Tom's guide

[ Originally published by Tom Limoncelli as 'The Ultimate Guide to Bisexual Conferences' at biconf.org. This is a lightly edited version of the last known draft, dated 1st September 2003.

One interesting point of difference between UK and USA bi events is that the latter's access issues points include a 'scent-free policy' – even BiPOL's first national US bi conference in 1990 had that[1]And an earthquake policy, given that it was in San Francisco! – but it's never been seen as an issue that needs addressing in the UK, perhaps because to this nose anyway, no-one at BiCon wears noticeable perfumes. ]

Conferences change the world. In particular, they empower the dis-empowered.

The first conference I went to was the GAAMC (Gay Activist Alliance of Morris County) conference in 1988 or so. It was a one-day affair with dozens of workshops. It was amazing. To be in the same place with 100 other disenfranchised people was so empowering that it was a large part of why I am an activist today. Read more

Notes

Notes
1And an earthquake policy, given that it was in San Francisco!

Marcus's 'how to run a BiCon' manifesto

Back in 2005, Marcus Morgan published 'A Manifesto For BiCon Organisers' as a PDF file. As the place it was uploaded to (resources.bi.org) no longer exists, it is now available here.

Since it was written, Marcus has run three BiCons rather than two and several other things have changed. As the file specifically forbids editing it or posting it as web pages, no corrections have been made. The 'excellent article' referenced as being at biconf.org no longer exists there[1]The domain name has been squatted at least twice since 2005 but a copy of the latest version I can find is now here. Read more

Notes

Notes
1The domain name has been squatted at least twice since 2005

Ian's guide to running a BiCon (or any other bi event)

Running a BiCon can be hugely rewarding or an utter nightmare. Your chances of wanting to do it again will be improved if you follow a few simple rules. I'd say that they are more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules, except that there are already some official Guidelines

What is a BiCon?

Those Guidelines have something to say about that, but a short version is that it's a community-led, accessible event 'about' bisexuality for bisexual people and their allies. Even if they were all about bisexuality, an event that was a series of expert panels would not be a BiCon, for example. In the UK, it's now usually a three (or more) day event.

In the UK, we tend to call one day events 'BiFest' or 'BiTastic' to make a distinction between the two, but much of the same advice applies. Read more

It's Prejudice That's Queer campaign – THT 1999

This was a rare example of a THT 'gay and bisexual men' campaign that was designed to been seen by the general population.

One of the reasons that's rare is that advertising on, say, London Underground is considerably more expensive than in a scene magazine or given to workers to hand out at scene venues. (If you did actually want to reach as many gay and bisexual men in London as possible, places like the Underground and the Metro and Evening Standard newspapers is where you'd do it…)

The graphics here aren't particularly good quality, being in a low resolution even in the original PDF from tht.org.uk, despite being intended to be seen on A3 or larger posters.

This is particularly noticeable on the CHAPS logo, which is almost unreadable,* but it means that it was definitely part of a program to reduce HIV infection in gay and bisexual men that got about £1m of funding from the Department of Health every year.

It was recognised by Martin Kirk of the UK Gay Men's Health Network in giving evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS as "an HIV campaign but it is a campaign targeted at prejudice against, in this case, gay men".

As we'll see, this was more correct than it should have been. Read more

London Bisexual Helpline call record sheet

This is the version that was used in 1995, when the Health Education Authority ran the second version of its (awful) 'hands' ad with a referral to the London and Edinburgh Bisexual Helplines in its body text.

In exchange for some money to open the London line six evenings a week rather than its usual two for some months, they wanted some data back, hence a somewhat expanded version of the call record sheet.

I'm not sure how much detail the HEA was given, but these sheets were used to note any trends in calls and, if needed, discuss how to deal with them at the regular Sunday meetings. Read more

More Health Education Authority memories

In 2018, some academics got eleven people who'd worked in the HIV prevention sector in the UK for a two hour discussion[1]Published as Nicholls and Rosengarten (eds.) (2019). Witness Seminar: HIV Prevention and Health Promotion in the UK. Disentangling European HIV/AIDS Policies: Activism, Citizenship and Health … Continue reading on some of the history.

In this extract, they remember the 'hands' ad. Interestingly, the only ones to get much more space are the 'iceberg' and 'monolith' "Don't die of ignorance' ones.

'Ford' is Ford Hickson, part of Sigma Research, responsible for multiple surveys and research projects on gay and bisexual men.

'Lynne' is Lynne Walsh, talking about her time as half of (also known as 'in charge of') the press office for the Health Education Authority (HEA).

'Dominic' is Dominic McVey, talking about having been an HEA researcher. His line elsewhere about "Much of my work involved developing and evaluating the HEA gay and heterosexual public health interventions" accurately shows how much the HEA cared about bisexuals… Read more

Notes

Notes
1Published as Nicholls and Rosengarten (eds.) (2019). Witness Seminar: HIV Prevention and Health Promotion in the UK. Disentangling European HIV/AIDS Policies: Activism, Citizenship and Health (EUROPACH).

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.