Sunday, July 27, 2008

There’s no such thing as abroad any more

You may have noticed that I’ve downloaded some of those cute little flags which you click on and your blog gets translated into another language. Japanese, on my screen, just comes out as little rectangles, but Arabic seems all present and correct and Portuguese I can almost understand.

Any blogger who checks their site stats knows that many of their readers don’t come from the country they live in themselves. Most, granted, probably come from the US wherever the writer comes from, but I would say – and I have before – that while 30-40% of readers come from North America, and about 15% from the UK, the rest come from absolutely anywhere. On earth, natch, although every now and then one of those no-fixed-abode satellite services makes me wonder.

So why oh why do so many US writers (bi ones included) write as if all their readers are coming from the US too. I find it tremendously off-putting. I mean, it’s not “this political season” for me; I’m very unsure as to what a 401(k) is, and I certainly don’t have one myself; and if a congressman has been misbehaving in a toilet (bathroom!) I have no idea what the specific ramifications might be. They write about a “we” that doesn’t include the rest of the world and include stats that only apply to the US without specifying that it is just one country out of c163… It is OK to write about just the US – of course it is – but in fairness to your readers who aren’t from there please make some reference to the fact that’s what you’re doing!

Anywhere and everywhere
Back to the “readers all over the world” tack… Of course, I am writing in this blog from the standpoint of a particular sort of conscious bisexuality. It’s often assumed by those well-schooled in such matters that consciously being bisexual is something that only happens in specific parts of the Western world, and only happens now. People might have felt or behaved bisexuality across time and place, but they wouldn’t have felt they were bisexual.

I think it’s more complicated than that. I have written a fair few posts on bis in Times Gone By (see history links, right)but there’s clearly some kind of self-conscious bisexuality going on around the world too. Otherwise, why would people from, say, Singapore and Saudi Arabia be reading this blog.

Now, of course there are places across the world where sex is treated spectacularly differently than the West: Oman, for instance, where you need to be married to consent to sex; or all those countries where sex between men is illegal and subject to terrible punishments – even death. Not to mention the many many places where men have a degree of freedom undreamed of by women.

Different lives
There are many places where men and women’s lives are so completely separate that I would have thought some form of bisex was probably inevitable. I organised a London bi conference in 1991 where a man from a North African country gave a talk about how prevalent sex between men was there. Someone asked him if women in his country had sex with each other, and he said no. The two Arabic women there rolled their eyes at each other. Well, I suppose that if the sexes were completely divided, then he wouldn’t know, would he?

Given that everyone with an internet connection can be exposed – at least in theory - to all sorts of ideas from absolutely everywhere, there’s no reason people from Romania shouldn’t think about the sort of bisexual a New Yorker might be, or a Tanzanian read about what Sydney bisexuals are up to. And vice versa.

Geographical differences
Of course, there are still geographical differences. For instance, when I visited the Philippines (for work, not on holiday) a few years I was totally flummoxed by the number of open and not-passing male to female transsexuals who worked in the sexual health field, talking to born women about family planning and sexually transmitted infections. They seemed to be accepted as women, but as somehow wiser.

Alongside these people who were queer in a culturally specific way, there were also queers who had been more influenced by western ideas of being gay. So we also met gay men and (one) lesbian who saw themselves in that way. The gay men didn’t like bisexuals: more exactly, their experience had been with those cheating married men who couldn’t understand why any man would not want to have sex with women too and considered gay men as Not Real Men. Well, I don’t like them either.

It did make me think, though, that the world is in a state of flux, with western and non-western ways of sexuality co-existing in interesting ways.

Anyway, now that I’ve done the flags, it’s time to update my blogroll next… Getting on for half of those lovelies gave up the ghost yonks ago but you’re still clicking on them! Time to give some new ones a chance.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bisexual woman to be deported to Nigeria

Gay people who have sought asylum in the UK because of their sexuality (most recently this young Iranian man whose lover was murdered by the state) often have to fight really hard to convince the authorities of their need for sanctuary. Thank God he was eventually allowed to stay; often they are sent back to – at the very least – danger.

Jane Okojie’s case in Canada – as reported below on the queer Canadian website Xtra – is the first time I have heard of a bisexual person seeking asylum. Perhaps it will make those people who think bisexuality is a doddle think again. Sadly, in the UK at least, even imminent risk of death doesn't always mean you are safe.

Time is running out for a bisexual woman who has been denied refugee status in Canada. Jane Okojie is scheduled to be deported to Nigeria on Thu, Jul 10 where she says she and her two children will face persecution because of her bisexuality.

"I don't know what to do," says Okojie. "I am more afraid for my children than for myself. There are so many things going on in my head, I cannot think properly."

"She's very scared," says Nastaran Roushan of the immigrant and refugee rights group No One Is Illegal, which is holding a rally in support of Okojie on Tue, Jul 8 at 11am in front of the offices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (Toronto, 50 St Clair Ave E). "She fears for her life. If she goes back with her children, she has no one there. Her family has shunned her because she is bisexual. She doesn't have any money and nowhere to go. If she's arrested [her children] will be without a mother. They'll already face extreme discrimination because they were both born out of wedlock, and in fact, Samuel has already endured a lot of harassment while growing up there."

A victim of sexual violence and domestic abuse in her home country, Okojie says she fled Nigeria after being beaten by locals in her village and detained in prison after it was discovered she was bisexual.

"In Nigeria things are very bad for lesbians and gay people," says Okojie. "If you are a bisexual or lesbian or gay you can be stoned to death and you can be sentenced to prison for many many years. The government doesn't care."

There’s more here:

Good luck Jane. Nigeria sounds a tough place to be queer. Will someone let me know how she has got on?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

This blog is two today

Today this blog celebrates its second birthday. Yes, with this very post and my musings on that year’s Europride, I opened what is the longest-lasting bisexual blog in the known universe.

Whither blogs – will they wither and where are they going – is something that often bothers media pundits. Last week Roy Greenslade sparked off a discussion, commented on mostly by journalists whose opinions ran along the continuum of: a) journalism is great, blogs are white noise; b) blogs are the future, journalists have to have one, ordinary people are empowered etc; c) blogs are great, mainstream journalism is rubbish. However, as one commenter pointed out, the comments were far more interesting than the piece itself.

Good blogs, bad blogs
My own position is quite straightforward: blogs can be great, and the internet offers writers terrific opportunities to get their work to readers. Journalists who believe – as many do – that they can’t see the point of blogging, or don't recognise that it is a terrific tool for self-promotion, or say that they don’t want to write for nothing – are missing a career-building trick. What the mainstream media offers readers, and what blogging offers the mainstream media, is complementary.

It’s not true, though, that all blogs are equal. To start with, most bloggers give up pretty quickly. And writing every day – standard advice for building up a readership – means that pretty soon people are writing about nothing much. Unless they are brilliant writers – a few are – that means the quality goes down. In any event, there is too much to read on the internet, together with books, newspapers, magazines etc. I don’t suppose I’m the only one who just can’t keep up with people who blog every day.

What this blog is for
As I have written here from time to time, I am a journalist (editing more than writing) but what pays me money is nothing to do with what I write here. If anyone ever wanted serious writing on bisexuality then I’m your woman. But, as one of the reasons I started writing this blog in the first place was because my commissioned book on bisexuality couldn’t find a home after its original publisher closed down, I doubt that semi-serious writing on bisex – as distinct from erotica, or trivia, or straightforward academic books - in the UK can pay its way. Not everything can be monetised. As the profit motive in publishing is more important than ever, and booksellers sell ever fewer titles, the prospect for what is euphemistically called “mid-list” writers dims.

Still, onwards and upwards, and those of us who have things to say have a way of getting them out there. I doubt whether my musings that were produced via the dead tree route ever saw the light of day in Indonesia, or Nepal, or Western Samoa – which they have through the web.

This blog is a niche “product”, for people who are interested in the issues around bi/sexuality rather than erotic stories, coming out tales, complaints about boyfriends/girlfriends, polls about what turns you on and so forth. All of those most definitely have their place, just not written by me. They are also more popular than what I write.

Still, as over 101,000 people have read this blog since I started, there must be a demand for it. Thank you, readers!