Tom's guide

[ Originally published by Tom Limoncelli as 'The Ultimate Guide to Bisexual Conferences' at 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.

Another conference I went to a lot was the Usenix Technical Conference. This is a computer conference unlike any other. This is a conference where the people creating the next generation of computers meet and share their work. It's not a well-known conference, mostly because it's a "best kept secret" to keep the riff-raff (people that wear business suits) out. While not a economically disenfranchised group, these conferences certainly helped relieve the "outcast" feeling that technical people lived with before the dot com revolution.

In future years I would find myself creating the Tri-State (NY, NJ, CT) Bisexual Conference. I co-chaired the first, and third, and fourth, advised the second and fifth. I helped plan other meetings, large and small. I sat on the Program Committee for Usenix conferences, and coached the 4th International Bi Conference (NYC) in 1994.

With every conference I found common themes: confusion, burn-out, lack of planning.

Oh, and I also helped plan some conferences which I won't mention, because they weren't very successful. However, those are the most valuable to me, because I learned the most.

So after the impressive first North American Bisexual Conference in Vancouver, Candada (2001), I promised to write down everything I wish people had told me before I started getting involved with creating conferences. That's why this book now exists.

Conferences change the world. Conferences educate large numbers of people in a short amount of time. More importantly they build community. People make connections and friends that last much longer than conferences. Countless projects and many organizations have been created by people that would never have found each other if it weren't for conferences. This is true in the bisexual world, the computer world, the gay world, the science-fiction world, the lesbian world, the Pagan world, and so on and so on.

Interestingly enough, that's not why people attend conferences. Keep this a secret: people attend conferences in hopes of meeting people (friends, lovers, whatever) but unbeknownst to them, what they get out of a conference is usually education, self-improvement, and empowerment. That's the way of the world. So advertise "you'll meet lots of people" but plan on expanding their minds. The mind is like a parachute, it only operates when open.

Planning a conference can eat your life. Make sure you have a good stress relief mechanism (spouse or significant others). Have a co-chair and a core-team of volunteers. Make sure you don't try to single-handedly create the conference.

I can't say that I wrote this book. I only wrote down what other people have taught me, and what people have submitted for inclusion. In particular, Alan Hamilton's article on budgeting and Will Marcott's sample financial report. I hope to update this book quarterly (isn't the web great?) based on the input I get. I would love if everyone that ran a conference were to submit a chapter on what they've learned, thus making this a "living document". Please send your suggestion, chapter, or even a small paragraph to (email deleted).

I honour you. I honour you for the work you are about to do. Conferences change the world. There is no better thing that someone can do. Thank you.

The Most Important Chapter (Key dates)

This chapter is about the key dates that should be used to drive all your other plans. If there is a single more important thing you can learn about conference planning it is they timing of the milestones listed in this chapter.

There may be concepts in this chapter that won't be explained until future chapters. That's ok. We'll get to them.

A milestone is a tangible task such as signing a contract or mailing out an advertisement. Milestones usually have a single deadline.

As conference co-chairs your primary job is to keep all the volunteers focused on the tasks at hand. Use these milestones to do that and you'll be very successful.

As conference co-chairs your primary job is to keep all the volunteers focused on meeting these deadlines. As conference co-chairs your primary job is to keep all the volunteers focused on meeting these deadlines.

Here are the key milestones who's deadlines are most critical:

  1. Location Contract Signed
  2. 'Save This Date' Announcement
  3. 'Call For Workshops' Announcement
  4. 'Registration Form' Mailing
  5. Registration Cut-off
  6. The Conference Itself

Hard date starts the wheels in motion

Before you have a signed contract you only have a 'soft date' (like 'In the summer of 2005, somewhere in central New Jersey'). Once the contract is signed, you have a 'hard date' (like '3pm Aug 4, 2005 until 5pm Aug 8 at the Ramada Inn on the New Jersey Turnpike exit 7.'). Your contract will specify down to the minute when you must be gone (don't forget to allocate clean-up time!)

You can't advertise the conference until you have a hard date. If you do, Murphy's law will assure a date change and everything will get confused. Some well-intentioned person will duplicate zillions of the flyer with the old date, and make sure that this incorrect flyer is well-stocked everywhere they travel. Ugh.

You can't book workshop presenters, keynote speakers or entertainers until you have a hard date. These are busy people and they can't commit to working "the summer of 2005". They will only talk to you if you can specify a hard date. Until you have a hard date, you won't be taken seriously.

The majority of your volunteers won't enlist until there is a hard date. Would you volunteer for a conference that you can't attend? Having a hard date means the volunteer can verify with their family, employer, spouses, parents or whoever that they will be able to attend. Only after that point will they volunteer to help.

You need to announce the hard date as absolutely early as possible. This lets people mark their calendar before other events have filled it in. People need to take vacation time, which usually has to be approved by their employer months in advance. If this is an international conference, the date must be announced 2 years in advance as people need time to save for the added expense.

To make all that happen, get the contract signed as soon as possible.

The "Save This Date" announcement

As soon as you have a hard date you must announce the conference. However at this time you don't have any idea of how much registration is going to cost, who the keynote will be, the detailed schedule, the workshops, and so on. Those things take forever to work out. If you wait for them you'll find yourself making the big announcement after it is too late for people to schedule vacation time, etc.!

Therefore the moment you have a signed contract, send out a 'Save This Date!' announcement. It only needs to include the bare essentials: what attendees need so they can set aside that date in their calendar (but not register), and spread the word to potential workshop presenters so they can send in workshop proposals.

This announcement should be one page and include:

  • The start and end date, and year
  • The location
  • The title and (if you have it already) the theme
  • Request for volunteers
  • A list of typical workshops (with a note that this is not set in stone)
  • On the back: A "Call For Presenters" messages.

As we said before, workshop presenters are busy people, so they need advance warning of the date. They need a month or two to submit their proposals, and you need a month or two to select which presenters you will use and which you will decline. That's four months total! If you need to give people at least six month advance notice to make vacation plans, we're talking nearly a year advance notice!

To help you get this announcement out as soon as possible, it's a good idea to have a sub-team draft the announcement while the core team is finding the location, negotiating the contract, and getting the contract signed. The draft announcements should leaving key items blank until the contract is signed. If you can mail the "Save This Date" packet within 7 days of signing the contract you're great!

If you are caught for time, you can send out the "Call for presenters" message separate from the "Save this date!" mailing. If you are really, really, really caught for time, you can at least send out a 8-10 line email with the title, date, and location. Make sure all announcements include a web site address. If anything, people can bookmark that URL and refer back to it as you fill in the details.

To make all of this happen, make sure you are ready (or almost ready) with your announcement when the contract is signed.

Registration Deadlines

The final topic of this chapter is about the deadlines for registration.

Did you ever wonder why conferences offer a discount for early registration? Pre-registration costs less than "at the door" registration? Conference organizers don't offer these discounts because they are nice people. Each discount offered is for a specific reason.

Most discounts are to encourage early registration. The more people that register early, the easier the organizers can plan for food, space and other issues.

Very early registration is done to get initial funding. This funding may pay for future mailings and publicity. Suppose site may require a 10% deposit when the contract is signed, 20% more a bit before the conference, and the remainder the day of the conference. The first deposit may be paid for with the profits from last year or a loan from an "conference angel" (who may be an organization or a person). The next deposit is paid for with the early registrations. The remaining deposit is paid for with the pre-registrations.

People don't take advantage of a pre-registration discount if the discount is too small, or if it must be paid too far in advance. If pre-registration saves them $10, there's little reason not to register at the door. If the only discount is offered by registering two months early, people will forego the discount.

Here's a discount scheme that I like:

At the door:Unregistered attendee arriving at the conferenceFull price
Pre-registered:post-marked 7 days or more before con15% discount (but at least a $15 dollar savings)
Early Registration:post-marked 2 months or more before con30% discount
Super-duper Early Registration:post-marked 9 months or more before con50% or more discount

Most conferences have discounts for student and/or low-income attendees. Often this is the same price as the pre-registered rate if the person registers at-the-door, or the early-registration rate if the person pre-registers.


In summary:

  • Sign the contract well in advance
  • Send out the "Save This Date!" announcement as soon as the contract is signed
  • Send out a "Call for workshops/papers/participation" soon after the contract is signed, possibly combined with the "Save This Date!" announcement
  • Send out the registration forms as soon as they are ready, well in advance of the conference
  • Set discounts to effectively encourage early registration.

The Timeline

In grade school we all learned that a story typically has a beginning (which sets the stage), middle (which introduces the obstacle or conflict), and climax (which resolves everything). A conference is similar. Things move slowly at first, then activity builds, finally the conference itself happens and (ta da!) it's time to go home, thanks for attending.

Is this your first conference that you are planning? If it is, you are at a disadvantage because you haven't seen the over-all timeline that is involved in creating a conference. This chapter hopes to solve that problem. If this isn't your first conference, this chapter serves as a guide or checklist.

The previous chapter dealt with the most important dates to drive home the idea that those deadlines are the most important. However we recommend that you plan out a timeline based on all the milestones and deadlines listed in this chapter (you can revise it as time goes on, but you have to start somewhere).

It is important to write this timeline down and share the information with all volunteers. Put it on a "for committee members" section of your web site. It is a communication tool. It communicates the deadlines that you, the co-chairs, need to meet to make this conference a success.

Here are the various tasks that typically happen:

Initial Concept

"Hey, let's have a conference"

The only advertising you can do is, "Please join and help us create this conference."

Initial team

The end-result of this team is to get a site location and sign the contract. However, they can't do that until they've picked a purpose, title and theme. The purpose of the conference may dictate which sites are visited when making the selection.

Sets the timeline.

Contract Signed

"Save This Date!" sent out

Detailed Schedule Created

This is where you plan the details of each day. For example, "Opening keynote and 1 workshop in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, keynote at night."

You have to pick exact times for these things. Workshops tend to be an hour or 90 minutes.

"Call for workshops/papers/participation" sent out

Budget created

Expenses and income in concert. This includes picking the prices.

"Registration Packet" sent out

Form to fill out.
Flyer that "sells the conference"

"Workshop Proposals Deadline"

"Workshop Acceptance Letters Sent"

"Registration Deadlines"

Super-duper Early Registration
Early Registration


The Kick-off Ritual

(Only conference co-chairs are allowed to read this.)

You don't have to do what's recommended in this chapter. It's fluff. It's bogus. It's stupid.

However I promise you that the times I didn't do this, the conference planning was full of in-fighting, we lost core volunteers, and the conference suffered.

I can also promise that when you do this process, people in the room will feel a little silly, and you will too, and therefore it is important that you maintain seriousness about it. Trust the process. Trust the process. It works!

Here's what you do.

Host a kick-off meeting, and at the end vote whether or not to have a conference.

The meeting should be well-advertised. Tell everyone. "Meeting to discuss the 2002 Tri-State Bi Conference to be held summer 2002 in New Jersey".

Use this as your (first) big volunteer gathering meeting. Explain the basic idea of the conference, but use the time to facilitate the volunteers creating the political points of the conference: the purpose, title, and theme. You may only get to the first one or two of those. That's ok.

(By the way, you may need an initial group of 2-5 people to put together this first meeting. I have found that usually it ends up being 2-3 people that put together the meeting, but they get 5-10 people to spread the word.)

About 30 minutes before the end of the meeting, call for a vote as-to "whether or not we are committed to creating this conference."

The number one objection will be, "Why the heck should we do that? We came here because we saw an advert asking if we want to create a conference. Why else would be here? Plus, we've already set the title and theme. Of course we want the conference to be created!"

Take the person seriously, but you only need to respond, "Then this vote should be a no brainer. Let's do the vote." This is what I talked about early when I said, "You will feel silly." You will feel silly, but it is important to continue with the process.

Give people a chance to talk about the pros and cons about hosting the conference then do the vote. Do a secret ballot if possible.

Of course, the vote will be 99% or 100% in favour of the conference. Congrats.

So, you may be asking why it was worth doing this if you know the vote was going to be positive. It's a good question.

The answer is that it's magic. The times that we've done this ritual the conference planning has been smooth. The other times, not so smooth.

Ok, maybe it's not magic. Maybe there is some psychology to it. When people entered the room it was your conference. They came to see what's up. After the vote they feel ownership. They created the conference by their vote, their action. Now it's their conference (partially owned by everyone that voted for it). Psychologically they feel ownership and therefore responsibility towards see it be a success.

They voted for it. They made the commitment. The way the question is phrased isn't "Should this conference exist" (of course it should… someone else should create it!) but "whether or not we are committed to creating this conference." By voting "yes", they are dedicating themselves to seeing the conference be a success. They are less likely to drop out.

There will be "no" votes. Be happy that there are. These are the people that would have dropped out anyway, or been resentful as they felt coerced into volunteering. They will leave the group at this point, and you are better off without them.

Of the people that are at this kick-off, about 50% of them will become your core team. People that join after this meeting may become your core-team too, but these people have now been though this process and are committed.

This is a good time to appoint co-chairs, committee co-chairs, or other positions. Maybe someone will volunteer to be the treasurer.

There are a couple committees that every conference needs to have. This might be a good time to get people to volunteer to take on committee co-chair roles. However, don't go overboard. If you surprise everyone with a printed list of committees, their statement of purpose, goals, and deadlines then you've undone the magic… it's back to being "your conference", not "everyone's conference". The core team should agree to the committees' goals and responsibilities together at the very next meeting.


This is a short chapter. Until I flesh it out more, it's just some random notes I have on the types of locations you can use for a conference, and the pros and cons of such a site.


Costs a lot, or nothing at all.

Your contract might include free meeting space if you book enough rooms. On the other hand, if you don't meet the "room requirement", you will pay a penalty that could be thousands of dollars.

Even if the space is free, you will have to pay for the A/V equipment, coffee service, food, etc. If you thought Starbucks was expensive, wait until you see what a hotel charges for a coffee urn, milk, sugar, a dozen cups and napkins.

On the other hand, a good hotel is a delight to work with. They are there to serve you and will wait on you hand and foot to meet your A/V, food, and other needs. (It's appropriate for them to wait on you hand and foot because they are charging you an arm and a leg.)

Colleges and Universities:

Universities have excellent, inexpensive conference facilities. However, they may have a lot of strings attached. They may be expensive if you don't have sponsorship of a campus group.

Some Universities have professional conference facilities. These are managed as hotels (sometimes the management is actually outsourced to a hotel company) and can have the best of both worlds (hotel and university).

Rutgers: used the student centre, which had tons of strings attached (no vendors, tight control over content, required contracts for every workshop presenter, musical performer, special cash-handling requirements, etc.)

Also when checking into sites at universities or small colleges, the conference can sometimes get a campus LGBT group to sponsor the event.


  • May only be appropriate for small conferences
  • Very little A/V facilities
  • May have restrictions about content in certain rooms (no food in the main worship room, no nudity, etc.)
  • May be free if they sponsor it, or if the majority of the planners are members of the church. It's a good idea to offer a donation either before or afterwords.

Community Centres:

Which can be cheap or free, esp. if they are designed to serve in disenfranchised communities.


You need to have a written contract with the site. This contract includes the specific dates that you will use the facilities, which rooms (or "all rooms") and facilities (or "all facilities") and the exact list of fees you will be charged for all these things.

The contract locks you in to those dates, and prevents the site from changing their mind about who they will permit to use the space. (What if someone came a long and offered them more money? The contract prevents them from ditching you.)

Keep the date under wraps until you have the contract signed. Public announcement of the date and location has a magical effect. It goes into people's diaries, email lists start forwarding the information, magazines (with 2-month lead times) hear about it and publish it, newsletters print it, and so on and so on. You really can't know all the places that repeat your announcement. If you have to change the date, you will never update all the other places that, and they were only trying to be helpful, have 'helped you get the word out'.

Why this is important is discussed in "Key Dates".

Budget Planning: Retreat and Conference Budgeting

by Alan Hamilton

Budgets and Fees

Price the event to ensure that even if not as many people as you hoped register and come to the event, the cost of the event will be covered.

There are two ways to figure costs and fees, which should yield similar results. It is a good idea to figure them both ways, and check the answers against one another. If the numbers are too far apart, something is wrong in the way one or both are being figured.

The Overall Costs Method is to figure the total price of all weekend's costs, and divide by the number of attendees expected.

The Per-Person Cost Method is to figure the sum of the price per person of each of the weekend's costs.

In each case, estimate costs a bit high and the number of people a bit low. This yields a fee which will almost certainly cover expenses and probably make a modest profit, which can be used to finance other activities of the organization, including providing seed money for other events.

An example of figuring with each method is shown on the following pages.


To demonstrate figuring costs and the fees required to cover them, we will use a small retreat as an example. For a larger retreat or conference, the principles are the same; there are just more items to include in the budget.

Let us assume that we are members of a writers group, and are planning a small writers retreat. This is the first time we are organizing a retreat, but we would like to have one regularly in the future, perhaps quarterly or yearly. We want to make a little extra money to set aside for next year's retreat planning committee, so that they don't have to front money (such as site rental deposits) out of their own pockets.

One of us has made some phone calls and has found a site which will accommodate up to 25 people. The site requires that we pay for a minimum of 20 people, whether 20 people come or not.

Let us list things that we think we will need to buy for the retreat. These might be:

  • Site Rental
  • Food
  • Profit

We could have decided to provide writing supplies as well, but in this case we decide to have a simple budget and low costs. Attendees will have to bring their own paper, pens, pencils, etc. Workshop leaders will have to bring newsprint, markers, etc. for their own workshops.

In each case, we come up with a fee of $50-60 and a total budget for the weekend of about $760 for the average number of
attendees (20). Since these figures agree pretty closely, we probably haven't made any large arithmetic errors.


The Overall Costs Method is to figure the total price of all weekend's costs, divided by the number of attendees expected. Figure low, average, and high estimates for figures which vary based on the number of attendees. Then divide the average cost by the low number of attendees to figure the fee to charge.

Budget ItemLow(15)Avg(20)High(25)
Site Rental
$8 per person
$30 per person
$5 per person

Divide the costs for 20 people by the minimum number of people, and we get a fee for the weekend of:
$860 / 15 people = $57.34 per person

Thus, if 20 people pre-register with a 50% deposit:
20 * $29 = $580

and only 15 show up to pay the other 50%:
15 * $29 = $435

we take in a total of:
$580 + $435 = $1015

If we paid for 20 spaces:
20 * $8 = $160

and bought food for 20:
20 * $30 = $600

then our total expenses are:
$160 + $600 = $760

This means that even if we buy food for people who don't show up and don't pay all that they said they would, we still don't lose money. We make a modest profit.


The Per-Person Cost Method is to figure the fee as the sum of the price per person of each of the weekend's costs. Multiply that by the number of attendees expected, to find the weekend's total budget.

If we figure
( $6 * 20 spaces ) / 15 people = $10.67

for the space rental portion of the fee, then 15 people paying $11.00
$11.00 * 15 people = $165.00

will cover the rental of the site for the weekend.

Per-person food costs might be figured as:

Friday supper7
Saturday breakfast3
Saturday lunch5
Saturday supper7
Sunday breakfast3
Sunday lunch5
Food cost/person$30

The fee per person would be:

Profit 9

If 20 people pre-register for the retreat with a 50% deposit:
20 * $25 = $400

and only 15 show up to pay the other 50%:
15 * $25 = $375

we take in a total of:
$400 + $375 = $775

If we paid $160 for 20 spaces and bought food for 20:
20 * $30 = $600

total expenses are:
$160 + $600 = $760

Again, even if we buy food for people who don't show up and don't pay all that they said they would, we still don't lose money. We make a modest profit.

Disasters Can Still Happen

Of course, disasters of various sorts do happen (weather too bad for travel, etc.), but setting the budget and fees for an event in this way minimizes the chances of losing money. Planning "defensively," builds a safety net to cover such problems in the future. If the event does not lose money, it contributes to this safety net and help bail out other organizers, should disaster strike their event.

Why Try to Make a Profit?

Is all money "filthy lucre"? Is making a profit an inherently bad thing? No. A modest profit, used well, benefits your organization's work in the long term.

Making a profit is how the East Coast Bisexual Network (ECBN) came into existence. A conference made a profit, and the organizers of the conference formed an organization to conserve the funds and use them to seed more conferences and other events. If you return the profit to your organization, this will finance further growth of its work in all its myriad forms. Plan to make a profit, and plan to use that profit to make a difference throughout the future.

[ Lou Hoffman adds: Profit is not a dirty word. BECAUSE makes a profit every year and the proceeds are used as seed money for the next year's conference.]

[ Tom Limoncelli adds: Profit is a must. We owe it to the bisexual community to build a self-sustaining movement. I believe we do a disservice to the community any time we create an event that loses money, since the loss will be paid for by the activists that worked hard to create the event. This will burn them out (and we only want to burn out the enemies to our movement 🙂 ). Therefore, we have a sacred trust with the community to make events that are profitable enough to sustain the event into the next year, and hopefully are recession-proof against a single bad year. ]

Alan Hamilton is the 1992 President of the East Coast Bisexual Network, co-founder of the Unitarian Universalist Bisexual Network, former editor of the newsletter of the Boston Bisexual Men's Network, an engineer and manager of computer software, a writer, and a bisexual activist.

This pamphlet is published by the Bisexual Resource Center. You are welcome to reproduce and distribute it with your group's contact information at the bottom of this column. Please send a $10 donation for each flyer that is useful enough to you to reproduce, to support the publication of new literature. For more information and literature, write or call:

Bisexual Resource Center

Setting The Price

Most of this topic is already covered in "Key Dates".

Here is one paragraph that should be integrated into this chapter, when it is written:

How can you afford to offer half-off to the super-duper-early registrations? Well, if you are dealing with non-students, you can use those intervening months to send these people fund-raising letters asking for donations to the scholarship fund, which will pay for discounted rates for students and low-income people. Adults that are used to making donations to charities may end up sending you a net total that is more than the full "at door" registration price. Of course, this won't work if your conference will mostly be people that do not have an income level that supports donations, or if your conference has a commercial aspect or isn't a charity.

Misc Tools

This chapter lists various tools that I've found useful when co-chairing a conference.

The "what goes in the envelope check-list" Tool

Whenever we do a mailing, there may be confusion over what goes in the envelope. To prevent this, we create a "What goes in the envelope" check-list. This check-list is included in the minutes of a planning meeting, posted on the "for volunteers only" web site, or emailed out. Think of it as a communication tool. It sets expectations for the volunteers.

For a large stuffing party (more than twelve people), only the coordinating committee needs to see the check-list. Though making it available to everyone is a good way to groom others for leadership.

It's a disaster to have ten people show up to stuff envelopes only to find out that the key pieces aren't ready yet. It can also be bad to forget to include something in the envelope after they are sealed. A simple check-list prevents this.

The check-list should include:

  • Who is the mailing going to:
  • How many envelopes are going out:
    (this tells everyone how many of each item must be procured)
  • When/where is the envelope stuffing done?
  • What goes in the envelope?
    (a list of what each sheet of paper should contain, front and back)
  • Who is responsible for duplicating each sheet?
    It doesn't matter who duplicates the sheet, the person that is responsible can delegate the task, but if the delegate fails, it's the responsible person's fault.
  • Who is responsible for bringing stamps:
  • Who is responsible for bringing envelopes:
  • Who is responsible for bringing mailing labels:
  • Who is responsible for bringing return-address labels:



There will be an envelope stuffing party at the Bisexual Community Center on Mon, May 2, 2002, 7-9pm.

This mailing is going to: The members of the BiZone mailing list.

Quantity: There will be 200 pieces, please bring 200 of everything.

The envelopes will include 5 pages:

* Page 1 front: Cover letter by John.

* Page 1 back: Advert for the fund-raiser/dance
      200 copies delivered by Mark.

* Page 2 front & back: Registration form
      200 copies delivered by Mark.

* Page 3 front & back: Conference Advert flyer
      200 copies delivered by Mark.

* Page 4 front: BiWomen Support Group Flyer
* Page 4 back: BiMen Support Group Flyer
      200 copies delivered by Joe.

* Page 5 front & back: Endorsement from Rainbow Center.
      200 copies delivered by Mark.

stamps: John

envelopes: John

mailing labels: Mary

return-address labels: Mary

Sure, you know everything that is on this list. However, people can't read your mind. Think of this as a communication tool. You use it to communicate with the entire committee what is expected of them, and lets them confirm that they agree that this is what is being mailed, where, when, to whom.

Once the meeting starts, it's important to make one complete set. Gather one envelope, one of each item that's supposed to be in it, stamp, labels, etc. Show this to everyone to make sure they understand the goal. From there, you can let them self-organize (if they are experienced), or organize them (if you can avoid micro-managing them).

The key is to make sure that you don't end up with a disaster like: 500 envelopes filled with the printed material, and 500 other envelopes stamped and labelled. To prevent this, make sure an assembly-line is created that starts with the papers being folded, then stuffs the envelopes, then labels the envelopes, then seals the envelopes, then stamps them. Keep an eye on what's happening. The idea is that the more "expensive" or "irreplaceable" things are done last. If the envelope is ruined early on, you don't want to have wasted a stamp. Actually, stamps are replaceable… it's the labels that you don't want ruined. That's why the order (fold, stuff, label, stamp) becomes important.

Todo: things to add to this document

I'd like to see more on fund-raising (not my area of expertise) and also on at-conference services and access issues. Access issues are one area we worked hard at: Braille programs, sign language interpreters, accessibility for those with mobility challenges, a scent-free policy, unisex bathrooms, childcare, scholarships, community housing, metro transit information… I've been involved with childcare at the last three or four BECAUSE, and have a lot of experience with childcare as a user and a volunteer at a number of other conferences (Rainbow Families, various SF/F conferences).


I can't take credit for most of this document. It comes from the experience of doing conferences with many find bi activists, especially everyone involved in the Tri State Bisexual Conferences.

In particular:

  • Tom Limoncelli, New Jersey
  • Alan Hamilton, Boston, MA
  • Lou Hoffman, Minneapolis, MN


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

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…

3rd April 1987


Some Think They Can Tell
Truth After 16 Years
7 to 10 Million Men
Several Categories of Behavior
Reluctance to Reveal the Past
A Few Are Changing Their Ways


Seven years ago a Miami office worker had an affair with a bisexual man. She recalls that his confusion about sexual orientation was one of the things that made her feel tender toward him.

Now she wonders if she should get a blood test for the AIDS virus.

Women today increasingly find their thoughts turning to past and present lovers, asking themselves if anyone with whom they were intimate might have a bisexual history. Unlike the Miami office worker, many will be unable to say for certain.

It is a new anxiety, some of it unfounded, slipping into the lives of women as they measure the degree of risk they face from the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome. While bisexuals who are exposed during sexual relations with other men are one bridge on which the AIDS virus can cross from the high-risk homosexual population to infect heterosexual women, the greatest threat comes from intravenous drug users. Only about 4 percent of diagnosed AIDS cases are thought to have been transmitted through heterosexual intercourse, and fewer than one in 10 of those appear to involve bisexual men, according to a New York study.

But numbers offer little consolation to the individual woman who fears that one miscalculation could be fatal, especially a middle-class woman who thinks the chance of contact with a drug addict using contaminated needles is remote. For this kind of woman, experts say, the figure of the male bisexual, cloaked in myth and his own secretiveness, has become the bogyman of the late 1980's, casting a chill on past sexual encounters and prospective ones.

She might also be distressed to learn that bisexuals are often secretive and complex men who, experts say, probably would not acknowledge homosexual activity even if questioned about it. Indeed, some cannot even admit such behavior to themselves.

"Homosexuals have been out of the closet a long time but bisexuals have not," said Dr. Theresa Crenshaw, president of the 5,000-member American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists. "Straight women are going to discover some very unpleasant news about some men they have known."

It is a particularly acute worry for women in such areas as New York, Miami and San Francisco, which have high numbers of AIDS cases. In New York, for example, it is estimated that as many as 500,000 people, mostly men, may already be infected with the AIDS virus but as yet free from symptoms of the disease. This contrasts with the 33,000 confirmed AIDS cases in the nation, still overwhelmingly confined to homosexual men and drug abusers.

Some Think They Can Tell

Some experts feel the threat is exaggerated and doubt that male bisexuals will be a vector of widespread infection among women.

Those relatively few bisexuals willing to discuss their private lives now fear they "will become scapegoated as carriers of the plague," according to David Lourea,* executive director of Bisexual Counseling Services of San Francisco, a support group. "The danger is in telling women to avoid bisexual men and give them the impression they are safe with straight guys who may be just as risky now because they are secret IV drug users."

Still, the fear about bisexuals persists, and women are left to their own resources to ferret out a man's sexual history.

"If the guy won't tell me I could only guess," said the Miami office worker. Her solution: no sex with any man until she is confident of her safety. But "even then the guy could be a good liar," she noted.

Some women believe they can recognize bisexual men. "I don't care how much they want to cover it up, their little effeminate ways tip you off," said another Miami woman, Isis Gradaille. This view is disputed, however, and many bisexuals may seem very masculine to women they attract.

Truth After 16 Years

One therapist tells the story of a New Jersey accountant, 16 years married, who for years sought out men in public toilets and truck stops without a clue to his wife and daughter. When his wife discovered the truth five years ago, the therapist recounted, her reaction was: "You're not a man!" Despite a deep sense of humiliation, however, she continued to have sexual relations with him, tolerating the nights he came home late.

But there was something ultimately more devastating than humiliation: Fear of AIDS took hold, and two years ago, according to the therapist, she ordered her husband out. Experts believe that many women married to such men are indeed at great risk of AIDS because of repeated contact with someone who may have many sexual partners in a high-risk population. But there is less agreement on the extent of the AIDS danger that bisexuals pose to women in general.

The uncertainty stems in part from the difficulty in defining bisexuals and their patterns of behavior. Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, the researcher whose 1948 survey "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" is still the best broad-based examination of the subject, admitted confusion on 'delimiting' bisexuality.

7 to 10 Million Men

"There are not many bisexual men who can function effectively with a wide number of female partners," said Richard A. Isay, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. "Most bisexuals are just married men who are gay."

But some other behaviorists and clinicians challenge that contention. "There are many men out there who are very active with both men and women," asserted Dr. Fritz Klein, a California authority on bisexuality.

As for numbers, Dr. Bruce Voeller, president of the Mariposa Foundation, a sexuality research and educational group in Los Angeles, said those men who fall within the range of active bisexuality are more numerous than most people would expect.

While no reliable national survey exists to update the 40-year old Kinsey data, Dr. Voeller estimated that 7 million to 10 million men today, out of the 96.5 million over the age of 12, could be described as bisexual for some extended period in their lives, about twice the number thought to be exclusively homosexual.

"The numbers on bisexuals have always been a problem," conceded Dr. June Reinisch, director of the Kinsey Institute, part of Indiana University at Bloomington, Ind. "But basically we don't believe that the years of sexual liberation and openness in American society have changed them much. You can't train or influence people on which gender to fall in love with. That's set from early on in life."

Several Categories of Behavior

Contemporary researchers suggest that most bisexuals fit into five categories of behavior. The largest group are married men, like the New Jersey accountant, who lead clandestine homosexual lives and rarely if ever have sexual relations with women other than their wives.

A second group includes openly bisexual men who are promiscuous only in their homosexual orientation and interact with women in a sporadic, serial manner, returning to the company of men when a relationship with a woman ends.

There are those men unsettled by identity confusion who, in the words of one expert, "jump here and there and back again."

Researchers think a fourth group, young men who experiment with homosexuality in college or some other environment where it is tolerated or easy to hide, is shrinking as AIDS fears rise.

Dr. Laud Humphreys, a Los Angeles psychotherapist who wrote "Tearoom Trade," an examination of homosexual and bisexual behavior, describes the fifth category as "ambisexuals," a small but "dangerous" group of men who have very frequent sexual contact with both men and women.

"Basically they don't care if a partner is a man or a woman as long as that person is good-looking and sexually active," Dr. Humphreys said. "I consider this group the most dangerous in the cross-infection of AIDS because these men are likely to be drug-abusers as well, overlapping their high-risk behavior." He includes male prostitutes in this category, though they often express loathing for their clients and may be heterosexual by preference.

Reluctance to Reveal the Past

Stuart, a San Francisco writer, closely fits Dr. Humphreys's description of ambisexual. "As a teenager I considered myself a latent homosexual because I fantasized about men and women as long as I can remember," he said in a telephone interview. "When my first wife and I back in the 1970's decided to have an open marriage, we formed a menage a trois with one of her professors in Philadelphia.

"I was scared my first homosexual experience would turn me off to women but that hasn't happened. I still feel a sexual need for them, although at the moment I live with a man." One point on which all experts agreed, in a series of interviews, was that most bisexuals would be extremely reluctant to reveal their sexual history to someone with whom they did not hold a long and trusting relationship.

"If anything, AIDS will drive bisexual men deeper into the closet," said Pepper Schwartz, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington who co-wrote "American Couples," a study of heterosexual and homosexual relationships. These men realize that "even women who consider themselves very liberal will not have sex with a bisexual since she will consider him a greater risk for infection."

Married men who for years have frequented homosexual hangouts may still regard themselves as heterosexual and, if asked by a woman, would vehemently deny high-risk behavior, according to several therapists.

"This is a group most likely to spread AIDS by denying this history to a woman," said James Mahon, a psychologist who co-founded the Center for Identity Development in Upper Montclair, N.J., a counseling service for homosexuals and bisexuals.

"The need they feel to protect their sense of self is so strong," he said, "plus they feel they have so much to lose if their behavior is found out, that they don't even recognize their behavior as homosexual in character, as strange as that may sound. This is carried to a point where they may not practice safe sex because that would be an admission that it is high-risk, homosexual behavior."

Dr. Jane Pitt, a faculty member at Babies Hospital of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, said she had heard of cases in which infants born with AIDS gave the first clue that the mother had been infected through a bisexual husband. "The illness of the baby alerted everyone and gave the death knell to the whole family in the most outrageous way," the physician said.

Therapists report that a few years ago there was a surge in bisexuals seeking professional help to "convert" their sexual orientation to heterosexuality, a highly controversial therapeutic goal that is considered without merit if the patient's basic makeup, consciously or subconsciously, is homosexual. But the trend dropped off by 1986. "Most were driven by the fear of AIDS," said Dr. Crenshaw of San Diego. "Now they see heterosexuals are not free from risk."

A Few Are Changing Their Ways

Still, it is apparent that some bisexual and homosexual men are seeking alternatives. "Gay and bisexual men are settling down with women and marrying them in greater numbers than ever before," said Dr. David McWhirter, a San Diego psychiatrist who is a co-author of "The Male Couple," a study of monogamous homosexuals.

Michael Shernoff, a therapist working with homosexual men in Manhattan, said he has detected the same trend. "It appears to be happening with gay men who have been very comfortable with a gay identity for a long time but gradually discover a strong attraction for women," he said. Dr. Voeller of the Mariposa Foundation reported similar observations. "It's a recent phenomenon of the gay movement," he said. "I see it even among some leaders of the gay movement who are secretive about their relations with women because they believe they will be censured by gays."

He said it was unknown, however, whether such secretiveness extended to obscuring a homosexual background, or whether the men submitted to blood tests to assure that they were free of the AIDS virus and unlikely to pass it on to the women they were taking up with.

* Previously featured in the Bay Area Reporter on first US national bisexual conference article.

Bay Area Reporter on first US national bisexual conference

The mention of the Revolting Sexologists from Hell in Bi-Issues #1 got me doing a search for them. Before today, Google knew of one usage, in a Bay Area Reporter* article on the first US 'national bisexual conference' in 1990. (And it should have been the 'Radical Revolting Sexologists from Hell'!)

I didn't go to the conference – too poor, amongst other things – but several people from the UK did. I do have a couple of the brochures from it – one as a result of Robyn bringing some to the 1990 BiCon two months later, and one from being married to someone who did go.

That BiCon is probably where I got one of the event's t-shirts from…

The cover of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990

Bay Area Reporter article image 1

Bay Area Reporter article image 2

Conference Marks Bisexuals' Stonewall

by Richard McPherson

Four hundred and fifty men and women were in town last weekend to attend the 1990 National Bisexual Conference held at San Francisco's Mission High School.

Two years in the making, this conference, hosted by Bisexual Political Action Group (BiPOL), is the culmination of a nationwide effort of local bisexual centers to create a bisexual network and draw attention to the bi community.

The primary purpose of the conference for participants and the public at large was to: "Educate, Advocate, Agitate and Celebrate."

To this end the workshop, which ran June 21-23, focused on political, general information and AIDS oriented issues with subgroups and tracks dealing with feminism, people of color, relationships, androgyny, spirituality, sexuality and writing and publishing.

One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation by a representative of Supervisor Hongisto's office of a resolution passed by the S.F. board and signed by Mayor Agnos, declaring Saturday, June 23 "Bisexual Pride Day in San Francisco."

David Lourea, a BiPOL spokesperson, stressed that much of the focus of the conference was directed toward coming out and gaining personal and public support while emphasizing the need "of being out there in straight and gay communities as out-front, vocal bisexuals."

In addition to bisexual registrants, gay and lesbian people attended the conference as well, according to Carol Queen, a BiPOL steering committee member.

"We certainly have gay and lesbian-identified people here who are behaviorally bisexual," said Queen. "Gay and lesbian communities everywhere have a bisexual component to them, whether those folks are out or not.

"There are gay and lesbian people [here] who aren't bisexual behaviorally but who consider the struggles of bisexuals real important to them, who are working on their biphobia and working on understanding 'who are these bi upstarts anyway and what are they talking about?'"

A Part Yet Separate

David Lourea, sees similarities as well as differences between the bisexual and gay and lesbian communities in terms of beliefs and concerns.

"You need to see that bisexuals see themselves as part of the gay and lesbian community," he began. "Apart and separate from the community. So, while we have always been a part of every single gay and lesbian organization anywhere, there have been vast numbers of people who have been bisexual and have not felt comfortable to come out or secure to come out — have been discriminated against, ridiculed and have lived within the gay community in silence."

Lourea feels that even though bisexuals see their situation as very much related to the gay cause, they feel cut off from gays and lesbians due to lack of education and understanding.

Debunking the myth that bi people are confused about their sexual preference, Lourea says: "It is realistic to be confused if you live in a world that says that you do not exist. Confusion is an appropriate response to the gay and lesbian community telling you that your heterosexual feelings are just an indication of your internalized homophobia; of the straight community telling you that 'you're just a little strange and need to get rid of your homosexual feelings.' So people who are bi live with monosexuals [gays, lesbians and straights] telling them that they don't exist. It's appropriate to be confused. It's an appropriate choice not to make a choice; we live in a world that says you have to.

Addressing the opinion of some gays that bisexuals can't be trusted, that they'll go back in the closet and take "heterosexual privilege," Lourea responds: "A great many people who are bi are 'out there,' have always been beaten up, have put their lives on the line all the time. In some ways we risk more because the reality is that we don't want to give up our heterosexual partners, we don't want to give up our heterosexual life — we also don't want to give up our gay life. For many of us acknowledging our gay side does mean alienation of our heterosexual side, and that's very painful. Sometimes more painful than it is for someone who is gay or lesbian."

Exploding Biphobia

Carol Queen, a writer, educator, activist and charter member of Radical Revolting Sexologists from Hell, said that BiPOL exists as a political and educational tool to further the understanding and rights of not only bisexuals, but the gay and lesbian communities as well. "Since most of the projects of the gay and lesbian community are also our projects, anything that helps gay and lesbian visibility and identity and combats homophobia helps [us too]." For example, BiPOL, she said, was out in force in support of Project 10, a program to provide S.F. high schools with gay youth counseling programs.

Queen agrees with Lourea that a major part of BiPOL's agenda is to talk about biphobia to the gay and lesbian community, in addition to the straight community. "We want the lesbian and gay community to know that we're here as a part of their community, that we're moving into a new phase of community building and organizing. We're thinking of this as our non-violent Stonewall. 20 years later, thanks to the gay and lesbian community … Our same sex connections are very powerful and precious to us. You know, that's what makes us bisexual instead of heterosexual. We're not heterosexual people."

The conference weekend culminated on Sunday with a contingent of 250 participants marching in the Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. ▼


Page 20 of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990

Page 22 of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990

* Founded in 1971, the BAR is the USA's the oldest continually published LGBT newspaper. The article on the conference was just after two pages of obituaries, almost all as a result of Aids:

Obituries in the Bay Area Reporter 5th July 1990 1

Obituries in the Bay Area Reporter 5th July 1990 2