British Bisexuality: Purple Prose out now!

Meg-John Barker reflects on the awesome new book on British Bisexuality…

Last week saw the launch of a book project that I’m very excited to be part of: Purple Prose.

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This collection, edited by Kate Harrad, brings together experiences from a diverse spectrum of bisexual folk in Britain today. It works as a how-to guide to British bi communities and identities, as well as providing a fascinating insight into the wide range of experiences under the bisexual umbrella.

A particular strength of the book is its focus on intersectionality. Most writing on bisexuality, including The Bisexuality Report which I was part of, focus on bisexual people as a fairly unified group: how they are represented, the challenges they face, bi-specific discrimination, etc. The problem with this approach is that bisexual experiences – like all experiences – are very different depending on other intersecting aspects of identity and experience such as gender, class, race, disability, geographical location, generation. Also, as Shiri Eisner points out, there are vital links between bisexual activism and feminist, trans and queer activism, anti-racism, and other anti-oppression movements, which are vital to attend to because a single-issue kind of activism can’t get us very far.

For these reasons it’s great to see a book in which at least half of the chapters are devoted to specific intersections (e.g. ‘Bisexual and disabled’, ‘Bisexual Black and Minority Ethic People‘, ‘Bisexuals and Faith’).

Even within these chapters there is a clear sense of the range of experiences that exist amongst any specific group, such as older bisexual people or non-monogamous bis, for example. In the chapter that I co-edited with Fred Langdridge, ‘The Gender Agenda’, we decided to foreground the experiences of non-binary bisexual people, given that there are already books about bisexual women and bisexual men, but none on this topic. While we included the voices of bisexual people of many genders, we gave specific attention to those who are non-binary in terms of both their sexuality and their gender. Even within that group we discovered many differences in relation to how they related to the term ‘bisexual’, how they experienced their gender and sexuality, whether these things changed over time or not, and how they were navigated in their close relationships and communities.

We still have a long way to go on bisexuality in Britain given that the biggest group under the LGBT umbrella still has the highest rate of mental health problems, and gets the least attention in policy and practice, both outside and within the LGBT sector. Purple Prose is definitely a step in the right direction.

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LGBT Hate Crime Project: Number of people seeking help for hate crimes more than doubles

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Number of people seeking help for hate crimes more than doubles

There’s been an increase in the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people reporting hate crimes across England and Wales in recent months, according to the National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership.

In the last three months, Galop, a specialist LGBT anti-violence charity, says the number of people seeking help has more than doubled. Other LGBT groups across the country have also reported a large increase in those reporting experiences of hate crimes.

The news comes as the Partnership launches the second phase of its campaign during the national Hate Crime Awareness Week (10-17 October). The campaign, funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, aims to raise awareness of the LGBT hate crime and encourage people to ‘Talk, Report and Get Support’.

The increase has been welcomed by charity leaders as a sign that people are increasingly willing to come forward.

The Partnership is a network of 35 organisations across the country that work to empower LGBT people to stand up against hate crime through education and training as well as establishing local partnerships. It is also carrying out over 400 anti-hate crime training sessions, forming 230 inter-agency cooperative relationships to tackle hate crime and creating over 30 information resources.

Nik Noone, Chief Executive of Galop, put the increase into context saying:

“We’ve seen the number of people getting in touch with our hate crime advocacy service more than double in recent months. Though one person facing hate crime is one too many, we see this rise in people getting in touch as a cause for optimism and are proud of our part in helping empower people to speak up about their experiences and access assistance.”

Paul Roberts, Chief Executive of the LGBT Consortium, confirms the trend:

“From what our members are telling us, it seems that this picture is being mirrored across other parts of the UK. The message is getting out that LGBT people don’t have to put up with being targeted. We know, however, that service provision is patchy across the UK and so not everyone can access the help they need, particularly in rural communities.”

“It’s important that these crimes are reported so that the police have a clear picture and can tackle the issue. There are a number of ways in which people can do that anonymously, if they don’t feel able to approach the police directly, for whatever reason.”

Evelyn Asante–Mensah, Equality and Human Rights Commissioner, said:

“We know that there are thousands of unreported hate crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity every year. Whilst it is encouraging to hear more people are coming forward for help, all LGBT people experiencing hate crime should feel empowered to report it.”

Services offering assistance with anti-LGBT hate crime can be found at www.lgbthatecrime.org.uk

BiUK Celebrated in the Purple List

We were delighted today to see three members of BiUK celebrated in the first ever Purple List: Biscuit magazine’s list of ‘people who make the world a little brighter for bi* people’. BiUK research associate Caroline Walters, and BiUK trustees Surya Monro and Meg John Barker were all recognised on the list for their work, as were a number of other brilliant bi activists, writers, and celebrities.

The Purple List was conceived as a counter-balance to the high levels of invisibility around bisexuality, and the double discrimination experienced by bi people, meaning they are often not recognised in similar LG(BT) awards ceremonies and honours lists, despite bi people making up half of LGB people.

We look forward to seeing other people – including further BiUK members perhaps! – celebrated in future editions of the list, as we’re assured that it will be published every year from now on, recognising the work of different people each year. As Biscuit says, there are many ‘awesome people who give their time, energy, cash and resources to make life a little bit better for bisexual people’. It’s great to see that acknowledged in this way. Thank you Biscuit.

Call for Papers: EuroBiReCon Amsterdam July 2016

Bisexuality and (Inter)National Research Frontiers

First European Bisexual Research Conference (EuroBiReCon)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 (www.biuk.org) – 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 (EuroBiCon).

We proudly announce that Prof. Surya Monro (University of Huddersfield) will be the keynote speaker at the EuroBiReCon. She has written multiple books on sexual diversity including Gender politics: Activism, citizenship and sexual diversity (2005) and Sexuality, Equality and Diversity (2012 with Diana Richardson). Her book Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories is due to be published in 2015.

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.

Bisexual Asylum Seekers

Please do adapt this letter and send it on to your local MPs.

16 May 2015

Dear Mrs May,

Bisexual asylum seekers

As Trustees and members of Bi UK, a charity that supports research and activism regarding bisexuality, we were extremely concerned to hear of the case of Orashia Edwards.  It seems that this individual has been informed by immigration officials that he ought to pretend to be gay, and that he cannot apply for asylum as a bisexual. Orashia is at risk of persecution as a man who has same-sex relations, and it appears that this risk is not being taken seriously.

Since we became aware of this case, other bisexual asylum seekers have confirmed that they have been advised by Home Office officials as well as LGBT group advisers, to conceal the fact that they are bisexual and to pretend to be gay or lesbian, in order to have a chance of gaining asylum. At BiCon (the annual bisexual conference) in 2014, concern and outrage was expressed by 300 delegates at the AGM about the ways in which bisexual people are being discriminated against in the asylum process. Bisexual people who are fleeing persecution are not at any less risk than gays and lesbians.

We request that you confirm the following:

a) That there is no policy to exclude bisexuals from asylum on grounds of sexuality

b) That the government recognises that bisexuals can be just as subject to homophobia and persecution as homosexuals are, regardless of whether they have (or have not) engaged in heterosexual relationships in the past

c) That Home Office officials and others dealing with asylum seekers will be advised that bisexual people should have their sexuality treated with due respect, not assumed to be ‘really’ heterosexual, homosexual or lying about their sexuality

d) That bisexual asylum seekers should have their claims for asylum considered as carefully as for other asylum seekers.

We would also like to know what training officials dealing with asylum claims have had on LGBT issues that may be relevant, and how many bisexuals have applied for asylum since 2010.

We look forward to hearing from you about how you will ensure that bisexuals are receiving appropriate protection under the UK’s asylum system.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Surya Monro

and Dr Meg John Barker, Christina Richardson, Dr Caroline Walters, Dr Roshan Nair, Ed Lord, Dr

Helen Bowes-Catton, Dr Rebecca Jones, Kaye McLelland

The Advocate on Bisexuality and Fluidity

A useful article in The Advocate on bisexuality and fluidity:

Exploring the Umbrella: Bisexuality and Fluidity

A growing body of research indicates that for some people, sexual attractions change over time. But that’s not an endorsement of ‘reparative therapy,’ nor is it a bad thing for our movement.

For years, much of the case for LGBT rights has been based on the argument that sexual orientation is fixed and immutable — baby, we were born this way, and it’s wrong to discriminate against us for something we didn’t choose.

But an increasing body of social science research posits that a sizable number of people experience some degree of fluidity in their sexual and romantic attractions: being drawn to the same gender at one point in their life, the opposite gender at another. Researchers emphasize that this is not something that can be imposed from without, as “ex-gay” therapy would attempt to do, but something that occurs from within. Although our supporters already recognize that why we love who we love is irrelevant, embracing fluid orientations may call for a new approach in advocating for our rights.

The research to date indicates that fluidity is more common among women than among men, but scientists note that this could change as studies continue. Reliable data has only emerged in recent years, but there are now several studies that have found that 10 to 14 percent of American women describe themselves as mostly, but not completely heterosexual, and 6 to 9 percent of American men who self-identify the same way, says Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. Studies in other countries have found the same general range, she says.

“It’s far more common to be someone who is a little bit attracted to the same sex than someone who is exclusively attracted to the same sex,” says Diamond, author of the 2008 book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire. Read more…

New bisexual magazine: BI 2.0

Esperanza Montero & Manuel Sebastia have brought out a brand new bimonthly bisexual magazine: BI 2.0.  They say:

This magazine was a dream and an idea of a group of independent BI activist of creating a place where anyone with something to say can do so, and that this something will reach to our people. A cultural and social space available worldwide. A breakout with the commercial, with the superfluous, with the media, with what “people expect” about bisexuality.

Download it here and watch this space for more.

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Amazing new bisexuality book – out this week!

Depicted as duplicitous, traitorous, and promiscuous, bisexuality has long been suspected, marginalized, and rejected by both straight and gay communities alike.

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Bi takes a long overdue, comprehensive look at bisexual politics—from the issues surrounding biphobia/monosexism, feminism, and transgenderism to the practice of labeling those who identify as bi as either “too bisexual” (promiscuous and incapable of fidelity) or “not bisexual enough” (not actively engaging romantically or sexually with people of at least two different genders). In this forward-thinking and eye-opening book, feminist bisexual and genderqueer activist Shiri Eisner takes readers on a journey through the many aspects of the meanings and politics of bisexuality, specifically highlighting how bisexuality can open up new and exciting ways of challenging social convention.

Informed by feminist, transgender, and queer theory, as well as politics and activism, Bi is a radical manifesto for a group that has been too frequently silenced, erased, and denied—and a starting point from which to launch a bisexual revolution.

For more about what the book is about (and links to excerpts), click here

Read more of this post

50 shades of gay

A fascinating Ted talk arguing that most people are somewhere between completely gay and completely straight. Good to hear the Kinsey idea given some new energy.

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.