Since I attended the Bi Consultations held by Stonewall in February 2015 I’ve wanted to do a write up of my thoughts and feelings on how the event went. I deliberately waited a few weeks for the adrenaline, excitement, and euphoria to wear off so I could write something more balanced. However by that point I felt really hurt and angry at the charity again and still haven’t been able to face doing a blog post about it yet.
However once thing that has stayed with me was something Ruth Hunt (chief exec of Stonewall) mentioned, which was this idea of what sucess looks like at the end of the day. An example she gave was an experience of going in to speak with a large construction company. This is not a quote, just my recollections of what she said! On that occasion sucess was getting them to realise that some people are gay or lesbian. Some of their staff could be gay or lesbian. That it’s not ok to call another man a poof when they do something like drop a load of bricks, and even if there were no lesbian employees it is still offensive to have a calendar containing lesbian porn hanging on the wall.
Now this was obviously a humoristic over-simplification of what she discussed with the company (though I’m sure the B word would’ve been left out a lot. : p) but the idea stayed with me. It reminded me that whilst some people are clued up on LGBT issues, most people aren’t. That for some it will take a long time to change their prejudices and negative attitudes. Others never will. You might want to walk in and talk about LGBT rights and issues and have everyone on your side, but sometimes you have to start with the basics such as what LGBT actually means.
One memory that came to mind was when I came out to a close Japanese friend. She had no concept of bisexuality at all, and after I had explained it to her, and then explained that I am one of those bisexuals, she told me that it was very interesting but there are no bisexuals in Japan. “Well when I lived there for two years, there was at least one!” I quipped before explaining that there are many LGBT people in Japan, but because it’s not socially acceptable most LGBT people don’t come out so live their lives in secret. It was a lot for her to take in, and I had to leave it there and tell her about other bi related things in my life later on. At that point sucess was just being able to come out, and being able to tell her what I was coming out as.
Another example comes from when someone new turned up at my group, and I unintentionally overwhelmed them by speaking about bi related things too much. They were at a bi meet for the first time, and just realising that they might not be straight for the first time. Sucess should have been me not making any assumptions about them and remembeing how scary it is when you first venture out into the bi scene.
Remembering these things has helped me recently, such as when I called up prisons in Nottinghamshire and asked them to display a rainbow flag on 17th May. I only had a few minutes to explain the whats and whys of my unusual request to people who had never heard of IDAHOBIT. It has also made me realise how little I know on topics such as racism and white privilege. That I will get things wrong sometimes. Do stupid or hurtful things sometimes. That people will have to explain things to me and/or correct me (if and when they want to).
However one simple thing I learnt from the Stonewall consultations is that some people are confusing bisexuality with complexity. So they are either mis explaining it or not including it at all as a result and this is a really harmful and hurtful thing to do. I didn’t consciously realise people were conecting the two until then. In addition it was great to hear an apology for doing it from Ruth/Stonewall during the consultations. One of the many reasons why the consultations were a sucess for me was being able to hear the apologies that I’d waited years for. (Along with statements that in time, Stonewall would change and do better in the future when it comes to bi issues and bi inclusion.)
I think it’s fine to simplify if you need to. Sometimes the sucess of your goals depends on it. However bisexuality it itself is not too complicated to talk about or understand!