How Can We Help You? – Information, Advice & Counselling for Gay Men & Lesbians (1989)

Originally set up in 1971 with the intention of being the counselling arm of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, "Fellowship for the Relief of the Isolated and Emotionally in Need and Distress" was far more widely known as 'FRIEND'. By 1977, its national organiser stopped being on the CHE board by right, and its newsletter stopped calling FRIEND "the befriending arm of the CHE".

Also in 1977, the London arm became a company limited by guarantee, Friend Counselling (London). As 'London Friend', it ended up operating from Caledonian Road N1, and was the venue used by the London Bisexual Group from around 1990 to its end around 2004 or 2005ish. Its website is here.

As other groups sprang up, a network was created as National Friend, becoming a company in 1987. The book's author, Macolm Macourt, is described as its company secretary and a lecturer at Newcastle upon Tyne polytechnic. He was also involved with Project SIGMA that looked at the sex lives of gay and bisexual men* from the start of the HIV/Aids epidemic in the UK.


After four pages of introduction – sections on "What is a 'helpline'?; What is a 'gay helpline?'; Why call them 'gay helplines'?; Scope of the book" – it's onto the main content.

p1. The development of helplines

At that point, he reckoned that there were 80 or so gay helplines in the UK and Ireland getting a combined 400,000 calls a year. Even if the biggest one, London's then 'Lesbian & Gay Switchboard' got half of them, that's still an average of about fifty calls a week for the rest.

The other thing that seems remarkable, looking back thirty years, is a description of the services available in a 'typical' area of the UK with around four to five million residents:

One 'lesbian and gay switchboard', with a volunteer base of about thirty people (3/4 of them men); one 'lesbian line', one FRIEND; and one 'Aids line'… plus three or four other ones based in the area's smaller towns.

There is also a section on what was going on in the UK around lesbian and gay rights, including the recent introduction of 'Section 28'.

At the time, London's annual "Lesbian and Gay Pride" march, by far the biggest event in the UK community attracted around thirty thousand LGBT participants (even if it would be eight years before the latter two were recognised in the event's name…)

p23. Imagine you are a volunteer and the telephone rings

The types of calls received, from silent, to asking about the line's confidentiality, and abusive calls.

p33. What do callers ask?

It suggests the three most common questions asked are:

  • Am I gay/lesbian?
  • Will I get Aids?
  • Where is the best gay pub in town?

The first one is described as the most common and four examples are given:

"I don't want to be gay – nobody can make me, can they?"
"How do you know you're a lesbian?"
"I don't seem to be able to make friends with girls. Does that mean I'm queer?" (a 17-year old man)
Before looking at the question and at answers to it, another example, from 19-year old Simon, must not be forgotten:
"I saw a programme on television which made out that to have sex with another bloke was some big deal. I have sex with blokes and girls – so what's the fuss about?"

(Emphasis here, and elsewhere, mine – it's the first mention of anything bisexual in the book.)

The author says that Simon's call would have been rare ten or fifteen years earlier.. because of the 'what's the fuss' issue, rather than the bisexuality:

"Volunteers often find this type of call very difficult because they are unwilling to take Simon at face value, not because his sentiment" – not seeing the fuss about being sexual with both men and women, remember – "is unusual amongst young gay men and young lesbians, but because if Simon is experiencing no issues, why is he contacting a helpline?"

In the following "To 'be' or to 'do'" section – is being homosexual something that one 'is' or is it rather than some people 'do' sex with others of their own gender? – discussion of sexuality includes

In short, gay is something that one is, and therefore it should be possible to find an easy 'yes' or 'no' answer to the question 'Am I gay?' (Some supporters of this view also hold that there is a third type of person, the bisexual. Others regard such people as merely those who have yet to accept their basic sexual identity.)

Another view of sexuality is that people express their sexuality with others. For some, all the people they express their sexuality with are of their own sex, for others all of the people they express their sexuality with are of the opposite sex,** and for yet other people, some are of the same sex and some of the opposite sex. Sexual activity can be described – but people cannot be categorised.

The latter is straight out of Kinsey, of course, and that's the only reference in the index for 'bisexual'.

In talking about how to answer the question, one approach used is to ask about attraction, including..

.. "Who do you think about when you masturbate?"

The answer to these inquiries is often taken to provide the definitive answer to the question. For example, if a man always fantasises about men then he is gay, if he fantasises about women, then he is not. If he fantasises sometimes about men and sometimes about about women then he is bisexual.

That's reasonable – the simplest and best definition of bisexual is 'attraction to more than one gender' after all!

What's rather less reasonable is that I think that is the only other use of 'bisexual' in the main body of the book,*** and the reason that many bisexual callers received a poor service from 'lesbian and gay' helplines then follows:

The influence of gay liberation steers the volunteer towards the view that anyone who admits to sexual feelings for their own sex must be gay. .. volunteers often wish to involve anyone who has a desire for same-sex activity in a gay lifestyle within a gay/lesbian community.

On the plus side, the section on HIV/Aids calls mentions vaginal intercourse – plenty of resources for 'gay men' don't, despite research showing more gay-identified men are sexual in any one year than do BDSM – and that some mixed-sex couples have anal sex.

One sort of call the bisexual helplines did not get, in my experience, in anything like the volume reported here were the 'what's the best pub' calls.. because there's never been a commercial 'bisexual' scene.

There are a pile of issues to consider when answering such questions.. but Google and the steep decline in the number of 'gay pubs' means they're a lot less relevant today.

Interestingly, one example of a caller involved them saying they could "only get away during the lunch-hour, otherwise my husband will find out" – this was decades before same-sex marriage in the UK, so it can only be a (quite possibly bisexual) woman saying that.****

p51. Being a Volunteer

Extensive coverage of selection and training of volunteers, followed by the big 'Should I tell people what to do?' question, also known as 'directive or non-directive?'

As with the bi phonelines, most genuine 'lesbian and gay' ones weren't. It's a contrast with the "you should stop being gay" line that some, often religious-based, 'counselling services' adopt. (Similarly for their abortion 'counselling', where women are invariably told not to have an abortion.)

Another issue is 'Can I answer anybody, or only people like me?' The obvious example is around gender, and here the Edinburgh bisexual line tried to have a woman and a man on duty each shift, whereas only one person was ever on the London helpline at a time, but if a woman specifically requested to speak to another woman, they'd be told the next couple of shifts when that was expected.

p69. Callers and their World

Four issues are talked about. The first is 'Should I tell my parents?' where the b-word doesn't get a mention, or anything about the issues for bisexual people coming out to parents.

Then it's 'What about my marriage and children?' where there are two examples. In the first 'Mike' is having an affair with another man, and his wife is becoming suspicious.. but thinks it's an affair with another woman. In the just over a page dealing with this, the b-word doesn't get a mention, but

bar talk (a good indicator of the temperature of the male gay world) points to the number of marriages 'saved' because the man is able to go off from time to time for 'sexual relief' with another man, or men.

The suggested line of conversation is to ensure Mike's "recognition" that he cannot "exploit" the two people he's in a relationship with, so has three options: leave her for him; "working through the issues" with her and "coming to a new understanding of the nature of their marriage"; or "suppressing his feelings" for him and ending the affair.

In the other, 'Julia' has slowly come to realise she has an emotional relationship with another woman she met at a women's health group that she goes to partly because her husband is having affairs with other women. He then accuses her of having an affair with the woman, goes off to a mistress and starts custody proceedings over their son that he is likely to win thanks to the lesbian issue!

Here, the helpline has to deal with its own anger at the injustice, but also supports both women. Again, there's no use of the b-word.

The other issues are 'Should I be faithful to my lover?' and 'Will I fit into the gay world?' – in what's now another look back at the past, in the main population centre of that typical region mentioned earlier, there are said to be four 'gay pubs' (one almost exclusively lesbian, one 'current gay scene look'), two 'gay clubs' (and a struggling straight club that has a 'gay night'), and at least a handful of non-commercial social groups. Each of the four larger towns in the region also has one gay pub, and two have their own social groups.

There is also at least one town with a specialist youth group, where "everyone" – the thirty to forty so under 21***** and the three older organisers – "was gay".

p91. The More Difficult Problems

Repeat callers who stay stuck, legal and medical issues, professional help (i.e. support) for volunteers, and..

'How do I meet other transvestites?'

After spending several paragraphs reminding readers of Kinsey's 1948 finding that 37% of men they interviewed had had sexual contact with another man leading to orgasm, and mentioning the 5% that were "largely or exclusively gay", it doesn't say anything about the other 32%. If only there were a word to describe the sexuality of people who are sexual with more than one gender

Although the vast majority of those who declare themselves to be transvestites claim to be heterosexual, and although many of them claim to be disgusted by anything to do with gay sex, nonetheless they form a sizeable proportion – anything from 5 per cent to 20 per cent – of calls to gay helplines.

There's also a section on sex between callers and volunteers, with the fascinating comment that only one helpline was known to say that was ok. (Indeed, it almost sounds like it was actively encouraged!) Frustratingly, it's not named, and it also looks like it had closed by the time the book was written.

p111. Improving Helplines

"What functions do helplines have?" is given five answers:

  • To be a source of information
  • To be a neighbour
  • To be an entry point to a new world
  • To provide counselling and therapy
  • To provide a focus for campaigning for equal rights

In each, it suggests, the helpline is acting as the interpreter of one world – the gay/lesbian one – and is "often doing so through the eyes of the political activist".

That is, I suspect, probably the reason the number of calls to LGB phonelines dropped dramatically from the start of the Century, because when the book asks..

"Who else could provide these services?"

.. the web made it much easier for anyone to publish their interpretations and Google took over as the signposter.

Assessing quality

The suggestion is that a good helpline is one

  • which takes its work seriously, but which never allows its volunteers to become bored – or boring
  • which is clear about why it wants to provide the service it offers, while never allowing its volunteers to thrust services down callers' throats
  • where procedures are monitored in order to change and improve the service, but where volunteers do not find the monitoring intrusive because it is carried out sensitively and its purpose is agreed in advance
  • where the volunteers enjoy each other's company, without allowing the helpline to become their only social service.

In contrast, "a helpline is not discharging its responsibility to the community properly if it" fails to operate as advertised / has untrained or unassessed volunteers / fails to update its information files.

Based on those, I would say – and as I volunteered with one for years, I am biased – that the UK bisexual phonelines were good:

  • The only boring period was towards the end, when there were hardly any calls. Getting to talk anonymously to people about sexuality is fascinating!
  • We were also clear about why we existed, and reports of the bi-erasure – 'you're the only one / gay really' – reported from people who'd called other lines like the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard reinforced that
  • The London phoneline had regular meetings to discuss such issues and the monitoring was a mix of the simple – noting things like presented gender and issues raised, then asking at the end of calls about age and rough location, if those hadn't already been mentioned
  • Those meetings also confirmed that we got on, plus the geographic spread of people's homes meant it was never anyone's only community.

Looking at the other side, the main problems with missed shifts were technical issues – that expensive box or BT messing something up. If someone knew they couldn't do a shift they were scheduled to do, it was easy to call someone else to cover it. There was initial and continuing training, and we were also able to rely on the information in Bifrost and Bi Community News.

The birth, life (and death?) of helplines

"Helplines come into being because people with idealism, vision and a desire to care see an issue which needs attention."

"Helplines continue .. because the issue .. has not gone away": more people join in, and the calls keep coming.

"Helplines consolidate" including by developing a statement of purpose and monitoring of the service.

"Helplines improve when volunteers come in contact with people who renew the vision, who have new and fresh idealism and have a desire to help more people and help them more effectively" (and not necessarily as new volunteers).

"Helplines develop when they have the enthusiastic support of the community they seek to serve."

What the book, I think, failed to accurately predict is the reason why many of them, including the bisexual ones, closed.

It gave three circumstances where it might happen:

  • When society deals properly with the issue
  • When the community it serves stops appreciating it – with the suggestion that would be because it didn't do enough to promote itself
  • When the environment becomes so hostile

.. and then had two pages reminding readers that the first didn't seem very likely, but the third one was more so, thanks to Aids, Section 28, and Labour being as bad as the Tories ("the Labour Front Bench 'forgot' to oppose clause 28 until pressure from outside forced them to change their minds").

p129. Notes / index etc

You can tell how dedicated the book is to covering 'lesbian and gay' issues from a 'lesbian and gay' perspective by the way that the index starts by saying..

Note: the words advice, gay, heterosexual, identity, information, lesbian, sexual are used throughout the book, and therefore are indexed only when a particular use requires it.

.. whereas 'bisexual' is only in the index once, and the b-word is not used much more often in the book itself. I think I've quoted every single use of it.


By 1995, National Friend hade 31 local 'Friend' or 'Gay Switchboard' groups as members. In 1998, a grant from the National Lottery Charities Board enabled a Birmingham office base and the employment of two members of staff to deal with administration, publicity and fundraising.

Five years later, the charity was closed. My guess is a combination of not being able to maintain the funding and a drop in membership due to a drop in the demand for telephone counselling was the cause.

What caused that was a combination of the first circumstance mentioned earlier coming to pass – see the changes in the British Social Attitudes surveys towards same-sex relationships – and the enormous success of the "World Wide Web", invented just a few years after the book was written.


* They described it as "gay and bisexual lifestyles" but it was gay and bisexual men's sex lives that were the primary focus

** Yes, the whole book is very binary when it comes to sex and gender identity.

*** I can spot two more uses in the footnotes: one referencing a government health service update – The proportion of those newly-reported HIV who are known to be gay or bisexual men has declined from 73 per-cent to 50 per-cent between mid-1987 and mid-1988" – and one the title of an article in the Social Work journal – 'Groups for the wives of gay and bisexual men'.

**** It's also a reminder that until the Licensing Act 1988, pubs in England and Wales were not generally allowed to open between 3:00pm and 5:30pm. It extended permissible opening hours to 11am to 11pm.

***** Presumably it's not a coincidence that that was then the age of consent for any male-male sexual activity in England and Wles.

The instructions for the London Bisexual Helpline magic box

See the article on the history of bisexual phonelines in the UK for more details, but from its start in 1987 until 1995, when I think it became unviable to repair, the London Bisexual Helpline used a call-diverter box.

Here are the instructions on how to use it that people doing shifts were given…


London Bisexual Helpline

Operation of the call diverter

The call diverter uses two phone numbers:

Line 1   081-569 7500     The helpline
Line 2   081-569 9877     The private line

The public call in on line 1. If the diverter is switched off, the caller will hear a recorded message explaining when the helpline operates, and giving some details of the London groups. If the diverter is switched on, the call is transferred to the volunteer who is on duty.

To switch the diverter on, call the private line (line 2). The phone will ring for about 40 seconds;* when it is answered you will hear a computerised voice saying, "New number please". When this message finishes wait a couple of seconds, then press

    16 10 ___**

where ___ is your two-digit location code.

After you have pressed 16, you will hear the message, "Divert off." After you have entered your location code you will hear the message, "Your diversion number is xxx. Divert On." Here xxx is your home phone number.*** Wait for this message to finish before hanging up.

Having set up the diverter, please do not try calling 081-569 7500 yourself to check if the diverter is working correctly. If it is, this will lock up the system!**** Get another phoneliner or a friend to call instead.

To switch the diverter off, call the private line again. This time you will hear the message, "Please hold, your call is being connected" Wait a few seconds and then press 16. You will hear the message, "Divert off."

When you receive a diverted call there is a delay of about four seconds between your phone ringing and the caller being connected. If you pick up the receiver during these four seconds, you will hear a faint click when the call is actually connected.

The call diversion system often results in a poor quality line, so it is a good idea to speak loudly.

These instructions assume you have a tone phone (i.e. a phone which 'bleeps' rather than clicks as you dial). If you don't have a tone phone, you will need a tone pad in order to operate the diverter. The helpline administrator can get you a tone pad if required.

If you have problems switching the diverter on or off, it's possible that you are pressing the digits too quickly, or that you are starting to dial too soon after one of the recorded messages. Any helpliner can switch the diverter on or off for anyone else, so if you cannot get the diverter to work, someone else may be able to help. The call diverter is in Ian Saxton's home; if no one else can help, phone him on 081-568 xxxx.


* It was this long in order to discourage people who called it by accident or otherwise – most of them would have given up waiting long before the end of 40 seconds.

** Looking at them now, clearly the '16' 'divert off' code wasn't actually necessary for the helpline's usage, when the diversion would already be off at the start of a shift. But for other users who'd bought one and who wanted to switch from diverting to number A rather than to number B, it would have been necessary and so would have been in the box's instructions.. to be faithfully copied here.

*** So clearly '10 nn' was the code to say 'divert to the number that's nn-th in the saved list of numbers, but how long that list was (looking at a list of volunteers and the codes for their home phones, it's at least 18) and which of the 11..15 codes you used to set up that list and what the other codes did – delete one of the numbers? read them out for checking? – I never knew.

**** I'd have thought you just got a busy tone, but I never dared try it!

AIDS Spectre for Women: The Bisexual Man (New York Times 1987)

A three line history of bisexual men in the news:

1987 – There are "7 to 10 million" bisexual men in the USA

2005 – "Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited"

2020 – .. we've looked again at that study, and bisexual men do exist!

What's particularly interesting about the first one is that at least three of the men quoted – Richard Isay, Bruce Voeller, and Laud Humphreys – were all married to women for years, with all having children with their wives. Clearly, they were all bisexual by behaviour and to at least some degree by attraction, before deciding to identify as gay.

What won't be surprising to anyone who was a bisexual man in the 1980s is the 'bisexual men give women Aids' angle…


3rd April 1987

AIDS SPECTER FOR WOMEN: THE BISEXUAL MAN

Some Think They Can Tell
Truth After 16 Years
7 to 10 Million Men
Several Categories of Behavior
Reluctance to Reveal the Past
A Few Are Changing Their Ways

By JON NORDHEIMER, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES

Seven years ago a Miami office worker had an affair with a bisexual man. She recalls that his confusion about sexual orientation was one of the things that made her feel tender toward him.

Now she wonders if she should get a blood test for the AIDS virus.

Women today increasingly find their thoughts turning to past and present lovers, asking themselves if anyone with whom they were intimate might have a bisexual history. Unlike the Miami office worker, many will be unable to say for certain.

It is a new anxiety, some of it unfounded, slipping into the lives of women as they measure the degree of risk they face from the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome. While bisexuals who are exposed during sexual relations with other men are one bridge on which the AIDS virus can cross from the high-risk homosexual population to infect heterosexual women, the greatest threat comes from intravenous drug users. Only about 4 percent of diagnosed AIDS cases are thought to have been transmitted through heterosexual intercourse, and fewer than one in 10 of those appear to involve bisexual men, according to a New York study.

But numbers offer little consolation to the individual woman who fears that one miscalculation could be fatal, especially a middle-class woman who thinks the chance of contact with a drug addict using contaminated needles is remote. For this kind of woman, experts say, the figure of the male bisexual, cloaked in myth and his own secretiveness, has become the bogyman of the late 1980's, casting a chill on past sexual encounters and prospective ones.

She might also be distressed to learn that bisexuals are often secretive and complex men who, experts say, probably would not acknowledge homosexual activity even if questioned about it. Indeed, some cannot even admit such behavior to themselves.

"Homosexuals have been out of the closet a long time but bisexuals have not," said Dr. Theresa Crenshaw, president of the 5,000-member American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists. "Straight women are going to discover some very unpleasant news about some men they have known."

It is a particularly acute worry for women in such areas as New York, Miami and San Francisco, which have high numbers of AIDS cases. In New York, for example, it is estimated that as many as 500,000 people, mostly men, may already be infected with the AIDS virus but as yet free from symptoms of the disease. This contrasts with the 33,000 confirmed AIDS cases in the nation, still overwhelmingly confined to homosexual men and drug abusers.

Some Think They Can Tell

Some experts feel the threat is exaggerated and doubt that male bisexuals will be a vector of widespread infection among women.

Those relatively few bisexuals willing to discuss their private lives now fear they "will become scapegoated as carriers of the plague," according to David Lourea,* executive director of Bisexual Counseling Services of San Francisco, a support group. "The danger is in telling women to avoid bisexual men and give them the impression they are safe with straight guys who may be just as risky now because they are secret IV drug users."

Still, the fear about bisexuals persists, and women are left to their own resources to ferret out a man's sexual history.

"If the guy won't tell me I could only guess," said the Miami office worker. Her solution: no sex with any man until she is confident of her safety. But "even then the guy could be a good liar," she noted.

Some women believe they can recognize bisexual men. "I don't care how much they want to cover it up, their little effeminate ways tip you off," said another Miami woman, Isis Gradaille. This view is disputed, however, and many bisexuals may seem very masculine to women they attract.

Truth After 16 Years

One therapist tells the story of a New Jersey accountant, 16 years married, who for years sought out men in public toilets and truck stops without a clue to his wife and daughter. When his wife discovered the truth five years ago, the therapist recounted, her reaction was: "You're not a man!" Despite a deep sense of humiliation, however, she continued to have sexual relations with him, tolerating the nights he came home late.

But there was something ultimately more devastating than humiliation: Fear of AIDS took hold, and two years ago, according to the therapist, she ordered her husband out. Experts believe that many women married to such men are indeed at great risk of AIDS because of repeated contact with someone who may have many sexual partners in a high-risk population. But there is less agreement on the extent of the AIDS danger that bisexuals pose to women in general.

The uncertainty stems in part from the difficulty in defining bisexuals and their patterns of behavior. Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, the researcher whose 1948 survey "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" is still the best broad-based examination of the subject, admitted confusion on 'delimiting' bisexuality.

7 to 10 Million Men

"There are not many bisexual men who can function effectively with a wide number of female partners," said Richard A. Isay, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. "Most bisexuals are just married men who are gay."

But some other behaviorists and clinicians challenge that contention. "There are many men out there who are very active with both men and women," asserted Dr. Fritz Klein, a California authority on bisexuality.

As for numbers, Dr. Bruce Voeller, president of the Mariposa Foundation, a sexuality research and educational group in Los Angeles, said those men who fall within the range of active bisexuality are more numerous than most people would expect.

While no reliable national survey exists to update the 40-year old Kinsey data, Dr. Voeller estimated that 7 million to 10 million men today, out of the 96.5 million over the age of 12, could be described as bisexual for some extended period in their lives, about twice the number thought to be exclusively homosexual.

"The numbers on bisexuals have always been a problem," conceded Dr. June Reinisch, director of the Kinsey Institute, part of Indiana University at Bloomington, Ind. "But basically we don't believe that the years of sexual liberation and openness in American society have changed them much. You can't train or influence people on which gender to fall in love with. That's set from early on in life."

Several Categories of Behavior

Contemporary researchers suggest that most bisexuals fit into five categories of behavior. The largest group are married men, like the New Jersey accountant, who lead clandestine homosexual lives and rarely if ever have sexual relations with women other than their wives.

A second group includes openly bisexual men who are promiscuous only in their homosexual orientation and interact with women in a sporadic, serial manner, returning to the company of men when a relationship with a woman ends.

There are those men unsettled by identity confusion who, in the words of one expert, "jump here and there and back again."

Researchers think a fourth group, young men who experiment with homosexuality in college or some other environment where it is tolerated or easy to hide, is shrinking as AIDS fears rise.

Dr. Laud Humphreys, a Los Angeles psychotherapist who wrote "Tearoom Trade," an examination of homosexual and bisexual behavior, describes the fifth category as "ambisexuals," a small but "dangerous" group of men who have very frequent sexual contact with both men and women.

"Basically they don't care if a partner is a man or a woman as long as that person is good-looking and sexually active," Dr. Humphreys said. "I consider this group the most dangerous in the cross-infection of AIDS because these men are likely to be drug-abusers as well, overlapping their high-risk behavior." He includes male prostitutes in this category, though they often express loathing for their clients and may be heterosexual by preference.

Reluctance to Reveal the Past

Stuart, a San Francisco writer, closely fits Dr. Humphreys's description of ambisexual. "As a teenager I considered myself a latent homosexual because I fantasized about men and women as long as I can remember," he said in a telephone interview. "When my first wife and I back in the 1970's decided to have an open marriage, we formed a menage a trois with one of her professors in Philadelphia.

"I was scared my first homosexual experience would turn me off to women but that hasn't happened. I still feel a sexual need for them, although at the moment I live with a man." One point on which all experts agreed, in a series of interviews, was that most bisexuals would be extremely reluctant to reveal their sexual history to someone with whom they did not hold a long and trusting relationship.

"If anything, AIDS will drive bisexual men deeper into the closet," said Pepper Schwartz, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington who co-wrote "American Couples," a study of heterosexual and homosexual relationships. These men realize that "even women who consider themselves very liberal will not have sex with a bisexual since she will consider him a greater risk for infection."

Married men who for years have frequented homosexual hangouts may still regard themselves as heterosexual and, if asked by a woman, would vehemently deny high-risk behavior, according to several therapists.

"This is a group most likely to spread AIDS by denying this history to a woman," said James Mahon, a psychologist who co-founded the Center for Identity Development in Upper Montclair, N.J., a counseling service for homosexuals and bisexuals.

"The need they feel to protect their sense of self is so strong," he said, "plus they feel they have so much to lose if their behavior is found out, that they don't even recognize their behavior as homosexual in character, as strange as that may sound. This is carried to a point where they may not practice safe sex because that would be an admission that it is high-risk, homosexual behavior."

Dr. Jane Pitt, a faculty member at Babies Hospital of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, said she had heard of cases in which infants born with AIDS gave the first clue that the mother had been infected through a bisexual husband. "The illness of the baby alerted everyone and gave the death knell to the whole family in the most outrageous way," the physician said.

Therapists report that a few years ago there was a surge in bisexuals seeking professional help to "convert" their sexual orientation to heterosexuality, a highly controversial therapeutic goal that is considered without merit if the patient's basic makeup, consciously or subconsciously, is homosexual. But the trend dropped off by 1986. "Most were driven by the fear of AIDS," said Dr. Crenshaw of San Diego. "Now they see heterosexuals are not free from risk."

A Few Are Changing Their Ways

Still, it is apparent that some bisexual and homosexual men are seeking alternatives. "Gay and bisexual men are settling down with women and marrying them in greater numbers than ever before," said Dr. David McWhirter, a San Diego psychiatrist who is a co-author of "The Male Couple," a study of monogamous homosexuals.

Michael Shernoff, a therapist working with homosexual men in Manhattan, said he has detected the same trend. "It appears to be happening with gay men who have been very comfortable with a gay identity for a long time but gradually discover a strong attraction for women," he said. Dr. Voeller of the Mariposa Foundation reported similar observations. "It's a recent phenomenon of the gay movement," he said. "I see it even among some leaders of the gay movement who are secretive about their relations with women because they believe they will be censured by gays."

He said it was unknown, however, whether such secretiveness extended to obscuring a homosexual background, or whether the men submitted to blood tests to assure that they were free of the AIDS virus and unlikely to pass it on to the women they were taking up with.


* Previously featured in the Bay Area Reporter on first US national bisexual conference article.

Square Peg 17 on 5th National Conference on Bisexuality (BiCon 5)

Following their article on bisexuality in Square Peg 14, issue 17 (published some time after June 1987*) had something in its news pages on the 5th National Conference on Bisexuality** that was to happen in Edinburgh during mid-October.

Note the line welcoming "feminist transsexuals to women-only workshops"!

Alongside assorted art, Square Peg 17 also had one of the most erotic short stories I've ever read, Chrissy by Fi Craig; a look at the bathrooms of six LGBT people; a look at the films of Barbara Hammer and the recently deceased Curt McDowell; some photos of sex involving several women ("In issue 11 we talked about it, in issue 14 we read about it, in this issue we deliver it"); Manchester as England's second city; some photos of sex involving two or more men (probably); a look at pre-Aids gay porn stories; homo-eroticism in Italian cannibal movies; an interview with Roz Kaveney; a look at Aids in the USA; a Prague travelogue, then behind the 'Iron Curtain'.

Square Peg 17 cover

Double page spread of news pieces in Square Peg 17

image of text in article


Bisexuality Conference

"WE'RE NOT PLAYING AT OUR SEXUALITY; we can't trim it neatly to conform to heterosexual or homosexual stereotype and nor do we want to."

The 5th National Conference on Bisexuality offers bisexuals and their allies a weekend of discussion; support and fun; and promises workshops on such subjects as safe sex; positive pornography; heterosexuality, power and privilege; lesbian and gay attitudes to bisexuals; and SM. The women in the organising group welcome feminist transsexuals to women-only workshops. The conference is to be held at 60, The Pleasance, Edinburgh*** on October 16 to 18. For further information phone the Bisexual Phoneline**** (031-557 3620) on Thursdays 7:30-9:30pm, or write to: Edinburgh Bisexual Group, 58a Broughton Street, Edinburgh EH1 3SA.


* A THT ad elsewhere in it mentions the level of HIV infection as of June 1987.

** BiCon 5, but this was two years before the first one to be called 'BiCon'.

*** Owned by the University of Edinburgh, the Pleasance was also the venue for 1985's 'Bisexuality and the Politics of Sex' conference – what we'd now call BiCon 3.

**** The use of 'the' is more evidence that the London Bisexual Helpline started later in 1987.

Bi-Issues #3

The last issue of the run, this was first published around September 1991* as another A5 4 page newsletter, given away free.

Given how much text there was in this one, I can only guess that the type size was smaller to fit it all in the same space – again, I don't think I have a paper copy to check.


Editorial. Introduction.
Form EN202 Application form for Bisexuals.
Census, Bloody Census, by Russell Gardner.
Reviews of Anything that Moves, Bi-Us.
Community in the Bisexual Movement by Kevin Saunders.

 

Editorial

Welcome to the third edition of Bi-Issues. With the advent of a new newsletter on the Bisexual scene, (Bi-Frost**) Bisexual publishing is looking more healthy. Bi-Frost is published every month and has so far produced two editions. They are hoping to expand to a two page format. More information can be obtained by writing to Bifrost, [PO Box address in Norwich].

Good progress is reported on the new book Bi-lives 2.***

Bi-Issues will be concentrating more on the issues around community and the running of groups. In the next few editions we will be taking a look at some of the more established groups in the country. If you attend a bisexual group on a fairly regular basis and want to write about your impressions and experiences then write to Bi-Issues. The article can be a few sentences or as long as you want. Either way, if you have something to say about your group, let us know.

Health and Happiness
Kevin Saunders

Bi-Issues is published every two to three months. If you want to get a copy, they will be available at most of the national groups. If you want to take a subscription, send four 1st class stamps (unwaged) or £1.50 (waged) to [address].

NOTE
Bi-Issues is published independently of the London Bisexual Group. The views published here are the views of Bi-Issues, not the LBG.****

 

Form EN202

Application Form for Bisexuals

  1. Are you Bisexual?
    Yes__ No__ Don't know__
    Don't believe in labels__
    Only in it for the sex__
  2. How many partners have you had in the past year?
    …..
    Really?…. No, really?.
    Oh dear.
  3. Do you have frequent arguments about monogamous and non-monogamous lifestyles?
    Yes__ No__ Don't Know__
    Look I keep telling you I don't believe in labels__ Only in it for the sex__

 

Census, Bloody Census

Russell Gardener

Did you or did you not fill in your 1991 census form?***** Whether you did or not is completely irrelevant, but the chances are that you would have been either angry about some of the sections or very distrustful of it. The Gay Press made, much of the assumption of universal heterosexuality in the relationship section. That was certainly something that annoyed me. Just why is it necessary to know the name of my employer? Knowing my occupation is enough, I think.

In my first job I worked for a company which provided retail location studies for major petrol banking and food retailers. A company such as Esso might be considering two new sites for petrol stations in Sheffield and need to have more data on which to base their decisions. The company I worked for did an in-depth study of all factors, both supply and demand, then gave recommendations. This is where the census form came in, it gives all the information a commercial operation might need, such as household sizes, average income, etc. The materialist bias of the form is depressing, anyone wanting to get information for such things as health care or the integration of energy saving insulation into national life would have to go elsewhere.

Another worrying aspect of the census was the nationality part. Page 2 carried the figures for the place of birth. Who does this information benefit? A lot of non-white adults now living here were born outside of Britain. Does that sort of information help racial integration? or does it just help the bigots to target racial minorities more effectively?

The census provides much useful information and is an interesting social document. Unfortunately it seems to provide us with more information about the attitudes and prejudices of the people who wrote it than genuine snapshot of the population as a whole.

 

Reviews

Bi Any Other Name

This review is eight months after the publication of 'Bi Any Other Name', but better late than never. It is a collection of short pieces and is divided into four sections; Facing ourselves, Healing Splits, Bi-Community and Politics. No less than 76 contributors make their voice heard. Articles range from 'My life as a lesbian identified bisexual fag hag' to 'Growing up with a bisexual dad'.

The breadth of the book is tremendous and really does bring out the immense diversity of the bisexual community and experience. The depth is somewhat lacking due to the shortness of each contribution. The effect is like being at a party where 76 people stand up and do their party piece. it leaves me thinking 'Wow there are a lot of them … tell me more'.

The writing is sometimes awkward, I sense that many of the contributors are ill at ease with putting their thoughts on paper, yet the really unique achievement of both the editors and the contributors is that each personality behind the article shines through. I was left with a feeling of contact with real people, even the political section was remarkably free of the aggressive posturing, something which can mar similar works by Gay and Lesbian writers. For all the works flaws it is human and this bisexual is grateful to Editors Lani Kaahumanu and Loriane Hutchins for producing it.

Bi-Us

Bi-Us has now been published and is available from the Bi-Us collective (see below for the address). It is well written and is lighter in tone than its predecessor Bi-Monthly. Articles include 'Threesomes' and it has an advice column.

The collective deserve congratulations for their hard work, it has not been easy for them to publish. There are still some unanswered questions about why it took over two years to produce and whether it has a long term future.***** *

Bi-Us costs 1.25 and is available from PO BOX 1912 LONDON N16 5AU

 

Community in the Bisexual Movement

I like being powerful. Being powerful, to me, means being able to truly be myself. It means being able to love who I want in the way I want without the debilitating fear of being judged and found lacking. The knowledge that others think I'm O.K. no matter what helps me take risks I'd never normally take. This knowledge also helps me heal my wounds and protect myself from attack. This is what I understand to be in community.

Community is both an intuitive feeling of being involved, of feeling safe and stimulated, and a pragmatic task which the Bi-movement needs to tackle. The following list is one of the attributes of community is one used by Scott Peck. (The different Drum).

Inclusivity; one of the greatest means of control in Western Societies is the threat of exclusion. For many bisexuals being excluded for not towing the line on sexual identities is one of the most painful experiences they have had. Conversely one of the great healing factors of Bisexual groups is their inclusivity.

Commitment; this means hanging in there when the going gets rough, and believe me the going can get very rough indeed.

Consensus; conventional use of the word consensus means everyone being equally unhappy and no-one really getting what they want. The real meaning of the word is getting agreement by balancing individual needs against group needs. This requires;

Realism; which is facing up to all the issues and not just the ones you find the easiest to deal with. It also means acknowledging different aspect of reality both the positive and the negative. This requires;

Contemplation; which means knowing your own shit and owning the effect you have on others.

Can Fight Gracefully; a toughy, most groups avoid contentious issues in the hope that they will go away, and when it is obvious that it will not, they'll have a enormous bust-up (later saying really stupid things like "that cleared the air, didn't it") Fighting gracefully means knowing exactly what you're arguing about and its relevance to the overall group aims.

A safe place; a place where people can let their defences down and know that they're going to be 0.K.

Group of all leaders; means that everyone has some contribution to make, I take it to mean that power within the group is able to be passed to those who are fitted to take on whatever task needs to be undertaken.

Having read through the rather formidable list above, try to figure out how your group is doing on nurturing community. Probably no group ever has all the above attributes, no-one is totally perfect. Have a go at the questions below and if you'd like to write them out and send them to Bi-Issues I'd be happy to read them and perhaps publish an overall conclusion.

  • What sort of people do you have difficulty with in the Bi-movement? Can you say why?
  • What sort of things make you want to give up going to your group or dissociate yourself from being Bisexual? Are you doing anything to ensure that you can keep up your enthusiasm for a long period?
  • Can you say what your groups aims and goals are? Do you think that these aims and goals are being carried out effectively by; others? yourself?
  • What sort of issues is your group good at dealing with? What sort of issues would the group try and avoid unless you all had a gun pointed at the group?
  • On the whole, do you feel safe in your group? If not can you say what it is that gives you feelings of being in an unsafe place?
  • Do you encourage others to make a contribution? Do others encourage you to make a contribution?

Kevin Saunders


* When originally putting these online, Rowan reckoned the date for this one was August or September 1991. The way Bifrost – said to have 'so far produced two editions' – was ultra-reliably monthly would suggest September as that started coming out in July 1991.

But the comment that it was eight months after the publication of Bi Any Other Name which happened in March 1991 would suggest it was later. Or perhaps Kevin made a mistake in that latter comment.

I have a memory he'd produced all three copies by the time of BiCon / the '9th National Bisexual Conference' in late September.

** There's no hyphen in 'bisexual', and there isn't one in Bifrost either 🙂

*** The first 'Bi-Lives' is obviously Bisexual Lives, republished here. 'Bi-Lives 2' would be published as Bisexual Horizons: Politics, Histories, Lives in 1996, a mere five years later than this newsletter.

**** There's obviously a story behind this – I wonder what it was. Did people assume it was an official publication of the LBG?

***** The UK has one census every decade: this one was on Sunday 21st April 1991. It was the first UK census to have a question on respondents' ethnic group. Probably largely because of the deeply unpopular Poll Tax in England, Wales and Scotland, over half a million people failed to respond, despite the announcement of its abolition in March.

***** * I don't think I have ever had a copy of this 🙁 and it wasn't something Rowan put online either.

The aside about it being the successor to Bi-Monthly and taking a while to produce makes me wonder if it was the same team who put together the unpublished Bi-Monthly 22, a copy of which I had in my hands at an LBG meeting to discuss the magazine's future but never saw again.

The question as to whether or not it had a future was answered by the way that I don't think there was ever a second issue. By this point, Bifrost had replaced Bi-Monthly for most people and the community wasn't big enough / have enough spoons for two similar publications.

Outright #43 article on BiCon 11

Outright was a free community newspaper in the East Midlands – it started life in February 1990 as 'Outright: Gay Freesheet for the East Midlands', and became '.. For Gays and Lesbians in Central England' by November 1992.

By issue 43 in November 1993, it was '.. For Gays Lesbians and Bisexuals in Central England' and in the same issue carried the following story about the recent BiCon 11 in Nottingham:

(HTML version of the text on the BiCon website.)

Outright dropped the '.. in Central England' bit of its subheading September 1995. Its last issue was #89 in October 1997.

Its archive is at The Sparrows Nest.

Bi-Issues #2

With an estimated date of May 1991, the second issue of Bi-Issues was "slightly larger than the first" according to the intro, but was also "an A5, 4 page newsletter, given away free" like the first according to Rowan in 1999.

Perhaps there was more text without increasing the page count; I don't think I have any paper copies to check.


Editorial. Introduction.
Bi-Issues Guide: Promoting Peace in the Gulf.
News from Off Pink, bisexual summer Camp, facilitators workshop.
The Group. A personal account of going to a bi group.

 

Editorial

Welcome to the second edition of Bi-Issues. This edition is slightly larger than the first. I hope you like it.

If you want to submit articles, suggestions or readers letters, write to the contact address. If you want a copy then send an SAE to the contact address:-

Health and Happiness
Kevin Saunders (Editor)
Contact Address: [address].

 

Bi-Issues Guide: Promoting Peace in the Gulf*

  • Launch your own missile at Downing Street. In case your local supermarket doesn't stock one, missile launchers are available from Brigadier I.L.L. Coverup, M.O.D., Little Hypocrisy St., London WC2. If you need an end-users certificate remember to emphasise your psychopathic credentials.
  • Join the majority of the male population over thirty-five and use C.N.N. as a hard porn S&M; channel. Every time a Cruise or Scud finds its target ejaculate (or orgasm). Remember to shout "Britain" as you come.
  • Make effigies of Major Bush and Hussein then vomit all over them.
  • Count the number of times the word butt is used and wonder why American military commanders are so anally fixated. Write letters to Gen. C. Powell on the benefits of sex as a way of sublimating his war drive.
  • Cry a lot.

 

News

The Off Pink publishing collective is getting material for a successor of "Bisexual Lives". They are hoping for a wider selection of material which will stretch across cultural boundaries. They also want material about sexual oppression, gender, relationships, personal and creative stories from bisexual people and their partners. If you want to contribute write to Guy Chapman** [address and phone number] or Zaidie Parr*** [address and phone number].

Bisexual Summer Camp – space limited to thirty people for a self-contained self-catering centre with accommodation and camping in June in S.W. Wales. Come for the weekend or five days. Contact Guy Chapman at the above address.

Facilitators' Workshop – N. London 9.30am-5.00pm on 18th May. A workshop to help participants improve their facilitation skills. It is aimed at those wanting to facilitate at the 1991 Bisexual Conference but all are welcome. It will be run by Kevin Saunders Andrew Cullis and Andrea Perry. Andrew Cullis and Andrea Perry are both qualified Psychotherapists with extensive experience in facilitating workshops on bisexual issues. Workshop limited to 20 spaces. Phone Kevin [phone number] for details.

 

The Group

I pause as I walk into the room.

"Is this the Bisexual Group?", I ask.

Heads turn, "You've come to the right place, we're just beginning the discussion, what's your name?".

"Julie".

"OK Julie, have a seat, we're just starting".

I sit down feeling like I'm the only one at the party who doesn't know the others and who can't point out the host either. I smile with an effort as the group leader starts an introduction exercise. In the circle the nervous 'hellos' are beginning; my thoughts become less jumbled.

– Do I belong here? Are they going to close me in? Who is the real bisexual here? I wonder if anyone is worth knowing? That guy is looking at me strangely, does that mean he is attracted to me?, or does he dislike me already?

My feelings are churning around a lump where the memories of past rejections is sitting in my guts. I look around the room meeting one or two people's eyes. It's my turn to speak.

"Hi, I'm Julie from Peckham".

It's reassuring to hear how calm my voice is, none of the strident note which can betray my nervousness, a good even contralto …… er, what's the discussion about again?

I look to the group leader for guidance and reassurance. He looks as nervous as all the rest; Christ! are they all as untogether as this; no, maybe that's a bit harsh. I connect with the discussion again as the voice of a woman with a beautiful jumper comes into focus. I remember her name; Caroline.

"…and I felt pissed off my friend said that, you'd think being a lesbian she'd understand about repression; but she went on about bisexuals being confused and it not being a proper identity anyway'.

Nods, sighs of recognition among the women, sympathetic bobs from the men. The facilitator asks whether this is a common experience. A black guy begins to speak of his experiences at work, being afraid to come out. Suddenly it seems like everyone dives in at once. The emotional temperature of the room goes up, voices rise in volume, men seem more aggressive, women shriller and eyes harder as everyone competes for air time.

I take a sudden breath, tense my mouth and am about to launch into my bossy routine when a guy with Latin American looks gets in before me.

"Yeah, I used to have that problem but since I changed jobs I'm OK".

Momentarily I'm pissed off at the group leader, then I think "fuck it", at least I didn't get hooked into bossing the meeting around. Like my friend Nadine says, being bossy is good for work; in social situations better to be gentle without losing the strength.

The Latin American guy has finished his spiel and is looking around the room. There is a pause; no-one meets his eye. I stop my mouth tensing up again and keep quiet.

Then a chubby guy speaks up, his voice is soft and somehow soothing; "Yes, I find other people's attitudes a problem sometimes – times when I'm feeling good I can dismiss others' attitudes as their problem, times when I feel confused or down, maybe a bit needy or wanting to be liked then those sort of attitudes really hurt".

The atmosphere eases, people meet each other's eyes again. My guts relax and I settle into my chair more. The discussion ambles on without drawing any mind shattering conclusions. The facilitator makes some announcements and asks for money.

I stand around wondering who to talk to: already little subgroups are forming, everyone is holding cups and talking about the latest Outrage protest, or where people live, whether this is their first time here; why aren't there any Bi pubs or discos? I stand around wishing this were a work situation where I was in control and the agenda was clear. I change my mind at least four times about who I want to talk to. Just as I make up my mind to talk to Caroline, the guy with the Latin American looks comes over and launches into a conversation about "where do you live and how did you get here?". He stands between me and the rest of the people, he talks earnestly and smiles at me hopefully.

My hackles rise; I make my voice non-committal and sidle around him so that our initial positions are reversed. I make a move to another group which isn't very interesting to talk to but at least puts me in a place where I can make eye contact with Caroline. She's in conversation with three other guys and although it's difficult to tell, I sense she's not interested in them. She looks over to me occasionally, I smile every time she does.

I'm about to move over to her when the Latin American guy appears from nowhere and backs her into a corner. I'm taken aback by his sheer nerve and insensitivity. Maybe he was sent to make my life difficult for me. I stare hard at him and look away for a while. I wonder about going over and talking to someone else then change my mind. Suddenly I want the guy out of the way and preferably in a stretcher. I begin to walk purposefully towards them, at that moment Caroline breaks free and comes over to me. I change my purposeful stride to casual saunter in ten microseconds.

We talk with each other, I risk a small smile and a joke which evokes laughter from Caroline. I immediately go serious, worried I may be coming across as too frivolous. I discretely ask some leading questions, and she does the same to me. I'm wondering, hoping all the time. That mixture of longing and fear rises from my guts making a lump in my throat. I'm thinking maybe, maybe this time. Along to the pub afterwards, drifting off to talk with someone else, afraid to appear too eager yet still wanting to maintain contact.

I manage to get close to Caroline by choosing a gap in the bar so I can buy drinks and talk to her. I let my eyes soften and open wider (I've been told I have attractive doe eyes). She turns and talks with me, conversation flows easily and naturally, a lot of the awkward pauses are ironed out by thinking up lines of conversation ahead. Definitely getting somewhere here.

"Would you like to come to a nightclub afterwards?" She would, uh oh things hotting up here. Engage pelvis, move breasts suggestively while thinking; try and be subtle about it.

I lose sight of Caroline for a moment as she goes off somewhere and suddenly the whole pub seems to become stilted, two dimensional and indifferent. The other drinkers look fleshy and bland, towering above me. An effort of will and the people shrink to normal human size again. Caroline returns and we move on to the nightclub.

In the nightclub people moving, moving the beat. Holding glasses, looking good, I try to get conversation with Caroline along sexual lines. I talk about bodies she talks about fashion, I talk about the way that woman's clothes cling to her body. Definite warmth in my pelvis rising to my breasts, the urgency of my sexual pulse making itself felt. Our smiles beginning to become private, we're laughing like we're already sharing a delightful secret.

More drink, more dancing, then we leave the nightclub. I feel as light and graceful as a gazelle. Just then the thought pops into my head, how to proposition her?.

Immediately my heart is in my mouth, my stomach muscles tense, my smile becomes a little fixed. I wonder which pick up line to use, "back for coffee?", no, no too feeble, think of something original, "want to see this article in Spare Rib I was telling you about?", no too indirect, "Want to come back and fuck each other's brains out?". Christ no, steady on, I couldn't possibly say that. Caroline smiles at me and says, "You look impish, what are you thinking of?".

I reply, "I don't feel like parting, why don't you come back to my place?". She smiles, god she has such a kind face.

"Yes, OK", she says "that sounds nice."

Whew! Slump a little with relief, I feel a bit drained, perk up, and continue on the way home, both of us thinking of later…


* In response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 'Operation Desert Storm', the counter invasion of Kuwait by the US, UK and various other allies, started with a bombing campaign in January 1991 and a ground assault five weeks later. Kevin wasn't happy with either.

** Along with another 'out of London' attendee, Guy was the person I stayed with at my first BiCon in 1986. He moved to Bristol a couple of years later.

*** If you put Zadie in a room with a dozen other people with everyone talking to each other, and said to another group 'spot the social worker', most of them would have pointed to Zadie.

One of my favourite memories of her is from the launch of Sue George's Women and Bisexuality at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, where she caused much amused laughter with her comments.

She died a few years ago.

Bay Area Reporter on first US national bisexual conference

The mention of the Revolting Sexologists from Hell in Bi-Issues #1 got me doing a search for them. Before today, Google knew of one usage, in a Bay Area Reporter* article on the first US 'national bisexual conference' in 1990. (And it should have been the 'Radical Revolting Sexologists from Hell'!)

I didn't go to the conference – too poor, amongst other things – but several people from the UK did. I do have a couple of the brochures from it – one as a result of Robyn bringing some to the 1990 BiCon two months later, and one from being married to someone who did go.

That BiCon is probably where I got one of the event's t-shirts from…


The cover of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990

Bay Area Reporter article image 1

Bay Area Reporter article image 2

Conference Marks Bisexuals' Stonewall

by Richard McPherson

Four hundred and fifty men and women were in town last weekend to attend the 1990 National Bisexual Conference held at San Francisco's Mission High School.

Two years in the making, this conference, hosted by Bisexual Political Action Group (BiPOL), is the culmination of a nationwide effort of local bisexual centers to create a bisexual network and draw attention to the bi community.

The primary purpose of the conference for participants and the public at large was to: "Educate, Advocate, Agitate and Celebrate."

To this end the workshop, which ran June 21-23, focused on political, general information and AIDS oriented issues with subgroups and tracks dealing with feminism, people of color, relationships, androgyny, spirituality, sexuality and writing and publishing.

One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation by a representative of Supervisor Hongisto's office of a resolution passed by the S.F. board and signed by Mayor Agnos, declaring Saturday, June 23 "Bisexual Pride Day in San Francisco."

David Lourea, a BiPOL spokesperson, stressed that much of the focus of the conference was directed toward coming out and gaining personal and public support while emphasizing the need "of being out there in straight and gay communities as out-front, vocal bisexuals."

In addition to bisexual registrants, gay and lesbian people attended the conference as well, according to Carol Queen, a BiPOL steering committee member.

"We certainly have gay and lesbian-identified people here who are behaviorally bisexual," said Queen. "Gay and lesbian communities everywhere have a bisexual component to them, whether those folks are out or not.

"There are gay and lesbian people [here] who aren't bisexual behaviorally but who consider the struggles of bisexuals real important to them, who are working on their biphobia and working on understanding 'who are these bi upstarts anyway and what are they talking about?'"

A Part Yet Separate

David Lourea, sees similarities as well as differences between the bisexual and gay and lesbian communities in terms of beliefs and concerns.

"You need to see that bisexuals see themselves as part of the gay and lesbian community," he began. "Apart and separate from the community. So, while we have always been a part of every single gay and lesbian organization anywhere, there have been vast numbers of people who have been bisexual and have not felt comfortable to come out or secure to come out — have been discriminated against, ridiculed and have lived within the gay community in silence."

Lourea feels that even though bisexuals see their situation as very much related to the gay cause, they feel cut off from gays and lesbians due to lack of education and understanding.

Debunking the myth that bi people are confused about their sexual preference, Lourea says: "It is realistic to be confused if you live in a world that says that you do not exist. Confusion is an appropriate response to the gay and lesbian community telling you that your heterosexual feelings are just an indication of your internalized homophobia; of the straight community telling you that 'you're just a little strange and need to get rid of your homosexual feelings.' So people who are bi live with monosexuals [gays, lesbians and straights] telling them that they don't exist. It's appropriate to be confused. It's an appropriate choice not to make a choice; we live in a world that says you have to.

Addressing the opinion of some gays that bisexuals can't be trusted, that they'll go back in the closet and take "heterosexual privilege," Lourea responds: "A great many people who are bi are 'out there,' have always been beaten up, have put their lives on the line all the time. In some ways we risk more because the reality is that we don't want to give up our heterosexual partners, we don't want to give up our heterosexual life — we also don't want to give up our gay life. For many of us acknowledging our gay side does mean alienation of our heterosexual side, and that's very painful. Sometimes more painful than it is for someone who is gay or lesbian."

Exploding Biphobia

Carol Queen, a writer, educator, activist and charter member of Radical Revolting Sexologists from Hell, said that BiPOL exists as a political and educational tool to further the understanding and rights of not only bisexuals, but the gay and lesbian communities as well. "Since most of the projects of the gay and lesbian community are also our projects, anything that helps gay and lesbian visibility and identity and combats homophobia helps [us too]." For example, BiPOL, she said, was out in force in support of Project 10, a program to provide S.F. high schools with gay youth counseling programs.

Queen agrees with Lourea that a major part of BiPOL's agenda is to talk about biphobia to the gay and lesbian community, in addition to the straight community. "We want the lesbian and gay community to know that we're here as a part of their community, that we're moving into a new phase of community building and organizing. We're thinking of this as our non-violent Stonewall. 20 years later, thanks to the gay and lesbian community … Our same sex connections are very powerful and precious to us. You know, that's what makes us bisexual instead of heterosexual. We're not heterosexual people."

The conference weekend culminated on Sunday with a contingent of 250 participants marching in the Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. ▼

BAY AREA REPORTER JULY 5, 1990 PAGE 20 & 22

Page 20 of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990

Page 22 of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990


* Founded in 1971, the BAR is the USA's the oldest continually published LGBT newspaper. The article on the conference was just after two pages of obituaries, almost all as a result of Aids:

Obituries in the Bay Area Reporter 5th July 1990 1

Obituries in the Bay Area Reporter 5th July 1990 2

Bi-Issues #1

After the extended end of Bi-Monthly* three newsletters started up in 1991: Bi-Issues, Bi-Us, and Bifrost. (Spot the naming convention used by UK bi stuff…)

Bi-Issues was edited by Kevin Saunders. It was, I think, the first of the three to see print: if he was a member of the London Bisexual Group committee when they took the decision not to publish any more issues of Bi-Monthly, he'd have known of its demise before most people.

Published around February 1991, Bi-Issues #1 was an A5 4 page newsletter (i.e. a sheet of A4 folded in half) given away free. I don't think I have any copies of it (or Bi-Us) but it was converted to HTML by Rowan – editor of Bifrost, the most successful and long-running of the three – around 1999:

Every issue contains all the articles originally published in it with the exception of poetry, reprints from other publications .. Listings are not included in order to avoid confusion. Adverts are generally not included, though they may be if they were for an event within the bi community.

Bi-Issues ran for three editions. Kevin died in summer 2019.


Editorial. Introduction.
Bisexuals Stage Kiss-in at Edinburgh Conference.
Quote from workshop on eliminating internalised oppression.
The 8th National Bisexual Conference.

 

Editorial

Welcome to the first edition of Bi-Issues, a quarterly newsletter for Bisexuals. We will provide news and current issues for bisexuals.

In future editions we hope to publish articles by Iain Ryman, Clare Thompson, Robyn Ochs (American Bi-activist), David Lourea (American Bi-activist and one of the founding members of the Revolting Sexologists from Hell) and many others.

If you wish for a copy of Bi-Issues or you want to contribute then send an S.A.E. to: [address]

Health and happiness,
Kevin Saunders (Editor)

 

Bisexuals Stage Kiss-in at Edinburgh Conference

By our Staff Reporter

Our brave lads and lasses were dispatched to Edinburgh on 7th September to attend the 8th National Bisexual Conference. There fired by the enthusiasm of the occasion, 20-30 people staged a kiss-in on Lothian Rd. Said co-ordinator Ruth from Liverpool, "I think it's unfair that if I were kissing my boyfriend no-one would mind, yet if I were kissing my girlfriend I could end up being arrested."

As a result of this kiss-in 3 men, 4 women, 1 cat, 2 budgies and one baby have subsequently come out as Bisexual. Said Fiona Cambell, mother of three, "I'm worried about my husband. Ever since he saw the kiss-in he's been dating men. He's even lost interest in football".

 

Quote from the Workshop on eliminating internalised oppression

When a young elephant is trained, he or she is tied to a stick with a length of rope. The length of rope becomes engraved on the elephant's consciousness until one day when the rope is removed, the elephant moves around the stick as though the rope were still there.

It is the same with Bisexuals; every time someone puts us down or we limit ourselves because we are afraid of what others may think of us, we are acting as though we had an invisible rope limiting our actions. To move beyond this "rope" is to end internalised oppression. This takes great courage to even move small steps, yet is worth doing.

 

The 8th National Bisexual Conference

I knew I'd arrived in Edinburgh because the railway porters were saying "hey Jimmy, ken ye get the bike off the trean". If I were in London the porters would be saying,"Oi mate can you get this bleedin' load of shit off the fucking train". Anyway, I'd arrived, it was midnight on Friday 7th September, I still hadn't turned into a pumpkin yet and I still had to find the guest house. I took the zig-zag route, finally reached the Armadillo Guest house and crashed out wondering what the 8th National Conference was going to be like.

I went to Tollcross Community Centre on Saturday and crossed a line of religious Fundamentalists complete with long beards and thirteen children.** I stuck two fingers up as I passed and felt considerably better (though I had great difficulty in taking my fingers out again, bigots have very tight asses). The assembly hall*** was packed with Bisexuals all sitting nervously and waiting for the conference to begin.

I was somewhat dazed and overwhelmed by the feelings of being in a hall with people who shared my sexual identity, "God they're all so good looking" was one thought that crossed my mind. The conference duly began with Kate Fearnley welcoming everyone to the three day conference. Then it was off to the first workshop. There were three workshops a day and a choice of 55 workshops to choose from.

I was spoilt for choice; should I go to Bisexuality and Choice?, The Yo-Yo effect, Push me-Pull yous and the Flying Trapeze Syndrome? or the Variables of Sexual Orientation run by the noted author and sexologist Fritz Klein? The agonising decision made I went off to Bisexuality and Choice run by Clare Thompson.

Clare's theory is that bisexuals have special difficulty in making choices and if confronted with two options will tend to find ways of doing both. Her examples of sharing dishes at restaurants, having several part-time jobs, or trying to watch two or more films on TV produced many nods and sighs of recognition.

We explored what it felt like to stick with a choice. It was very thought provoking, a common theme being the hassles we all gave ourselves around choice as well as the fear of taking the unconventional option. Even re-reading the programme in order to write this article has brought up all sorts of regrets about the workshops I missed because of the ones I went to.

I was struck by the openness and the energy of all the people who were there, cuddles and open displays of affection were always present. There were also some excellent speeches by Robyn Ochs (American Bi Activist) and Lisa Power**** (Stonewall Group). I found it particularly encouraging that a Lesbian activist was so positive about bisexuals and bisexuality.

Saturday evening was rounded off by a disco and an Erotic dancing competition (which I missed, sigh), organised by Del Ray, Vice-chair of LBG (Geddit, yes I know this joke is recycled, sorry it's the only one I have available at the moment).

Sunday I ran a massage workshop and missed another of Fritz Klein's workshops, this one being on the advantages of a bisexual lifestyle. Still, maybe at another conference… More workshops and discussions more sitting around in circles and always the energy of bisexuality becoming clearer and easier to see.

One of the most disturbing workshops I attended was on Eliminating Internalised Oppression. We drew up a list of stereotypical sayings and put-downs associated with bisexuals. Towards the end of a very long list I was thinking, "Oh my God is there no end to all this crap"? I left feeling angry and depressed at all the negative messages bi's have to cope with, yet also more hopeful about our power to overcome these messages.

Finally, all too quickly the conference reached Monday evening and we all parted. Robyn Ochs, the American activist, summed it up by saying, "I don't want to leave. I want to take you all with me."


* It had become more and more irregular. The last published issue had a cover date of February/March 1989, but the actual publication date would have been later in 1989.

** It did actually have a tiny picket! First, and so far, last time.

*** The community centre was also a primary school. Again, first, and so far, last time BiCon's been in one of those. Another one in Edinburgh was in a church / Methodist Hall.

**** Legendary activist Lisa identifies as lesbian, but has famously had relationships with more than one gender.