The speech about the epic fail of Edinburgh First at BiCon 2013

There have been two BiCons at the University of Edinburgh's Pollock Halls. The first, in 1999 used them for both accommodation and session space. The second, BiCon 2013, had the session space at the John Macintyre Conference Centre.

Both involved dealing with Edinburgh university's 'Edinburgh First' organisation.

In 2013, we fulfilled our end of the contract. They did not.

When that had become clear, this is what was said at the start of one of the plenaries. Unusually for me, it was written down and emailed to myself to read out, otherwise I would have used phrases like "fucking unacceptable" and "don't fucking harm my attendees" a lot. Read more

Boys and girls come out to play (The Independent, 1997)

The research on behaviourally bisexual men commissioned by Health Education Authority in 1994, completed in 1995, and eventually published in 1996, was largely ignored.

In part, that's because the HEA leaked the findings – there are a lot of bisexual men! – months earlier, so by the time it was properly published, it was no longer 'news'.

But at least one paper noticed enough to refer to it a year later…

.. even if they didn't read it properly. The estimate of 12% of men being behaviourally bisexual – that is, being sexual with more than one gender – is informed largely by a 1982 survey of Playboy readers in the US[1]Unlike most other large surveys done for magazines, it looks like all of the over 60,000 responses from men were actually analysed! and..

While exact rates are impossible accurately to quantify it seems reasonable to assert that the lifetime figure lies somewhere in the region of 5-15%. Our best guess would be closer to the 12% of Lever et al. (1989; 1992) than the 3-7% of Johnson et al. (1994). However, with little direct evidence, estimates of the proportion of adult men that have had sex with both males and females in the last five years are too hazardous to even attempt.

The "in the last five years" came from the predictions of the person who commissioned it that they'd find hardly any bisexual men and so they needed to make the criteria for being included fairly broad. In fact, it turned out that the average number of partners was three men and three women per year.[2]The people who did the research were struck that the average number of partners per year for gay men in their other surveys was also six.

The article was prompted by an episode on bisexuality that was part of Channel 4's Seven Sins series, entitled 'Greed', sigh. Read more

Notes

Notes
1Unlike most other large surveys done for magazines, it looks like all of the over 60,000 responses from men were actually analysed!
2The people who did the research were struck that the average number of partners per year for gay men in their other surveys was also six.

The Health Education Authority's bisexual and 'definitely not' bisexual ads

Even governments sometimes realise that spending money on health promotion – enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health – can be better than dealing with the consequences of not doing so.

In the UK, the Health Education Council (greatest hit: the 'pregnant man' campaign with its "Would you be more careful if it was you who got pregnant?" strapline[1]Created by the tiny agency that would become the global giant Saatchi & Saatchi, this was such a hit that the agency named its canteen/bar 'The Pregnant Man'. They did some other work for the … Continue reading) ran government campaigns between 1968 and 1987, before a reorganisation (not entirely coincidentally following a row about a politically embarrassing publication about health inequalities) led to its replacement by the Health Education Authority in 1987.

When the UK government decided that Aids was in fact worth doing something serious about (about three years after gay and bisexual men in the UK started dying from it, followed by similar epidemics amongst IV drug users and then haemophiliacs), one of the things that pushed it towards that position was the way that Aids activists had deliberately chosen to emphasise the risks of bisexual men being responsible for the spread of the epidemic into the presumed heterosexual population.

The result was the first big 'Don't die of ignorance' campaign by the Department of Health and Social Security – the 'icebergs and monoliths' one – following which the HEA ended up with the responsibility to do national HIV/Aids health promotion work.

Here's are the ads that they did aimed specifically at bisexual men rather than 'gay (oh.. and bisexual) men'. Read more

Notes

Notes
1Created by the tiny agency that would become the global giant Saatchi & Saatchi, this was such a hit that the agency named its canteen/bar 'The Pregnant Man'. They did some other work for the HEC, then had to resign when they decided to work for a tobacco company instead.

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[1]They described it as "gay and bisexual lifestyles" but it was gay and bisexual men's sex lives that were the primary focus from the start of the HIV/Aids epidemic in the UK. Read more

Notes

Notes
1They described it as "gay and bisexual lifestyles" but it was gay and bisexual men's sex lives that were the primary focus

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… Read more

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[1]A THT ad elsewhere in it mentions the level of HIV infection as of June 1987.) had something in its news pages on the 5th National Conference on Bisexuality[2]BiCon 5, but this was two years before the first one to be called 'BiCon'. 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'. Read more

Notes

Notes
1A THT ad elsewhere in it mentions the level of HIV infection as of June 1987.
2BiCon 5, but this was two years before the first one to be called 'BiCon'.

Bi-Issues #3

The last issue of the run, this was first published around September 1991[1]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 … Continue reading 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. Read more

Notes

Notes
1When 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

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: Read more