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Bureaucracy and Bi-exclusion in the LGBT+ Community

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The_bisexual_pride_flag_(3673713584)

By Pip Williams

Content note: biphobia, mentions of rape, stalking, and intimate partner violence

A tweet by bisexual women’s magazine Biscuit came to my attention earlier today, sharing parts of an email exchange between editor Libby, and organiser Patrick of London LGBT Pride.

Libby’s email politely points out Pride’s glaring omission; a bisexual marching group, and goes on to ask for the opportunity to register for this opportunity to be reopened. The part of Patrick’s response essentially dismisses Libby’s “demands”, suggesting that they will “tire [the] long-suffering Parade volunteers.”

Following my discovery of this tweet, I, and in turn many of my LGBT+ friends, engaged with London LGBT Pride’s Twitter account over the course of several hours.

Our exchange was, for the most part, unproductive. London LGBT Pride insisted that the responsibility for this oversight lies with the bisexual groups who failed to register before the event’s deadline, and refused to acknowledge that an exception ought to be made to allow at least one bisexual group to register, maintaining that this would constitute “special treatment”.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but first I’d like to address London LGBT Pride’s reliance on the excuse of bureaucracy to excuse their bi-exclusion. When the system is put in place by you, there’s no excuse for not modifying it when it’s shown to be ineffective or exclusionary.

It’s not unreasonable for LGBT Pride attendees to expect to see all groups mentioned in the acronym represented. An event that markets itself as LGBT pride is falsely advertising if it fails to deliver on this representation – L, G, B, and T. Something tells me that were only bisexual groups to have registered, the first-come-first-served policy might have been modified somewhat.

In a situation like this, where there is a complete absence of applications from a specific group, organisers would do well to consider the circumstances in which this has occurred. Applications to march at pride are not happening in a vacuum, and there are plenty of reasons why bisexuals might feel less than welcome.

Bisexual people, and particularly those in relationships read as heterosexual, are often regarded with suspicion on entry to explicitly queer spaces. This suspicion – which can often progress to outright hostility – is a major barrier to bisexual inclusion in community events. The validity of bisexual queerness is determined in relationship to a bisexual’s current partner. If they are in a relationship that does not appear visibly queer, they are immediately excluded.

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If entering into a “heterosexual” partnership truly absolved bisexual people of all the disadvantages and marginalisation of a queer identity, the vitriol might be easier to understand. Alas, this is not the case. A 2010 study revealed that 61.1% of bisexual women, for example, have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. 89.5% of this violence was conducted by male partners. This means that 54.7% of bisexual women in the study had experienced violence at the hands of a male partner, compared to 35.0% of straight women.

It’s true that the marginalisation bisexual people face differs from that experienced by other members of the LGBT+ community, but that doesn’t make it any less real or important. The experiences of gay men and lesbians are not the benchmark by which the validity of LGBT+ experiences should be measured, and should not determine whether or not we are welcome within the community. After all, there’s a B in the acronym for a reason.

This lack of inclusion on a community level is probably a major factor in why no bisexual groups applied to march at London LGBT Pride. Conveniently, it also means that London LGBT Pride are unlikely to be held accountable for failing to rectify this, when what they ought to be doing is working to counter it. Outreach projects and a commitment to education of lesbian and gay groups to prevent bisexual exclusion would be a great place to start. Trying to pin the blame on the bisexual community is not an appropriate response. If bisexual people don’t feel welcome at your LGBT event, that’s a sign that something has gone very wrong indeed.

Pop Culture of 2014

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By Sophia Simon-Bashall

A week into the new year, let’s look back on all of the things  that have happened in the worlds of music, film and fashion in 2014, and hope for a year of awesome things ahead.

Some of 2014 has been truly awful and problematic (Meghan Trainor’s skinny-shaming in All About That Bass, and her subsequent comments on eating disorders, for example!), but we have also had some wonderful things come out of 2014. Of course we must examine the bad in order to overcome it, but it’s always nice to reflect on the positive, so here’s a round-up of some of the highlights…

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  • The brilliant Ellen Page came out, with bravery and grace. A world of feminist queer girls cheered – partially in support and solidarity of this wonderful woman, partially in utter delight. In all seriousness, it was a very moving speech, leaving us all bursting with pride, and gave many a fresh wave of courage.
  • Beyoncé released a music video for Pretty Hurts, which is obviously everyone’s favourite song on her latest album. It sends out a powerful message against beauty standards and perfection, critiquing beauty pageants in particular for pitting women against each other in the name of homogenous beauty.
  • Many popular women’s magazines began to take on the ‘feminist’ label. They still have a long way to go, quite frankly – they’re still airbrushing photos, keeping adverts which perpetuate the hyper-sexualisation of women’s bodies etc. etc. However, they are including some pieces on important issues and featuring strong women (and allowing them to talk about more than their make-up routines!). I’ve seen spreads on the dangers of diet pills, sexual harassment, discussions on abortion laws, and heaps of coverage of incredible things done by incredible women! It’s a very big step forward.
  • The greatest independent British film ever happened. PRIDE! Based on the real action of a London-based LGBT group supporting striking miners from a village in Wales, Pride embraces stereotypes and simultaneously smashes them. It’s very feel-good, whilst also being incredibly moving and will bring you to tears in several instances. If you’re not cracking up five minutes after choking up and vice-versa, you’re watching the wrong film.
  • Amazing actress Emma Watson turned activist! In September, Emma gave a very emotive speech to introduce the brilliant He For She campaign. Having such a prominent figure openly denounce the feminism vs. man myth has done wonders for the movement, as can be seen in the influx of support worldwide – including more famous faces to spread the word…
  • Taylor Swift became queen of the whole world (she’s always been queen of my personal world, but hey, the wider world has woken up). The release of 1989 signifies a massive change of tone in Taylor’s music. The singles Shake It Off and Blank Space (although the music videos of each single have been controversial) are total anthems, sending the message that this girl does not care what people think of her anymore, and as a listener, empower you to feel the same. Alongside the songs, Taylor has been vocal about the inequality within the music industry, how she has experienced backlash for writing about relationships and heartache, whilst male musicians do the same thing, but are simply praised for the quality of their song writing. Every criticism this girl has had over the years, she’s just shakin’ it off, because haters gon’ hate, and Taylor’s gon’ slay.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt. 1 was released, and with all the action and emotion came a total reversal of stereotypical gender roles in film! Whilst Katniss is, as ever, our badass heroine, Peeta is the damsel in distress, as the hostage of the Capitol. It makes a refreshing change.

A more personal highlight for me has been joining Powered By Girl – and I am honestly not just saying that! I feel so fortunate to be a part of this, and to know these wonderful girls, some of whom have swiftly become some of my best friends. You all continue to inspire me, make me smile, and make me proud, every single day. Here’s to more feminist adventures in 2015!

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