When I first realised that I was attracted to women, I was terrified.
Monday to Friday, my working week was spent ignoring any female attraction I had and pretending to be straight, my weekend was spent with a group of friends – most of them gay women who identified as lesbian. I realised I was either bi or gay and I was more afraid of having to come out as bi than I was as gay.
As a young adult I’d heard celebrities defending themselves against critiques that their bi identity was just a 'phase', while many people I encountered believed bis were ‘having their cake and eating it’, ‘trying out’ being gay or ‘in denial’ about their same-sex attraction. It didn’t seem to me that society had created enough space to be attracted to more than one gender.
Despite nearly a third of under 35s identifying as bi or pan, biphobia (discrimination towards bis) and bi erasure (removing the bi identity as a justified identity) still exist in modern-day society. These whispers and off-hand comments can have a negative effect on the mental health of bi individuals. Research shows bisexual people are more likely to experience mental health problems, for example depression, anxiety, OCD and bipolar disorder, than gay and lesbian people. And 40% of bisexuals have considered or attempted suicide, according to the Bisexual Resource Centre.
So, when someone asks ‘what do you do for work?’, and I respond with ‘one of my jobs is working for Bi Pride,’ normally what follows is ‘Bi Pride? What's that? Bi people having their own Pride? That's strange. Is the original LGBT Pride not good enough? Why on earth do bi people even need their own Pride?’ I simply give them the facts and statistics explaining bi erasure and biphobia, along with the negative whispers that bi individuals regularly hear in many spaces.
These are the thoughts, feelings and issues that Bi Pride UK aims to quash, by providing a comfortable space and creating a welcoming community, for everyone who falls under the bi umbrella (bi, bisexual, biromantic, pan, pansexual, panromantic, poly, polysexual, polyromantic, queer, fluid, heteroflexible, homoflexible, and anyone who experiences attraction beyond gender).
And what better way to encourage bi individuals to champion and celebrate their identity than throwing the UK’s first EVER Bi Pride on Saturday 7 September, taking place at Hackney in London!
So, what can you expect from the event?
Exciting performers, passionate speakers, hilarious comedians, talented dancers, meaningful talks, need I go on ... We’ve started to reveal our performers on our Twitter page, @BiPrideUK, and you certainly don’t want to be missing out. So far we’ve announced some very exciting acts – including editor of Fruitcake magazine Jamie Windust and E!’s The Bi Life cast member Irene-Elisabeth Ellis.
There’ll be two stages: the main stage, for performers and entertainment, and the ‘I Am Proud’ stage with insightful talks on a broad range of topics highlighting diversity, and the achievements of bi communities. Expect stalls from bi groups, other charities and organisations, along with our own stall selling fresh merchandise and delivering information on our year-round work.
Our event has been made as accessible as possible – with BSL interpreters onstage, roaming BSL interpreters onsite, a quiet sensory area and gender-neutral toilets with free sanitary products.
Bi Pride UK is also completely free, however we encourage individuals to order tickets online for guaranteed entry. The response from the public has been overwhelming, which reinforces our belief that what we're doing (and the history we're about to make) is extremely important and life changing for many individuals.
Join us on Saturday 7 September at the Round Chapel in Hackney, 2pm until 10pm, to raise the bi and pan flags, in the loudest way that the UK has ever done.