A few days short of two months after I'd written in to the London Bisexual Group in response to the 'Double Trouble' article published in The Guardian in February 1986, I got a reply.
This was partly down to the delays inherent in using a mail-forwarding service, British Monomarks, and the way that the group met once a week, but mostly because I wasn't the only one… Read more
Published in the paper's 'Open Space' section, this was my reintroduction to the UK's bi community.
At the end of August 1981, I had just arrived as a new student at Reading University for the start of 'freshers week'. Browsing – rather than buying! – a copy of London listings magazine Time Out in the Student Union's shop, I noticed that the lesbian and gay section included a mention that the first meeting of the London Bisexual Group would be at gay nightclub 'Heaven' on Tuesday, 1st September. Read more
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. Read more
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… Read more
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
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'. Read more
It looks like two lesbian and gay magazines have used the title Square Peg. The later one is American, founded by long-time lesbian activist Jeanne Córdova, and ran from 1992-94.
The original was British, started in 1983 and if it wasn't unique, I've never seen anything else like it. A later subtitle for it was '(the journal for contemporary perverts)' – a queer art and politics and art quarterly magazine. On heavy glossy paper. In a square format.
In one of the few mentions I can find of it, 1980s gay activist Colin Clews says "In effect, it was probably one of the first publications to segment the gay and lesbian market by any measure other than gender" – and that's probably why it was so good. The collective that ran it were mixed gender, at least after the first issues, and the content was far more gender balanced than any other lesbian or gay publication.
The book What is She Like: Lesbian Identities from the 1950s to the 1990s includes it in a list of lesbian publications that disappeared in the 1980s. That last bit's not true – its last issue was in 1991 – but the comment that "It was alternative, upfront, sexual, mixed, arty, offering fiction and plenty of art work. At the time, Square Peg was decidedly innovative, and it led the way for journals with stronger design input, higher production quality and higher prices" is spot on.
The design aesthetic didn't always make it the easiest thing to read, but the actual content was all highly readable.
Anyway, somehow it became known as somewhere that – in comparison to the rest of the lesbian and gay media – Square Peg was bi friendly. Maybe that was because of the mixed gender collective, but it confused them… Read more
One of the sessions at BiCon 2003 was "Number unobtainable – what next for bisexual phonelines?"
This is an expanded version of that session, now with added bisexual phoneline.. that I forgot about until after first publishing it, ahem.
At that point, there had been
five six 'bisexual phonelines' in the UK and none of them were operating any more. Read more