Should you use your real name to run a bi group?

Should you use your real name to run a bi group?

My answer to this is if you feel comfortable in doing so, then yes!

However if you don’t feel comfortable in doing so, or there is a potential risk of being outed to friends, family, a partner or an employer then don’t worry. There are lots of easy and free things you can do to run a bi group to ensure partial or full anonymity. Most of these things are just down to being cautious and careful and changing a few habits and behaviours.

There are several downsides to this:

  • The fear and anxiety of someone finding out who you are/where you work. If they do, will they out you? Threaten you? Post the information online where anyone could see it?
  • The extra work in setting up dozens of additional accounts and profiles.
  • The confusion of having so many additional accounts and profiles. (Hope you’re good at remembering passwords!)
  • The extra difficulties it may cause when filling in forms or making bookings if you have to use your real name.
  • Group members may constantly ask and badger you to tell them personal information such as where you work, or what sector you work in.
  • People feel shocked, surprised, upset or hurt if/when they find out that’s not actually your name.
  • People feel shocked, surprised, upset or hurt when you won’t tell them where you work or what you do for a living.
  • It sucks that you can’t just be yourself.
  • You hate lying, avoiding and hiding all the time.
  • All of the above can be emotionally d-r-a-i-n-i-n-g.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Sometimes leading a double life under your super alter ego can be quite fun and exciting! A little bit 007.

So what kind of things can you do to keep your personal information private? (You don’t have to do all of these things, you can do as many as you want or need to.)

  • Create a fake name.
  • Don’t tell anyone where you work, or lie about where you work.
  • If you need to pay for bookings, pay in cash where possible.
  • Set up a completely separate FaceBook account, and make sure your original one isn’t search-able. Don’t add anyone as a friend to both accounts. Don’t join any public groups or like pages under your original account if people know that information about you. E.g. Don’t like the Nottingham baseball club if people know that you like to play with that group every Wednesday.
  • Don’t use a photo of yourself for your original Facebook account userpic.
  • Delete any information about where you work from any social media accounts, blogs etc.
  • Avoid putting any photos of yourself online as much as you possibly can, or being photographed in situations where you photo might go online. E.g. a friend uploads pictures of you playing baseball to the public group and tags you without you knowing. Gah. People generally aren’t clued up about consent in this area, and put your picture up anywhere without asking first!
  • Avoid publishing any potentially identifying information about yourself or daily activities on social media accounts. E.g. if you tweet about your strawberry allergy one week…and that your cat died another week…someone could see all this and work out who you are just by scrolling down your page for a while.
  • Avoid posting the same things to both your accounts at the same time for the same reason, someone could end up seeing both and recognising the information.
  • If you make a casual booking (where you don’t have to fill in a form) USE YOUR FAKE NAME! Pubs especially have a bad habit of putting a sign up in your reserved area without asking or telling you beforehand. They’ll say something like: Reserved for Joe Bloggs for the bisexual group! Argh!
Pub Sign

The photo shows a reservation sign the pub staff made. Luckily I’d booked it using my activist name rather than my real one. Otherwise I’d have been outed to everyone who arrived before me! 

  • If you need to make a formal booking or pay by cheque or something, you could always ask a trusted member of the group to do this for you.
  • Use a different sim card or buy a cheap handset for £10 if you can afford to. Use it for any bi group related contacts, or phone numbers for members of the group. This avoids you giving out your phone number.
  • If you decide to stick with using the same sim and phone, don’t answer the phone with your name if you don’t know who’s calling, say hello instead. Save any contacts from the group as something like “Chelsea, Bi Group”. This will save you from accidentally texting a work colleague about BiCon or something.

This isn’t an exhaustive list. If you can think of any other things to add to it please comment below!

Some people might be a bit shocked by this. Why go to such lengths? Is it really worth bothering with? Sometimes remaining anonymous is the only way some people can do bi group work like this. Others prefer this option in order to play it safe. They may risk damaging a relationship with someone near and dear if the other person found out about their sexuality. You may hate hiding who you are from your mum, but if the alternative means never being friends with her again, then it’s reasonable to want to stay in the closet.

Whilst bisexuality is covered by the Equality Act 2010, the reality is you can be forced, bullied or pressured out of work and it can be very hard to prove this was because you’re bi. (If you could, it’s still a lot of worry, hassle etc. to go to a tribunal.) Even if you weren’t forced to leave, you could face discrimination, biphobia, bullying or harassment. Other more subtle things include being looked over for a promotion because your manager doesn’t think you’re reliable and trustworthy any more since they found out you’re bi. (from The Bisexuality Report, 2012)

I always feel pissed off when people make light of someone wanting to remain anonymous. There are clearly valid reasons for wanting or needed to hide who you are, even if it’s a horrible way to live your life and it’s unfair and it shouldn’t be this way.

If you know someone who does some or all of the things mentioned on the list above, whether they are a group attendee or organiser, please respect that. Don’t ask them questions you know they don’t want to answer. Don’t try and trick them into revealing information. Understand they are doing this for a reason. Support them by not sharing any personal information they trust you with.

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