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.

Friday, 29 November 2013

The Pilling Report - A bisexual perspective

The Church of England published today a report commissioned in January 2012, named Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality. Many news agencies are trumpeting the news that it contains recommendations that "there can be circumstances where a priest, with the agreement of the relevant parochial church council, should be free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service but should be under no obligation to do so."

Exciting as this may be, it was when I was perusing the CofE's official news item on its website (http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2013/11/pilling-report-published.aspx) that I came upon this sentence - "It warmly welcomes and affirms the presence and ministry within the church of gay and lesbian people both lay and ordained."

Oh here we go, I thought. Where are the bisexuals please?

So I am going to search the report (PDF: http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1891063/pilling_report_gs_1929_web.pdf) for the word 'bisexual' and write notes here as I go (I haven't the time to read through the whole thing, thought I wish I could).

1. First mention is in the classic LGBT list in paragraph 32 on page 6. Not a good start.
2. Same again in par. 41
3. Ooh, quoting stats now. 2012 British survey by Office of National statistics - 0.4% identified as bisexual. Unsurprising that, seeing as it is misunderstood, marginalised, and discriminated against by straight, gay and lesbian people!
4. OMG they've raised their game, I'm impressed! The next paragraph is actually quite rational and reassuring: These data give a combined total of 1.5% of the adult population that self identifies as homosexual or bisexual...only gives a snapshot of those who self-identified in this way when the survey was taken. It does not take into account those with a degree of same sex attraction who chose not to identify as homosexual or bisexual, those who would have identified as homosexual or bisexual in the the past but who no longer chose to do so, or those who did not identify as homosexual or bisexual at the times of the survey, but might go on to do so in the future.
5. Par. 199 acknowledges that sexual fluidity is probably a thing! Again, surprised and pleased at the level of knowledge show. 
6. FOLLOWED BY THIS AMAZING PARAGRAPH: Rather than thinking about the human population in terms of a fixed binary division between two sets of people, those who are straight and those who are gay, it seems that we need to accept that while there is a large majority of people who only ever experience heterosexual attraction and a smaller number who only experience homosexual attraction, there is also a significant minority of people who either experience some form of bisexual attraction or who move between heterosexual and homosexual attraction at some point or points in their life.
7. And back to being part of the LGB/T list.
8. Interesting phrase "bisexual and same sex attractions" in par. 418. What are bisexual attractions?? I think they've gone too far with trying to use inclusive language. But good on them for trying!
9. OOH Par. 419 points out that we're well beyond just dealing with homosexuality and homophobia! Yay.
10. "What...would the Church of England say to someone...who says they identify as gay or lesbian or (increasingly likely) as bisexual..." Interesting.
11. Oh, mention of those bisexual attractions again, quite a few times.
12. And finishing back in the LGBT list.

Wow, okay, that is encouraging. Amazing that the investigation really stuck into the nature of sexuality, an understanding of which is, I believe, crucial. I think it is that education, above all, that has enlightened the writers and led to their recommendations of progress and improvement. Small steps, but my Church might just be on the right track after all!!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

New place, new people, how/when to drop the B bomb

I am currently on a work placement. To pass my degree, I have to do a minimum 4 weeks at a place of work related to my course/career (usually a theatre or theatre company) and the ideal is that each student finds their own placement ie goes job hunting without the scary part. Nice idea, right?

I was very lucky on a recent project to meet a member of the stage management team of a well-known theatre company whose latest show is currently running in London, and through that contact secured 6 weeks with the show. I'm just coming to the mid-way point as I type, and I've mostly been with stage management, but I've also been with the production management, design, and lighting teams.

I have yet to use the word 'bisexual'. And I feel bad about it. The question is whether I should feel bad, whether there was an onus to on me to come out early on, make it clear and obvious (but not in a way that shoves it down people's throats. We wouldn't want that) to which I have somehow not lived up. Because I have no idea if any of the people that I have met, got to know, and worked with over the last three weeks have any idea that I'm bisexual, and I suppose I want them to know.

[Oh no, I can already see this post getting self-psychoanalytical... Bear with me, I'm sure there'll be a point somewhere along the line.]

I can tell you that I've tried, attempted to spread the word. Just today in fact, I was talking about my hair, how it refuses to be anything but straight, "which is ironic, because I'm not straight" I said. Seems quite a neat trick to getting it out there, or at least, that's what I thought. I was irritated that none of the three assistant stage managers with me within the small, dark box room hidden on set questioned this statement. Similarly, at another time, I mentioned the project I just finished, and upon being asked to explain further, I told of the LGBT nature of the research. And again, no comment was made to clarify my own orientation.

 I can tell you. I'm disturbed that my reaction of disappointment shows an unconscious desire for drama and intrigue about my orientation - I'm pretty sure this stems from my pride being hurt, which I do not like to realise about myself; compared to how I feel consciously and objectively, which is that I want interest, as opposed to intrigue, and no drama.

I haven't talked about much else that's personal with them, we haven't reached that stage in our working relationships; plus I am here on a temporary basis, and establishing deeper friendships is unlikely to occur in this situation. So it does seem like communicating that I'm bisexual is unnecessary, the same as my love of Disney, and how I schedule my meals.

But it's an integral part of who I am, especially how I interact with people - I'm a very flirtatious person, I really enjoy being flirty even with people I have no intentions on, and obviously I flirt with people of all genders, so surely giving that interaction some sort of context will improve things. I have my cross round my neck at all times to express my Christianity, which puts things like anecdotes I might tell from church into a context that negates the need to extra exposition. But I have nothing like that for my bisexuality.

And yes, it would be irritating as hell if I constantly had a bisexual flag pinned to my chest every day. Religion is one thing, something that influences all aspects of my thought process, behaviour, and decision making, but orientation involves personal relationships, and sex, and all sorts of things that don't actually have an impact on most other parts of life, especially at work.

As you can see, I'm of two minds on this one; objectively, revealing my orientation would be helpful, but it is not necessary, but emotionally, it feels like hiding, like dishonesty, and I suspect people not knowing (or at least, not knowing if people know or not) affects my behaviour and interactions. Should be letting it get to me, or should I be more laid about about it? I don't know.

Friday, 1 November 2013

My coming out as bisexual - this time as a video

There is already a post I wrote about my coming out somewhere in the archive of this blog, but I've been meaning to post it as a video on Youtube for sometime, and I finally got round to it!