Thursday, September 23, 2010

Celebrate bisexuality day

It’s 23rd September today, and more people than usual are wearing purple. They’re doing that, because it’s International Celebrate Bisexuality Day or, as it has been rebranded this year Bi Visibility Day. Whichever, it’s a sort of mini-pride, and it’s all ultra-good. There’s more here about events in the UK, events in the US here, and information about why it started here.
I’ll probably be at one of these events tonight, but not wearing purple, which always makes me look sickly.

It’s no doubt just a co-incidence, but the numbers of LGB (not T, don’t know about T) people in the UK seem to have gone down. Official figures from the Office of National Statistics released today indicate that the LGB population of the UK is only 1.5%. There’s info about it from the Guardian here. The ONS asked people how they defined their sexuality, and this is the answer. Simples.

But but but ... What does it mean? Apparently interviewees were given four categories, and asked which best described them: heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual or other. That’s surely too broad-brush. For instance, someone who is now monogamously married, but has had significant lesbian relationships in the past, might well consider that heterosexual/straight “best describes her” but it best describes her behaviour as it is now, not her feelings, her past, her desires, all the things that make up sexuality. She might be “behaviourally heterosexual” but that’s only part of the story.

According to the ONS (in the Guardian):
“ ... the [previous] higher estimate [of LGB people] was based on different sampling methods and responses to questions about sexual attraction and behaviour both in the past and present."

But isn’t that the right way to assess sexuality? Which category “best describes you”! To my mind, that over-simplifies something which is often complicated.

The stats are odd in other ways too. Sixty-six per cent of LGB people, according to this, are under 44. What does this mean? That older people have “turned straight”? That more young people are gay these days? That queer sexuality is something that happens to the young? I don’t know. Interestingly, quite a high proportion of this 1.5% says “bisexual” best describes them.

It does seem strange to me that, when Kinsey did his famous reports estimating the gay/lesbian population of the US as 10% (this may not be precisely what he said; do correct me if I’m wrong), homosexuality was both hidden and stigmatised. This figure was accepted for a long time.

Now, homosexuality is very much less hidden. There are far far more openly gay, especially gay (and lesbian, and bi) people than there were when I was young. Yet consistently, official numbers go down. In the 1950s, it was 10%; more recently, it has been accepted as being 5%.

Purple power
As someone once said: There’s lies, damned lies, and statistics. Who knows what any of these figures mean.

What concerns me most, is that queer people’s issues will be ever more marginalised if we are seen to be such a tiny minority of the population. I simply don’t believe that it is true.

As to why bi people have taken on purple: I guess it’s because pink = gay (and, because it is the colour stereotypically loved by little girls, nothing Real Men should have anything to do with). Also, pink (for girls) mixed with blue (for boys) = purple for any and everyone.

Whatever, tonight I will be having my cake and eating it. I hope you will too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bisexual war hero

The really inspiring experience of BiCon a couple of weeks ago, combined with me finishing my MA, means my blog hibernation is over. At the very least, there will be a few posts again before I run out of steam...

Anyway, back to an old theme of mine - Bisexuals I never met – where I write about famousish dead bi people.

The BBC radio programme Last Word often has really interesting subjects featured on it. It’s essentially an obituary programme, about notable people who’ve died in the last week or so, with comments from those who knew them. Catch it on iPlayer (if you are in a country that allows it; I don’t think the US does).

Today’s Last Word had a feature about Michael (Micky) Burn – war hero, foreign correspondent for The (London) Times, poet, novelist - who has died aged 97. Here’s an obituary about him here. Yes, posh man + the Second World War + derring-do = Daily Telegraph obituary.

There’s also an interesting trailer for a documentary about his life here, and I have to say I warm to him:

Like many people who’ve made it to obituary programmes, he came from an upper class background, and this shows in his early politics. Specifically, as a young man he used to be a Nazi sympathiser, even introducing Unity Mitford to Hitler. But (thank the lords) a trip to Dachau in 1937 put a stop to that and he spoke later about how ashamed he had been to have been taken in by fascism. He turned to the Left shortly after, and had a very active war, being imprisoned in Colditz for several years. Later, he saved the life of the little girl who would become actress Audrey Hepburn. Burn was socialist throughout the rest of his life, apparently losing all his money in mussel-breeding workers’ co-operative in the 1960s.

He was also bisexual, having a long on-off affair with the (later) Soviet spy Guy Burgess as a young man. Apparently there were other men too, and in the 1950s he was mentioned (anonymously) in the News of the World as a victim of blackmail. He was also married to Mary, who was, he said, ”the love of his life”.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this man sounds bisexual and you’d have thought that the word might have featured at least once in the programme. Not a bit of it. One of his old acquaintances bugged the hell out of me by saying again and again that Burn was homosexual. No. If he was married simply because he wanted to hide his homosexuality, fine. But Burn describing his wife as the love of his life surely puts paid to that.

I do take the point of groups like Bi Index, who say that the only person who can say someone is bi is themselves.

But Mr Burn wasn’t on this programme to say he either was or wasn’t; it was other people removing the possibility for him after his death. Anyway, one of the inter-titles on the documentary trailer (done with, presumably, his involvement) was “bisexual”. So there!

I sometimes wonder about this “Bisexuals I never met” tag - am I looking for heroes amongst them? Role models, people I can be like, look up to? I don’t really believe in that; people are flawed and adulation doomed to failure. I suppose it is partly volume: look, here’s a large number of people, bisexuals are everywhere. Still, a lot of the people I list here led fascinating lives, with all sorts of tales to tell, and I wish I had met them.

Mr Burn is a particularly apposite member of this team at the moment, what with the 70th anniversary of the Blitz (where urban parts of the UK were bombed by the Nazis) being written about so much right now. How can people in developed wealthy countries nowadays be so brave? I'm not sure that they can.

In 2008, there were reports that Burn’s autobiography, Turned Towards the sun, had been bought by Hollywood and that Jude Law was likely to be starring. Interesting. I wonder who will play Guy Burgess – or will this sub-plot be strangely absent?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blogging bisexuality at BiCon

I know, I know, the gaps between posts on here are getting longer.

It's quite hard to keep up the momentum when there's so very much else to do. In particular, I have my MA to hand in, in just over three weeks time. That's 20,000 words I am paying to write!

Anyway, in the meantime I am giving a talk on 26th August at BiRecon, the academic/research part of BiCon - the UK annual gathering of bi people that this year is both held in London and is an International BiCon too, with people from many countries attending. Here's a wikipedia site on the history of BiCons which made me downright nostalgic.

With that in mind, I have some questions:

Do you, or have you, used blogs as part of coming out as bi? If so, was it helpful? Do you write a blog yourself about coming out bi? If so, what sort of impact has it had? If you blogged about bisexuality, but have now stopped blogging, why did you stop?

If you could let me know - either here, or at sues_new_email at yahoo dot com - sooner, rather than later, I'd be ever so grateful.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Ten Reasons You Need This Bisexual Blog 2010

This post, originally from September 2006, is by far the most read and commented on thing I have written on this blog - so I thought it was worth a reprint. And what I say about myself in point 10 - still true now. Things just aren't changing quickly enough.

So why do we still need this bisexual blog?

1. Because almost everyone thinks almost everyone is really gay or straight. Or more probably straight or gay. There is no bisexuality.
2. Except among female celebrities, where there may be bisexuality... of a kind.
3. And although there are a lot of sex sites where bisexual people get together, there's nowhere at all dedicated to the discussion of bisexuality. If you have a blog that does just this, for God's sake get in touch and I'll buy you a drink. A big one. What we have to discuss will take a while.
4. In any case, there are hardly any British blogs that discuss sexuality at all. If they do, it's about bloggers' own personal experiences. See post below.
5. The blogs that do talk about sex are from the US. Come on now, fellow Brits. Let's get talking.
6. And whenever bisexuality is mentioned in public, people still curl their lips, as if to say "oh yeah?"
7. So hardly anyone comes out.
8. Making everyone else think that bisexuality doesn't exist; and bi individuals that they are the only one ever.
9. Especially if they are men.
10. In any case, I need to write this blog. I do. Because it bugs the hell out of me that still, in the 21st century, what seems self-evident to me - that many people, men as well as women, desire, or love, or have sex with, men and women - seems so hard to grasp for so many people. I know I'm not the only one who thinks they need to wise up.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Michael Bailey and bisexuality - again

I am not in the UK at the moment. Not, indeed, anywhere with a reliable internet connection, but I read this and thought of you dear followers, regular readers, and people who find this site via Google, Twitter, Sex is Not the Enemy, Bipolar Bisexual,Mark Simpson and other sites that link to me.
It's about Michael Bailey, he who has been so controversial in denying that bi men are really bi.
The piece below (which was posted on the academic bi yahoo group) begs so very many questions - but I thought it interesting to throw it out there and see what you think.
Lots of love and post soon...
Sue x

The Daily Northwestern - NU Prof. Bailey researching possible 'gay
See piece here

Recent research from Northwestern Prof. J. Michael Bailey raises new questions in the science behind sexual orientation, namely bisexuality and the prototypical "gay gene."

In his studies on bisexuality, Bailey, a psychology professor, and a team of researchers look at sexual arousal patterns to objectively determine sexual orientation in men and women. Bailey tracks the subject's brain activity while they are looking at erotic pictures to essentially determine "what turns them on," he said.

One new finding is in the sexual orientation of women. Bailey said he found most of his female subjects to be scientifically bisexual, even if they subjectively thought otherwise.

"Women don't work in the way we thought, based on a lot of research we did five to 10 years ago," he said. "Women, at least in the laboratory, get aroused to both stimuli."

This changes everything, Bailey said.

"Now I don’t even know if women have something like a sexual orientation," he said.

About two-thirds of women are showing arousal patterns that differ from what they consider to be their orientation, said Adam Safron, a research consultant on the project.

"Women are not being driven in their arousal pattern in the same way as males," he said.

Male arousal patterns were less flexible than female patterns, Bailey said. Men who believed themselves to be bisexual were aroused by both female and male stimuli but exhibited a stronger arousal to males than females. Bailey published a paper in 2005 suggesting bisexual men do not have bisexual arousal patterns. If sexual arousal patterns are the key to sexual orientation and his research is accurate, male bisexuality may not actually exist, Bailey said.

"I never meant to suggest bisexual men were lying about their sexuality," he said. "But there has been some skepticism about if bisexual men are really bisexual in the same way gay men are gay or straight men straight."

Safron said the science behind sexual orientation can get complicated.

"In terms of what people tell you they like, you can't always trust what they tell you, especially with something as emotionally involved as sexuality," he said.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

LGBT history month

In the UK - although not anywhere else, as far as I know - February is LGBT history month. The US has its month in October.

As with most years, there are no specifically "B" events although some were nearly planned. Next year, next year. There are other good things, though, which might be worth a look.

There should be some bi history stuff at this year's International Conference on Bisexuality (the 10th! and held in London this time) at which I will be speaking. About.... something or other.

A French bisexual picture
For a long while I've been meaning to scan in this picture, which was given to me a couple of years ago. It's an illustration from a French magazine of the 1920s - possibly one called Modes Nouvelles (or new fashions) - and it's drawn by one Gerda Wegener.

It's entitled "Elle ou Lui, Lequel Choisir?" which means "Her or Him, which one to choose?"

Clearly set in a mixed gender, pansexual club or cafe of some sort, in this wonderland anyone can dance with anyone, and the men look only slightly masculine and the women only slightly feminine - or vice versa. This was a time, just after the first world war horrors, where strict Victorian-style notions of gender went right out of the window, women cut their hair and shortened their skirts. Both men and women went for an androgynous look. I think it's hard for us to realise now how revolutionary that was.

So, in this pic, we are left wondering who is doing the choosing?

Most likely it is the be-gloved lady sipping her diabolo menthe through a straw, looking at the saucy yet ever-so-slightly dangerous man and woman on the right.

But what is the woman in the green dress thinking. And, indeed, what do we think. Him or Her, which one should I choose? It doesn't really matter. Maybe one today, and the other tomorrow.

Oh, Paris in the 20s. What a fabulous place to visit for a holiday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bisexuals at work

Offices of the Metropolitan Life Ins Co, New York, 1896

It’s nearly the end of January, thank the lords, which signals the end of all those media articles about how this is the most miserable day of the year. In the northern hemisphere the days are also slightly longer and lighter than they were a month ago, which makes getting up for work slightly easier.

Ah yes, work.

I had been thinking about posting on this earlier but got waylaid, and this seems like a good time to do it.

Stonewall report
According to a recent report from the British LGBT equality organisation Stonewall, bisexual people experience prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping at work which stops them/us achieving their/our full potential.

The good practice guide, downloadable here, is a practical resource geared at employers who want to enable bisexual employees to make the most of their potential at work. They garnered this information by asking bisexuals what their experiences were, what stopped them doing as well as they might have, and how they felt their workplaces could be improved.

As far as I know, this is the first report on bisexual people at work to be published anywhere, ever, and the fact that Stonewall has produced it is very very welcome.

Stonewall was often criticised for being anti-bi in the past, or for saying lesbian, gay and bisexual when they were simply incorporating B into the L and G, and this is report obviously step in the right direction.

So what does it say? That bi people have experiences and challenges which are not the same as lesbians and gay men. They/we encounter prejudices and stereotypes not met by lesbians or gay men In particular, the support networks of the latter often excluding us. That there is a lack of awareness of bi issues, and that bi people’s sexuality is often dismissed. As one woman says:

Bisexuality is something that you can still poke fun at, partly because people don’t think it’s as serious as homosexuality.

There’s more but you get the drift – it’s the usual panoply of spite, insecurity and confusion directed against us.

Out at work
The report considers the extent to which bi people feel able to be out at work and not many are.

As far as my own experience is concerned, anyone I have worked with consistently since the late 1980s has known I was bi. Personally think it important to be out anywhere. To me, being out is not about talking about your sex life; it’s not even talking about your romantic/sexual/dating experiences necessarily – it’s being able to be honest where relevant. For instance, when I discuss “girlfriends”, people know I’m not talking about female companions with whom I drink cocktails and moan about useless men.

However, despite this I have never met another out bi at work. Ever. The nearest I got was when I exchanged emails with one woman who outed herself to me - with the request that I kept this information to myself.

I have, though, worked with some lesbians and quite a few gay men. One of the latter (an arrogant-shit type editor of mine) was absolutely convinced that bisexuality didn’t exist because he “didn’t know any and he had met thousands of people”. My own experience of interviewing hundreds of people and meeting many more was, of course, irrelevant.

However things are changing in some quarters: when I left my job recently and I filled in an exit form, the first box to tick in the sexual orientation section of the monitoring box was “bisexual”. I felt a strange mixture of pride and being almost sorry that I was going.

And in
While I am a big fan of being out when possible, as for so many people it really isn’t possible, and I believe in bisexual visibility helping all of us, it’s not necessarily a good idea to be out all the time in all circumstances.

In recent years, I have been lucky enough to travel a fair bit for work – often to countries where homosexuality is at least frowned upon, and often illegal. Clearly being out there would have been wrong/insensitive/foolish/dangerous for the people I was with.

But this has often made me feel awkward as I did think that I am hiding, that a significant part of me – not just in the sense of who I choose to have relationships with, but in terms of my history, politics, and a substantial part of my “work” - was hidden and they would feel cheated in some sense if they had found out.

I feel a bit similar in not having a religion, travelling in places where faith is extremely important ... but that leads more to reactions of pity and bafflement, rather than disgust.

Anyway, when you are travelling to a developing country as a journalist, it really isn't about you.

Everyone has to weigh up the extent to which they can face the discrimination/endless explaining they may have to do if they are out as bi. But ultimately hiding significant parts of yourself, or pretending to be something you’re not, is not going to help you be happy or productive at work – or anywhere else.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bisexuals on television

Chances are that, at some point over the weekend, you will be watching television. Maybe you’ll be looking (in vain) for some bi characters in drama, or out bisexuals reading the news, presenting gardening programmes, pretending to be Teletubbies, and everything else we can see on the small screen.

Today there’s been a report in the Guardian that the BBC is to ask The Public what they think of the representation of LGBs on TV and radio. Interesting. But they are even asking homophobes. Yuk. I don’t care what homophobes think, and I don’t think the BBC should care either.

It’s interesting, though, that they are asking about bi representation. Is this really about bi representation, or are they just adding in a B with the L and the G, not really meaning to give the B word any attention at all? It wouldn’t be the first time “bisexual” has been added as a casual, inessential addition to Lesbian and Gay. (No T though, I wonder why not?)

The other thing I am wondering after reading the above is: who are these bisexual people on television? Maybe I am watching the wrong programmes but, reality shows aside, I can only remember the L Word – only available on Living (a hard to view on a cable/satellite TV channel) in the UK – where there has been bi characters in recent years.

Part of me thinks that there is a dire need for positive images of bi people – but one person’s positive representation is another’s weirdo/ slut / sop to straight society / bimbo. We are as individual as people of any other sexuality – probably more so – and deserve to have a range of people representing us. Another part of me thinks that anything is better than total invisibility.

Still, according to a GLAAD report discussed in the Bisexuality Examiner last July there are now more bi people in US TV dramas, and some of them are definitely viewable outside of the US. They include:

* True Blood (Evan Rachel Wood is pictured above)
* Grey’s Anatomy
* House
* Bones
* Brothers and Sisters

Plus a whole heap of others I’ve never heard of. Mind you, I’ve never seen any episodes of those listed above either (my TV preferences being mainly for CSI and similar). I’ll give them a look

S/He’s so Real
Reality television has the upper hand here.... Big Brothers across the world often have bi characters, presumably on the assumption/hope that they will do something outrageous and up the viewing figures. Then there’s A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, where her bisexuality is a part of the story (and apparently there is now a spin off involving bisexual twins Rikki and Vikki. Of course there is). The most recent The Real World (on MTV, which I don’t have access to) apparently has two bi characters, one boy, one girl.

A boy! Finally.

As I have written endlessly, I’m not at all happy with the proliferation of female celebrity so-called bis (most recently, Kylie Minogue is declaring her interest). And most of the bis/bi characters listed above are – no, really! – women.

But a good bi woman – by which I mean someone who is genuine, authentic, sincere, not trying to excite men or increase her audience – could do a heap of good for other bi women. Likewise good bi female characters in drama.

I think we’ll have to wait a long time (or until something significant changes) until bi men can do anything like that.

So which bi characters or individuals are there on television – British or otherwise, drama or factual – who you think is worth watching? And as for the radio....? I listen to the radio almost all the time, and the last time I heard an out bi presenter or character was.... probably never.