Pink Therapy: Beyond Gay and Straight

On March 12th 2016 the UK LGBTQ+ therapy organisation Pink Therapy ran a conference on working with bisexual people. You can read summaries of the conference here and here, and view all of the talks on the Pink Therapy YouTube channel for the conference.

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2nd Call for Papers: EuroBiReCon Amsterdam 28 July 2016

First European Bisexual Research Conference (EuroBiReCon): Bisexuality and (Inter)National Research Frontiers

28 July 2016, University of Amsterdam

EuroBiReCon is a conference for anyone with an interest in contributing to, or finding out about, current work on bisexuality. The conference aims to bring together academics, professionals, activists, and bisexual communities. It builds on BiReCons held in the UK every two years organised by BiUK (see the BiUK website for information about past BiReCons). This year it will take place on Thursday 28 July 2016 at the University of Amsterdam* which will be followed by a three day community organised event (www.eurobicon.org).

Keynote Speakers

Prof. Surya Monro‘s (University of Huddersfield) book Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories is published in the summer of 2015. She has also written multiple books on sexual diversity including Gender politics: Activism, Citizenship and Sexual Diversity (2005) and Sexuality, Equality and Diversity (2012 with Diana Richardson).

Dr Alex Iantaffi (University of Minnesota) is editor-in-chief of Sexual and Relationship Therapy. Alex has written multiple articles on bisexual identities, sexual-explicit media use of MSM and bisexuals and (white) privilege.

What are we looking for?

We welcome papers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines including social sciences, health sciences, arts and humanities, therapeutic practitioners, activists and others. We encourage contributions from postgraduate students, early career academics and more senior academics from Europe and beyond.

We invite papers and workshop sessions that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Bisexuality, wellbeing and health (including mental health and sexual health).
  • The implications of bisexual identities and labels.
  • Bisexuality, space and communities.
  • Bisexual people’s access to, and experiences of,health and other services.
  • Inclusion and erasure of bisexual people in politics and activism.
  • Representations of bisexuality in media, culture, and literature.
  • Intersections with other aspects of experience such as physical disability, age, race/ethnicity, nationality, gender (both trans- and cis-gender), sexual practices, religion, education and social class.
  • Bisexuality and relationship styles (e.g. monogamies, polyamory, swinging, open couples and non-monogamies).
  • The role of technologies in bisexuality and forming bisexual spaces and communities
  • Methods for researching bisexuality
  • Public engagement in bisexuality research.

During the day there will be opportunities to:

  • Find out about issues affecting bisexual people
  • Hear from experts about cutting-edge research on bisexuality
  • Discuss ways in which organisations can better work with, and for, bisexual people, drawing on good practice
  • Take part in workshops on specific issues

If you would like to present at EuroBiReCon, please provide a 250 word abstract and a brief biography (max. 100 words), by 26th February 2016 to Emiel Maliepaard (e.maliepaard1@gmail.com) and Dr Caroline Walters (carolinejwalters@gmail.com).

If you are interested in facilitating a workshop, roundtable, or panel discussion at BiReCon, which can include data gathering for current projects or research, then please email Emiel Maliepaard (e.maliepaard1@gmail.com) and Dr Caroline Walters (carolinejwalters@gmail.com) with a brief description of your proposed session by 22 January 2016.

Language: For logistical reasons, the conference’s common language will be English, and abstracts must be submitted in English. If you wish, you can send us your abstract in another language, provided that you also submit it in English. It is highly recommended that presentations during the conference are in English. However, we are exploring possibilities to use translators to provide space to people who would like to present in their mother tongue.

Funding: EuroBiCon and EuroBiReCon are community organisations so unfortunately there are no funds for presenters or travel expenses. However, EuroBiReCon will provide an excellent opportunity to network with others working in the field, to share good practice, and there will be spaces available to conduct research which fits within the ethos of the event.

* Conference venue: Oudemanhuispoort 4-6 (in between Spui and Waterlooplein in the historical centre of Amsterdam).

Book launch – Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories – 29 January 2016

BOOK LAUNCH: Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories

Author Surya Monro (University of Huddersfield and BiUK)

Discussants
Christian Klesse (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Milena Popova (Bisexual activist and academic)

Matthew Waites (Glasgow University)
Angelia Wilson (Manchester University)

Friday 29 January 2016, 7.30-9.00

LGBT Foundation
5 Richmond Street
Manchester M1 3HF
Map via http://lgbt.foundation/About-us/Contact-us/

To book a place please contact a.holmes@hud.ac.uk (places are limited)

About Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories:
Bisexuality has been largely erased from studies of sexuality and gender, and people who desire others of more than one gender often remain invisible. This book sets a new agenda for considering sexualities and genders, by focusing on the lives of people who are bisexual or who have other identities that are not heterosexual, lesbian or gay, in an international context. What are bisexual people’s lived experiences? How can these be understood using social and political theories? What are the implications of bisexuality for future theorising and research? In addressing these and other questions, this book maps out under-explored territory. It does so by looking at topical themes, including sex and relationships, community, the commodification of bisexuality, and activism. The book also shows how understandings of bisexuality can usefully inform the social sciences in areas such as identity construction, social inequalities, postcolonial relations, and citizenship.

This is a must-read book for anyone in the field of sexuality. Not only is it the first academic book for years to deal with the woefully invisible topic of bisexuality, but it is also of much broader appeal given that it synthesises and integrates sexuality theories and research in a way that is both sophisticated and engaging. The global perspective of the book also sets it apart, and will provide a strong foundation for future scholarship and activism in this area to build on.

– Meg John Barker, The Open University and BiUK, United Kingdom

 

LGBT history in the making: Stonewall bisexuality consultation

On Saturday 7th February several members of BiUK attended a historic event: the first consultation between Stonewall UK and bisexual communities. The day went very well and we were left very hopeful about possibilities for working together more closely in the future.

Marcus Morgan, from The Bisexual Index, has written a great summary of the day here.

Bisexuality Talks at EuroPride 2014

Last weekend (20th to 22nd June) was the beginning of EuroPride 2014 that was being held in Oslo, Norway. Alongside the usual parties, parades and merriment, they organised a series of talks that they were holding at Pride House to discuss a range of issues relating to LGBT communities. A few months ago BiUK received an email inviting a member of the group to participate in two of the discussions they were organising on bisexuality. I went, as did Marcus Morgan of the Bisexual Index. We participated in two sessions called ‘Bisexuality: Make Up Your Mind’ parts one and two (though on the website they hadn’t included the word ‘bisexuality’ in the title). I was disappointed they had chosen this title since it draws on so many negative stereotypes of bisexuality that lead to it being questioned as whether or not exists. I later discovered that the name was being used ironically, though I think that people aren’t ready for that yet since general under standing on the topic is so poor.

Saturday arrived. The place seemed full of people getting busy to attend talks, chat with people and hopefully gain some new information. Our two sessions were up on the third floor in a big room that had a wall of books behind the speakers. The sessions were divided so the first was talks from four speakers (me on behalf of BiUK focusing on research, a local Norwegian academic, Marcus on bisexual activisms and a representative from a Swedish LGBT health organisation), while the second session was a panel discussion of six that included some extra speakers that are therapists and work for LGBT charities. Before the session began, I was rather chuffed as there were 55 people in the audience, which seemed promising as there were four other discussions on at the same time.

My talk focused on presenting the Bisexuality Report (Barker, Richards et al. 2012) as I thought that much of this information might be new to those in a Norwegian context. I explained the aims of the report, as outlining the experiences of bisexual people and supporting this with academic research. This enabled me to explore some of the complexities of defining bisexuality, particularly as more people might be behaviourally bisexual or feel that way without claiming the identity itself. I focused on outlining biphobia, probably introducing the word to the majority of the audience, and trying to explain the variety of ways that it can manifest including in the title of the talks. I alerted them to research indicating that bisexual people often suffer worse mental health than either lesbian or gay individuals. Then rounded off with some recommendations of ways that they could implement more inclusive practices and policies on bisexuality. I felt this was a good introduction. However I shortly discovered my comments were uncomfortable for some of the other panellists.

I fell into despair shortly after the second speaker began her talk: ‘The Invisible Bisexuals’. I will say that she was not speaking  in her native Norwegian but rather stilted English, so perhaps I should temper some of my reactions, as I’ve heard her opinions are more nuanced in Norwegian. She opened stating that she identifies as a lesbian, which has shaped her research and therapeutic practice. I wondered why she was asked to speak on the panel, though I knew that it can be a matter of limited numbers and who is available. My frustrations rose when she claimed that in her thirty years of being a practising therapist in Norway she had never met a bisexual person, or at least none of her clients had ever come out to her. This supported her argument that socially bisexuals are invisible, which can be true unless you look to the existence of bisexual communities that seemed lacking in Norway. In addition she was unsure how to discuss bisexual people because they are an excessively invisible population. She rounded off her talk with a statement addressing my talk that the term ‘biphobia’ was not helpful as instead we should think about broader social and structural issues through the term ‘heteronormativity’. I was given a chance to respond and explain that they are both useful but rather different and both much needed concepts.

When Marcus took the stage he did a point by point deconstruction of some of the hair-prickling talk we had just heard, in a speech that was infused with anger and humour. I can’t do justice to the way that he delivers his talks, and so will mention some of his key points. Bisexuals are not invisible, as he rightly indicated he is not invisible, but rather they are erased by others and society. Using the word ‘gay’ to refer to all LGBT people erases bisexuals and trans (see Meg John Barker’s blog post). This persistent and prevalent erasure of bisexual people and of biphobia probably encourages people not to identify as bisexual. Indeed bisexual people belong to both the LGBT community and to the SB (straight-bisexual) community, making it harder to neatly categorise them. Marcus’s talk managed to combine complex points yet made the audience laugh.

The final speaker was from a Swedish LGBT organisation RFSL and outlined that his his talk would focus on bisexuality, stigma and its challenges. He opened claiming that the problem with debate on bisexuality is that it often stops at questions of invisibility, which he thought arose from a binary view on sexuality and particularly gender. It seemed promising that we would learn some useful information on bisexuality in a Swedish context. However the rest of the talk was given to outlining the aims of his organisation, ways that they taught in schools and the need to deconstruct gender norms. I do agree that this is important work that needs to be pushed further, particularly at a school level, but it didn’t focus on the topic at hand which was frustrating.

On the whole this session seemed to be a mix of productive and frustrating as it was off topic, and at times biphobic. It was a shame that there was not more time for questions since there were so many people attending, though we did have the panel discussion in part two, which fortunately the other female academic did not attend. After this panel, people came up to Marcus and I thanking us for our contribution and helping them to realise there were more bisexual people.

The second panel went much better on the whole, in part as there were six discussants that limited the amount of time anyone could speak. Our chair for this session worked for the organisation LLH, who had put on the event and stated that she was so excited for this event as an out bisexual person, who had heard limited discussions on the topic within the community. Out of the six panellists only three were bisexuals, while the other three were gay men from various LGBT health organisations, and all of us were white and I was the only woman.

The discussion was varied and somewhat stilted partly as only three of us focused on bisexual issues and I promoted work done by BiUK drawing their attention to the report and research guidelines. Marcus spoke as an activist. The third from a Norwegian organisation discussed the complexity of identifying as bisexual due to the prevalence of biphobia and instead many people preferred the term queer. The three gay men spoke on behalf of the various LGBT organisations. One discussed the need to deconstruct gender norms rather than issues on bisexuality. A therapist spoke on how he had also met few bisexual people in his years of practice, and was unsure how he could address their specific needs. The third spoke from an organisation based in Norway that focused on LGBT youth and their health needs. He offered a refreshing contribution as stated that his organisation didn’t do enough or think enough about bisexual people often making jokes at bisexual identity in training when they wouldn’t about L, G or T. He found the session useful hearing about research happening elsewhere and thinking about strategies that they could implement within their organisation.

On the whole my impressions from the day were mixed. I was frustrated at having lesbians and gay men speak on behalf of bisexuals without having spoken to bisexual people (see Marcus’s write up). I had hoped to hear more about work being done on bisexuality in a Scandinavian context, though we did learn about a Norwegian LGBT report (2013) that outlined that bisexual people have worse mental health though people on the panel did not know what to do with these findings. It was frustrating to have to explain many of the basics on bisexuality and biphobia, but I’m glad that people – including the panellists – listened and asked questions. I was left cautiously optimistic.

Maybe next year we won’t be invited, as they will find more bisexual people from Norway to talk at their event enabling them to run one in Norwegian.  Maybe next year there will be a more complex and nuanced discussion on bisexuality rather than a ‘yes bisexual people do exist’. Maybe next year they can find therapists who are willing to find bisexual clients and offer them support. After the panel, several people spoke to me about wanting to improve their research in Scandinavia on the bisexuality, and hopefully having something like BiReCon there. Yes it was far from perfect, but I’m glad that we went since Marcus and I highlighted that bisexual people exist, outlined biphobia and demonstrated that research is being done. I see us being invited in the first place as a sign that they want to have the conversation on bisexuality. Now for them to find their own way.

“Bisexuality does exist, it is not a fiction, nor is it a phase”, Edward Lord’s key message to Civil Service equality conference

BiUK member Edward Lord presented a speech today at the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance conference 2013. He said…

I had the privilege of giving a keynote address to today’s Civil Service Rainbow Alliance (the national LGB&T staff network) conference at the Ministry of Defence. Also on the programme were Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Civil Service; Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions; Liz Bingham, managing Partner at EY; and Peter Tatchell.

Ed

 

I was invited to speak having been profiled last year by Stonewall as an LGB role model in its publication “Being yourself: sexual orientation and the workplace“, which gave me the starting point for my speech:

“Being an out politician can often mean acting as a role model not just within my local Council, but also in wider society: demonstrating that it is possible to be queer and play an active part in public life.

Indeed, I would argue that my sexual orientation and my understanding of the experiences of LGB&T people makes me better comprehend the diverse society in which we live and the discrimination which those from diverse backgrounds can face.

And it is on one element of discrimination, often within our own LGB&T communities, that I would like to focus my address today.

Of the seventeen Stonewall role models, I was the only one who identifies as bisexual; that is with the capacity to love people of more than one gender.

You may ask why that matters.

You may say “Don’t we all as LGB&T people suffer the same kind of discrimination in society?”

I would argue that we don’t and that there is a hierarchy where, in general, gay men, especially if they’re white and ‘straight acting’, have it a lot easier than lesbians, bisexual people and trans folk.

Bisexual people in particular often find themselves being made invisible both within and outside LGB&T communities.

Read more of this post

Bi Visibility Day

Happy bisexual visibility day!

Here’s a link to a BiUK post from 2011 about why September 23rd is important:

https://bisexualresearch.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/why-does-bisexuality-need-celebrating/

Meg from BiUK will be taking part in this event tonight for bi visibility, along with Jen Yockney from Bi Community News.

BiVis

Check out Meg’s presentation for the event here:

http://prezi.com/envyesbgvkzd/the-bisexuality-report/

Same-sex marriage and BiUK

More on same-sex marriage and bisexuality (and BiUK) over on http://rewritingtherules.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/same-sex-marriage-opening-up-and-closing-down/

BiReCon goes stateside

BiReCon – the bisexuality academic/community conference set up by BiUK – has its first US outing this Friday with a day of events preceding the  the 21st Annual BECAUSE (Bisexual Empowerment Conference: A Uniting Supportive Experience). Meg Barker from BiUK will be keynoting the event and hoping to learn about the differences and similarities between UK and US bisexual communities in the process. Many thanks to the American Institute of Bisexuality for flying them over for the event.

BiReConUSA organiser – and longterm friend of BiUK – Dr. Alex Iantaffi added, “This year, with the addition of BiReConUSA, we are excited to expand our conference mission to include a focus on ‘bringing together members of the [academic] research and bisexual communities to help shape future research that will further the understanding and acceptance of bisexuality.'”

You can read all about the US BiReCon and BECAUSE conferences in This Article and see the BECAUSE website here.

Below is a picture of the craft materials I used for my creative methods workshop at BiReConUSA.

2013-06-06 09.22.39

BiReCon 2012: Meg’s talk

Thursday 9th August 2012 saw the third biennial BiReCon event (#birecon2012 on twitter). Following the main findings of The Bisexuality Report, published earlier this year, the conference focused on bisexuality and mental health. Huge thanks to Rebecca Jones, Caroline Walters and Helen Bowes-Catton for organising such a wonderful event.

The full programme of the event is available here and we will be encouraging speakers to write up their presentations for BiUK and/or BCN over the coming weeks and months.

Keynote talks considered the individual and community implications of bisexual mental health, explored intersectionality and debates around ethnicity and sexuality, and outlined changes in the UK mental health system, drawing out possibilities for future bisexual mental health. In parallel sessions we heard fascinating explorations of the overlaps between stereotypes of bisexuality and the diagnostic category of borderline personality disorder, as well as an important consideration of eating disorders in bisexual men. One workshop covered bisexual people’s experiences of mental health services, which will be fed back to key National Health Service providers. Talks also dealt with understandings of sexuality more broadly, non-monogamous relationships, Shakespeare, and the importance of the bisexual community in relation to mental health.

For Meg Barker’s presentation on Depression and/or oppression? Bisexuality and Mental Health you can view the prezi presentation here, and listen to it (and Rebecca’s introduction to BiReCon) on these youtube clips.