If you want to discuss any aspect of BiCon Continuity publicly, by far the best place to do so is here.
Do you want to help make BiCon 2022 happen?
We’re starting the search now for a team for 2022 so that people have time to think about whether they want to volunteer and to give the future team as long a lead in as possible.
BiCon 2020 was going to be at Leeds Beckett University, site of BiCon 2017. Covid-19 meant that was impossible, and an online BiCon was organised instead. The continuing epidemic and possible further lockdowns means that BiCon 2021 will be online too.
So rather than lose the non-refundable £12,500 deposit paid for 2020, Continuity have arranged with Leeds Beckett that we will transfer the booking again, to 11-14th August 2022.
We don’t yet have a team to run BiCon 2022, but we do have a date and a venue, which puts any team a big step further forward from where teams usually start.
Running BiCon is a big job, but some priorities are more important than others. We expect that any team will continue to prioritise access, particularly around continuing and growing anti-racism work, handling conduct well, and challenging unacceptable behaviour.
Outside of that there is a lot of freedom for a team to create a BiCon that perhaps involves less effort by the team in advance.
For the first BiCon in three years, what do we want?
We’re open to teams who want to suggest running a less “traditional” BiCon as well those who want to organise one in what’s become the usual way. Some ideas have already been suggested about ways to make BiCon a bit less work for volunteers, which we’re happy to share with anyone who’s interested, but we want the shape of BiCon to be led by the community, of which teams are very much a part.
If you’re potentially interested in being on the 2022 team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org You don’t have to commit yourself yet – we’re happy to have a chat about it and share more details of what’s involved, and then with your consent we’ll put interested people in touch with one another so they can get a team together.
You may recognise some of the text from our response to the Government's consultation back in 2018. If the same questions keep being asked, we'll keep giving the same answers.
Response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act
BiCon is an annual get-together of the members, friends and allies of the UK’s bisexual community.
We believe it is the longest-running annual LGBT event in the UK.
BiCon has a large number of trans and non-binary attenders. From its start in the early 1980s, BiCon’s informal policy has been to recognise people's self-identification of their gender for all purposes including access to single-sex spaces and workshops. This became an official policy in 1992.
In the 28 years since this policy was put in place – and before – we have seen no evidence that anyone is harmed by it.
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.
The Government’s response to the GRA consultation:
1 Will the Government’s proposed changes meet its aim of making the process “kinder and more straight forward”?
They do very little to do that. Indeed, by backing down from the Government’s original version of what the response to their consultation two years ago would be, they have caused distress to many.
2 Should a fee for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate be removed or retained? Are there other financial burdens on applicants that could be removed or retained?
3 Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?
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.
4 Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?
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.
5 What is your view of the statutory declaration and should any changes have been made to it?
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.
6 Does the spousal consent provision in the Act need reforming? If so, how? If it needs reforming or removal, is anything else needed to protect any rights of the spouse or civil partner?
It needs removing, as in Scotland.
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.
7 Should the age limit at which people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) be lowered?
We would not support any arbitrary age limit but, if necessary, look at the individual’s competence to make such a decision.
8 What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?
They are, apparently deliberately, inconsequential.
Some anonymous ministerial briefing was done before they were announced, making it sound like they could have been worse and this had a negative impact on trans people’s mental health.
The actual announcement did not make up for this, and it is particularly insulting that the majority of respondents to the Government’s consultation were dismissed because their views did not fit those of the ministerial team then in place.
What is the point of having a consultation if that is going to happen? What is the impact to trans people’s mental health on having to answer the same questions on the same issues again, as here?
9 What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?
What the majority of respondents wanted, and what we have set out then and now.
10 Does the Scottish Government’s proposed Bill offer a more suitable alternative to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004?
Should it be enacted, it probably would be. It still has an unnecessary and problematic “living in role” provision, but it is considerably shorter.
Wider issues concerning transgender equality and current legislation:
11 Why is the number of people applying for GRCs so low compared to the number of people identifying as transgender?
For one thing, plenty of trans people do not identify as either ‘male’ or ‘female’. The Government’s National LGBT Survey was flawed – by only being interested in the identity aspect of sexual orientation, it underestimated the number of bi+ people – but it clearly confirmed that.
Given the transphobia driven by the prejudices of a few, there is also a completely understandable reluctance by many to be on a government list of trans people. Unless you need one for a specific purpose – and they’re unnecessary for having a passport or driving licence in the correct gender – what is the benefit of paying so much and jumping through the assorted hurdles to get one?
12 Are there challenges in the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 interact? For example, in terms of the different language and terminology used across both pieces of legislation.
What challenges there are minimal compared to the problems in trying to amend the Equality Act 2010: yet more “debate” calling into question the validity of trans people.
13 Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?
What challenges there are minimal compared to the problems in trying to amend the Equality Act 2010: yet more “debate” calling into question the validity of trans people.
14 Does the Equality Act adequately protect trans people? If not, what reforms, if any, are needed?
As many disabled people, for example, know it is (deliberately?) not easy to get action under the Equality Act. It takes months of trying for a remedy before court action, and then such action is neither cheap or without risk.
If the Equality Act is to mean something, it needs to be usable by those disadvantaged groups it says it wants to protect.
15 What issues do trans people have in accessing support services, including health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services?
One issue is that a few bigots have been allowed to pretend that such services have, overall, problems with being trans-inclusive. The vast majority do not, but this campaigning puts off trans people from using them and normalises transphobia.
16 Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people? If so, how?
Simple legal recognition would be a start.
If you are interested in knowing more about Continuity (the charity that manages BiCon’s money), the Trustees will be holding an open forum / question & answer session from 2 – 2.45pm on Sunday 23rd August 2020 by video conference. This is scheduled to take place just before our General Meeting that will run from 3 – 4 pm as the General Meeting will probably be easier to follow for some people if they have been able to ask questions about Continuity in advance. If you would like to come to the open forum session and/or observe the General Meeting, please email email@example.com (and please do email, rather than tweet at us or comment on Facebook). Our selection of video conferencing software will depend on how many people in total want to attend and we will confirm the software and any information needed to join the meeting by email in advance of the meeting.
If you are interested in joining Continuity as a Member and/or becoming a Trustee, please let us know. It isn’t going to be possible to just turn up at the open forum and join as a Member / volunteer as a Trustee without there having been some pre-discussion. Indicating you are potentially interested in finding out more doesn’t commit you to anything. As a charity dedicated to looking after money, it helps if you are at least a bit interested in finances, and we are specifically looking for a treasurer.
This year’s General Meeting has been deliberately scheduled for the weekend after Virtual BiCon rather than during it. When there isn’t a pandemic, there are considerable advantages in us meeting in person at a BiCon. This year that’s not possible; whenever the meeting is, it has to be by video or telephone conferencing. Being in long talky video conferences is now known to be quite tiring, so we decided not to squeeze this meeting in to a weekend when there are a number of talky video conferencing sessions – we didn't want to compete with BiCon. The timing will also allow us to consider any discussions that take place as part of Virtual BiCon as part of our ongoing decision making.
We trustees at BiCon Continuity were sad Rowan felt unable to continue organising a Virtual BiCon for August 2020. A few of us are attached to a Facebook group of past BiCon attendees. Some of the conversation there caused us to stop to consider whether a BiCon was viable while conversation moves between holding to account and optimism for the future, and multiple organisers stepped down in the space of two weeks.
BiCon Continuity has two basic powers:
- Releasing funds we are trusted to hold for the community, which are dedicated to keeping a BiCon going, and
- Holding the registered trademark of BiCon, what can legally call itself ‘BiCon.’
Issues we consider most years are therefore, ‘reputational damage’ and viable budgeting, often looking at funds needed three years into the future due to the nature of deposits at university venues.
Our role this year in the question of ‘Should there be a virtual BiCon?’ is mainly about reputational damage – will a Virtual BiCon be close enough to BiCon to have that title, and will it be safe for organisers and attendees. We also do a certain amount of behind the scenes making sure that structures are in place, though we don’t deal with those structures directly – is there a bank account/way to move money around as needed; what kind of conduct oversight and safety is in place (aspects of ongoing conduct oversight is a particular role we were requested to take up in 2016/17). These are most closely related to Reputational Damage, but also to wider support for making BiCon happen.
Our decision-making as trustees has to be from the perspective of public benefit to bisexual people in the UK. We cannot and would not make decisions about BiCon solely on the basis of commentary on Facebook (or any other social media platform). Recently, we have had requests from people who have never been to BiCon before, asking what is available for them, especially people who are newly out. It is our view that if there is someone willing and able to organise a Virtual BiCon this year, in a reasonably safe* way, then the event should go ahead.
We are extremely fortunate Kate is willing to take over and organise a Virtual BiCon. We have spoken at length with Kate and feel confident that she embraces the mix of holding to account and optimism for change. She has both reflected on decisions she would have made differently in past organsing, and has been supporting community events for several months.
The risks to participants of attending a Virtual BiCon are different from those of an in person event; Kate will provide an update regarding the Code of Conduct for the event in due course. A lot of in person opportunities for socialising are either not possible due to COVID-19 or not practical for many people to participate in due to their own health, changed caring or work responsibilities, poorer finances or other reasons. A Virtual BiCon is, for some people, one of the few occasions this year they’ll be able to be in bi space and that’s important. Group internet calls / chat spaces will not work for some people, and we have great hopes for returning to Leeds in 2021.
* No event can guarantee safety, especially when open to all bisexuals, friends and allies from across the UK and beyond. BiCons need to become safer, but it is also important not to raise expectations that cannot be met: prevention and follow-up are not a magic wand.
"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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with offers of assistance.
Elizabeth, Karen, Hessie, Ian and Asha
A reasonably quick update is here, with a link to a much fuller note.
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 email@example.com
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/
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):
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com.
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
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.