Rewind 5-10 years and bis were faced with a very poor and limited choice in terms of shopping. Stalls at Pride were rainbow only. Online shops weren’t much better. You could either buy something with a bi flag slapped on it or a t-shirt reading “God said Adam and Eve, so I did both”. If you were looking for something subtle, less sexualised or hell, even just stylish, unless you could make it yourself you were out of luck.
I love how much this has changed!
(Before I start gushing about Rainbow & Co, it’s worth mentioning at this point that companies do not give me freebies or approach me to promote their products or anything. I’m not well-known enough for that, and I only write about what I’ve tried and tested myself.)
I discovered Rainbow & Co after seeing an ad for their “don we now our gay apparel” Christmas jumper. My fingers flew across the keyboard and entered my card details before I could even finish humming “Deck the Halls”. The jumper arrived beautifully packaged and was really high quality. Alas, it was too big but they happily switched sizes for me and kept me well-informed about my order. Their customer service was also really quick and friendly.
To my delight the company is local, based in the Greater Manchester area. They donate 10% of sales to LGBTQ+ charities and I can’t wait to buy more things from them in the future, such as their TERF repellent pin!!
They cover a wide range of gender indenties and sexualities and welcome suggestions for new stock if you can’t find what you’re looking for. You can also nominate a charity for them to support.
If you are outside of the UK, don’t worry. They will post things internationally.
Two awesome bi activists have books coming out in 2021 and I can’t wait to read them!
The first is Queerly Autistic: The Ultimate Guide for Lgbtqia+ Teens on the Spectrum by Erin Ekins. This will be a vital resource for young people, especially as being autistic and LGBTQ+ is marginalised despite the fact that they frequently coincide. You can pre-order it here*.
I also highly recommend checking this out if you organise events for LGBTQ+ people. When I ran Nottingham BiTopia for example, about a 1/4 of attendees were autistic or neurodiverse.
In case you aren’t following her already, Erin’s Twitter handle is @QueerlyAutistic.
The second book is Bi the Way: The Bisexual Guide to Life by Lois Shearing from the same publisher (Jessica Kingsley Publishers). It’s described as an essential guide for anyone who is bisexual, or looking for information on bisexuality, and will cover a wide range of topics such as dating, dealing with biphobia, and gender identity. Click here to pre-order*, and you can follow Lois on Twitter at @LoShearing.
What books are you excited about? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments!
The above images are the book covers for Queerly Autistic and Bi The Way. Both covers are words on a coloured background. Queerly Autistic is yellow writing on orange. Bi The Way is pink, purple and blue on a purpple background.
*Note: I’ve checked the publisher’s site and they are not available to pre-order there. If this changes I will swap the links so people can support them directly.
One of the few joys of lockdown has been the chance to discover new games and play them for hours on end without interuption. I notched up 10 consecutive hours in Heaven’s Vault one Saturday back in May because it was so entralling, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop. And the light evenings back then meant I could still go for my permitted walk of the day afterwards. How fabulous!
For the past few weeks people have been feeling on edge, knowing lockdown restrictions could become harsher any at moment with little to no warning. For many, this uncertainty and lack of clarity has been some of the hardest aspects of the pandemic to deal with.
Now full lockdowns are happening again in parts of the UK – and it looks like next week the rest of us will join them. It will be harder this time with colder, wetter weather taking away our chance to enjoy time outside coupled with long, dark evenings.
Life has been reduced to trying to similtanously savour and grieve the things you know will soon be taken away from you again. Every weekend I go for what could be my last meal at a restuarant for a while. Or see a friend in a park for what could be the last time for a while. It’s hard to fully enjoy these activities though, because we just don’t know.
Over the past month I also had a grief milestone looming over me. On Sunday, the sad and grief-stricken day arrived where I had lived longer without my mum than with her. As always with grief-milstones, the build-up was very emotional and intense (and always worse than the actual day itself for some reason!). I felt quietly heartbroken and I didn’t have anyone to talk about it with who understood or knew what that day meant to me.
And then I stumbled upon Eastshade. What a beautiful, moving, life-affirming game! It gave me everything I didn’t realise I needed.
It is very carefully and thoughtfully designed. At the start of the game, you travel to a small island populated with talking, walking animal folk. Your reason for visiting is that your mother really loved this place. You want to find and paint 4 beautiful views on the island that she told you about. She died an unspecified amount of time ago. This is OK though because the grief is quietly there but it’s not so raw it’s unbearable. You have gentle challenges to move the game along but nothing is urgent, nothing bad will happen to you and nothing can hurt you. You can find and complete other quests along the way but they are also small and gentle, like helping someone to find something. Or discovering the source of the music in the woodlands at night.
Exploring is the heart of the game. All the quests are designed to get you look around and discover something more and you are always rewarded for this. Every flower, beach, woodland trail, and sunset is just magnificent. It is so beautifully crafted. For example, the light changes depending on the time of the day. So I often found my way back to the beach, river, or tower top just to appreciate it during a different moment.
The sound design was also exquisite and again, I often found myself visiting places just to hear a particular piece of music, or the waves, or the sound of paddling my raft on the lake.
Another clever bit of design was the way that areas of the island opened up for exploration. At first you are in a small village, then the surrounding area, then the town etc. etc. You always had enough to explore and still feel free to do whatever you wanted without getting lost or feeling too overwhelmed. Just as one area might start to get a bit boring, another opened up. As you began to tire of walking around, you earned enough money to buy a bike or a pulley wheel. Then you could have fun whizzing around on wheels or zooming down ziplines to previously inaccessible areas.
When you return home at the end of game, you see the pictures you painted on the island and the letters you received from new friends made.
Everything I’ve just described matches the criteria for boosting mental well-being, doesn’t it? It feels like the game was deliberately designed with this in mind.
Exploring your surroundings
Discovering new and exciting things
Helping others, and being helped in return
Making new friends
Going somewhere new
Doing things to remember the people we love
We can’t do a lot of these things in real life right now, so I feel so blessed to have discovered this game at a time where I could benefit from it the most. Thanks to Eastshade, I can do these things virtually instead. I have a wonderful and safe place to return to any time I like.
That’s all great but why are you talking about it here, in your blog on bisexuality?
Good question! Well, one of the quests is to get two erm, female bearfolk, together. They have feelings for each other, but aren’t sure if the other feels the same. Your task is to invite one of them to a picnic so the other can tell them how they feel. So sweet! And I didn’t know it was coming so it was such a pleasant surprise.
This quest really made me smile. It was simple, joyful, LGBTQ+ inclusion in a really nice and meaningful way. The quest was treated exactly the same as any other in the game. That’s all I’ve ever wanted in the media I consume really, to be represented and treated just like everyone else.
Thank you for giving that to me, Eastshade. I love you.
Content note: In this post I talk about anxiety, struggling to eat, and mushy foods that help me.
Disclaimer: None of this is medical advice, just my thoughts! Please speak to your doctor if your mental and/or physical health is taking a turn for the worse at the moment.
I want to write about topics like this to normalise talking about mental health problems, especially as they are so prevalent in the bi community. It’s easy to look around and feel like you are the only one.
Do you ever get so anxious it makes you feel sick? Thankfully it doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it does I really hate it. It sticks around for ages and even when I do everything ‘right’ to help myself and self care nothing seems to make a dent in it.
I signed up for counselling. Exercise regularly. Get lots of sleep and rest. Talk to friends. Etc. etc. etc. thanks for nothing, anxious brain. I feel full all the time, and when I cook I can barely swallow more than a few mouthfuls.
When you feel like this, what food helps you?
For me soft, mushy food is all I can manage. My favourites are:
sausages and baked beans
porridge with cinnamon
ice cream & ice lollies
Something that helps me is, putting a small amount on my plate to start with so I’m not putting any pressure on myself. Often I feel able to go back for seconds – which feels better for me than starting with too much and feeling overwhelmed then having to put some back.
I try to be gentle with myself and remember that this round of anxiety will break at some point and I will feel a lot more normal again.
I have read two memoirs this year which I wholeheartedly recommend and go really well together.
The first is “We Have Always Been Here” by Samra Habib. I first heard of Samra when I attended a panel on the Desi LGBTQ+ scene at the WOW Festival in London this year. I was captivated by what she had to say and pretty much ran to the book table to buy a copy her memoir afterwards.
Samra writes about her childhood in Pakistan and what is was like to arrive in Canada as a refugee. She had to navigate two very different cultures and later escape an arranged marriage at 16. Like many who have to move countries, and many who realise they are queer within a homophobic/Islamaphobic society, what followed was a search for her own culture and identity – and how she can inhabit her truest self.
It is beautifully written. It is moving and inspiring. It is the kind of book you hug after finishing because reading it meant so much. Months later, I still think about the author from time to time and celebrate who she is and the amazing things she has achieved. (Like this photography project on being Muslim and queer, for example.)
Next on the list is “My Life as a Unicorn” by Amrou Al-Kadhi, a British-Iraqi who struggled to fit in and find a sense of self whilst trying to satisfy the unachievable demands of both cultures. Their Muslim family instructed them to not be gay and did things like throw away their gender non-confirming clothes. Outside of home, the world treats them no better for being gay, effeminate, Muslim and born outside the UK.
Whilst funny at times, this memoir also left me feeling anger and despair at everything they have had to go through – just for existing. I am so glad Amrou found joy, healing, acceptance and themselves through drag.
I really wish this book were mandatory for everyone. Our society would be a lot better for waking up to the hell we are currently putting people through.
One thing that really struck me from reading Amrou’s memoir was the long-lasting harm of internalised homophobia. Speaking from my own experiences, I tend to forget the damage it does because I’m used to it always being there. This reminded me how brutal it can be.
As with Samra, I admire Amrou’s strength and courage so much. Especially when, towards the end of the book, they confront their parents about their homophobia. Something which all of us in similar situations have imagined doing at some point.
I only finished reading this last night but I am sure that months later I will still think about Amrou too, and celebrate who they are and the amazing things they have achieved.
Taking part in a research study is a simple and easy piece of activism to do. This one involves answering questions on your thoughts and experiences of the workplace. It takes around 45 minutes and it’s completely anonymous.
You can also share the link to this page to help the researchers reach even more bi people. Their Call for Participants can be found below.
TL;DR – email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up or find out more!
Call for Participants in Research on Bisexuality in the Workplace
Michelle O’Toole and Tom Calvard of the University of Edinburgh Business School, along with research assistant Dora Jandric from the School of Social and Political Science, are conducting research on the experiences of bisexual employees in the workplace. This research project is funded by the British Academy of Management (BAM) and the University of Edinburgh Business School (UEBS) and is being conducted between September 2019 and September 2020.
The overall purpose of this research is to investigate the identity work of bisexual employees in the workplace. Bisexuality is typically marginalised and stigmatised in employment and national cultures (Monro, 2015). Conceptually, this work seeks to build theory around the distinctively relational, performative and invisible aspects of bisexual identities in a range of work settings, theorizing the sensemaking and identity work challenges such identities pose in relation to fostering inclusive organisational cultures and practices. We believe that awareness of this issue is vital to promote a more diverse, supportive, and inclusive working environment.
We are looking for people who are UK resident, have worked in the UK for a minimum of 2 years and identify themselves as bisexual.
Interviews and focus groups will be carried out by Dora Jandric, the research assistant on the project. The interviews will be via Skype or by telephone and will last around 30-40 minutes.
The focus groups will be via Skype and will last around 60-90 minutes.
If you are interested in taking part, please email Dora Jandric at: email@example.com.
Anonymity is guaranteed.
We’d be most grateful if you could circulate this information to your members.
The SIBL research study is looking to examine which psychological factors or processes are associated with non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) in young bisexual people. The reason we are focussing on young people is because adolescence/young adulthood is a time when this behaviour has been found to particularly emerge.
We are looking for people aged 16-25, who identify as bisexual (or attracted to more than one gender), and who have had NSSI thoughts/urges/behaviour in the previous 6 months. We will ask participants to fill out short online surveys once a week for 6 weeks. These surveys take around 10-15 minutes to complete. For every survey a participant does, they have the choice to be entered into a prize draw for that week. There are 6 prize draws, each with a £50 Amazon voucher (total prizes: £300). Participants don’t have to be entered into these draws…
During this Covid-19 Lockdown I’m away from my Poly-Family and other networks as well apart from my Family-of-Origin – doing my best to stay safe in the more asthma-friendly air by the sea. I’m really missing actively being an Aunty to my (one of) my partner’s children children – phone calls and Skype are great but they aren’t the same as actually being with them. For health protection it makes perfect sense to divide us all up by household but that’s not how many of our complicated and wonderful families usually work….
Even though I’m not responsible for the meta-children’s day-to-day “home learning” I’ve been looking out for useful resources for them and was really pleased to find these learning packs from Stonewall. We frequently discuss “different families” (including that our family has a different shape from many of the school friends’) and read age-appropriate LGBT+ themed books together…
TL;DR – we must make sure our society is as accessible as possible, and the bi+ community must keep organising online socials and events post-lockdown.
For many different reasons, the wider world was out of reach to a lot of people before the lockdown. Most buildings and public transport are not accessible. A disability or chronic health condition might keep someone at home. Someone might have caring responsibilities. Or things simply cost too much. Over 20% of the UK’s population lives in poverty.
All of the above issues affect bi+ people disproportionately.
Everyone’s experience of lockdown has been different, but for many the world has been brought within reach as services and entertainment move online. Flexible hours and home working become normalised as workplaces are closed.
But for those who don’t use the Internet or can’t afford it, what then as more and more things move online, often permanently, during the pandemic?
It makes me angry when people praise how innovative we have been and how well we have adapted to the current situation. Nearly all of these things could have easily been done before – if the awareness and the willingness to do it had been there!! So many people have been denied access to work or been forced to leave because companies refuse to offer flex or home working. So many couldn’t study because universities offered no alternatives to face-to-face learning, and penalised those who couldn’t attend every single lecture. And so many couldn’t socialise because friends and family never thought to hang out online before.
I’m angry with myself too. I set up and ran a group for bi+ people in Nottingham several years ago. I tried to be as inclusive as possible, for example I visited every single venue in the city centre in order to find an accessible one to host the socials. Yet I never even realised I could have held meet ups online for those who couldn’t attend in person. It seems so obvious now. I’m sorry to those I let down.
I’m angry at my governent. Their failings mean that a lot of people have died needlessly and continue to do so. They are doing a piss poor job of making the right things accessible to the people that need them. For example, food to those shielding, or having a sign language interpreter at daily press briefings. I celebrate and value the innovative ways individuals and charities pick up the pieces. I just worry because I doubt the government will take responsibility and put that infrastructure in place going forwards. They will force others to keep providing so they can keep the money in their hands. (When compared to similar countries, the UK has one of the biggest gaps between the richest and the poorest.)
As the lockdown is lifted over the coming months, I’m worried about the impact our socially distanced world will have if we don’t plan properly. Do pub chains really have to fix chairs to the floors in order to re-open? Can’t they just trust people instead, so that anyone who needs to move the chair (i.e because they’re on wheels) can? If the hard of hearing can’t understand what someone is saying behind a mask and a plastic screen, are alternatives being put in place to help people communicate?
In finding our ‘new normal’ we must not forget what we gained from this horrific pandemic. Employers must continue to offer home working where possible. And people must push back if companies try to take it away again!! Services and entertainment must keep some kind of home based alternative in mind for those who can’t attend in person. And we must remember this and we must push back if they start to forget in the future!!
What about the bi+ community? I think in the past it has left out those who couldn’t attend events in person and those based in rurual areas – but we have a chance to remedy this. It is our duty to keep organising online socials and events post-lockdown, and figure out ways to include anyone this format will not reach.
Many of us across the world are either social-distancing, self-isolating, or living under a lockdown because of the coronavirus at the moment.
LGBTQ+ people already experience higher rates of mental health problems, disability, underlying health conditions, domestic violence, and lower levels of income. We might also be trapped living with people who are homo/bi/transphobic at the moment. This is going to be an especially difficult time for us.
I know life can feel pretty bad right now so I hope these resources are useful for you. Don’t forget that you can use Facebook groups and apps like Meet Up to chat with other LGBTQ+ people. Many queer groups are now having digital hangouts. Perfect for hopping along to say, Manchester BiPhoria if you live in rural Wales and there are no local groups near you! If you are nervous about joining a group for the first time you could message the group organiser in advance. You don’t have to put your video on if you don’t want to!
Just remember that you are not alone, and for every dark thing that happens there are people in the LGBTQ+ community who are rallying together to help each other.
If a resource for a specific issue or medical condition isn’t listed here, please give one of the LGBT helplines a call as they will be able to signpost you to other services.
These are all UK based organisations and websites. If you live elsewhere and know of any resources for your country please comment below, then I will add them to this post. Thank you.