Marriage equality – what’s that, then?

I was once told by an immature teenager that my gloves were gay. It wasn’t even my rainbow gloves, which i’d have to admit, yeah, they’re pretty gay!

Even my purple gloves, i’d concede that the kid had a point. No, it was my white and black striped gloves; they’re not even gaily coloured!

“Your gloves are GAY!”

So i said, “Oh really? Do you think they are attracted to other gloves of the same gender?”

To me the term “gay marriage” is as ridiculous a concept as “gay gloves”. Marriage doesn’t have a sexuality. And if you’re trying to say it’s for gay people, no it’s not. It affects bi, trans and straight people too, in all kinds of combinations. What we’re really looking for is an equality of marriage: the same opportunities available to everyone.

Some examples:

1. Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle have been trying for nearly two years to get a civil partnership, because they don’t want the historical baggage associated with marriage. They have been denied because of their sexuality: they are both straight.

2. A friend of mine changed gender and had to get divorced and form a civil partnership instead, in order to achieve gender recognition.

3. I am bisexual and married to a man. Do we have a straight marriage? If i had wanted to marry a woman, would it be a gay marriage? No, because i am not gay.

4. Gay people can get married right now! There’s nothing to stop a gay man marrying a gay woman. You might be surprised how often that happens, just for the convenience.

It bothers me whenever i see the term “gay marriage”. This morning i saw journalists Emma Kennedy and Victoria Coren both use it, so i tweeted:

your periodic reminder that “marriage equality” is preferable to “gay marriage” .. thank you!

Emma agreed with me, but claimed that on twitter, “gay marriage” is more convenient, to avoid getting hundreds of tweets asking what “marriage equality” means. I didn’t realise that there was so much ignorance. It can’t be that hard to explain, surely? I think that if more journalists and politicians would start using the terms “equal marriage” or “marriage equality” then people would get used to it and understand what it means.

If we can’t go that far, “same-sex marriage” is at least slightly preferable to “gay marriage” because it’s more descriptive, and it doesn’t exclude bisexual people. It highlights the thing that is currently unequal about marriage. I still don’t like it because it implies that we’re talking about a different, separate thing, when what we actually want is equal access to the same thing.

One friend suggested that we should call it “Marry Who The Fuck You Want” .. people should be able to grasp that concept! Another friend recommends that we do away with marriage altogether, then we’d have equality of non-marriage!

It seems that the terminology of this thing is becoming my big bisexual soapbox of 2012, haha! And yes .. i know .. soapboxes do not have a sexuality. Well done if you spotted my irony there! ;)

Relatedly, for anyone who is trying to preserve the “sanctity of marriage”, the whole “one man, one woman” thing, remember that marriage is a human invention, and is always changing. I loved this poster that i saw the other day.

This is why we need a bi community

There is a television drama series on BBC3 at the moment called Lip Service which depicts the lives of a group of lesbian and bisexual women in Glasgow. I’m really enjoying the show and i’m pleased that the BBC is doing something to increase the visibility of lesbian and bisexual women on television. It hasn’t done a great job of depicting bisexual people so far, but i was pleased in the last episode when they showed that Frankie’s bisexuality is more than just words.

The episode provoked a strong biphobic reaction from a lot of people who were apparently shocked to see Frankie, one of the main characters, having sex with a man. They apparently missed Frankie talking openly about being bisexual in the first episode and flirting with a man in the second episode. I wasn’t at all surprised at the way the story developed; it made perfect sense within the storyline.

I commented on twitter that it was a shame to see such a biphobic reaction. Somebody gave me this response:

not biphobic I don’t think, just disappointment that what was billed as a lesbian drama has turned out to be a bi one. That’s fair

Well unfortunately, that comment in itself sounded biphobic to me. I pressed the person whether a gay character in an otherwise straight drama would make the series a gay drama. As it turned out, the issue was more that they felt the show had been wrongly advertised.

We chatted a bit more. I said i thought it was realistic: bi people exist within the LGBT community, and we often feel marginalised, and i wondered whether they could see how these comments make us feel exculded. To which i got this response:

yes I totally agree that bi exsists in the queer community but not in the lesbian community, they are two conflicting lables

At this point i was so upset and shocked that i decided to pursue it no further and went to bed. But this should not be left unchallenged. This is prejudice from within the LGBT community: this person (who identifies as lesbian) believes that bisexual people are unwelcome in the lesbian community. This person claims not to be biphobic but makes comments like “LESBIANS DONT SHAG MEN!!!!!”

Bi women do exist within the lesbian community. Some are open about their bisexuality, and some are not. Some people who describe themselves as lesbian sometimes enjoy sleeping with men. Some are scared to admit their attraction to men in a community that might consider them a traitor. I know all this is true because i know people in these situations.

I just find it so sad that people who know what it’s like to be discriminated against feel it’s quite okay to do the same to others.

The upside to this is that it made me all the more grateful for the bi community, which is so accepting of everyone. Gay, lesbian and straight people are welcome in the bi community, as well as bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual and queer people. The bi community is a place where all kinds of people feel at home in their diversity. I rarely see discrimination, and i often see great care taken to be inclusive of everyone. People make an effort to learn about different minorities and how to be more encompassing. I’ve known people to feel terribly distressed if they unintentionally discriminated against somebody through their lack of understanding.

I was recently asked why we need a bi community. Being put on the spot, i floundered a little and said something like, “Because it’s nice to be part of a community where no questions are asked and no assumptions are made.” If i were to be asked the same question again now, i might answer, “Because, sadly, we are not always accepted within the wider LGBT community.”

I’m looking forward to Lip Service tonight, to see how the characters on screen react to Frankie having slept with Jay. I wonder whether the reaction will be similar or different to the overwhelming negative reaction on twitter.

The Wessex Wyvern as SVG

I needed to find a good quality image of a Wyvern, the symbol of Wessex, ancient kingdom of the West Saxons. The best i could find was the image on the Wessex Flag, below, but it is poor quality and can’t be scaled up. So i had to learn a bit about path tracing and scalable vector graphics.

Wessex Wyvern (low quality)

Wessex Flag by Chrys Fear, found at fotw.net/flags/gb-wessx.html

I used a combination of the free open source graphics tools GIMP, Inkscape and Potrace to trace the shape into vector format. Even at the same size, it’s already much better, saved here in PNG format:

Wessex Wyvern (higher quality)

The SVG is infinitely scalable and you can download it here: wessex-wyvern.svg

Here you can see the quality improvement:

Before and after - close up

Here is a close up of the eye, which took a bit of work to get the paths just right:

Close up of the Wyvern's eye

I needed the Wyvern to form part of the Bi Wessex flag. Here is what we are affectionately calling the Bivern!

The Bivern (Bi Wessex Wyvern)

The Bi Wessex flag is also available as SVG, should you want it: bi-wessex-flag.svg

If you need to improve the quality of an image, i hope you will feel encouraged that it is possible, with a little bit of effort and experimentation.

Memories of BiCon 2010

London Docklands from the University of East London

BiCon 2010, the 28th annual bisexual conference/convention took place from August 26th – 30th at the University of East London, Docklands campus. It was combined with the 10th International Conference on Bisexuality, and the first international Bisexual Research Conference. About 450 people attended, from 28 countries!

I got up ridiculously early on Thursday 26th August in order to take the coach from Winchester to London leaving at 06:30. The journey was smooth and I was at UEL by 10am, in time to check in and drop off my suitcase in my accommodation.

The research conference was utterly brilliant, full credit to Meg Barker and Christina Richards for running it. Most of the talks were of exceptional quality, and i feel i learnt a lot. I enjoyed hearing about Helen Bowes-Catton’s research into how people perceive and visualise bisexual spaces. Kaye McLelland spoke about bisexuality in the works of Shakespeare, and i marvelled at how well my English teachers at school managed to hide it all from us!

Robyn Ochs at BiCon 2010

I was thoroughly inspired by a keynote talk from Robyn Ochs, a public speaker, writer, and long-standing bisexual activist. Robyn spoke of the importance of the impact that we make when we create space for people to be comfortably bisexual. I was touched by Robyn’s description of the reward when somebody tells us that we make a difference for them. I felt so proud at that moment that I helped to found Bi Wessex in Winchester: proud that people come along and gain something from the group, and that some of the members were there at BiCon.


Miguel Obradors Campos speaks at BiCon 2010

On Friday i bought Robyn’s book, Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World and attended the workshop where we heard from ten of the people who contributed to the book. They stood up and told us something about themselves and read an excerpt from the book. It gave such meaning to hear them speak personally, and when i reach their stories in the book, i will remember them. Their contributions will be particularly meaningful for me. I asked several of the contributors to write in my book, which they gladly did.


Sexual orientation self-definitions

I enjoyed hearing Heidi Bruins Green and Dr. Nicholas Payne speak about the results of a workplace survey on bisexuality. It was very interesting to hear the results analysed and validated from a mathematical perspective. Their results showed that bisexuality is not a phase on the way to something else, but a valid destination point, as are many other sexual orientations. They had some interesting data to show that happiness at work is directly correlated with LGBT support groups in the workplace, and anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Saturday’s discussion about words and phrases for bisexuality in other languages was intriguing. I shared my Esperanto knowledge about the etymology of the word ambaŭseksema and the positive phrase borrowed from shipping terminology navigi per vaporo aŭ velo (to navigate by steam or sail). We learned phrases, both positive and negative in German, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Italian, Sri Lankan, Welsh and Hebrew. Everybody contributed something, and the results will be published … somewhere.

Knitting a bi pride bracelet

I knitted a bi pride bracelet in the amazing craft room, and then on saturday afternoon i took some time out to visit Central London. I went to Covent Garden to visit the new Apple store (the biggest in the world) and enjoyed spending time by myself.

Saturday evening was the BiCon ceilidh which i enjoyed immensely. When it comes to dancing, i really like being told what to do! :) I made a new friend that night, somebody who i feel could become a very good friend. We danced together a lot and had some lovely conversations. Later on the music became too loud but i joined the Corridor Club upstairs where it was quieter and i enjoyed chatting to more people. We were actually the last to leave because we didn’t realise when the music had stopped and everyone downstairs had left!

Sunday was the disastrous “Bisexuality in Science-Fiction & The Future” workshop. It was marred by the speaker being late, a church group being in the room we were supposed to use, the laptop being broken, the projector refusing to work, and the speaker’s corny sense of humour which did not go down particularly well at 10am. I gave up and left after about ten minutes of technology fail, and went and joined the church, which i actually really enjoyed! Those who stayed said it only got worse, and by half way through several of them had started their own alternative science-fiction workshop out in the atrium!

The highlight of Sunday was “Smutty Storytelling” which was very well attended, and the storytellers did not disappoint! The stories were well written, and delivered with humour and enthusiasm! There were cheers and a standing ovation by the end! I sat with my new-found friend and mentioned that I had “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” on DVD, which we watched later that evening.

Monday morning seemed to go quite slowly. Things were winding down but there were still a few workshops left. I went to one on sensual play, which was well facilitated, and led to discussions of how we might turn the results into an amusing website! Later i went to have my photo taken professionally, so that hopefully i will appear again on the front cover of Bi Community News and maybe in other publications about bisexuality.

Latimer "the buck" and a lion from BiCon 2008 share a hug

Before i knew it, it was closing plenary. Awards and thanks were given, we celebrated the success of this BiCon, and met the team of BiCon 2011 which will be in Leicester from September 1st – 4th. Registration is already open!

The bi community is amazing. So totally inclusive and unquestioning. I am so happy that i went, I am sad that it’s over, but writing this is my therapy: recording my happy memories and celebrating the joys of the last few days.

Thanks so very much to the BiCon 2010 organising team – you did an incredible job!

Ben Mitchell, the BBC, and diversity

I’m going to do the unthinkable and blog about a soap opera!

Yes, i watch Eastenders. Sometimes it’s really good. The whole Stacey and Jean bipolar storyline has been the most powerful drama i can ever remember watching. Both Lacey Turner and Gillian Wright are incredible at acting, and they portrayed the story with heart-wrenching emotion.

Jean and Stacey

Sometimes Eastenders really annoys me. The Syed and Christian storyline has been bothering me for almost a year because apparently nobody has ever considered the possibility that Syed could be bisexual. I strongly disapprove of the notion that Syed has to choose between straight and gay, and having slept with Christian and enjoyed it, Syed is for evermore labelled as gay. This, as far as i am aware, is definitely not how sexuality works. Eastenders had the perfect opportunity to do a good bisexual character, and they messed it up time and time again.

Christian and Syed

My latest gripe has been with the Eastenders treatment of Ben Mitchell. Ben is an annoying winging kid whose whiney voice often gets me screaming at the television! (Do these kids go to acting school?!)

Ben Mitchell

But Ben had a moment of glory dancing to Love Games by Lady Gaga. I cheered at that. It’s not the first time we’ve seen Ben enjoy dancing and shunning “traditionally masculine” activities. Of course, everyone thought they saw exactly where the BBC was going with this. I saw where it might be going and hoped desperately that they weren’t about to do the obvious.

So it was with some frustration tonight that i saw Ben’s dad, Phil Mitchell, bring up the gay thing. Credit to the BBC they did the best thing for diversity that they possibly could do: effeminate flamboyant dancer Ben Mitchell fancies a girl! Hooray! Or is it?

Ben definitely played the pronoun game to start with. Whether that was for dramatic effect by the script writers or if they are paving the way for a future coming out for Ben, i don’t know. I sincerely hope they’re not going to fall prey to stereotypes and make Ben gay. I think there is so much more potential for Ben as a role model for young straight boys who are comfortable enough with their sexuality not to feel the need to be tough and act macho.

Which reminds me: BBC: don’t do this horrible “abused becomes abuser” thing that it looks like you’re about to do. Seriously, we don’t want to see it. Ben can be tough and strong without becoming a bully.

Thank you, that is all.

Holidays!

So my epic holiday is nearly over … i go back to work tomorrow after more than 3 weeks away. I actually can’t wait to get back! I so enjoy the work that i do, and i appreciate the structure of knowing what is going to happen each day.

Here is my holiday summary:

  • A few days at home relaxing and getting ready
  • Four days in Germany
  • A week in De Panne, on the North coast of Belgium over Christmas
  • Back home and time with family and friends
  • Dealing with horrible damp mouldy walls that got really bad when we were away

For more details and photographs, read on … but beware of the mould pictures if they might squick you out!

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So long, 2008

Approximately a year ago, you may have wished me a happy 2008. If you did, thank you! I had a pretty awesome year!

Reading back in my blog, it feels like a long year. In fact, i noticed a stark contrast between the two halves of the year, pivoting on the moment i got my new job. I was amazed by how much of a difference it made in my perception: the first half of the year feels much longer than a year ago, but everything since my new job feels very recent. Yet the two halves are separated by just one weekend! I also noticed how many more blog posts i made in the earlier half of the year compared to the latter.

So it’s new year’s eve again, the time when i get all retrospective and nostalgic. I actually quite like staying in on new year’s eve and blogging. Here is a summary of the year.

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Kia Bifesto! (What a BiFest!)

Resumo: Mi tre ĝuis Bifeston hieraŭ. Mi vidis malnovajn amikojn, amikiĝis kun novaj amikoj, kaj faris abundo de trikado.

So i am really glad we went to BiFest yesterday! That was definitely one of the best i have ever been to. Nice points were: it was well spread out with plenty of spaces we could go and not feel cramped up together, they provided a buffet tea for us, we got to watch Doctor Who (yay!!) and the weather was simply amazing for us!

I was able to see and catch up with some old friends and make some new ones. It seemed as if there were several new people there, but there were also many people noticeably missing, which was a shame.

The craft corner was a massive success, building on previous years. I think there were at least ten people doing some sort of knitting or crocheting during the day. I like to joke that bisexuality is synonymous with knitting! In truth, i believe it is all thanks to Ludy! I got a lot done on my blanket yesterday (pictures to come later today!) and i taught somebody how to knit! Yay! :) I also got chatting to somebody else about crochet, who had a totally excellent idea of a group crochet project where multiple people can work on the same thing simultaneously, using multiple threads, joining in or dropping out as they please. This sounds like something for BiCon! :D

Doctor Who was so much fun with a room full of people watching it together! We were all laughing and cheering and shouting at the television! A very interactive television watching experience!

All in all, i had a great time, met some lovely people with whom i’m hoping to keep in touch, and i do hope we’ll be able to go to BiCon this year. I am thinking of running an Esperanto workshop at BiCon, to introduce other people to the delights of the language! :)

Who is going to BiFest?

Resumo: BiFesto estas unutago festo por ambaŭseksemaj homoj. Ĝi okazos morgaŭ en Londono.

BiFest tomorrow, yay! :) Who is going? I will be there, with my knitting, and i can’t wait to see a lot of people i haven’t seen in ages. It should be a lot of fun. I haven’t been to a BiFest since that really good one in Brighton last year so i’m very excited to be going to this one.

Happy happy happy!!

Oh, what a Children in Need night this is! The Spice Girls and Boyzone! It feels like the nineties all over again! :)

Im waiting for youtube to get the videos! Mel C looked great in that top hat, and i saw a lovely tender cuddle between Mel C and Geri, awww! And everyone in Boyzone were all hugging and laughing. Stephen Gately looked so excited, heheh! Ronan Keating looked better than ever – i saw a touch of Simon Pegg with that short beard! ;)

Oh and how cool was that Dr Who?!?!!! :D Plus i have a not-very-secret crush on Fearne Cotton, so the evening is going very well for me! *melts* :)

Children in Need was good at work today, too. I won two things on a raffle, one of which will make a lovely Christmas present for my partner! Yay! I took £10 and decided to spend it on whatever for Children in Need. There was plenty to spend it on, with competitions, games, and food! :) But the gift i won was probably worth more than £10 so i did well out of it! :D

Finally, to complete my happiness tonight, i found these on harry_and_ron:

Dan and Rupert kiss?! Dan speech, Rupert speechless

Awww!! I dont think a Daniel/Rupert relationship is likely to happen, but its fun to speculate! ;) Its a bisexual world we live in these days, after all! Last i heard Daniel had fallen in love with the girl from Equus, which sounds yummily adorable if its true!