(In)Accessibility & Covid-19

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.

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 by 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.

804x398-1
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!