This was shared with us by an amazing person – Olly! Please take the time to read and think about how we can all be a little more inclusive of everyone xxx
Pride; it’s the time of year to break out the badges, dust off the flags, and don’t forget the glitter. Traditionally held in June, the season is (pleasingly) getting longer and longer, with Pride events being held around the country, between May and September, according to Stonewall. My first Pride, many years ago, was in London. Like a true newbie, I accepted all the free stickers, pens and leaflets from every stall, I chatted with complete strangers, and it rained constantly; I had a great time.
Now, I have a tiny confession to make. I’m the B in LGBT. I own a number of labels, including queer, non-binary, genderqueer and ravenclaw (ok so one of those is not the same as the others), but bisexual has been part of my identity for over half my life. However, admitting to being bisexual in a LGBT space can be similar to what I imagine it must be like to telling people at a vegan convention that you work in a butchers shop.
That very first Pride, I was treated to a chant of “here come the breeders!” as my beloved pink, purple and blue flag came into view during the parade. Since then I’ve heard the lot; “bi now, gay later”, “you’re doing it for attention”, “it’s a phase”, “you’re a bunch of cheaters”… etc etc.
There’s a fashion for identity-policing events like Pride, especially if you belong to the bisexual/pansexual/ polysexual community. Where I believe that identity is lived experience, there seems to be an expectation from certain sections of the monosexual community of performance in order to “earn your place”. This can – and has – led to a lot of awkward situations, usually involving the misgendering of either myself or a partner (my type, just by the by, is femme pansexual scorpio hufflepuff – not exactly something totally obvious to the naked eye of your average biphobe).
It’s always rather bemused me, especially considering that the mother of Pride, Brenda Howard, was bisexual herself. According to statistics (Pew Research) 40% of the LGBT community identify as bisexual, making us the largest single group in the community. We have some wonderful people on our team, including Kristen Stewart, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Mara Wilson and Amandla Stenberg, to name but a few.
Despite (or maybe because of) our increasing visibility, the erasure and biphobia in LGBT spaces – especially Pride – has become more noticeable.
Nothing compares to seeing your flag raised at a Pride event – especially if you’re one of the letters further down the acronym. It’s a visual statement of “I’m here, I’m represented,”, and I get a happy shiver every time I see my colours, and those of the lesser-known flags.
However, I have honestly been to Pride events where cats have had more representation than bisexuals. Memorably, one Pride event I attended seemed to a have a tent for just about every identity you could think of (including a bear tent) but no bi rep. Not even a table. Pride in London infamously came under fire earlier this year for totally failing to include any specific bisexual groups in the parade.
It’s disheartening, to say the least. This is our community; the B stands for Bisexual.
Anyway, fast forward eighteen years from my first realisations that attraction to multiple genders is a thing; this particular bisexual is now living away from London down on the Isle of Wight.
It sometimes feels like the only places for members of our community are London, Brighton and Manchester. The reality is, there are plenty of people – young and old – who live LGBT lives in more rural communities. I try to be an active member of the BiWessex group in Southampton, and I travel up to London for LGBT events whenever possible, but I often thought that it would be nice if there was something a little closer to home.
As if reading my mind, Isle of Wight Pride 2017 suddenly popped into view.
I must admit, I was both excited and fearful of what an Island Pride would be like. I don’t want to name and shame, but there was one Pride in its first year that successfully managed to advertise without mentioning the letters “LGBT” at all, perhaps hoping that the rainbows would give it away.
Going back to Brenda Howard, the first Pride in 1970 was a march, a protest in commemoration of the year since the Stonewall Riots in New York, often seen as the birth of the modern “gay rights” movement. These days the protest march has morphed into a parade, and the politics has somehow dissipated, with protest transformed to celebration. A common criticism – especially of the larger, more commercial Prides, is that they’re more GGGG than LGBT. The Pink Pound has attracted the eye of big businesses, and you’re more likely to find Barclays than bisexuals leading the main parade.
Prides should be a space where the community can come out for the day and be themselves in whatever shape or form or identity that is. They should be safe spaces, especially for the younger members of the community just working themselves out and finding where they fit in the world. As long as it can see be seen as a revolutionary act to hold your partner’s hand, or simply go into a shop to buy clothes, Pride will be relevant. It’s that time where we make it unapologetically clear to the cisgender heterosexual community that we are here, we exist, and we’re not going to keep quiet and invisible because it makes them uncomfortable.
So… Isle of Wight Pride.
Putting to rest some of the Ghosts of Prides Past was the survey that went out, asking for peoples’ opinion on what they would like their Pride to be. It was clearly an LGBT event, loud and proud. Further to that, it wasn’t going to be just for one day; there was going to be lots of events in the build-up and the wake of the Pride itself. It was bringing LGBT visibility back to the island and setting down some important roots. It boded well for the main event in July.
The week leading up to 15th July was a little bit like waiting for Christmas. The whole island seemed to be ready to get its rainbows on. I went to a performance of Queer Bash at the Apollo Theatre, and there in the corridor outside the bar was a whole array of flags – some of which even I couldn’t identify! That, I think, was when I knew this was going to be good, that all my worries about inclusivity and intersectionality might very well be unfounded in this instance.
The day itself was magnificent. The island turned out and did itself proud.
The atmosphere was incredible, there was so much positivity, so much pure delight at just being there. I was waiting around, helping out with some volunteers at the starting point of the parade, and it was a sea of colour. My flag was there – and not just because I was holding it! Some people in trans flags approached me to ask about my genderqueer flag, and everyone was visibly excited to see everyone else. The face paint was being passed around, and there was such an air of anticipation to see this inaugural Pride get started.
The community turned out, and I don’t mean that businesses somewhat cynically put a rainbow in the window in the hope of catching some passing trade. The island boasts a number of local independent businesses, and many of them did something to help make Isle of Wight Pride a success. One of my favourite things was the Alum Bay glass made especially for Pride, while Mermaids gin had a special edition bottle for the occasion.
Inside the arena, it was noticeably political, with all but the Conservatives making an effort to turn out and show their support. The Greens were giving out sachets of Green Tea, which I thought was a nice touch. A number of Trade Unions were there, with helpful advice on your rights in the workplace as well as other LGBT issues. Stonewall and Amnesty International had their stalls, with petitions raising awareness for the dire plight of our LGBT siblings in Russia. Even the police – historically not the best friends of the LGBT community – had their LAGLO tent, raising awareness of how to report homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Even on stage, there were political speeches as well as entertainment. It demonstrated that you can mix protest with parade, and demonstration with celebration.
It was evident that a lot of thought had gone into the accessibility of the event, which from experience I know to be something of a rarity. The main arena on the beach had a sturdy path for those with wheels, and those a little less sure on their feet. There was a BSL interpreter doing a sterling job on the main stage. There was also a family friendly area and tea tent – quieter spaces perfect for those of us with sensory processing issues.
Everyone I spoke to said variations of the same thing; what a great day. There was none of the usual inter-community squabbling, no negativity, and no trouble. It was intersectional, accessible and embracing of the full community – not a GGGG event, but a bold LGBT event that saw a good portion of the island – LGBT and otherwise – come together to enjoy itself at the beach on a sunny day in July.
Our little island certainly has something to boast about; in the weeks that followed, the story of our success made it into the national Pink Press, praising us not only for being the first Pride to be held on a beach (which is definitely worth shouting about) but also for playing host to such a brilliant day. It gives me a glow to know that someone’s first pride was that positive – that a young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, asexual or any other label or identity – came to Pride that day for the first time and felt at home and safe in their community.
It has also made a massive difference to me personally. I now have the opportunity to be involved in LGBT events without having to travel up the M3, and a certain amount of faith has been restored in the monolith of Pride. My hope now is that the momentum is kept up and that 2018 continues to build on that good work. Connections have been made with Southampton Pride, with plans for joint events next year. More recently, Bisexual Visibility Day, which coincided with the Isle of Wight Day, was marked with extra Bisexual flags on the march through Ryde.
It would be good to mark occasions such as International Transgender Day of Visibility, Coming Out Day, IDAHOBIT, and Transgender Day of Remembrance (as well as other important LGBT days throughout the year) with local events, to continue the good work of last year. I look forward to being part of it (as a proud bisexual genderqueer ravenclaw).