Handing Over Your Bi Group

After setting up and/or running a bi group the day will inevitably come when it is time to leave it. This could be temporary or permanent. It could be because you want more free time, you want less responsibility, you’re leaving the area, or you’re burnt out. Maybe it’s just not interesting or fun anymore.

These are all valid reasons to hand over the group to someone else. Please don’t feel bad or guilty about it.

When is the best time to go?

  • Before life changes mean you’re too busy to run it properly
  • Before you get too bored/fed up/pissed off/burnt out to care

Clearly this is a lot easier said that done. You might be fine one week then suddenly have to care for a relative the next. Who knows what life is going to throw at us? But at least there are some things you can plan for, such as accepting a new job which you know will eat up the time and energy you use to run the group.

Sometimes if you’re used to ploughing through things you might not realise how you’ve been feeling until you’re already wrung out and disillusioned. It can take a long time to untangle yourself from a bi group. Few people could predict they want to walk away from something in 3 or 6 months time.


What’s the best way to hand it over?

A good friend of mine would say the following; as soon as you set up your bi group start training your successor! Whilst you might want to give yourself time to settle in first, it is sound advice. Especially if you can get 2-3 people on your team who know how you run the group, can monitor email and social media, and know the group members. Then you can be ill, take a holiday, go to a work conference, or treat yourself to something nice without have to worry about the next meet up. Being able to take a break every once in a while will also help reduce burn out.

If people are helping you, you might want to think about drawing up some volunteer guidelines. For example, keep personal information you learn about members confidential. Don’t post any hate content on the group social media etc. etc. I’m sure any potential helpers will be lovely people, but even if you only say it once or hand them over on a piece of paper – it’s been said. You’ve expressed how you want the group to run and you’re on the same page. And if you do have any problems later it’s a lot easier to revisit things you’ve already discussed rather than have that first conversation after an incident has taken place.

In addition to training up helpers you can also prepare some kind of handover file or document from the start. It’s a lot easier to write these things as you go rather than hastily bash it all out later as you’re handing everything over! It could contain anything someone might need to know, such as logins, passwords, who you liaise with at the venue you use, a copy of group guidelines, resources you’ve found helpful, past booking forms, invoices. Anything! (But be careful you’re not sharing any of your own data like your bank details.)

In our perfect dream world volunteers would fall over themselves in their eagerness to sign up and help you. What will probably happen is that 3 people will say they want to but can’t. Then no one else will step forward, except for Gertrude who has only been to one meet up 7 months ago and can’t be relied upon to help with anything! It’s up to you whether you want to hand over to Gertrude or not. Is someone like Gertrude better than no one, which means the group will go on hiatus?

It’s also vital to make sure that the person who takes over is of good character. It’s impossible to list everything here but to provide some examples; if they’re racist, transphobic, Islamaphobic, a known sexual harasser, someone who will behave inappropriately at meet ups… Don’t brush it away and think it will be fine. People who do these things shouldn’t have any positions of power or leadership in our communities. Especially in spaces where people can be vulnerable. (E.g. bisexuals suffer higher rates of poverty, mental illness, domestic abuse.)

 

Here’s some potential outcomes and solutions:

 

You have a few helpful people who don’t quite have enough time or energy to run the group by themselves.

Could you divide duties ? Perhaps one person does the social media and a few others facilitate the meetings between them so they only need to commit to a few meet ups a year each?

Can you reduce the workload? You could meet every quarter or every two months instead of every month. If you ran workshops and pub socials before perhaps just do the pub socials for a while going forwards.

 

No one can/wants to help.

A sad but true fact of life is that everyone wants the thing, but very few will run it themselves. So you could keep running it until you find someone. New people do turn up every month. Perhaps one of them will love your group so much they’re happy to jump in! I’m not a fan of this option. Unless you are very lucky and find someone, people will take you for granted and let you keep running it – thus delaying your exit indefinitely.

You could put a hard deadline out there. Seeing that they are going to lose it might spur people into action. Here’s an example script; “At the end of July I will step down from running the Storybrooke Bisexual Group. If no one is able to volunteer the group will have to go on hold until a new leader is found. Thank you to everyone who has come to the group or volunteered at an event and made it so wonderful these past few years.

Once announced, stick to it! After the deadline you can check emails/social media every once in a while to see if someone wants to take the reins. Hopefully in your absence people will exclaim, “By Jove, we haven’t had a bi meet up in Storybrooke for 6 months! The socials were so good. Let’s start it up again!”

Some former group leaders do come back after a time when no one has done anything in their absence. That’s fine if you’re happy to do so – but think carefully before doing anything again. Can you do things differently than the last time to make it less hard work/more enjoyable for YOU?

 

Yay, you’ve found someone! 

Unless they’ve asked you to mentor them for a while, hand over and leave them to it.

If you’re still attending the group it can be very tempting to point out how you would do things differently, or how much better it was when you ran it. Even if this may be true being smug, gossiping, or behaving in a way that undermines them isn’t going to help you, them, or the group.

If you really feel they’re doing something wrong why not suggest a change directly to them instead of bitching or complaining about it? E.g. “The Storybrooke Pub used to be a great place to meet, but now the Hungry Hippo Boardgame Club use the space too, it’s too noisy to hear anyone speak. How about looking at a new venue?”
or
“I’ve noticed no one is advertising the group online any more. It’s absolutely vital to do that. Are you able to start doing it again or ask someone to help you?”

Hopefully though they’ll do a great job!


Handing it over can be emotional.

Take it easy for a while after you’ve left. This was probably something you invested a lot of time and effort in. If you set up the group from scratch and ran it for a year or two, you’re saying good-bi (pun intended) to a huge part of your life.

If you didn’t want to leave but were forced to because of illness or a change in your circumstances then you’ll need time to grieve.

Even if you needed to get away it’s still a change to get used to. If you were burnt out then your mind and body can take longer than you think to recover. Who knew you could feel more exhausted once you’ve stopped doing something than when you did it!?

Try not to feel too angry or disheartened if no one volunteers to take over. People have their reasons. Those reasons might not be immediately obvious to you. Take comfort from the lovely folk who wanted to help but couldn’t. And you never know what might happen a month or a year down the line. Perhaps you inspired someone and changed their life so much – they will become a bi activist or run their own group one day!

If the group goes on hiatus try not to feel too upset about it. You may feel all your hard work was for nothing – but it wasn’t! Just think of all the people you helped through running the group. You would have had such a vital impact. (If you are not sure about this you could even set up an anonymous online survey and ask! The answers will be more meaningful than you imagined – and can help demonstrate to LGBT centers the importance of funding bi spaces.)

Your bi group meetings may not happen any more but that won’t ever change or take away from the great things that you did. Say well done to yourself and celebrate everything you’ve achieved!


Draw your boundaries – and stick to them

People might bug you to start the group going again. Or something might not be run how you think it should be. Don’t get sucked back into things if you don’t want to! The group may not continue exactly how you want it to but just let it be. It’s not your responsibility any more.

Some might see you at a BiCon and complain about the new person who took over. Others might tell you that the new person is better than you – ouch!

But you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. Change the topic of conversation to something else. You don’t have to justify your decisions or answer anyone else’s questions.

 

So what now? 

Live. Laugh. Rest. Do all the things you wanted but never got round to. Make time for you. Put your needs first for a change. Put the experience of running a bi group on your CV if you’re able to.


Remember,
no matter how much they love your group, no matter how much it’s changed their life for the better, very few people will think to say well done and thank you. So say well done to yourself and celebrate everything you’ve achieved! 

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Queer Subtext in My Little Pony: The Movie

I am lodger in a family home and one of the children living there is a five year old girl. Let’s call her Twinkle Bum for the sake of anonymity. She likes the kind of things you would expect a five year old to like, such as colouring in and jumping up and down on my bed when I’m trying to get ready for work in the morning.

One day I noticed a poster for the My Little Pony movie in her bedroom and foolishly said “Hey, I can take you see that when it comes out!”

A well known film critic had implied it was a hot mess of sound, colour, and incomprehensible storylines so I began to wonder if there was any way for me to get out of it. But a promise is a promise and Twinkle Bum was so excited about it so there was no way I could turn her down.

The shocking thing was, I actually really enjoyed it. Whilst the plot was thoroughly predictable for adults, it held up and had a good message behind it. Friendship is important. As is making sure everyone is included. The only way to defeat the bad guys who invaded their land was for all the different animals (Ponies. Cats. Birds. Mer-griffins?!) to work together. With Trump, Brexit, lack of free press in the UK, and a Conservative Government – it was a message that felt very relevant!

The songs were ACE and Twinkle Bum & I danced all the way through the end credits. We sang anything we could remember on the bus back home and then we watched the videos of the song lyrics on YouTube for about another hour later that afternoon.

But one thing that really tickled my pickle was the queer subtext.

Rainbow Dash is probably one of the more well known ponies and the easiest to link to LGBTQ symbolism but I’m actually more interested in Twlight Sparkle. Look at the picture below and you’ll see why.

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The photo shows an image of Twilight Sparkle; a purple My Little Pony with wings and a dark blue mane and tail. There are also purple and pink stripes in their hair.

Now as Twilight Sparkle is a purple pony (or unicorn, seeing as they’ve got wings and a horn) with a bisexual coloured mane and tail I’m going to make a bold statement here: this must be a movie with a bi character in the leading role – who is also the protagonist! A rare occurrence in cinema!

Later on in the film the ponies have just fled from the baddies’ clutches yet again and made their escape by hiding on an airship that flies away. This leads to the ponies singing a song which encourages the crew to the free roaming pirates they truly are, rather than the cargo transporters they’ve been forced to be.

But take a look at the lyrics of Time to be Awesome. Here’s a few extracts:

“But there’s a light shining deep inside. Beneath those fears and doubts, so just squash ’em. And let it shine for all the world to see.”

“You’ve no idea how hard it’s been. This dull routine we’ve been forced to do.”

“Don’t let them rob you of who you are. Be awesome, it’s all up to you.”

“I feel the light stirring deep inside. It’s like a tale still yet to be told.”

They could easily be singing about how hard it is when you can’t come out and have to keep up the straight facade here. And that your sexuality is special and amazing – and so are you!

Just in case the subtext wasn’t clear enough already, Rainbow Dash gets overexcited and flies in circles around the airship making spirals of rainbows around it.

At the end of the movie, the song by the pony based on Sia (a bisexual singer), who is actually voiced by the songwriter herself, is called ‘Rainbow’. Lyrics here.

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The photo shows ‘Songbird Serenade’; the pony based on the singer Sia. They have the same black and white fringe that covers the eyes like Sia does and a multitude of rainbow -coloured hearts on their side.

So this has been a blog post I never thought I’d write! But that’s just one of the many joyous surprises that living with a 5 year old brings. And do I recommend that you watch this film? Well maybe, if you have children in your life or normally love this genre of movie. : )

Some of the songs are so damn catchy. As with Moana I’ll be singing the soundtrack for a long time to come. I’ll definitely take Twinkle Bum to the cinema again in the future but you’ll have to excuse me for now, it’s time to go and be awesome…

Event Review: Butch, please!

I’ve been in London about a year and a half now and during that time I’ve really struggled to find a regularly occurring safe space where I feel happy to hang out and can meet other people like me. I think I’ve felt the absence of that in my life more because I’d lived in Manchester (which has one of the largest bi scenes in the country) and Nottingham (where almost all of the bi events were set up and run by me)!

I tried out a regular bi pub social in London when I first arrived but there were about 6 other people there who barely uttered a word to me all evening, including the organiser, so I never bothered going back.

Another option was to try going out to clubs like She in SoHo but when I went there the floor was covered in water due to a leak in the ceiling (which the bar staff were desperately trying to stop my stapling napkins to the plywood!) and I got tired of trying to go clubbing in a tiny rooms in basements about ten years ago.

A friend said she loved Butch, Please! and I thought I’d give it a go even though I was scared. I’ve long avoided events that are described as being solely lesbian after experiencing very violent and aggressive biphobia in the past, but I’d been to The Royal Vauxhall Tavern before and really like the venue so thought I’d give it a try.

The event is described as:

“A night for lesbians and their friends of all genders. Everyone welcome if you wanna have a good time. For Butch Muthers and Baby Dykes alike – bring the love, the respect and the power…Wear what you like. Be nice. Have a good time.”

It would be really nice if the organisers could add a few words to say that bi and pan people are welcome too! 

But gripes about bi erasure aside (it would also be nice if their FB had more bi stuff on it) I’m happy to say the night was absolutely *AMAZING*. I can only describe it as an absolute hoot. From the second I walked in I felt very welcome and safe. I was greeted by a friendly person on the door and I loved the event merchandise available (cute little badges).

If you get there early enough you can grab a table but if not, there is a large dance floor, a cloakroom, and plenty of space to put your drink down. It’s very cheap for London; only £5 to get in!  (Many clubs charge £20+.) The DJ played a wide range of music for people to dance to and there was something for everyone whether you wanted Abba or Le Tigre. I’m not a night owl so the fact that I could boogie from 8pm and leave at around midnight worked wonders for me – especially as it’s held on a weeknight.

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The picture shows the event logo; black lettering with the words ‘Butch. please!’ all in capitals.

People wore what they felt happiest in. You could see everything from fancy outfits with heels to t-shirt, jeans, and trainers. There was a mix of skin colours and nationalities. Trans and non-binary people were welcomed too.

One thing that really struck me was the sense of community. Most people were clearly regulars who knew each other. People who had never met me before saw I was with someone they knew and didn’t hesitate to introduce themselves, sit at my table, offer me a drink, or shake their stuff on the dance floor with me. It’s the friendliest club night I’ve ever been too. I’ve been recommending it to all my friends. Can’t wait for the next one!

Hannah Bee’s Bisexual Blogs Ranked on Top 50 Bisexual Website List

In the middle of a long and busy work day today I checked my personal emails during lunch and found a message which made me smile. It was from a website called Feedspot, who’d contacted me because they’d made a list of the top 50 blogs & websites for the bisexual community and this site was on it. (Number 39, although is it me or does the list only go up to 40?!) The list was drawn up from a mixture of Google rankings, social media hits, and humans taking the content into account.

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The picture shows a drawing of a gold medal from Feedspot.  On it, the words “Awarded Top 50 Bisexual Blog”.

For people looking for more bi news, content, voices, activist spaces, and the chance to meet other people like them then this list could be a good resource. It will also be a solid starting point for those who aren’t familiar with many/any bisexual sites.

However I must confess their claim to have found ‘the best bisexual blogs on the planet’ seemed like a rather audacious one to make. Especially as the list focused on white writers, white media, and American and UK based websites in the English language only. (Couldn’t see if it was supposed to be a USA or UK hits based list?) What about all the work being done by BAME Bis? What about all the work being done in other countries? When making lists like these people need to look beyond the most visible and be more inclusive.

Some websites I personally wouldn’t put on any bisexual resource list. PinkNews for example still seem to be describing themselves as “Europe’s largest gay news service”. Their content is full of lazy writing, such as a never ending stream of stories about famous people who said something horrible about us. Great for being triggered, less useful for staying informed. I’ll stick to sites like BCN thanks!

And there are people out there who write much better than me, posting about issues I fail to fully comprehend let alone articulate in a blog post.

But if I were to sum up what the experience of writing an activism based blog is like it would be this: ‘Sitting alone. Writing about issues I know are important but that most people don’t. Hoping I can make some small difference. Feeling like I am shouting and pleading but nobody is listening. Wondering why I still bother.’

So to find out I was on some kind of list somewhere, anywhere, was a really nice moment that made me smile – even though I haven’t had the spoons to update this since May! It means that sometimes – some of my words are getting through.

Thank you Feedspot.

And a huge thank you to those who visit the site and read what I have to say!

 

Advice from Workshops: Coming Out

Last month I presented a workshop on coming out at London BiFest 2017. You can read more about it here.

As part of the workshop I asked participants to share their tips & advice on coming out and said that I would post it online afterwards so people can use it as a resource.

Every time I present this workshop I will add to the list- but please feel free to comment below if you would like to contribute anything.


  • Learning facts about bisexuality (e.g. studies have shown there are more bisexuals than the number of lesbians and gays put together) can help you respond to people’s negative comments (‘But bis don’t exist!’) and give you resilience. You know you’re not alone.
  • Sassy comebacks:
    • “No I’m bi, you’re confused!”
    • Answering “I’m 100% bisexual.” if anyone asks what percentage you’re attracted to different genders.
  • Asses how much time/energy you have left to give? If anyone has questions or wants a discussion you can refuse to answer, delay answering until another day, or talk away. It’s up to you. You don’t have to be anyone’s educator or ignorance buster. Nor do you have to explain yourself or justify your sexuality.
  • But if you want to, you can prep answers to questions in advance because sometimes it’s hard to speak in the moment.
  • Choose a place where you can leave easily and/or choose a place where leaving is the normal thing to do. E.g. the kitchen. Makes things safer and less awkward.
  • ‘Lead bi example’ – if you come out like being bisexual is absolutely fine and normal (which it is) then other people are more likely to respond in the same way. (Much better than starting with something like ‘I HAVE SOME DIFFICULT NEWS PLEASE DON’T BE UPSET!’
  • Say what you want the other person to do. E.g. I’m telling you, but don’t tell anyone else.

Workshop Outline: Coming Out

In April I presented a workshop at London BiFest. I wanted to share my notes on here so that anyone who is thinking about running a session at an event can use this as a resource or a place to get ideas.

The first thing I did was write an outline for the session guide which had to be submitted in advance. You can see the guide from London BiFest 2017 here, but for convenience I’ve copied mine below.

 

“14:30 – 15:30 Session 2A: Coming Out

Facilitator: Hannah Bee.

A facilitated group discussion on everything to do with coming out.

Do you let other people know about your sexuality? Why, why not? Should you? Is it safe to? What are the pros and cons of each option? In addition to the above we will also look at the bi specific issues surrounding coming out (or being unable to), swap tips, and share our own experiences.”

 

For a discussion based workshop there isn’t really a lot preparation involved which makes this the ideal format for the time strapped individual. The day before BiFest I wrote out some notes and mentally planned how I would arrange the room. (Chairs in a circle or horseshoe shape.)

On the day I packed some whiteboard markers, blue tak, and spare paper as you never know when these items might run out or go missing!

 

My outline looked like this:

  1. Introduction
  2. Explain how the workshop will run: I’ll lead a guided discussion
  3. Explain the ground rules. E.g. no interrupting, respect everyone’s opinions and experiences, give everyone a chance to speak. Ask the room if they want to add anything?
  4. Explain that I would like people to use three ‘discussion gestures’. A raised hand means someone would like to say something. Holding both hands in front of you in a fist with the index fingers raised and wiggling means you have something to add, but it relates to what has just been said so you need to speak next. Turning hands back and forth (a bit like Beyonce’s putting a ring on it) is sign language for applause and allows people to express agreement and/or solidarity without interrupting.
  5. Do a show of hands asking who’s mostly/completely out, somewhat out, or barely/not at all out. (This allows me to tailor the workshop to who has come that day.)
  6. Work through questions on flipchart (see below).
  7. End on sharing coming out tips/positive stories.
  8. Wrap up. Thank everyone for coming. Let people know that if the workshop has had an emotional impact, I am available outside if anyone wants to talk more. Encourage people to get a drink and a snack. Give out contact details. Promote any events I’m doing in future (in this case The Big Bi Fun Day).

Before the workshop started I wrote a list of questions on the flipchart. I find this works very well for discussion based workshops as it helps people settle in and reduces feelings of anxiety or awkwardness. This is because it shows people what to expect and gives them time to think of things to say. It also gives them something to do whilst they wait, plus people can break the ice by talking about it if they want to.

It’s also a lifeline for me, as it saves me from painful silence when I throw a question to the room and no one replies!

 

What I wrote on the flipchart:

Things to think about whilst waiting:

  • Are you out?
  • Why/Why not?
  • If you’ve come out to someone, what kin of reactions have they had?
  • How do you deal with coming out (or correcting) over and over again?
  • How do you deal with negative reactions?
    (Both emotionally and in dealing with the other person.)
  • What advice would you give others?

 

I had expected about 10-15 people to attend so was rather surprised to find 24 faces sitting and looking at me. This made me worry that some wouldn’t get a chance to speak and that the layout wouldn’t work as instead of 1 circle we had a 2 row horseshoe to fit everyone in. Thankfully the gestures made the workshop flow perfectly. And when someone gave visual applause out of eyesight of the person speaking I just mentioned it to them which got around the layout problem.

After the workshop I said I would post the coming out advice people gave on this blog. You can find this in a separate post here. Sorry it’s so late!

Finally Written by Jenny did a lovely write up of my workshop in their blog post about London Bifest 2017 so I would like to thank them for their kind words.