English version of the article just out in Spanish in the amazing bisexual special edition of Gehitu Magazine!!! (Basque Country).( http://gehitu.org/publicaciones/magazine-gehitu )
The Revolution will not be Homo-genised 1 by Graham Bell Tornado
This text is a response to an invitation to MOEBIUS association of Pan, Bi and Polysexuals(Valencia)to write an article about bisexual activism and the 2016 European Bisexual Conference which we attended.
Auto-bi-ography – I am a transgender bisexual artivist who uses performance art and ritual to carry out activism presenting a political message in public space and in the media. Working in this way can be a risky business in a society dominated by hetero and homo-normativity, and in the UK I have been threatened and attacked but in the more liberal environment of Spain I have only been misunderstood or presented as a freak. I accept these risks to make sure there is a bisexual presence in the public sphere.
This article is a part of my practice and unapologetically mixes the personal with the political. Opinions expressed are those of the author who wishes to thank his ever patient partner Anna Maria Staiano for her helpful suggestions and thorough proof reading.
Pride and other Rituals
Rituals are important for binding communities together and their celebration helps affirm our identity. They have a special importance for minorities since our lack of acceptance and the erasure of our identities in society can cause alienation, depression and even suicide. Probably the most important ritual in the LGTBQI calendar is Pride and for years I, and my partner bisexual activist Anna Maria Staiano, have used its carnivalesque context to carry out our personal form of radical drag, a form of sexual dissidence which subverts society’s attempts to control how we dress depending on our gender.
We are consistently photographed by the local and national press so although we march with a small group of friends we make a big impact in the media proclaiming our pan-bi-poly-eco-sexuality to the world.
However both within the LGTB movement and the wider society it’s almost impossible to find people who identify as bisexual. So where are all the bisexuals?
The problem with bisexual visibility has a historical basis and has to do with the stigma attached to the label. Society thinks we are greedy, untrustworthy and probably too scared to admit that we are really gay or lesbian. Within the LG(TBQI) movement there are specific nuances. After the initial euphoria which drove the sexual liberation movement in the 60’s and 70’s came a period of identity politics when different groups claimed space. This led to a backlash as it was claimed that bisexuals were invading lesbian and gay spaces. Meanwhile bisexual men were stigmatised as carriers of AIDS into the heterosexual population.
Thirty years later we still face biphobia and a lack of acceptance as bisexuals even within the LG and queer communities. With the arrival of queer politics in Spain, bisexuality has been labelled as retrogressive and accused of upholding the binary gender system even though the most widespread current definition of bisexuality is not binary and states that bisexuals are people attracted to more than one gender. Coming out as bi takes courage since these various forms of stigmatisation lead to it being difficult for people to accept or even acknowledge their bisexual feelings. It’s the biphobia we suffer from monosexuals (homo as well as hetero) and the lack of a strong support network that leads to the higher incidences of depression and suicide attempts reported amongst bisexual men and women than amongst gays and lesbians.
The evolution and visibility of the lesbian and gay community has led to the emergence of a series of standardised lifestyles which provide it with a sense of belonging and support. But there is no such thing as a bi lifestyle since the bisexual community is very diverse and not easily identifiable. We can retain our sexual identity while our lifestyles change dramatically depending on our current relationships.
The commercialisation of the gay scene and the alliances made in recent years between lesbians and gays and neo-liberal politicians interested in the pink vote ( and euro) have led to a movement more concerned with civil rights than with the original goal of sexual liberation for all.
The bi community offers a safe and welcoming space to trans people and other gender dissidents regardless of their sexual orientation. Nevertheless our presence in the LG(TBQI) movement is uncomfortable because we all challenge homonormativity and monosexism.
But the revolution will not be homogenised and the battles fought by our (mainly trans) sisters and brothers at Stonewall will not be won until everyone has been liberated whatever their sex, gender or sexual orientation.
However we should be able to accept that we are all different, be open to debate and even disagreement without losing sight of who the real enemy is. I see us all as allies within a multicultural coalition of biopolitical dissidence. We have to make alliances and persevere in our demands in order to cause permanent long lasting changes in society.
One example is that in 2013 the Bisexual Area of the FELGTB (the National Federation of LGTB organisations in Spain) proposed to organise a national Bisexual Conference and dedicate the year 2014 to bisexuality, but both requests were denied. This lack of support led many bisexuals to leave the FELGTB and/or their local groups after many years of campaigning within the LGTBQI movement. In Valencia our response was to leave the local LGTB group LAMBDA and organise ourselves autonomously as MoeBIus, association for bi, pan and polysexual people in order to work directly for our own community. As a result the third national bisexual conference was organised in 2015 by bisexual activists from COGAM (Madrid) and MoeBIus without support from the FELGTB. People gathered from all over Spain in a two day event including conferences, workshops and panel discussions. It was a great success despite having no funding.
It’s heartening to see that finally, thanks to the perseverance of bisexual activists, the FELGTB has changed their mind and officially declared 2016 the year of bisexual visibility in Spain and is helping to organise the 4th national Bi Conference which will be held in Valencia in November.
National and international bisexual conferences are the most important ceremonial pow-wows of the bisexual calendar and are celebrated in various countries in the world.
In July 2016 the third EurBiCon was held in Amsterdam. It was preceded by EuroBIReCon, two days of reports from bisexual academic researchers from all over the world including 3 from Spain, making the event a four day bi extravaganza with over 90 panels, workshops and presentations. Over 221 people attended from 23 countries worldwide with a wide diversity of bodies, capabilities and genders. Subjects discussed included bisexual health, activism, religious attitudes towards bisexuality (seen from Christian, Muslim and non monotheistic viewpoints), the problems faced by bi people of colour and bisexuality in film and media studies.
One of the most exciting decisions taken by spanish activists at the conference was to organise a World Bisexual Day as part of World Pride in Madrid 2017. As part of the World Bi Day I have been invited to carry out a ritual to heal rifts within the sexual liberation movement so we can learn to respect and support diversity. I hope this can help forge a truly representative movement with a progressive political agenda. Its important to fight trans,bi and homophobia in our countries and to use our privilege to bring international pressure to bear on those countries where LGTBQ people are still punished with imprisonment or even the death penalty .
On the last day of EuroBiCon I went to a Quantum Light Breath meditation workshop and through the tears that I shed copiously I suddenly saw beams of light connecting me to all my loved ones, dead and alive. The light seemed to reach all around the globe to include those who I don’t even know. In essence that’s what love means to me. My love is for the planet and for the human race, that’s why it is blind to gender, race, creed or species. This is not to say that it is easy to love. Its a day to day struggle but that is what should inform our activism, that is what will take it beyond all the boundaries and lead to a true liberation of the body and spirit. And its a pansexual, polysexual, queer and bisexual love.
Weblinks: https://moebiusvalencia.wordpress.com/ (in spanish)
1A version of the 1960’s Black Panthers slogan “The Revolution will not be Televised”.