Thursday, November 22, 2007

Underground at the House of Homosexual Culture

This coming Saturday, I’m going to be spending the day at the above, running the tea stall. There’ll be beverages, and fairy cakes – of course – and Santa’s little helpers of every gender. The wonderful writer Sarah Waters will be opening it. So if you’re in London, come on down.
I won’t be the only bi curiosity on show: those socially-minded folks The Bisexual Underground will have a stall. They meet monthly in a London pub for darts, board games, chatting and so forth.
And I think the Bi Underground is about it for the organised London bi scene at the moment – I can’t even tell if the London Bi women’s group is still going, or the London main group that was active for 20 years. Of course, there are places like fetish superclub Torture Garden – a “not safe for work site” - of course, where there is no shortage of behavioural bisexuality on display. Male/male couples, female/female couples, female/male couples, groups of friends or lovers, people who are clearly transsexual or whose gender is hard to determine… Everyone can be gorgeous if they have made an effort; everyone has a chance of being desired by someone there.

Is there a bi culture?
I’ve been asking myself this question quite often lately and I think the answer is probably, sadly, no. The reason for the question is that I’m hanging out a lot with, and seeing lots of events advertising: lesbian and gay culture, lesbian and gay communities, bla bla bla. This event is, after all, organised by the House of Homosexual Culture. They are great blokes and I love them. Bisexuals have a place on the gay scene, and always have had, even if we haven’t been recognised. But is that enough? Could there ever be a house of bisexual culture?
It's hard to imagine. Bi people are too diverse. That’s why I have a link called 57 Varieties. Some bi people veer towards gay culture, others straight. There’s no one thing we all want.
There’s a queer culture – encompassing all sorts of people who happen to be not mainstream heterosexual, but which leaves out many “straight-acting” bis. And there are subcultures with lots of bisexual people – swingers to anarchists and hippies (well, I think the anarchist bit is true, anyway).
But can you call the few bi groups, conferences, newsletters and so on a culture? Not really. I’ve tried to define (for myself) what “a bisexual culture” might encompass but I can’t. Clothes, creativity, music, secret signals to indicate to someone that you might be bi? No. There isn't any of that.
There is, though, a history of bisexuality – in particular how it was seen by the general public - ranging from bohemians and the Bloomsbury Group in the 1920s and 30s, David Bowie in the 70s, the influence of feminism and the sexual liberation movements around the same time, plus the organised bi community. That’s something you can trace, and I’ve stressed that quite a bit in this blog. It’s something to hold on to.


Anonymous said...

Well, they can call it "The Gay Scene", but that doesn't mean there aren't 57 varieties of being gay too, many of which don't appear on "The" scene.

By the "too much diversity, we don't all fit in the same place" argument for there not being a bi culture, I don't think there's a gay one either :-)

What does it take to qualify as a "culture"? Is it a matter of size? The scene centred on BiCon certainly has its own norms which are not the same as mainstream ones.

But maybe the semantic question isn't the most interesting one, and a more interesting one would be about the relative invisibility of such bi community phenomena as exist. (E.g. oughtn't BiCon to be a lot more famous by now?)

To what degree is that a matter of size? And to what degree is it a function of the generic bi-invisibility which pervades our binary-policed mainstream culture?

Hello, by the way :-) I've been reading your blog for a while now but I think this is the first time I've commented here.

Jen said...

The group which ran for 20 years is alas definitely defunct.

So far as I can tell the same thing goes for the womyn's group, though that seems to have died from a lack of venue rather than a lack of momentum.

Given the reasonably functional two groups in Birmingham, two in Manchester, and oodles of stuff going on just down the train line in Brighton, I find the London bi scene a little odd - though I understand why it is how it is.

In other news, it's good to see that BiCon made the top 5 for Event of the Year in the Pink Paper readers awards. Of course, it does reflect a bit of a write-in campaign, but so do the winners of every category as my inbox full of "vote for us..." messages from lesbian and gay nominees reflects!

Sue George said...

Jennifer - sorry for the delay in responding!
Yes, there are quite a few varieties of being gay - but probably not as many as 57:)

But it is true that the bi community is relatively unfamous - more unfamous than its longevity would indicate. I agree with you about it being part of bi invisibility as a whole. But certain sorts of bisex (the sort that we might consider comparatively negative) aren't invisible at all!

Jen - the issue about venues is a tricky one. Of course, expensive venues have cut down many a group, but there still are venues if you really really want them. Perhaps meeting in the Candy Bar is the preferred option for many women these days?

B-Zod said...

Hi. Love your site. I am a bi college student in North America, so I can only speak of my own experience. As far as I can tell, there are ALOT of us, but we lack cohesion.
1)It seems to me that a large number of men who are bi, say they are "bi-curious" so as to seem reletively inexperienced (too much experience=homosexual)
2)Alot of gay men pretend to be "bi" in an effort of hook-up with a bi man (if successful, they invariable drive him away by trying to turn the friendship into a modern-gay-lovestory)
3)A HUGE number of bisexual men suffer from "alternate-bi-personality disorder". They hook-up with a guy, but cannot remember that it ever happened...aleast not until the next time...
4)Ironically, it seems that bi sexual men, as they get older, become "lone-wolfish".
4)Finally, it is difficult to be honest with our female lovers, because alot of them simply cannot concieve of a bi-relationship between two men without preciving it withen the boundries of a gay relationship.


Raquel said...

Love the idea that this is getting discussed; I can't tell you enough how happy I am that at this point in recent human evolution people are embracing three aspects of themselves--the female self, male self, and androgynous self.
I agree however that there seems to not really be any bisexual culture. It seems to me that the majority of "bisexual" people I know hide behind the notion that they are only "gay" when booze or drugs are involved, during certain circumstances etc. (when they feel like their place in the mainstream is at risk if they "came out"). When I say, involved with the mainstream, I am talking about people that have certain professions, certain social groups, or familial expectations that force them to not fully embrace the possibility that they simply play for both teams at different degrees(depending on who you are). What I think makes this even worse, are things like the "57 different varieties", where we again attempt at putting people into boxes to make everything comfortable and fine to look at. Although education, and realization that these varieties in our sexuality exist is definitely a constructive thing, I believe that because bisexuality is a concept that embraces three different standards, it is really the outer ring so to speak---bisexuality being the umbrella term and the all inclusive. Homosexuality, and heterosexuality being the circles in the middle that represent the two seperate parts of self. Bisexuality is linked as much to heterosexuality as it is to homosexuality in my opinion. It would be good to see a sexuality group that promoted GENERAL sexual expression--tackling the idea that we are all sexual beings that fall in love with PEOPLE, and are attracted to certain energies within each gender category. I don't think I have ever met someone that has not been attracted to the same sex, or the opposite sex, at least once in their lives. When people start to define those feelings, I feel that it causes more stress than is required.
Different people have different images associated with each label we give ourselves or others. Instead of dealing with the possibility of miscommunication, we should probably just stick to explaining how our customized experience makes us see our own sexuality. Whether at this point in your life you believe that the person that can teach you most about yourself has more feminine, masculine, or intersexual energies----to each their own, have a blast and learn a lot. If a label is what we need to keep us comfortable and safe in the moment, I get it. But we should try to get to the point where we come together and allow people to do whatever they have to do to find out who they truly are, and what they truly have to offer.

Food for thought!