Author Archives: Natalya

BiCons 2020 and 2021

We are delighted to announce that BiCon 2020 will be at Leeds Beckett University (Headingley Campus) from Thursday the 13th to Sunday the 16th August 2020, run by Rachel S and team. This is the same venue and team leader as 2017. Bookings are expected to open on 1st September 2019.

2021 BiCon will be run by Carol T and team, with a provisional location of Colchester and dates 'to be confirmed'.

If you are interested in leading or being part of one of the teams that organises a BiCon in the future please contact BiCon Continuity. We can put you in touch with the teams for 2020 or 2021 if you'd like to "shadow" someone in a particular role. This is recommended before being part of a team yourself.

Anti-racism and anti-ableism working groups for BiCon

We have been asked to facilitate and support the establishment of two working groups on 'anti-racism' and 'anti-ableism' by the Decision Making Plenary (DMP). These groups have been asked to explore the issues and produce advice on actions by the next BiCon for future BiCon organising teams.

Why are working groups needed?

BiCon remains very "white" and are not as good at welcoming and including People of Colour as we want to be. People of Colour have been harmed by racism at BiCons and made to feel unwelcome.

While Access at BiCon for disabled people is historically seen as quite good, the quality of accessibility information and provision by teams and venues can be variable.

What next?

Continuity are still finalising how we will set up the groups so they are accessible, accountable and make best use of people's limited time and energy to be constructive. It is likely they will start with regularly scheduled online meetings.

If you are interested in joining either or both of these working groups, please email us on

Gender Recognition Act (GRA) Consultation Response from BiCon Continuity

BiCon Continuity submitted a response to the government's Gender Recognition Act (GRA) consultation. Our main reasons for doing this are:

1) Since 1992 BiCon official policy has recognised people's self-identification of their gender for all purposes including access to single-sex spaces and workshops. BiCon has a large number of trans and non-binary attenders. In the 25 years since this policy was put in place we have seen no evidence that anyone is harmed by it.
2) We recognise the similarities between accusations and implications currently being made about trans people (especially trans women) and their rights and those made in the 1980s and 1990s about lesbian, gay and bisexual people with Section 28 and other discriminatory laws and policies.

While the response will be published in due course by the government, we felt we should upload a copy here for the BiCon community to read. Not all questions were appropriate for us to answer.

Continuity's consultation responses

Question 3: Do you think there should be a requirement in the future for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria?


Requiring a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is a medical not socio-legal issue. Not all trans and non-binary people wish to access medical transition.

There are excessive delays for trans and non-binary people in being able to access gender identity clinic services with waits of over 1-2 years being common for first appointments. Some GPs will not refer people to gender identity clinic services and self-referral is not usually possible. Further appointments and access to medical transition treatment take years because of delays between appointments and waiting lists.

BiCon Continuity supports a simple process of self-identification of gender identity (including non-binary gender options) via statutory declaration.

Question 4: Do you also think there should be a requirement for a report detailing treatment received?


We do not believe medical treatment received is a useful metric in the GRC process. Details of any medical treatment focus on only one aspect of transition or gender-reassignment activity. Access to NHS gender reassignment treatment is often excessively delayed: 1-2 years until first appointment is not uncommon; subsequent appointments and access to treatments are often delayed years by further waiting lists.

Access and option to access treatments are affected by other characteristics such as disability (other health and impairment issues may limit options) and stability of housing as moving areas can affect access to NHS services. This all delays people's ability to apply for a GRC at present.

BiCon Continuity support a simple process of self-identification of gender identity (including non-binary options) via statutory declaration.

Question 5: (A) Do you agree that an applicant should have to provide evidence that they have lived in their acquired gender for a period of time before applying?


People's lived experiences are not accurately reflected by paperwork. Ability to obtain, retain and manage paperwork needed for a GRC application is linked with other privileges like education, social class, stability of employment, stability of finances, stability of housing, age and disability. Many trans and non-binary people have additional protected and non-protected characteristics which make dealing with evidence, bureaucracy and health services difficult or impossible.

BiCon Continuity Ltd support a simple process of self-identification of gender identity (including non-binary options) via statutory declaration.

Question 5: (D) If you answered no to (A), should there be a period of reflection between making the application and being awarded a Gender Recognition Certificate?:


People are already aware of the legal significance of a statutory declaration and application for legal gender recognition. A 'reflection' period is infantilising and only adds unjustifiable delays to the process.

Question 6: (A) Do you think this requirement should be retained, regardless of what other changes are made to the gender recognition system?


Statutory declaration is an existing well recognised legal process which is very low cost and accessible to most people. It has existing and well understood safeguards for fraud and misuse.

Question 7: The Government is keen to understand more about the spousal consent provisions for married persons in the Gender Recognition Act. Do you agree with the current provisions?


No other life or health process (including tattoos, plastic surgery, spending large amounts of money, changing housing or employment) has a system where a person's spouse has to give written consent for that person to proceed with the activity. This provision is cruel to trans and non-binary people and singles them out as people that others need protection from which is not supported by any evidence. Trans and non-binary people are much more likely to be the victims of abuse than the perpetrators.

BiCon Continuity recommend that there is a system in place that allows the trans person to obtain a GRC and if their spouse objects they can file for rapid no-fault legal separation/divorce with appropriate systems for minimising adversarial aspects of this process and protecting any dependants appropriately.

Question 8: (A) Do you think the fee should be removed from the process of applying for legal gender recognition?


Question 8: (C) What other financial costs do trans individuals face when applying for a gender recognition certificate and what is the impact of these costs?

Trans and non-binary people are likely to experience marginalisation for multiple reasons related to their trans/non-binary or other protected and non-protected characteristics. Any significant cost becomes a barrier to people most in need, especially those in precarious financial and housing situations. Remission schemes require applications [sic, error should be applicants] to have the capacity and ability to deal with bureaucracy and be able to provide evidence of their financial hardships which is often difficult or impossible – so in itself creates another barrier. Remission schemes often cost more to administer for the government than is saved by the fee.

Many people live some distance from gender identity clinic so have travel and accommodation costs. Medical reports to support a GRC application cost substantial amounts as letters and reports are not covered by NHS. NHS delays often mean people feel the need to pay for private treatment so they can get on with their lives. Trans people are likely to be in lower paid and less secure jobs due to stigma about their gender identity status. These all exist alongside other incidental costs of transitioning like potentially having to move house (especially if a relationship breaks down), replace clothing, change other documents etc.

Question 9: Do you think the privacy and disclosure of information provisions in section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act are adequate?


There are too many loopholes in s22 that leave trans and non-binary people at real or perceived risk of being unnecessarily outed in their everyday lives. An example is the fear of being outed for taking any kind of case to court, disclosure of a GRC or trans/non-binary status should be avoided as a default with a private hearing before this kind of disclosure is permitted. The permitted disclosure circumstances should be strictly limited with those reasons clearly published for reference. Judges should be required to follow those reference reasons and have to specifically justify deviation from them rather than it being decided on a case by case basis. Being "outed" as punishment for taking a court case or any other activity should never be something a trans or non-binary person has even a small percentage risk of having to face unless their trans and GRC status is directly relevant to the case.

Health professionals should include clinical psychologists and should be broadened to be less specific to avoid future loopholes.

Enforcement of breaches of s22 should have no period of statutory limitations, a breach is a breach whether it was 6 months or 6 years ago – it often takes people a long time to process the effects of traumatic situations and they should not be further punished by being unable to enforce a complaint later. Enforcement should also be handled by a statutory body rather than a complainant having to make any kind of individualised complaint which leaves them vulnerable to "robust" bullying and outing defence tactics used by respondents.

Clarity should be provided to everyone about the security of the database of GRC applicants or holders so they can be assured this data will not be inappropriately shared or used to put GRC holders at risk in future.

Question 11: Is there anything you want to tell us about how the current process of applying for a GRC affects those who have a protected characteristic?

As there is now same-sex and different sex marriage, marriages do not have to be dissolved if one or both spouses seeks a GRC, however until civil partnerships legislation is updated (as is now likely as of Oct 2018 and the recent supreme court judgment) there is a discrepancy here.

Some trans people may be wary of applying for a GRC as they do not know where the data about their application and or outcome is stored, used and secured from improper abuse. There is a worry that governments themselves may abuse this data in future, especially after Brexit.

Question 12: Do you think that the participation of trans people in sport, as governed by the Equality Act 2010, will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?


The existing safeguards have exceptions for trans people which have to be complied with (e.g. treatments) before someone can complete in single-sex and other sports. A GRC does not affect these requirements. This is handled by sports authorities.

More research into this should be supported as physical abilities are on a bell curve with athletes at extremes of that anyway regardless of sex.

Question 13: (A) Do you think that the operation of the single-sex and separate-sex service exceptions in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?


The single-sex and separate-sex service exemptions from the Equality Act can only be used if they can be objectively justified as a proportionate means to meeting a legitimate aim. Unfounded fears or prejudice of staff or other service users are not (and should not) usually considered legitimate aims. The bar for exclusion of a trans person is and should remain high. All of these services should have safeguarding policies around staff and service users based on cautious prevention and any actual behaviour (and behavioural history) not an individual's sex and gender identity history.

Fear or prejudice against trans people, especially trans women should be treated in the same way that 'fear' or prejudice of BME or LGB people should be treated. It should not be validated or legitimised as a reason to limit or deny trans and non-binary people's access to services. Deal with behaviour not identities.

Question 13: (B) If you provide a single or separate sex service, do you feel confident in interpreting the Equality Act 2010 with regard to these exemptions?


BiCon does not wish to use the exemptions and does not support the exemptions existing in the Equality Act even if they are rarely or never used as they suggest trans women are a group who others may need protecting from despite lack of credible evidence to support this.

BiCon Continuity represents the organisers of "BICON®" which is an annual 3-5 day residential and non residential conference style event with 200-500 bisexual people, their families, friends and allies attending. BiCons are organised by volunteers and have taken place every year since 1984 providing on-site accommodation from 1989.

In 1992 BiCon passed a policy to allow trans people to access single-sex spaces (such as toilets and some workshops) by self-identification for all purposes. From 2007 onwards BiCon has provided unisex toilet facilities to be more inclusive and welcoming to non-binary people.

Research has shown bisexual people, especially cisgender women are at high risk of sexual abuse with trans bisexual women's risk being even higher again. BiCon often runs survivors sessions and single-sex spaces. Since 1998 BiCon has had an official written code of conduct which applies to all attenders (including volunteers and organisers) equally. For the last 8 BiCons, attenders have had to sign to confirm they have read this code and agree to abide by it. Sanctions for serious breaches include asking people to leave BiCon event and banning people from future events.

From monitoring questionnaires and other data we know bisexual cisgender women make up a significant majority of BiCon's attenders. Between 25% and 40% of attenders identify as trans or non-binary. Women (of cis, trans or unknown status) are very rarely reported as perpetrators of serious misconduct or behaviour which harms others in any way.

Question 14: Do you think that the operation of the occupational requirement exception in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?


The current law on occupational requirement exemption is unclear to regular and legally trained people as to whether it applies to people currently holding a GRC. We believe as having a GRC is only one factor in determining if exclusion of someone due to trans history is a "proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim", it would still be down to individual employers' choices and decisions. That would, as at it is now, should be open to challenge and scrutiny.

Question 15: Do you think that the operation of the communal accommodation exception in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?


People are not routinely asked to prove their legal gender with birth certificates before using communal accommodation. A passport and driving licence gender marker can be changed with a single medical letter including from a GP and proof of change of name. It is already unlawful to refuse a person who is perceived to be trans (have the gender reassignment characteristic) access to communal accommodation unless there is a proportionate means to a legitimate aim – which has a high bar.

It is our experience that when access to single-sex spaces is rigidly policed, the people who bear the brunt of this are anyone who is perceived as not looking like cis women (trans and cis people who are perceived not to present in an appropriately gender confirming manner) resulting in those people who are judged not to conform often being subjected to harassment.

BiCon Continuity note that current accusations that trans people in single-sex spaces putting other users at perceived or actual risk of harm are very similar to accusations from the 1980s and 1990s that gay, lesbian and bisexual people would put other users of single sex and other spaces at perceived or actual risk of harm. It is no longer considered widely acceptable to acceptable to automatically assume gay, lesbian or bisexual people as a class are a risk to others in same-sex spaces. It should not be acceptable to assume trans people (or trans women) as a class are a risk.

Safeguarding policies should cover conduct by all individuals regardless of their gender identity or legal gender status, anything else is scaremongering and discriminatory. The legal status of the Equality Act 2010, Schedule 3, Section 28 exemptions to provision of single-sex services to people with the protected characteristic of 'gender reassignment' are unclear as to what effect a GRC has upon the legality of using these. This should be clarified in either a renewed GRA or the Equality Act itself to make parliament's intentions clear.

We would hope these exemptions remain never or rarely used.

Question 16: Do you think that the operation of the armed forces exception as it relates to trans people in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?


As the measure for whether a trans person can operate in the armed forces appears to be related to their combat effectiveness with or without a GRC then this should not change if the GRA is changed.

Question 17: Do you think that the operation of the marriage exception as it relates to trans people in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?


More people having a GRC means that more people will have access to a birth certificate showing their correct gender which looks no different to a birth certificate of someone living in the same gender as they were assigned at birth. This means it may be harder for those who authorise or solemnise marriages to identify trans people except by asking everyone if they have a trans history or making random value judgements based on someone's appearance. Many trans and non-binary people are not identifiable by their presentation. Guessing if someone is trans by their presentation often results in (usually) cis women being mistakenly accused of being trans and subjected to harassment. There will of course be legal implications around the validity of the marriage if someone is not upfront about their trans history when asked – as there are at the moment.

Question 18: Do you think that the operation of the insurance exception as it relates to trans people in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?


Question 19: Do you think that changes to the Gender Recognition Act will impact on areas of law and public services other than the Equality Act 2010?


If a GRC does not provide an automatic right to access single/separate sex spaces then it still comes down to judgement on a case by case basis ensuring that any exclusions are only carried as a proportionate means to a legitimate aim and no reasonable alternative of service options being available. Trans people have been using single-sex facilities for decades often unnoticed and just getting on with their day to day lives.

Question 20: Do you think that there need to be changes to the Gender Recognition Act to accommodate individuals who identify as non-binary?


Non-binary people currently have no protections under the Equality Act and cannot obtain an accurate legal gender identity assignment as non-binary with a GRC. This forces non-binary people to lie to statutory authorities by remaining with the gender they were assigned at birth, or transitioning to the other binary gender when neither is accurate or appropriate. Non-binary people are caused unnecessary detriment and distress as an appropriate gender identity and protections from discrimination are not in place.

Administrative and legislative challenges are not a good reason to deny non-binary people rights to accurate legal recognition and protection from discrimination on the grounds of their gender identity. We feel the government has delayed too long on this already and needs to start consultation and research processes around recognition of non-binary genders as soon as possible.

Recognition of non-binary people should not be used as a "separate but equal" way to push binary gendered trans people into separate "trans and non-binary services" as a way to avoid the perceived conflict between single-sex space provision and those who believe trans people are not their self-identified sex/gender.

Future BiCons 2019, 2020 and beyond.


Continuity was delighted to hear the positive update from Claire H, BiCon 2019's team leader who is close to finalising the booking with Lancaster University and hopes to be able to announce dates soon. Watch this space – their website will be up and running soon.


Rachel S who ran the successful 2017 BiCon in Leeds received clear and enthusiastic support from the Decision Making Plenary for her bid to run BiCon in 2020.


We have also received expressions of interest in 2021 which is great news following our recent post about advance planning being helpful.

Getting involved – Volunteers still wanted!

All of these teams will need volunteers both to join their teams and help BiCon happen on the day. Continuity are happy to pass on any offers of support sent to us to support 2019, 2020, 2021 teams in any capacity.

Update on future BiCons from BiCon Continuity

Due to changes in how many universities are organising their student accommodation and other changes in practice by banks that makes opening bank accounts for community organisations more time consuming and administratively difficult, Continuity is asking people to start thinking about planning for future BiCons earlier than has historically been the community's practice.

Claire will be running BiCon in 2019.

But for 2020 and onwards we need volunteers. We're posting now to give you time to think about this pre-BiCon and to enable you to talk to people at this year's BiCon who have been involved in organising teams (who are up for these conversations) in previous years before committing yourself.

Continuity is happy to pass offers of assistance to Claire for 2019 and to coordinate offers to lead a team and to assist for 2020 and onwards. Please email if you're interested with your contact details.

Roles within teams vary in size and depend on the structure of the team. Within a team there will need to be people who can use telephones, who are available during the working day, who can use a booking system, who understand finances and so on, but not being able to do any of these things isn't a barrier to being involved in a number of roles within a team. If you would like to shadow somebody in a role before potentially taking on the role yourself in a future year, we can try to help you arrange this.

If you have previously been involved in organising a BiCon and you're happy to answer questions about it, please email us too, so we can put people in touch with you.

BiCon Continuity (Karen, Natalya, Hessie, Ian, Elizabeth)

New BiCon 2018 team formed

BiCon Continuity Ltd are delighted to announce that a new BiCon team has been formed. They are led by Rowan Alison with Carol Tierney and Steve Ratcliffe as core members.

The new team have already done and continue to do a lot of work to ensure BiCon 2018 can still go ahead.

Everyone who contacted Continuity to volunteer should have received a response and had their details passed on.

The new team have posted their introduction here.

Seeking new 2018 team members and leader

Update on BiCon 2018 on behalf of BiCon Continuity.

BiCon 2018 has a venue which needs deposits paid shortly. Many of the team who agreed to put on 2018 have had to withdraw.

We believe remaining team members are still happy to offer:
* Accessibility
* Diversity
* Workshop coordinating and room allocation
* Someone who can help with some finance

However, what is needed if BiCon 2018 is to happen at all are:
1. Team leader who can invest time in coordinating the team, getting the BiCon back on schedule and having the buck stop with them.
2. Venue wrangler who can deal with three separate venue organisations for daytime, evening and accommodation spaces. Needs to be able to use phones, email and be confident with bureaucracy before, during and after BiCon.
3. Bookings person who can manage booking software, match records, and deal with bookings enquiries from attenders in a prompt and friendly manner.

All these volunteers, who may be multiple people, would need ongoing commitment to be part of an organising team.

What 2018 need now is people who can make phone calls during the working day, to sort out the venue and get to the point where BiCon 2018 can accept payments, and a couple people to manage the workload and organise volunteers, so the current volunteers can restrict themselves to roles they have capacity for.

BiCon Continuity can provide deposit money, a copy of a budget already devised by Ian and some advice. We cannot offer much assistance beyond that – we too are short of people and time.

If you are someone who can do admin, phonecalls and other aspects of BiCon please contact, with your contact details, what role/tasks you can offer and confirmation that we can share those with other potential team members.

Other roles which will be needed but are slightly less urgent are:
A. Ents organiser
B. Desk coordinator (recruiting volunteers to run desk, listening team etc)

We would also like to reassure the wider community that BiCons have been organised in less time than this one, including ones which attenders felt were well run. However there is no way this or future BiCons can be achieved without more volunteers. The amount of organisation required to open bank accounts and secure/deal with a venue has rocketed in recent years – running the actual event, where many people do willingly volunteer, is the visible easy part.

At a recent BiCon there was a workshop on what people would expect at a "basic no-frills BiCon", "a typical BiCon", and a "Taste the Difference type BiCon". The lesson was that the key is a venue and a bunch of bisexuals (and allies). Once these are sorted, extras can be added fairly easily by many more people.

Bookings will only open once 2018's basics are in place and it is certain the event will run. There is still time for bookings to be sorted in plenty of time for people to book cheap train fares.

Finally, please could everyone remember that everyone involved with BiCon is a volunteer, offering their time and energy around many other commitments such as day jobs, caring/parenting, disability or health problems, and have to pay for travel and accommodation and take time off work just like everyone else. Keeping morale up by keeping social media positive and constructive would really help.

Many thanks, to all past, present and future volunteers, including those who have had to face tough decisions between competing commitments and haven't been able to continue with BiCon.

BiCon Continuity (Hessie, Natalya, Elizabeth, Karen and Ian)

BiCon 2018 team withdrawal

I am posting on behalf of BiCon Continuity trustees.

We have made the difficult decision to ask Katie S to withdraw from running BiCon 2018. BiCon is behind schedule and a great deal of work needs to take place in the next months, just when Katie is unavoidably very busy. We have therefore asked Katie to step aside entirely so that another person or people can take on organising in their own fashion.

There are many reasons for 2018 being behind schedule including volunteers having to pull out, life circumstances beyond Katie's control, and Continuity not being able to provide the level of support Katie wanted or needed.

Continuity would like to thank Katie for what they have contributed and achieved for BiCon 2018 which includes tasks which don't get a lot of visibility or kudos but are vital. We hope the community can be kind and supportive to Katie.

Another post will be made shortly about next steps for BiCon 2018.

BiCon 2017 Needs You!

Bicon 2017 needs you. The team is forming, but definitely needs more people. If you've ever been interested in making this wonderful even happen, please let BiCon Continuity Ltd* know at

No organiser roles are currently set. You might want to oversee the whole, or do the accounts, or the bookings, or the entertainments, or…

There is a quote from a prospective venue in Leeds that looks promising. For more on running a BiCon see:

Elizabeth, Hessie, Ian, Karen and Natalya.

* We're the charity that looks after BiCon's money. There are currently five trustees and we will all see the email. Or catch one of us this morning – sorry we aren't wearing anything distinctive.