Wednesday, 24 September 2014

My Bisexual Story: 14-22yrs old, The Video

For today's BiWeek hashtag (#BiMedia) and also as as contribution to the Bi+ Story Project (www.bistoryproject.org) here is my story. You've probably seen or read a lot of the information before, but I've been a bit more succinct this time!


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

BiVisibility - love not hate

My love is like anyone else's love. Being a minority, we can be seen - and also see ourselves - as intrinsically different. That's not an unusual phenomenon, because everyone wants to be special. But we're asking the haters to realise that there truly are more than two boxes (straight or gay) so why should we go against our own advice, and try and live in the world that we want, rather than the reality that we live in?

I'm not trying to accuse anyone of egotism or narcissism, nor am I disparaging the great work that bi activists have done for decades, flying our flag and making our voices heard. The work must continue; on this Bi Visibility Day 2014, we have every duty to be loud and proud (if we want to, and if we're in circumstances where it will not lead to harmful consequences) I don't disagree with that. But I want to take this opportunity to remind us to not get caught up in our own hysteria and start thinking of the bisexual community as superior.

Not many do. Sure, there are militant bisexuals who take it too far, but there aren't many of them, and we need to keep it that way. It is a great temptation, to me as much as any other person under the bisexual umbrella, to feel smug at my liberal and progressive gender knowledge/opinions; to scoff at ignorant plebs who still work on the gender binary system; to feel intense hate towards those who will not listen and spread suffering among the LGBT people that I love as my extended family.

But my love is like anyone else's love. Yes, there are polyamorous lovers, asexual lovers, and aromantics, plus a whole host of people who you could say technically love differently to me personally. What I mean is that I am a human being, and complex as I am, every other human being is just as complex, and more importantly, every other human being is worth no more and no less than me. So I have no right to feel smug, to scoff, or to hate - in fact, if being bisexual is a core part of my identity, and so if the way I love is so important, I am betraying myself by hating anyone or anything. It's not just unhelpful and nasty, its unbisexual.

Today is a day to celebrate. Take today's joy and love and carry it through the difficult times, and don't give into hate.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

LGBT at a Christian festival

Outerspace is the LGBT organisation at the Greenbelt Festival, an annual festival that started as Christian music in 1974, and has turned into an ecumenical and interfaith celebration of arts, faith and justice. I went to Greenbelt for the first time last year on the coat tails of my rector who was speaking in one of the debates. It was only for a day, and not being one of those young people who enjoys rock concerts or festivals, I wasn't really sure how to 'do' a festival, so I enjoyed myself but left feeling like I hadn't really seen a lot.

This year, on the tip of a friend at church, I applied for an internship with the events company hired by the Greenbelt charity to put up, manage, and take down the site. This meant spending three weeks stuck on an estate in the arse end of the middle of nowhere (but don't get me wrong, it was gloriously beautiful http://www.boughtonhouse.co.uk/boughton-estate/), and during the four days of the festival itself [the August Bank Holiday] I experienced as much as possible of the music, arts, debates, talks, and worship that was put on outside of my shift hours.

Professionally and spiritually, I felt inspired and enriched. But I was a little blindsided by how much I was affected personally in my experience of the LGBT events put on be Outerspace. I had googled whether there was anything LGBT at the festival and resolved to go to the Outerspace stall. It was when I was there that I was delighted to find several LGBT events taking place as well.

There was a interesting debate about marriage, and how the church is dealing with it. It was a little sad to hear one of the participants advocating a third option to add the choices of marriage and celibacy, and seeming to be under the illusion that he was advocating something fair and just, when in fact his ideas were plain suggestions for inequality. There was a conversation about the general state of LGBT issues in Christianity, followed by lovely worship that included various LGBT Christians sharing their stories. The much acclaimed Rev Andrew Cain spoke of being the first ordained priest in the CofE to marry his husband after the UK instigated the marriage bill in April, and being stripped of his licence to minister; and a woman spoke of meeting another woman, falling in love, and feeling a call to marriage, but realising that she had to choose between that call and her call to ministry and ordination - she chose the latter and they are now civilly partnered as she starts her training. They sang an a cappella two part harmony duet version of Down By the River to Pray, and whilst the singing was gorgeous, it was the glances at each other that tugged at my heart strings.

These were all wonderful, but it was one other event that hit me to my core. At 10pm on the Saturday, one of the small venue marquees filled up with people, and so began the Outerspace Eucharist. It started with a quick introduction to Outerspace, and then there was an invitation to those who, since Greenbelt last year, had had an anniversary, gotten engaged/civilly partnered/married, or come out to stand up so we could celebrate with them. I was surprised and elated to see a member of my own home congregation stand up at the call for those who had come out; I made sure I went over to him at the peace and gave him a great big hug.

It was a solid Anglican service after that, barring the rainbow altar cloth and rainbow stole on the gay priest. His sermon made me cry. I don't remember all of it - I think it was mostly about how we're slowly getting to a good place with the church and we need to keep going - but he ended by holding up a piece of yellow paper. He said he had been tidying around the Outerspace stall earlier that day, and found it on the floor, and upon reading it, immediately wanted to send it to every bishop in the CofE, with a note saying something along the lines of "In regards to how you treat LGBT people and issues in the church, read and take note." He then explained that it was a child's wordsearch, and the theme was 'Tips For Keeping Friends'. And he read out the list of words to find in a quiet, measured tone, and it was this that brought me to tears.

Be supportive
Be encouraging
Don't tease or belittle
Cooperate
Compromise
Be considerate
Talk openly about disagreements
Apologise when you've done something wrong
Listen to each other
Give each other a compliment
Be dependable
Respect each other
Be trustworthy
Care about each other
We try and teach our children to be good people and good citizens, and this list may seem simplistic in the face of the complex theological, scriptural, religious, philosophical, and sociological arguments about being LGBT in Christianity. But we cannot let the gumpf and fluster make us forget the simple truths we learnt as children in how to treat each other. The preacher was right when he pointed out that it sometimes feels like that has been lost in the conversation, and this needs to be fixed.

I've been lucky to not meet people who disapprove of my orientation. I have been blessed to find a church that not just accepts me, but welcomes me and even celebrates me! And I have 'known' that there's Christian support for LGBT people outside of my church as well. But at Greenbelt, I was overcome by the realisation that it was the first time I had truly believed it, because I experienced it, I saw it, and heard it, and my cup runneth over with the support and joy of Christians for LGBT people on a grand scale. It was heart-warming and inspired great hope for the future.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Pride in London 2014

Yes, this is the obligatory post about my day at Pride in London. Didn't do one last year, so I'm going to do one this year. Yes, every LGBT blog does one, but hey, Pride's important, and every year I have a different experience.

I go with my church, who join in with Christians Together at Pride, which also has Catholics, Quakers, Baptists, and Methodists, among others. I see the same people each year in the purple "Christian & Proud" t-shirts, and sometimes new faces. The Christian group is usually about 60 people I'd say, and we're normally in the same region as the Muslim group (see this blog post about an incident that happened while we were all lined up waiting), the Humanist group, and the Jewish group.

We had 8 people turn up at the church, and we made our way to the meeting point. The most exciting thing for me was I got to see Big Jesus, who I had heard would be joining us. A church in Blackpool have made this massive Jesus wearing a traditional robe and a not so traditional rainbow sash, that stands on a scaffold on someone's shoulders  and joins the parade, with independent arms that two other people control. During the parade, he was waving, blowing kisses, giving hi-fives, it was awesome! Who doesn't love a massive, home-made Jesus?! There were also badges being handed out that said "Justice for Jeremy" which refers to this historic incident which was followed by this one.

We headed to Baker St, and eventually found our spot. Our church rolled out our banner, and I wore our rainbow flag as a sarong. It went well with my rainbow nails, and my make-up; I didn't have face paint, but using lipstick, eyeshadow, and eye-liner, I draw on and coloured in a stars and swirls design encircling my face and going down onto my neck. I had big earrings as well, but it wasn't all girly - I also wore my Timberlands, because I wanted to, and no one gave a damn about gender expression. Obviously.

It started to rain, and very rarely stopped for the rest of the day. Plus we were stuck. We arrived at 12, the front set off at 1, we moved at 2.15. But we're British, so essentially queuing in the rain was no problemo. I felt sorry for they guy wearing Big Jesus, that thing must have gained serious weight from water-logging. I had a brolly (I am a stage manager, always be prepared) so it was fine, and we did eventually move off.

There weren't quite as many crowds, because we were near the back and it was raining, but it was a lot of fun. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. But by gum was it tiring. By the time we got to tea and cake at the Quakers meeting house, I was cream crackered. I went home, took off the face, and did my grocery shopping.

The most inspiring thing for me was seeing the joy of my friend who was part of my church group. It was his first time in a Pride parade, and he was almost gleeful. "I want as much tat as possible!" It was heart warming, and shows just how important pride events are even on a personal level. There was also a friend of a friend who came, who balked as we lined up, and went to disappear into the crowds rather than marching with everyone watching. Because for every man, woman and those in between in that parade, there were thousands like him who cannot feel comfortable being so open about who they are. For him, it was an acute suffering, as he is from a country that culturally and legally is very hostile towards LGBT.

Today, my church also had a combined feast day - St Peter and LGBT Pride. The rainbow flag was on the altar, the banner was hung up where our ten commandments are supposed to go, and I wore my rainbow pin on my alb (white robe) whilst serving. Our 'sermon' was one of the LGBT group interviewing a member of the Open and Proud Diamonds group, a UK charity that give support to LGBT refugees and asylum seekers from Africa. And my enthusiastic friend wrote the prayers, but he was unwell this morning, so I read them. It was agreed by all to have been a wonderful service, with extra cake and sweets donated by members of the group to accompany the tea afterwards.

I love being part of LGBT stuff. I have had a great weekend. And I feel Proud to be a bisexual.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Part of the family

I've just finished working on a show with people I have taken to calling our rainbow team ie. the core few people I've been working with within a bigger team are all queer in one way or another.
And of course our sexualities didn't come up in conversation a lot [even when working in theatre it generally doesn't] but just knowing that if I did bring it up, the people around me would know, acknowledge and further what I was talking about, which did happen on occasion; and knowing that I wasn't a minority on my own (as we were still a minority in the wider team) - it felt wonderful.
It was simply lovely, similar to the feeling I get in a gay club or when I'm in or watching a pride parade, a feeling similar to that of family - affection, solidarity, pride, understanding, support. But it was different because it was under everything; our queerness wasn't the main focus of the activity, and we rarely talked about it, because we were getting on with the job, but it wasn't quashed. It wasn't hidden or ignored. It was just there and not a big deal.
I do feel that it's not a big deal with straight friends and coworkers as well (except those that don't pick up or simply forget that I'm bi). It's a feeling akin to acceptance, I think. However, the novelty is being in essentially a queer environment without it being the main reason we are together, and still being tangibly aware of it. LGBT meetings are great, but it is encouraging to find I can get that feeling of solidarity in a 'real life' context as well.
I've always liked being with other queers, just like I enjoy being with my family. Working on this production was like putting on a wedding - the purpose is the marriage of two people (putting on a performance), and it involves a ceremony and a reception (a rehearsed staging and first night party), and logistics like clothes (costume), venue (theatre) and decor (set and props); but doing all the planning and execution around the main event [that can sometimes be dull or a lot of time/effort!] with people you feel a connection to makes it more than bearable; it can at times be as fun as the event itself eg. a shopping trip for clothes becomes enjoyable if you have a parent and/or close friends along to do it with you, and a lengthy conversation about scheduling is made easier if you have something in common with your director.
Hopefully that simile shows that they are similar contexts, with similar results. Feeling closer to my team through our shared queerness enhanced the trust we built in our relationships whilst working to put on a show. Sure, you can't get over major arguments or personality clashes just by being connected - that's why Aunty Margaret has to be seated the other end of the marquee to her sister who she's had a feud with for 20years - but hastening the familiarity meant more honest, frank, and I suppose just more grown up conversations (and Aunty Margaret kept her promise and didn't throw wine in her sister's face. After all, she's still her sister.)
I will admit I started writing this post on the way home from the wrap party, so if it doesn't make sense, blame the gin!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Why are homos and heteros scared of bisexual adultery?

One of the many classic reasons given by heteros and homos as to why they don't want to date someone who is bisexual is that they would be scared of the bisexual cheating on them or leaving them for someone of the opposite gender to themselves.

And it confuses the shit out of me. Not just the frustrating assumptions behind it that we can't be satisfied with only one gender; that we need both, must have both, and probably at the same time, or we're somehow going to spend our entire lives having threesomes, or at least sleeping with one person of each gender at all times (which to ignorant people means 1 man and 1 woman), or even that we by necessity are all polyamorous, and the only way to be happy is a three person couple.

Not just that. It hurts, like all biphobia, because it makes me feel like I am automatically untrustworthy. Why should who I am attracted to have any bearing on the kind of person I am? I'm a good person! There are cheaters, and there are faithful partners, and neither group is delineated along the lines of orientation. If I'm the kind of person who wants a monogamous, long-term relationship, and eventually marriage, the genders of the celebrities on my personal Hot List are irrelevant to my likelihood of cheating/leaving my partner for someone else.

It also seems illogical. Who cares what gender my partner has cheated on me with/is leaving me for, that bastard has betrayed me, replaced me, broken trust, probably lied to me, and disrespected me! My girlfriend sleeps with/runs off with a man, it is not going to hurt any more or any less than if she had slept with/run off with a woman. Even the thought of this non-existent girlfriend cheating on me hurts a little bit; the image of someone's hand, anyone's hand, touching the body that I - hypothetically - loved, caressed, cared for, and centred my world around - how could it hurt more, simply because it was Craig and not Carol? The girlfriend would be gone, my heart would be broken, and I would hate the person they slept with equally if it was Craig OR Carol.

So why do some homos and heteros feel differently? I genuinely don't understand. Sure, someone of a different gender to you can give your partner different things. But obviously so can someone of the same gender as you, otherwise why do homos and heteros cheat on their partners with people the same gender as their partner? (Hopefully that sentence makes sense). If your partner has cheated on you/is leaving you for someone else, you have been inadequate or something has been wrong; it is not your gender. It's you, or it's them, but it's probably both of you, two individuals with unique lives, with a broken relationship. Don't blame their bloody orientation - you're sidestepping the issue.

And don't be scared of entering a relationship with a bisexual. The relationship will work or will break, based on how the two of you work together, and how much effort you both put into the relationship.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Getting bi amongst the gays

(I'm going to apologise right now for the over-used pun in the title of this post, but to be fair, I don't think I have ever used it on this blog before, so it's almost like doing my duty to let it appear just once).

Regulars to this blog will remember that I watch the daily vlogs of Will and RJ, who are a couple "demonstrating just how normal gay life can be". The reason I've brought it up in the past, and I bring it up again, is that RJ identifies as a bisexual man (see previous post).

Unsurprisingly, they regularly hang out with a social group that consists of gay men, and whenever they film a group situation, there often references in the footage to 'all the gays in the room' or 'that's what we gays do' or similar, you get the idea. I have mixed feelings about the fact that RJ goes along with it, and sometimes he's even the one who says it.

On the one hand...
RJ is in a MM, long-term, committed relationship and hanging out with people he cares about who are all gay men, including his fiancee. It is a gay setting, and no one is denying his bisexuality by including him in the plural noun 'gays'. No one is calling him gay specifically, nor does anyone have malicious intent of any kind by using the term (though I cannot speak for any individuals who might of a private opinion that often occurs in gay men that RJ is in fact gay and should stop calling himself bisexual. Probably none of them think that, and as a viewer I've never seen anything that explicitly indicates any of them think that, but I wanted to acknowledge that it was a possibility); it's just a cultural reference because he is involved in that culture, and it is a method in maintaining their friendship bond by emphasising their commonality.

It would be annoying and awkward to demand that everyone always acknowledge that he is not attracted to just men; off the top of my head, I don't know how that would even work, referring to 'the gays and RJ' or 'the gays and bi men' - it would be odd and difficult to say 'that's would we do' and have the 'we' meaning both gay and bi men, especially as, despite a lot they often have in common, they are actually different. I'm sure it would feel like RJ wanted attention, to seem special, which obviously it wouldn't be. And it would potentially put up a barrier by emphasising their differences.

RJ seems comfortable with it - he has chosen to support the general banner of defending same-sex love, and has never indicated he is interested in the specifics of the bisexual battle against prejudice, which is a perfectly fine choice to make, as would the choice to not do anything and just get on with life. There is no onus on bisexuals to put effort into waving the bisexual flag.

On the other hand...
It makes me uncomfortable, and I think that's because I would not like to be included in any reference to 'us lesbians' because yes, I do identify with the LGBT community as a whole, but not 'lesbian' or 'gay'. If I was to get extreme, RJ is accepting and perpetuating bi-erasure. Putting a bit of thought into it, surely an alternative such as 'all the queers in the room' or 'that's would us LGBT lot do', or similar is a lot more inclusive and not rendering invisible any orientations present. Also over-used are racial/gender comparisons, but it is true that if you had a mixed gender group, it wouldn't seem like a special allowance to refrain from talking about 'us gents', 'we women', etc, and using neutral terms like 'guys' or even 'us lot'. I feel that we need to get into that inclusive way of thinking with LGBT language as well.

So...
As I said, I have mixed feelings, and I can see both sides. I would not suggest that RJ take some sort of stand with his group; like I said, he seems absolutely fine with the playful banter of his friends, and I have noticed that when he's vlogging alone or just with Will, he refers to 'LGBT' when he means more than just gay men, so I'm reassured that it is likely he is not victim to internal biphobia; and everything seems cool within the group.

He's established how it operates with them, and I have established how I operate in my social group, and we've simply got different styles. My friends have developed inclusive language for our group interactions to the point where it's almost second nature, and that makes me content, because I feel acknowledged as present and involved, and also reassured that they are aware of the wider LGBT community and their separate issues; and because I get the impression (and hopefully I'm right) that they have no problem with it as they think it's the right thing to do too. I would hope that if they had felt it was annoying that they would have told me, and I think our friendships (plus the fact that they know that I deal happily with directness) are such that they would feel they could bring it up with me.

Big picture, I think it's an indicator of how the 21st Century English-speaking world is struggling to deal with the great changes in sexuality and gender knowledge, awareness, and attitudes using an outdated vocabulary.