Bisexual Health Awareness Month is a campaign observed throughout March to raise awareness about bi+ people and the bi+ community’s social, economic, and health disparities. The campaign aims to advocate for resources, and inspire actions to improve bi+ people’s well-being.
Manchester Pride is committed to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Greater Manchester and beyond. Throughout March, we engaged with bi+ members of our team and the community to deliver a campaign aiming to challenge discrimination that bi+ people face, promote the advancement of bi+ equality, raise awareness and support for bi+ mental health, support grassroots projects and initiatives that encourage the wellbeing of bi+ people in Greater Manchester.
We're continuing these important conversations into April, beginning with an interview with Jen from BiPhoria. Jen has been with BiPhoria since 1994, and tells us about what the organisation does, its history, and how BiPhoria marked Bisexual+ Health Awareness Month.What is BiPhoria and what do you do?
We’re the UK’s longest running bi group, based in Manchester and launched in 1994, so here for more than a quarter of a century now. Back in those days you developed catchy names rather than ones people would google, so the name is a blend of “bisexual” and “euphoria”, as we want to overturn experiences of biphobia and the shame it can bring into a sense of celebrating your bisexuality. We’re actually about both bisexual and biromantic experience, whichever label under the bi umbrella (pan, omni etc) people prefer. Attracted to more than one gender? You’re bi enough.How long have you been part of BiPhoria?
Right back to almost the start – I was there at the fourth meeting in December 1994. I’d actually gone into the Gay Centre on Sydney Street to ask about setting up a bi group because I was fed up of enduring or challenging biphobia in “LG” spaces. As I was just starting to deal with being trans it also needed to be something that wasn’t a gender based group, which a lot of spaces were at that time. But there on the wall was a poster for a group that had just launched. Since then I’ve missed about four sessions, so with about fifteen to twenty people along at each meeting over the years I’ve met a lot of bis! And I’m still not tired of it: I should probably be on a TV show talking about being addicted to hearing people’s coming out stories.What does BiPhoria do?
We started out as a social/support group for bi people ages 18 and up – just being in a room full of other bi people, where you don’t have to defend bisexuality being real or an equally valid experience of being queer, is powerful and rare. Over time that grew to include doing outreach work, providing speakers for events, and research and publications. But our core mission is still providing a safe, supportive space for bi folx.Can you tell us about some of your activities?
In a typical month we have talky space (structured discussion), socials (virtual pubs and cafes these days!) and other things like daytime online hangouts and Gamesplaying. Then from time to time we do bigger or one-off events, like hosting our 25 th birthday party at 70 Oxford Street as part of Manchester Pride in 2019. And in a typical summer we are there putting the “B” into half-a-dozen or more Prides around the region. I’m really looking forward to things like that being an option again. People who have never been to our events may nonetheless have spotted our “this banner is on the fence, bisexuals aren’t” sign adorning the side of Sackville Park each September as part of our regular Bi Visibility Day.
In more than a quarter of a century there are so many highlights! Not least celebrating that 25th birthday last year which felt like such a kick against the “it’s just a phase” thing to still be here after all this time. We made a decision back in 1998 to add a message to our website making it clear we were a trans inclusive space, long before most LGB groups made such statements. We hosted an international bi conference in 2000 with 265 people from 20 countries. Our first BiFest in 2006, with about 130 people joining us for a day and night of bi talk, performance and socialising. And making something happen for Bi Visibility Day back in 1999, when it was first marked and no-one knew what a feature of the LGBT+ calendar it would grow to become.How can people get involved with BiPhoria? What can they expect from theirfirst visit?
Newcomers start off with our Talky Space meets which are at 7.30pm the first Tuesday of each month, which have a structured discussion space with the first half-hour just for newcomers because - even on Zoom - walking into a room full of strangers can be a challenge. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us this was where you found us!
Bisexual+ Health Awareness Month took place in March, why is this event important?
When I was first coming out there was this idea that bi is “gay lite” and so we got it easier in experience of things like homophobia. Over the past two decades more and more research shows quite the opposite – from how we experience more domestic abuse, to how we earn less than gay and lesbian people. And a lot of “LGBT” work has focused on the front end of that acronym which has perhaps exacerbated the gap, as things have improved for gay people faster. BHAM gives us a reason for people to talk about these things and break those lingering “gay lite” or “straight privilege” assumptions. As a week it’s an American thing but the stats and experiences here are very similar to there – albeit with our NHS meaning some of the basic care that American bi's can struggle to access are easier in Britain.What activities did BiPhoria do for Bisexual+ Health Awareness Month?
We did a talk with local NHS staff (they liked it so we’ll be doing another soon!) and we’re releasing an updated version of our Bi+ Mental Health Resource which came out of work a few years ago with an NHS trust about bi experiences of accessing support. Would you like to add any other comments?
Can we give a quick shout out to Bi Community News
as the UK’s bi magazine – when things like Diva closed down at the start of the pandemic, they kept on publishing. The past year we have lost so many things we took for granted, like being able to roll into a bar on Canal Street for a drink on the way home from work, that these things that have continued the same all the way through have felt extra important.