Monthly Archives: June 2020

Virtual BiCon 2020 update

From Rowan:

"Having seen some of the reactions to the announcement on the 26th I've decided I cannot take on running Virtual BiCon 2020 and I therefore resign. I also want to say that I'm not turning my back on the BiCon community, and will continue to engage with the anti-racism work we've started to do within BiCon and elsewhere."

BiCon 2020 carrying on online with support from Equality Network

BiCon Continuity wish to thank Rachel for all of her hard work towards organising this year’s BiCon, including being willing to organise an online event in the exceptional circumstances that arise this year due to COVID-19 and for making the decision to stand down in sufficient time to allow others to take over this year’s BiCon.

Following Rachel’s decision to step down, we have been in discussions with Rowan, who has organised a number of BiCons. Rowan is willing and able to run an online BiCon over the same weekend 13-16th August 2020 and we are very grateful for their willingness to step in with limited notice. We would also like to thank the Equality Network for putting paid staff time and funding into this event. This is possible because BiTastic (the event the Equality Network would normally run), can’t happen this year due to COVID-19.

We are having continuing discussions over plans for 2021 and future BiCons and will provide further updates as we are able, but we did want to clarify the position in relation to this August as quickly as possible. Rowan will be updating the 2020 website to include details of their team and the steps they will be taking to address racism at BiCon. There will be a further update drafted mostly by Elizabeth reporting on what the Anti-Racism Working Group has been doing for the past year published soon.

BiCon as an event could really do with some more volunteers. Please think about what the event means to you and how you might be able to give something back to it to help someone else have a similar experience. Whatever your skillset, interests, accessibility needs and available time there is likely to be a role for you; please email info@biconcontinuity.org.uk with offers of assistance.

Elizabeth, Karen, Hessie, Ian and Asha

Shorter update from BiCon Anti-racism Working Group

A reasonably quick update is here, with a link to a much fuller note.

Longer update: https://biconcontinuity.org.uk/longer-update-from-bicon-anti-racism-working-group

Following a vote at the Decision Making Plenary at BiCon 2019, in late 2019 BiCon Continuity formed an Anti-Racism Working Group. There are 4 active members (Elizabeth, AC, Naomi, Jane).

This Group has:

  • Acknowledged decisive and ongoing action is needed to address mistakes made at past BiCons in regards to Black and other attendees of colour;
  • Sought advice from other groups tackling similar issues;
  • Applied for two grants for training and support, which we didn't get;
  • Collated UK-specific resources on anti-racism;
  • Agreed with BiCon that white attendees should use at least one resource before arriving.

Three areas we were trying to fund via grants were:

  • Paying anti-racism experts who come from Black and other communities of colour to lead training for organisers.
  • Paying anti-racism experts to lead sessions at BiCon, to deepen that training.
  • Seeking external support to review and suggest updates for BiCon’s Code of Conduct and Guidelines.
  • Subsidising BiCon for Black attendees and attendees of colour, on top of the existing Access Fund.

Can you help us to fund that work? Please donate to

Sort code: 40-06-32, Account number: 51685848

This is administered by BiCon Continuity. Please make a reference to anti-racism work with your donation. Grants sought were in the region of £2500. Update from Continuity: HMRC has promised our letter setting up Gift Aid is ‘in the post.’ If you would usually Gift Aid your donation, just email us to say you are willing to donate and we will come back to you.

We are incredibly grateful to the Equality Network, especially their Intersectionality Team, which has pooled its resources for this year’s online BiCon and provided organising hours, as well as funding to pay speakers who are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. Thank you also to the potential trainers who gave their time to support the bid-writing processes.

We also take this opportunity to invite Black Bi+ people & Bi+ people of colour to tell us what you would prefer to see funded, as we will no doubt embark on seeking grants or looking at internal funding again. Please email antiracism@biconcontinuity.org.uk

A note on the perspective of the working group. We uphold the focus on Black Bi+ people especially, in the spirit of the Black Lives Matter. We believe the white-dominated BiCon extended community have collectively failed in our anti-racism work, and we see our responsibility as centring voices that have been pushed aside, and also creating pathways to engage people who want to improve BiCon for everyone.

For information: BiCon code of conduct: https://2020.bicon.org.uk/access-and-inclusion/code-of-conduct/

Longer Update from BiCon Anti-racism Working Group

Dear Community,

We wanted to give you an update about work in the last year around anti-racism and BiCon*. We also call for your ongoing support of this work.

BiCon attendees have known that we have a problem with systemic racism for years. It’s not like we haven’t been told, repeatedly, that the space a lot of us love is not as comfortable for Black people and all people of colour as it should be. The standpoint of BiCon Continuity, and of all the BiCon organisers you will ever talk to, is that no community member is dispensable, everyone is important. While we all hold this view, it hasn’t been backed up by enough action. Let us be clear on that as a starting point.

At 2019’s BiCon, the Decision Making Plenary** asked BiCon Continuity to ensure there was a working group to address systemic racism at BiCon, an Anti-Racism Working Group. In the end, of the people who were interested, four of us have found the time and focus to work on this over the last year (Elizabeth, AC, Naomi, Jane). [EDIT]: We were asked about who comprised the working group. No volunteers were turned away from the group. There were no black or people of colour who wanted to volunteer for this work and had the time and energy to participate. From the start, it was emphasised that it was important for white people to do this work and inappropriate to seek out poc for free emotional labour.]

One of our stumbling blocks has been finding approaches that bring everyone along. Racism is fundamentally a White problem because it is a problem of power and privilege. Even in a community that understands we have an incredibly high rate of physical and mental health concerns and disability – and understands those are made worse or wholly created by the pressures of prejudice – we kept finding unwillingness to recognise prejudices around race and ethnicity. Alongside this is a fear of doing wrong that was so strong people could not listen long enough to do right. Now, in June of 2020, we could refer to that easily as the ‘All Lives Matter’ problem and everyone would know exactly what we mean.*** Moving forward from here, we have to say that a failure to act must be seen as an intention to do harm.

In the last couple of months bi/pan community has been convulsed, first with ructions around our most-used symbol and flag, which included reactions that showed underlying racism, and more recently with the international response to police brutality ending in the death of an African American man, and others since. One of the moments of change we see is the realisation, by the White members of our community, that something is seriously wrong, and that we have the capacity and responsibility to re-learn our entire world in order to centre and support voices from Black people, Indigenous people, people of colour. Also, as we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, BiCon and Bi Pride UK will be online this year. Lots of our organisers and attendees are in high risk groups and either isolated or stuck without support. This week the UK government appears to be rolling back gender recognition. Stress levels are really quite high.

That moment of light dawning, however, makes it feel as though our anti-racism work in the last year has been overtaken, in many positive ways. So, the promised update on work:

  • We have applied for two grants to pay people within our community to lead training for organisers, and to roll that out to BiCon. We did not receive those grants. The funding that came to BiCon this year, that you will have seen announced, came from the Equality Network. BiCon is benefitting from the fact that Scotland’s national bi+ gathering is cancelled and has been rolled in with BiCon. We are incredibly lucky and grateful, again, to the spectacular work of the Equality Network. The funds come with organising time from their Intersectionality Officer. It’s amazing. BiCon Continuity is the charity that is able to apply for funds, and thanks to the trustees who ran around at the last minute supplying letters of support and promising to administrate funds, and to the trainers who put time into shaping those bids.
  • In preparation for the grant applications, we talked to other organisations that have some similarity to BiCon in terms of what has worked (or not worked) for them.
  • We put together a list of anti-racism reading and viewing, and agreed with BiCon organisers that we would send it out, and that attendees should be expected to read, watch or listen to at least one source. In a similar way to BiCon requiring attendees to read and understand its Code of Conduct, we would request at least one act of self-education to understand systemic racism.
  • The training, and the self-education, would have follow-up at BiCon with discussion or presentation space. We recommend that these sessions should not be scheduled such that they do not have competition in the BiCon schedule: this should be a community focus, and understood as such.
  • We also sought support to review and suggest amendments to the BiCon Code of Conduct and Guidelines. The Code of Conduct is here: https://2020.bicon.org.uk/access-and-inclusion/code-of-conduct/

Goodness but our little list of resources has been overtaken in the last two weeks alone.

Here’s a call to internal action, for us as a BiCon community. We do need to fund the training, and the support to broaden the sense of community, to remind ourselves what valuing every member actually means. Self-education only takes us so far. If you have the funds to do so, please can you contribute to a fund for anti-racism training and support, administered by BiCon Continuity

Sort code: 40-06-32, Account number: 51685848

Put anti-racism work, or similar, as your reference so that we can ringfence. Update from Continuity: HMRC has promised our letter setting up Gift Aid is ‘in the post.’ If you would usually Gift Aid your donation, just email us to say you are willing to donate and we will come back to you.

We started our list of things to fund with requests we have heard in the past, and from the advice we sought from organisations and individuals early on (plus, or course, what we thought funders would support):

  • Training
  • Travel to training
  • Talks/performance at BiCon
  • Reduced rates / supported places for attendance for people of colour (because it’s miserable feeling like you don’t recognise yourself at BiCon – it’s the thing so many of us shout about, feeling at home and ourselves).

This is on top of the Access Fund, which is used by many attendees.

If there are particular things you want to see funded in order to improve BiCon and its approaches to addressing systemic racism, please send them to antiracism@biconcontinuity.org.uk

Related: at the same time that the Anti-racism Working Group was requested and set up, there were plans for a Disability Working Group. The volunteers for that weren’t able to find the time and space to come together. We have had a lot of very knowledgeable volunteer support for many years. It would be really, really good to be able to pay them to overhaul some key guidelines and create a checklist of things BiCon needs in order to be a better place for all of us with our wide-ranging needs. You could fund that using the same bank account details, with a different reference. On that matter, you can reach BiCon Continuity on info@biconcontinuity.org.uk.

That’s the whole update, thank you for reading, and for pushing toward a better community and event.

*’We wanted…’ – There are four of us who have been working actively in the last year. It’s hard to write this as organised groups of volunteers, to define ‘we’ and who we are speaking for. It is mainly written by Elizabeth, because I have feet in lots of camps: one of the trustees at BiCon Continuity, who also volunteers on the Anti-racism Working Group, and I’ve been around at BiCon for a lot of years, involved in bi/queer community first in the US and now in the UK for the last 20 years. I understand that makes me four-footed, but you see what I mean: the things we have to say are both personal and organisational.

** Decision Making Plenary: a meeting of all BiCon attendees who care to come, where we vote on the fundamental guidelines we want BiCon organisers to follow, and generally discuss issues of importance to BiCon. Anyone who attends can vote, and it is scheduled such that there is no clash in the timetable. Discussion points are almost always around making BiCon more accessible and equitable.

BiCon Continuity: the charity set up to oversee funds and support BiCon year-to-year, particularly with regard to finances, but Continuity has taken on other roles as there has been a need for multi-year support. BiCon organisers come together for a single year, and then pass on to the next year’s organisers and BiCon Continuity.

*** For a good suggestion of action on this, see the London Bi Pandas advice https://www.londonbipandas.com/blog/white-people-talking-to-racists