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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…
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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.
|Organisation||What they do|
|Gallop||LGBT+ domestic abuse helpline|
|Micro Rainbow||Suport and housing for LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees.|
|London Bi Pandas||Have set up a Covid-19 hardship fund for people living in London.|
|LGBT+ Foundation||Has a whole section on Covid-19, including what your rights are, how to access services, living well in lockdown and where to get support.|
|Queer Care||Provide support if you are isolating and need help/deliveries. Or you can volunteer to help others. Has resources on how to deliver items to others safely and organise a local network in your area.|
|Mermaids||Support for trans kids & young people.|
|The Proud Trust||Find your local LGBT+ youth group.|
|Just Like Us||Currently looking at ways to support LGBTQ+ teenagers who are stuck at home with families they can’t come out to.|
|Mind||Mental health charity. Have a web page on how to cope with things like anxiety, isolation, depression, etc. during the pandemic.|
|LGBT+ Switchboard||Helpline, chat, and email service.|
|Shout||Text based helpline. Text SHOUT to 85258|
|Papyrus||Have a telphone line and chat service for when you’re feeling distressed/suicidal. |
|CALM||Same as above, but their services are for men.|
|Turn2Us||Website to help you find a charity or grant giving organisation if you are experiencing financial hardship.|
|Money Saving Expert||Helps you make the most out of your finances. E.g. if someone who banks with Nationwide refers a friend to switch current accounts, you both get £100.|
|Citizens Advice||Website providing information on topics such as debt, housing, law, work, benefits, consumer rights, etc. Has a section on Covid-19.|
I’ve been having a lot of lightbulb moments in the past few months that have really helped me figure out why I feel so disjointed.
I think it started before Christmas. I caught the movie Let it Snow which had queer cast members and a queer storyline. Until then I hadn’t realised that I’d never seen a queer Christmas film. Only the occassional film with a pop up gay best friend or sibling who was promptly put away again. Let it Snow meant so much to me. I really enjoyed the film and its existance made me feel so jubilent. Here was something Christmassy – for me! Finally! In my 30s! And then it clicked that I had always subconsciously filed Christmas away as a straight thing.
Then I realised that was part of a bigger structure for me. I think for many bi+ people, the only way you can get by in the world is by seperating yourself and compartalising. It’s been a survival mechanism your whole life so you don’t even realise that you are in a dozen pieces. That you pull out the piece that is needed in that particular situation and push away the rest. And the result? You never really get to be your whole self anywhere. Unless, perhaps, you spend a long time alone because that allows all of you to slowly float back to the surface. Or you spend time with an emotionally safe person, friend, or partner. Or a cool bi event like BiCon! But the trouble is those good situations never last long. Even after the best evening in the world I can already feel my personality shifting as I walk to the tube the following morning, now that I’ve noticed that is what happens within me.
I think all this makes it hard for me to connect deeply with people in general. People can’t get to know YOU if only a part of you has come to visit. You can’t form close bonds with them if they visit your meterphorical house and you can’t let them see any of the rooms!
I had grasped before that I switch between the straight world (e.g work) or the gay world (going to an event at an LGbt centre, going to an LGBT bookshop – they never have a bi section). But I had never realised that I subconciously classified things as one or the other and fragmentated my personality accordingly. No wonder I always feel like there are at least 3 different people living in my head!
So I sat down with a piece of paper and thought about what else I had classed as ‘straight’ without realising. Here’s my list. Some are a lot more obvious than others.
I’ve also written in the past before how I used a different name when going to LGBT events and when running Nottingham BiTopia. Over time this new name felt more ME and I began to use it in more and more areas of my life. However I still have to go by my dead, but legal name with anyone who knew me before the age of 23 or in the workplace, which doesn’t help with my disjointed sense of self. It’s hard to get people to change what they call you when they have known you by one name for 20+ years. And some people didn’t grasp the concept at all and called me “Hannah Oldname” instead of just Hannah which was super weird!
Anyway, I’m curious to hear from other people about this. Have you had a similar experience to me. Do you feel fragmented as you navigate between spaces? Is there anywhere you feel like you can be yourself completely, and unashamedly?
Recently I went to one of my favourite places in London, the Imperial War Museum! Within seconds of walking in I was raiding the bookshop. One book by Stephen Bourne caught my eye. ‘Fighting Proud’ looks at the gay men who served in the armed forces or contributed to the war effort on the home front in World War I and World War II.
After just 10 pages I had to put the book down for a while because it invoked such a strong reaction in me. In the preface Bourne writes “In the 1970s I was completely unaware that, as a gay teenager, I had a history.” He then goes on to write that finding a book in the library changed that, and taught him that gay men had existed in the past.
I can relate to that feeling so strongly. Growing up and going to school under Section 28 meant that I only learned about LGBTQ+ issues and LGBTQ+ history by myself, looking up and reading about whatever I could after I had left secondary school. It’s hard to look up what you don’t know about though. And you can’t educate yourself on what you never think to search.
In the first few pages of Fighting Proud I learned that Wilfred Owen, the well known First World War soldier, was gay. WHAT?! How did I not know this sooner?! Siegfried Sassoon was too!
I feel shocked, angry, and cheated by the education system. Like nearly everyone in the UK, I studied their war poetry in my English lessons. This important part of who they were was never mentioned. (Although I’m not sure if this was directly because of Section 28, or whether the syllabus in general was ‘straight-washed’ and this part of their identity was conveniently not mentioned by teachers or the textbooks.)
I also learned that a play I studied in English called ‘Journey’s End‘ contains a lot of homoerotic subtext. Its original director James Whale was gay and the author R C Sherriff is thought to have been gay too.
In another chapter of Fighting Proud Bourne writes about Lord Kitchener. Again, another prominent figure in British history. Even if you don’t recognise the name or know he was a military leader in the First World War, you’ve probably seen his face on the famous recruitment poster. (The one where he points towards the viewer with the caption “Your country needs you.” written underneath.)
As is often the case in history there is no concrete evidence of Lord Kitchener’s sexuality. However he did live with a younger man, Captain Oswald ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald, for 9 years. Again after reading this I felt shocked, angry, and cheated about what little I had been taught in history class.
Perhaps it’s worth pondering at this point whether someone’s sexuality matters. After all, it’s not relevant to their war poetry, playwriting skills, or ability to lead to lead the troops to victory, is it? We still learn about them and their achievements all the same, don’t we?
But it matters to LGBTQ+ people. Without this knowledge we grow up not knowing the lives and stories of those who came before us. I hope it’s different for younger LGBTQ+ people out there today, but for the pre-internet and pre-social media generation this straight-washing of education meant growing up thinking you were the only one. That you were abnormal. New. A seed rather than something with roots to ground you and show you your place within the world. You grew up without role models. Without knowing that people like you have achieved amazing things and have been remembered in history for them. (Or in Kitchener’s case, a controversial figure rightly criticised for a lot of horrific stuff too.)
And everyone else grows up thinking LGBTQ+ people never existed in the past either. That being queer or trans is wrong and abnormal when actually, we’re really common! There’s thousands and millions of us! And lo and behold, the harmful myths and prejudices against LGBTQ+ people continue. So does the higher rates of violence, hate crime, and discrimination. Plus higher rates of mental health problems compared to the general population.
All this time there was so much I never knew. I never fully appreciated how robbed I was by the straight-washing of history until now, and this is just one small section of history from one book.
Without consciously realising it I had thought that everything I studied in school was ‘straight’ and I just had to accept it. But I don’t think that way any more, because now I know that I was denied my truth and I was lied to.
I’ve mentioned the well known folk from history in this blog post, however Fighting Proud is full of other previously untold stories. Thank you Stephen Bourne for bringing them into the spotlight where they belong.
Content Note: bereavement, a death by suicide
Wow, how has it been two years since my last post here?
I guess I had nothing to say for a while.
And then early on in 2019 I found out that someone I knew from school had died by suicide a few months before. Whilst I didn’t know her well, and I hadn’t even spoken to her since we were teenagers, I care about her mum so much because she did a lot for me when I was young. Her mum was always around when things got tough. She got me a Saturday job by introducing me to the owners of a local shop. She sent a card when mum killed herself (which I still have, over 16 years later). And she let me sit in her class once, a few weeks after mum died, even though I had changed schools for 6th form by that point. This was an amazing thing for me as it meant I had somewhere safe to be for a while after my dad had a mental breakdown.
All of these acts of care from her are things that I have carried with me my whole life. So I have been so heartbroken since finding out about her daughter, Sophie. Especially as I know what it’s like to lose a loved one to suicde. Since I heard the news it has taken me a really long time to be able to return to the things I love, like writing, again.
Sophie was a truly wonderful person who was much loved by her friends and family. Between them Sophie’s parents have raised over £40,000 for Papyrus so far which is just mind-blowingly incredible. Please consider donating to this amazing suicide prevention charity if you have a spare pound or two. Every penny really does help someone who is great distress. And every penny donated helps to save a life.
The lastest fundraiser in memory of Sophie can be found here: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/andrew-airey3
Thank you so much.
Warning: Spoilers within!
I don’t know about you, but I feel permanently exhausted by mainstream media and its heteronormativity. So I’ve been desperately searching for more LGBTQ+ books, shows, movies, and games to consume.
Buoyed by my discoveries of Gone Home and Tacoma I moved on to Life is Strange and was delighted to discover that (depending on what choices you make) there’s a romance between the two main characters. And normally you can have something queer or something good but not both so I’m happy to report that it was one of the most beautiful and moving gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
What’s it all about then?
Well, technically it is a game, but it would be more accurate to say that it’s essentially a story that plays out in front of you and in between scenes you explore and interact with your surroundings. During conversations with the people you encounter, various different answers pop up on the screen that you have to choose from. What you choose affects the game in subsequent scenes and episodes. And I mean really affects, like whether people live or die and not just something petty like you eat an apple instead of a banana. As a result you often find yourself sitting in front of the screen for 5-10 mins working out which option you want to take. How cool is it that a game makes you think like that?
The game is comprised of 5 episodes in total. I got all 5 for £15 on Steam and considering it took me 3-4 hours to complete each once I felt like it was very good value for money. The first episode is free so you can try it out without losing any money if you don’t like it.
You play a young adult called Max (short for Maxine), a college student studying photography in a small Oregon town on the coast. The game opens with you just finishing a class. When you visit the bathroom another teenage girl (Chloe) gets shot by a fellow student. In the trauma of the moment you discover you can rewind time and save her. Yay superpowers! (Later you can even use Polaroid photos to travel through time.)
And the young adult you saw get shot? Naturally she turns out to be your childhood BFF who you haven’t seen or spoken to in 5 years because you moved away…
…and she’s your romantic interest!
Neither of their sexualities are stated in the game but to me they both read as bisexual. Both young women are attracted to each other. Chloe has bisexual coloured hair and makes comments about having boyfriends in the past and a male teacher being hot. Max is into Chloe, but depending on how you play the game can be attracted to her friend called Warren too.
Life is Strange has good writing, natural dialogue, and a really intriguing plot. There are two strands to the story. There’s the paranormal where you can rewind time and choose what you use your powers for. But your powers come with a heavy price (don’t they always?) – they will cause a tornado to appear in a few days’ time which will destroy the entire town. Whilst that is playing out in the background there’s also the human drama which propels the story forward. A girl from your school is missing – what happened to her? What’s her relationship to Chloe? Who in the school knows more than they’re letting on? And how does the mystery link back to your classmate who is clearly struggling with mental health problems and being bullied?
And now for the downsides…
It doesn’t take a genius to work out where some of this story is going. This kind of set up always leads to the same things. Naturally everyone is hiding something and no one is as they first seem. If the missing girl were to be found alive by the end of the game I’d eat my bobble hat. And my troubled classmate is either going to kill herself or I am going to have to try and stop her. As a suicide bereavement survivor this kind of content is very traumatic and makes me long for the day when games come with trigger warnings.
Here’s what I texted my friend about the game whilst I was playing:
“OMG the graphic design is so stunning. As is the voice acting. And the soundtrack of cool punk music + beautiful instrumentals is awesome. The friendship between Chloe and Max just keeps blossoming. And it has loads of subtle X-files references, like 10-13 written on hallway posters!”
Followed up by; “This happiness can’t last, can it? :( ”
See we’re all conditioned to know that we don’t get happy endings. Not us queer folk. Not in fiction. So I was bitterly disappointed to find that my suspicions were right. It was all too good to be true.
I won’t reveal the details in case you want to play the game yourself but if you don’t mind a few more spoilers I can tell you the end because knowing that won’t ruin the rest of the plot that much – it’s too separate from it.
End of game spoiler & discussion below
Your final choice boils down to either saving Chloe or saving the entire town from the tornado.
“Arrghhhhhhh,” I texted my friend. “The only way to save Arcadia Bay is to kill my girlfriend!
“I’d say, fuck the town,” she replied. (Which is understandable. She needs happy endings as much as I do. She’s still recovering from losing Lexa in The 100.)
Many fans feel the same, which spawned the phrase ‘BAE before Bay’.
“That’s what I’m going to choose,” I replied. “Because I NEED a happy story. But urgh what a stupid choice. I’m so angry. I don’t want all the characters I’ve spent so long getting to know to just die in the storm. I knew this game was too good to be true!”
Now as it happens, the little girl I live with came in to my room at that exact moment the game paused for me to pick between those two end options. She asked me what I was doing so I explained what the game was and how both options were so awful I didn’t want to choose.
“You should save your girlfriend. Because…because you can always go and find a new town,” she said, perhaps not realising at the tender age of ‘nearly 6’ that meant people would die, not just that the buildings in the town would be destroyed. But still, I like the way she thinks!
The lowest of the lows…
I felt cheated because I had so carefully thought over every other single choice in the game. Whilst they impacted other threads of the story, it was really sad that ultimately none of them mattered if your only option is to either go back to the very start and erase everything you’ve been through or let the town be destroyed.
When you choose to save Chloe it really sucks because all those characters you’ve come to know? You never see them again. You don’t try to call Chloe’s mum or visit to diner to search for her and see if she survived. You don’t even get a short montage of college classmates and townfolk coming out of wrecked buildings to asses the damage or anything. So you don’t feel like you get any resolution and you’re made to feel like you selected the ‘wrong’ choice.
In order to feel like I’ve fully completed the game I know I’m supposed to rewind time and pick Chloe’s death instead. Which I do for completeness, and in another slap to the player only then are you allowed to witness a true kiss between these star-crossed lovers. Followed by a very long montage of heart-wrenching moments showing Chloe’s murder and everyone else grieving.
I hate that the writers have led me down this path and that’s what makes me feel utterly let down and hurt by this game’s ending. (Along with the fact that a lot of it can be classed as ‘torture porn’ as the game features sexual abuse, murder, characters being drugged etc. etc. which is also very upsetting.)
So, to use the name of the last episode, I feel so polarised…
On the one hand the first 3 episodes were some of the best gaming experiences of my life. I was moved beyond words. So utterly taken with these characters and their beautiful friendship and blossoming romance. Yet on the other hand I just felt so used and hurt by the ending. Especially considering that it didn’t have to be that way at all.
So what can we take away from all of this? Well thankfully I took a Polaroid of myselfie just after playing epsiode 3 so if I stare at it now…yes! Reality is changing!
– – – >past me reaches for the mouse in order to click ‘Play Episode 4’ < – – –
Future Me: “No, wait! Listen. Don’t play any more. Enjoy what light this has brought into your life and leave it at that. Listen to punk music. Go and kiss women with bisexual coloured hair. Dye yours purple like you always wanted to. Get into photography because it looks so cool in the game. How about lumography?!
Past Me: “Oh erm, well…
Future Me: “Put a picture of Max and Chloe together on your wall. As your screen saver! Laptop and mobile!! Download the soundtrack. Listen to it everywhere. Dance. Fall in love!
Past me: “You’re kinda scaring me now. :/ Help.”
Me: “Find your own Chloeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
– – – – Whooooooooosh. Time Travel! Future me disappears – – – –
So as I had a sneaky suspicion about how the game would end I decided not to finish it. I’m really sorry as that means I can’t give you a full review but I’d rather not take the risk that it ends badly. The story that unfolded between Max and Chloe was so great I just want to give them a happy ending in my own head and keep it that way. I’ve read that a prequel was released last year and that a sequel is in the works too so I will have to check out their reviews to see if I want to delve deeper into this franchise.
If you’ve played either of the two games available do let me know what you thought of them. Did you go through the same highs and lows I did?
I can’t wait to replay the first few episodes of the game just to relive that joy again, and pick different choices so I can see how the various different outcomes unfold. I also love how it’s really inspired me creatively. I have the urge to write, draw, doodle, and journal.
There is a lot that is problematic about this game which makes me both angry and sad – but I can’t deny there is a lot about it that I love, including the representation of its bi characters. This is a story that is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. And to celebrate that I even printed off a picture and stuck it on my bedroom wall.
Yesterday my boss was preparing to go on annual leave. Next week we will have our company-wide staff meeting so she gave my two co-workers and I a sheet of notes of things she would like us to discuss. There was a paragraph for each of us on the page, and we knew which one was ours as they had been colour coded according to our favourite colours. As it happens our favourites are pink, blue, and purple. My purple paragraph had been placed in the middle.
“Awwwww,” I said upon opening the document. “You’ve accidentally made the bisexual flag with your paragraph colours!”
My boss didn’t know there was a specific flag for bisexuality so looked it up, and we all talked about a few other things relating to flags, labels, and sexuality before returning back to work.
I thought about how lucky I was that I could use my bi activism to help me get a job (on two separate occasions now). As well as talk about this blog and the Big Bi Fun Day at work, and about bisexuality in general. I’ve been out in nearly every school/office/dead end job I’ve ever worked in, but this is the first time I’ve never been questioned, mocked, or made to feel unsafe because of it. In fact, I can safely discuss bisexual issues quite a lot.
If people are able to try coming out as bi at work they risk being treated differently and being viewed as an untrustworthy, indecisive, and unreliable colleague. They risk being passed over for job opportunities and promotions, being fired, or for people to make their working lives so miserable they have no choice but to leave. Bullying is rife in many offices. I have either experienced all of these things firsthand or seen them happen to other people. As a bystander you can defend someone through actions such as shutting down gossip, supporting them in team meetings etc. but so much happens beyond the space you occupy. And when it’s management or a large group of people you often have very little power to stop it.
For most people it is still not safe to come out at work and it never will be. Often it means working alongside people who you know are biphobic, perhaps even having to put up with anti LGBTQ+ comments and behaviour every time you go in to work. Sadly it’s not limited to your colleagues – if there is no system in place for dealing with it then you may well have to endure the same from clients, service users, and/or volunteers too.
Depending on which study you cite, only 6-12% of bisexuals are out to their co-workers. A figure that is a lot lower than the numbers for gay and lesbian people which is around 40% – which of course is still a very low figure. (Stats from Invisible Majority, lgbtmap.org – thank you to @KivaBay for sharing this link on their Twitter timeline.)
I still stutter and stammer sometimes when my co-workers ask me about the events I run. Even though I know it’s ok to talk about it, it is hard to let go of the fear that automatically floods your veins and makes you freeze when someone mentions anything LGBTQ+ related in the workplace.
It is so amazing to have the support of my work colleagues and yesterday, after the ‘bi-coloured-meeting-notes incident’, I took a moment to appreciate how rare this is and how lucky I am to fall within that small percentage of the bi population.
If you haven’t already seen it, please check out my Intro to Bi Activism
Activism to do with books and stuff
the adventures and activisim of a NeuroDiverse Poly Bi-Dyke
Cos bisexuality isn’t just for white folks
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