I have just read a rather depressing article about the formation of a new group in London – ‘The LGB Alliance’. The absence of the ‘T’ is quite deliberate. The group has declared that Trans issues have nothing to do with lesbian, gay or bisexual people.
Not only do I disagree with their stance, I can’t help thinking about another time when there were divisive voices in our community. On that occasion it was in relation to bisexuals and people were just as adamant that they shouldn’t be part of ‘our’ community.
Bisexuals, it was argued, were just ‘trendies’ who wanted the best of both worlds without putting in the hard yards for lesbian and gay liberation. When the going got tough they could simply hop back into the safety of heterosexuality. In the letters column of the feminist magazine Spare Rib, debate raged, with some declaring that bisexual women were, essentially, sleeping with the enemy.
In 1985, the London Lesbian and Gay Centre banned bisexuals, apparently because lesbians felt threatened by bisexual men. Thankfully, that ban was overturned (although partly because the Centre had accidentally accepted a booking for the Second National Bisexual Conference.)
In 1987, Tom Robinson – the one-time darling of the gay movement because of his song ‘Glad to Be Gay’ – was booed at the Pride in London concert. The reason? Because he had fallen in love with, and married, a woman in 1985. This, seemingly, meant that he had gone over to ‘the other side’.
My own view on this hostility to bisexuals is that we were still an emerging and relatively fragile community. Bisexuality was seen as a form of reticence to commit when we were still feeling quite vulnerable.
And then there was the rabid homophobia whipped up by media coverage of AIDS. In particular, the notion that bisexuals were the vector for the disease; carrying it from culpable gay men to innocent heterosexuals. Did we upfront homosexuals resent taking the rap for closeted bisexuals?
Of course, it may be none of those things, but I do know that there was considerable hostility to bisexuals. But, for whatever reasons, we moved on and came together. So it’s a bit sad that some bisexuals seem to have forgotten their own history and are seeking reasons to exclude others from our community.
It’s particularly sad that this is happening on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots; the event that is generally acknowledged as the birth of the modern queer liberation movement. In case people have forgotten, two of the key players in the subsequent activism were Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera – two trans women of colour.