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

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

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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

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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

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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

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

Square Peg on bisexuality

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, 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[1]If you can think of another mixed gender magazine that someone with a very definite lesbian perspective would say that about without any hedging, do say. 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 – was bi friendly. Maybe that was because of the mixed gender collective, but it confused them… Read more

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1If you can think of another mixed gender magazine that someone with a very definite lesbian perspective would say that about without any hedging, do say.