London Bisexual Phoneline: Dear HEA, please give us some money

By March 1996, the London Bisexual Phoneline needed some money. The diverter box we used had failed and it wasn't cheap to repair or replace.

One way or another, probably through some of us also being members of the Health Education Authority's bisexual advisory group, we arranged that they would give us a second bit of funding.[1]The first had been for the first run of the second version of the HEA's awful 'hands' ad, which paid to temporarily expand the days it ran from two to six.

Because of some budgeting rules within the HEA, this time they could not give it to us for what we actually needed it for, running costs. It had to be capital costs, i.e. buying something you could kick.

Well, if that's what they needed, that's what we would tell them. While I am certain that Clive knew exactly what was actually happening, either from us telling him verbally or him going 'If you want to spend it on A, you have to tell me B so I can pay', this is what he was told via a fax… Read more

Notes

Notes
1The first had been for the first run of the second version of the HEA's awful 'hands' ad, which paid to temporarily expand the days it ran from two to six.

London Bisexual Helpline draft monitoring policy – August 1998

In a London Bisexual Helpline meeting at London Lighthouse in 1998, it was decided to formalise assorted policies:

  •   equal ops
  •   complaints
  •   ethics
  •   good practice
  •   monitoring

Each was given to someone different to draft, and I had the last one. I can't remember if it was completely original or adapted from somewhere else. I also can't remember if it was adopted.

Although it gives a date of August 1998, the PageMaker 5 file it was recovered from has a 'last changed' date of 12th September. One of PageMaker's little quirks was that how many copies you wanted to print of a document was saved with the file, so it could simply be that was when enough copies for everyone were printed, rather than any more significant changes… 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).

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.