Can bi volunteer work help you get a job?

This year has seen a lot of changes as I’ve moved house, moved cities and found a new job – no wonder I haven’t had the time or energy to write anything here since January!

I was very fortunate as I had enough money in the bank to last through a short period of unemployment and pay for the cost of moving. I also had enough to give me 1-2 months to find work/start temping so I had the privilege of being able to be out on my CV and take a higher rate of rejection. If it took longer to get work I would be able to cope for a while.

There were a few reasons why I chose to do this. One is that I can no longer bear to hide my sexuality, even if I know the results of coming out will be damaging. I want people to see ME and not something I’m pretending to be. Another is that BiTopia and bi activism took up so much of my life there was little time for anything else. (Clearly wasn’t following my own advice on avoiding burnout!)

In the UK there is an expectation that your CV must show examples of employment, volunteer work, AND some kind of skill building, teamwork based hobby. (Way to discriminate against all the bi people who are just struggling to get by, and can’t do some/all of the above.) So if I didn’t talk about my bi group on my CV, it wouldn’t fit the unspoken criteria for being short listed without lying anyway. Besides, it was all relevant experience to the jobs I wanted to apply for so it made sense to put it on.

Another reason was that as I was moving to a much bigger city, there would be a better chance of finding an LGBTQ+ friendly employer. The people who saw queer stuff on the CV and immediately rejected me because of it would be the people who never got in touch – hurrah!

Finally, I wanted to share what I’d achieved because I felt proud.

It felt very scary talking about it out loud in the job interview in response to questions like, ‘Do you have experience using social media?’ or ‘Can you work with a wide range of people?’ I felt very vulnerable and afraid. I kept reminding myself they could be LGBTQ+ too,  but mostly I was waiting for them to shoot me looks of disgust or call the interview off early. (Not that they did of course.) My voice did wobble at times despite my best efforts to keep it steady and talk naturally.

In the end I got the job, and I also had another interview lined up that I cancelled once I heard the news.

I’m not going to end this with some sappy “You can do it too!” sentiment. Everyone’s situation is different. You might not be in a financial position that allows you to leave a job, take longer to find one, or pick and choose amongst them. It might be damaging or dangerous to come out in your field of employment. But bi activism and organising groups and events can equip you many relevant skills and experiences. And these can aid you in applications and interviews. If being out on your CV is something you are thinking of doing then I wish you good luck!

Promoting Your Bi Group Meet Ups: The Rule of Four

When promoting a monthly event I’ve found ‘the rule of four’ quite an efficient way to get my message across. Part of me used to worry I was promoting myself too much, but over time I’ve realised that most people will only see one of your messages. Or, they will read it and forget the date by the time it comes around!

What’s this rule of four then?

It’s not really anything special. Just tell people about your event/meet up at least four times; thrice before the big day and once afterwards.

 

My monthly schedule looks like this:

1, Post about the next meet up a few days after the last one, four weeks in advance.

2, Post about the meet up during the week leading up to it. (A Sunday evening or a Monday morning is a great idea as a lot of people log into their emails and social media then, and are thinking about the week ahead.)

 

promo tweet

The photo shows a tweet from the Nottingham BiTopia account. It says “In Nottingham and want to meet other people who are attracted to more than one gender? Join us 12th Nov from 7:30pm at the Lord Roberts.”

 

3, Remind people about it the day before.

4, After the event, either during the same day or the day afterwards, post to thank everyone for coming. I usually post a photo or add some kind of comment to say it was a great night, well attended etc. This is to cultivate a desire in people to attend the next one, but also to celebrate and share our good times and successes.

Then back to step one for the next month!

 

I’ve found if I don’t do steps 1-3, attendance can drop by up to half even though the pub social for Nottingham Bitopia is always on the second Thursday of the month! Normally for me, BiTopia falls around 10th-14th of the month. However there are a few times a year the second Thursday falls on a single digit date (e.g. 9th) and this really catches people out. Posting is therefore a lot more important during these times.

My technological skills aren’t advanced enough to make one post which automatically shows up on all social media accounts, but I’m sure that will save you time if you want to go down that road. However I’m not a great fan of this because I prefer something more personal and am put off from following a group on multiple sites if their messages all say the exact same thing.

However I do find software like Hootsuite very useful for scheduling posts in advance. That way messages can still go out at key times of day even when I’m at work, on holiday etc.

After spending a lot of time faffing around resetting passwords I finally wrote them all down on one piece of paper and thankfully haven’t lost it yet!

Avoiding Burnout

Activists and group leaders are always going to be prone to getting burned out. We do so much work in our own free time. This is often done on top of full time work or family responsibilities. It might also be done under the pressure of unemployment and living on a very small income. As there are no funded bi groups in the UK and no bi groups run by a LGBT centre or organisation, this means that we run them using our own energy and resources too. We have to start and set up all of them. We have to keep them running.

This is all in addition to the poor rates of mental and physical health bisexuals suffer because of biphobia and bi erasure too.

The thing that I find the worst about bi group work is that the constant erasure and biphobia is exhausting. Nothing comes easily. I feel like we have to fight ALL THE TIME for bisexuality to be included or even mentioned. It makes me sad, angry, fed up, and frustrated. It wears me down over time.

This piece by Psychology Today provides a really good introduction to what burnout is and what the tell tale signs are: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them

Their summary looks like this:

  • physical and emotional exhaustion
  • cynicism and detachment
  • feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

The article elaborates on what these three things look like, e.g. forgetfulness, anxiety, isolation, depression, increased illness, irritability…

Here are a few examples of how it might manifest in terms of running a bi group:

  • you don’t enjoy running the group any more
  • it’s starting to take up more and more of your time
  • it’s difficult to stop thinking about your plans and to do lists
  • you want a long break from it all, yet struggle to switch off and stop logging into your social media accounts for even a short amount of time
  • you notice you are starting to accidentally say or do stupid and hurtful things, and maybe even burn bridges and damage professional relationships (because you feel so tired, frustrated and fed up all the time)
  • your group work is starting to come before other important life priorities, such as finding a better job, or attending friends’ social events.

I’d also bet money that perfectionists and people pleasers are especially vulnerable. For example, I personally can’t bear to let people down so I have to work hard to make sure I don’t commit to things others want or need at my own expense.

As the article I linked to says, burnout doesn’t just appear out of nowhere and go BOO! It’s a long and slow process that builds up over time. For ages you feel down but can’t figure out why. Everything seems “fine” right? Sometimes when I’ve been burnt out I haven’t really felt anything at all – just awful! Lots of tears at the smallest things. Everything feels like a hurdle to be overcome. Exhaustion all day every day. Not listening or concentrating on anything. Sometimes feeling suicidal during the worst moments.

It can take a really long time to put the pieces together and realise you’re burnt out. It can take even longer to get your life back to normal too. It won’t happen overnight, but little by little you can take the steps you need to find the right bi group-life balance for you. Or maybe take a break for a while. Or maybe stop what you’re doing altogether.

If you’re burnt out:

  • Can you delegate some or all of your tasks and responsibilities? (Perfectionists, you can trust other people to do the things you do!)
  • Can you arrange fewer events, such as holding a meet up every other month instead of once a month?
  • Can technology help you save time? E.g. I used to retype out a Facebook event for every pub social until I found the “copy this event” button!
  • Self care by eating and sleeping as well as you can. Make uninterrupted time for YOU and uninterrupted time to do your favourite things. Treat yourself.
  • Schedule time to spend on bi group work…and stick to it! Do whatever works for you, such as only doing work on a Sunday or only doing 15 minutes a day.
  • Assert your boundaries, needs and wants. I used to be terrible at this. Lately I’ve learned I can just say no and I don’t have to give a reason! I’ve also learned I can change my mind! (Eg. “I know I said I’d make a bi display for the library for next month, but for personal reasons I’m going to have to pull out. I’m so sorry.”)
  • If you are feeling emotionally burnt out, redirect the person who needs support to speak to someone else, or some kind of organisation or listening service. For example, I will no longer talk with people who are feeling suicidal, but I will give them phone numbers to call and will check in on them later.
  • If you use the same smartphone for your personal life and bi group life (which I don’t recommend!), it might be worth buying a second £10-20 phone if you can afford to (or using an old phone if you have one lying around). That way it’s easier to keep the two things separate. You can switch off the bi group phone and be free from messages, calls and emails instead of getting sucked back in through real time alerts.
  • If a second phone isn’t an option, log out and/or remove email & social media accounts relating to your bi group from your phone and only look at them during your allocated bi group time.

It can be really hard to take a step back, especially if taking a break or stopping altogether means the bi thing won’t happen any more. Try not to feel guilty if this emotion is affecting you. We live in a world where bisexuals have to struggle and fight just to get by. Doing activism or bi group work is great but it’s not a requirement or a necessity. People who don’t or can’t do activism & bi group work are just as awesome and worthwhile. So do as much or as little as you want. Do as much or a little as your are able. You come first. You are the most important thing.

Speaking to the Press at Pride Parades

Last year at the Nottinghamshire Pride Parade me and Kate were interviewed by Notts TV and I remember thinking afterwards that I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t say anything useful or get any good points across. I hadn’t even thought about speaking to the media, let alone prepare any messages that I wanted people to hear. However Kate came up with a cracking phrase; “We’re here to put the B back in the LGBT.”

Notts TV 2014

The photo shows two women being interviewed by a Notts TV reporter. They have bi flags draped round their shoulders like capes, and there is a banner in the bi flag colours in the background. The reporter is standing opposite the women wearing headphones and he is holding a mic towards them. He is stood next to a large television camera on a tripod.

This year I was a little bit more prepared. With help from Jennifer I made a large sign to carry, and this was a big pull for reporters and those with cameras whilst I was stood waiting for BiTopia members to join me for the parade. I was photographed a lot and interviewed by a reporter from the Notts Post. The same man from Notts TV in the photo above also stopped to speak to me and another group member. I was able to speak a bit more eloquently this time and convey some messages and facts.

The thing that disappoints and frustrates me every time I’ve been filmed at Pride is that it never seems to actually get shown! (I use the word seem here because it is possible its been shown or put up somewhere I’ve not found.) I suppose the media are looking at any event from a certain angle in order to make a story out of it. For example one question I was asked by Notts TV this year was what I thought about the council’s decision to cut funding for Pride. So with their story already planned, they are hardly looking to include anything from a small local bi or LGBT group.

Journalists collect a lot of footage and interview a lot of people, but only have a very short slot to fill on screen so I know most of what’s been recorded will never be shown anywhere. However in the age of the Internet it’s disappointing that a local TV station can’t put a bit more online than two short clips of the secretary for Pride and the actor who plays the official Robin Hood! What gets me even more is that the title for this page is “Pride event highlights Nottingham’s diversity”!

I suppose we can only keep trying, and if we give interviews we are at least making one or two journalists aware of bi issues. Who knows, maybe you can get their email addresses and contact them for Bi Visibility Day or BiCon or something?

Tips for Being Interviewed at Pride

  • You can give a reporter a fake name if you don’t want to give your own, but think up one in advance so you don’t hesitate when you’re asked who you are!
  • You don’t have to tell them what you do for a living. Just say you’d rather not share that information with them if you don’t want to.
  • Only be on camera if you want to be. Don’t let anyone pressure you into speaking with them or getting a few shots of you if you are not comfortable with it. You never know who might end up seeing you on TV/the Internet.
  • See if there are any news stories relating to Pride/LGBT+ issues in your area in case you get asked your opinion on them.
  • Think of a few sentences to say with regards to who you are, why you are taking part in the parade, why you think Pride is important, and your bi group if you run one or are a member of one.
  • Being on camera is nerve-racking and scary. It makes you forget everything you wanted to say and your voice goes all wibbly wobbly! Practising your sentences out loud the day before helps combat this.
  • Ask reporters for their business card in case you want to contact them again in the future.
  • If you are involved with a local group, print or write down the group’s contact details so you can hand them out to anyone who interviews you.
  • Tell reporters you’d love to receive an email from them if your footage makes the final cut/photos of you are used. (Though to be honest, they probably won’t contact you even if they do.)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask any technical questions such as whether to look straight into the camera or at the reporter, or whether you in standing in the right light etc. They should be able to work with you to get the best results. You won’t look foolish, as they are used to working with the general public so don’t expect people to know these things already.
FullSizeRender (1)

The sign painted for Nottinghamshire Pride Parade this year. It has a faded, purple, ‘washed out’ effect background with dark purple lettering. The sign title reads: Nottingham BiTopia. The sub title: Bringing together Bi People in the East Midlands.

If you have any other advice please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Tip for Putting Flyers on Public Notice Boards

Over the past few weeks I have been distributing flyers for BiCon around the good city of Nottingham. My key discovery has been that lots of places such as bookshops, cafes and supermarkets have mostly empty notice boards.

This is because they either don’t provide any drawing pins or don’t provide enough of ’em! Even when I’ve asked staff members they don’t have any behind the till or anything. So bring your own pins and put up flyers to your heart’s content.

When you don't have your own sometimes you can get away with sharing someone else's pins.

Sometimes if you don’t have your own you can get away with sharing someone else’s.

Convert and Compress Video Files

Sometimes doing bi group stuff throws up new challenges that you have to figure out. A recent one for me was how to shrink a video file so it was small enough to email or share online. I’d filmed a friend give a speech on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and didn’t realise my phone was capable of making such astonishingly large clips. Over 1GB for just a few minutes!!

Solution: Use this software called Handbrake.

How to guidehttp://www.howtogeek.com/199618/how-to-use-handbrake-to-convert-any-video-file-to-any-format/

Good points: Free. Easy to use. Can convert your files to a universally playable format so people you send it to don’t have to download any software just to watch it.

Bad points: Files that are several GBs in size can take HOURS to compress and/or convert. It raises CPU usage to 99% so I can’t do anything else on my laptop at the same time. (But this might be because my laptop is very old!)

Raising the Flag at Notts County Hall

Yesterday morning I attended the first event held this week in Nottinghamshire for IDAHoBiT 2015.

Representatives from the council, police, emergency services, unions, colleges, universities, and local LGBT groups and organisations made their way to Notts County Hall to watch the rainbow flag being raised by the river.

It was wonderful to see so many in attendance and to see people of all age ranges there too. The organiser Richard Townsley did a great job in bringing together a diverse range of people from the LGBT community from all over the county. A lot of us ended up doing some speedy networking and swapped emails whilst we slurped tea before we all walked outside to the flag poles for the speeches, flag raising, and photo taking. 

Thankfully it was a windy morning so the flag was flapping merrily whilst it was being hoisted to the top. Very photogenic.

IMG_3091

The short ceremony was quite a moving and auspicious moment for me. One of those speaking (Sorry, I’m terrible with remembering names!) mentioned the launch of a new anti-hate crime campaign run by the police, as well as how any homophobia, biphobia and transphobia would not be tolerated. Another also spoke of how the LGBT community needs to unite and stand together to support each other.

I’m sure these kinds of sentiments get mentioned every year at these kinds of events. 😛 But it felt particularly relevant to me as the LGBT community in my area does feel very fragmented at the moment. Lots of smaller groups exist in Nottinghamshire/the East Midlands without ever working together, talking to each other or, in some cases, being aware of each other’s existence at all.

After the flag had been raised, the leader of Notts Trans Hub and I were discussing these things, along with how so much prejudice and discrimination exists between different groups of LGBT people. How discrimination and prejudice causes LGBT people to turn on each other. One thing that we talked about was how some pansexuals have appropriated the meaning of bisexuality, then wrongly labelled bisexuals as transphobic and upholders of a gender binary.

Yesterday made me glad BiTopia, QT Notts and the Notts Trans Hub support each other and are forming close relationships. It also encouraged me to overcome the fear caused by previous biphobic incidents of discrimination and harassment at LGbt events and engage more with LGbt organisations in the future.