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.