Yesterday was Europride in London - and what a day it was. The busiest, most crowded, most popular shopping streets in central London were traffic-free while thousands of queers gathered with their whistles and their all-pink union jacks. Any and every group - from the Fire Brigade, to LGBT Muslims, to Battersea Dogs' Home - sent their delegation to march or wave from a lorry. Temperatures in the lower reaches of "hot", a cloudless blue sky and the faintest of welcome breezes; Soho to Trafalgar Square full of revellers and ralliers, poofs and picnickers, friends and lovers; an atmosphere of genuine celebration absent from the city's Prides since they became a focus for corporate sponsors and boybands. It was truly wonderful. I have never experienced anything like it.
It was also 30 years since my first Pride. A day when a few hundred still-brave stragglers, most of them men according to my memory, faced down the appalled and bemused stares of passersby to wander into the park to hear Tom Robinson singing "Glad to Be Gay". It felt dangerous and exciting, particularly if, like me, you were only 19. Homophobia was rife and completely mainstream: 1976 was not just another century but another country for people wanting same-sex relationships. Poland, perhaps, where good Catholics go on the radio and pontificate happily about finishing off the job Hitler started - exterminating the queers.
Where were the bisexuals?
So where was the bisexual presence at Europride? Well, clearly everywhere... and nowhere much. There were London Bisexual Group and Bicon banners with perhaps 20 people marching behind them (Well, maybe there were more banners, but not that I noticed). There were plenty of groups with the letter B in their names... but whether they have actual bisexual members to merit that B... well, I wonder. I know that many bi people think that groups add the B so they don't need to take bisexuals into consideration in any other way.
It's a paradox that while there is more discussion about bisexuality than ever - even if it's to claim that it doesn’t exist - and more and more women say that they are bi - even if it’s just that trivial "look at me with another woman, boys" stuff –that politically organised bisexuality seems to be at a low ebb. (In the UK, that is; in north America, things seem much more lively). There are some tremendously active individuals out there, and some great mailing lists and forums to join, but shouldn't a city like London have gazillions of bisexuals - all ages, races and opinions - willing to march together? I know they are out there somewhere - I mean they advertise for sex partners often enough - but what is it about the bi community that doesn't appeal? We used to say that people didn’t have "access to information". No doubt that's still true for a few, but I think more are actively rejecting it.
Bi community... or not
When I was researching my not-yet/will-it-ever-be published book on bisexuality, some of the people I interviewed (who all called themselves bisexual in one way or another) were vehemently against the bi community. Some didn't think sexuality was political (and so probably wouldn't march anyway); but others couldn't relate to the gender-queer S/M geek look that many bis take on; some felt the bi community was just a talking shop and they found that boring; some allied themselves with the straight or gay community according to the sex of their partner; yet others thought that gathering with people just on the basis of a shared sexuality was daft - they wanted to make friends on the basis of shared tastes, interests or opinions.
Myself, I do feel a part of it - although my involvement is mainly online these days. I rarely go to groups or conferences any more (been there, done that); few of my friends call themselves bisexual (sometimes in the face of the evidence); and I feel conventional, middle-aged and gender-straight in bi-groups (and certainly not outside them)!
Perhaps it's because the idea of there being a bisexual banner - both literal and metaphorical - under which to gather, is extremely important to me. That's because pride, in the sense of self-esteem, is something that far too many bisexuals still don't have about their sexuality. I do have it - in fact I have it in bucketloads - but I wouldn't have developed it without the bi community. The bi community specifically - not lesbian, gay or queer - which helped me realise that bisexuality is not just possible, but wonderful.
So come on then, let's make the bi presence bigger, bolder and brighter. At Prides up and down the UK... and everywhere else. I have just one question.