that everyone assumes there isn't a third.

She pulled a face then. "Don't use that as an analogy for bisexuality! Other colas are disgusting - no-one likes them! You thinking of supermarket colas, right? Weird stuff."

I laughed and suggested Tab. Coke and Pepsi are so popular that people forget there are other brand names, that have followings, have fans, thousands and thousands of them.

But this is the thing - people forget to list them. Worse, it doesn't occur to them that it's a list, or that the list can be longer than two. If it's not Coke, it's Pepsi, and if it's not Pepsi it's Coke. It's the same with sexuality - people aren't forgetting the third (and fourth and so on) from the list because they've been brought up to not think of it as a list. It's a pair. It's one or the other.

Brokeback Mountain Dew?

Female partners are ignored if a man has a male lover. If a prominent politician is suspected of having a same-sex affair, the question "Is he gay" is deflected with "He and his wife have always seemed a perfectly happy couple." It's not that people are deliberately not asking "Is he bisexual?" - the question doesn't occur to them at all. You'd rather have Dr. Pepper?

Media tropes feed into this - 'the gay man who gets married in order to hide his sexuality'. It's like changing the label on the cola - it's still one of the two.

Much later, still wondering if it'd make a good analogy, I looked up online the cola wars. Turns out the big two are actually now Coke and Diet Coke. Pepsi is the third cola.

But I think I'd shy away from suggesting the big two sexualities were Straight and Diet-Straight, or even Gay and Diet-Gay.

So maybe I won't make a soda analogy, I'll just post about how I'm not going to.
This might be a bit of a long shot but here goes. Several months ago I accepted an (unpaid) speaking engagement in Cambridge on October 27th. It's 15 minutes to the Freshers, and my plan was/is basically 'how to support bisexual friends, how not to fall into common pitfall myths about bisexuals, how to find the UK bi scene if you want to find it'. Basically to run through the Bisexual Index FAQ, with emphasis on the non-compulsory nature of it all.

So far sounds like my kind of thing, doesn't it? But I've run into a problem. There's a meeting about bisexuality with an arm of the UK Government that would also like my attendance that afternoon. Due to the scheduling problems of getting civil servants and bisexual activists in the same room at the same time, the only time/date everyone else can make is 3pm on that same day.

I can't do both. Cambridge want A Bisexual Speaker, whereas the gov. meeting wants Marcus Morgan.

So - can anyone step in for the talk in Cambridge? (I'm not prepared to cancel on them unless someone can go in my stead)

ETA: Volunteer found, thank you all!
Following on from my previous post, the nominations were counted and voting is now underway for the Homo Heroes [here].

I'm stunned I made it through, though note with some amusement I'm up against Sir Ian McKellern. I doubt I'll win that fight!

Other bi nominations that made it through include Natalya Dell from the BiCon 2011 team, Jen Yockney (editor of Bi Community News) and Bi Community News.

Please do go vote!

Harry Potter

I quite enjoyed the final film, but it got me wondering which House I'd be in.

Poll #1772304 Sort me (out)

If Marcus went to Hogwarts, the hat would put him in

Huffleclaw
3(11.1%)
Slytherdor
2(7.4%)
Griffinpuff
0(0.0%)
Ravenin
1(3.7%)
Puffleclaw
1(3.7%)
Ditherin
3(11.1%)
Ravendoor
0(0.0%)
Griffinspoor
0(0.0%)
Slytheytove
17(63.0%)