Lois Shearing describes the journey through to this years first Bi Pride float and why Bisexual Visibility is so important.
I went to my first Pride only half a year after mumbling the words “I think I like girls, too” to my best friend during an Alice Cooper concert.
In the heat of July, and finally equipped with a word for “attracted to people regardless of gender”, I bounded out of Brighton station with that same best friend.
At the time, I didn’t know that we bisexuals have our own flag, so I didn’t think to look out for it in the parade, or during any of the festivities. Which was a blessing in disguise, because this was 2009 and it wasn’t there. I didn’t know how bisexuals were seen within the community. I didn’t know that I would spend as much time justifying myself to the people there as I would to the rest of world.
But that day, with a rainbow flat tied around my shoulders, running from tent to tent in Preston park (it was still free back then), a part of me that I was only just becoming aware of awoke and stretched, and felt the sun on its face for the first time. It was magical. It was addictive. But it was something I wouldn’t feel again for many years.
On the walk back the station, a man pissing against a skip called me a dyke. It was the first time that word was ever hurled at me, although it would be far from the last.
I packed away the flag on the train home, and we told my mum we’d been shopping.
I went to my next Pride two years later. It wasn’t long after one of the first girls I ever got tangled up with told me that no one would ever really want me because I was “too gay for straight men and too straight for lesbians”.
I took my then boyfriend and after a few tuts and muttered comments, I dropped his hand. I spent the rest of the day hanging a little too closely to my female friend. It wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it was the first time I really realised that I was expected to shrink or hide parts of myself around gay people, as well as hetrosexuals.
I avoided Pride for several years after that.
Flash forward to 2017 and Libby Baxter, editor in chief of Biscuit magazine is calling Pride in London out because they have no bi+ representation of the capital’s parade. I had never thought to expect to see a bi+ float at Pride, but why not? It was an lgBtq+ event after all.
But then it all clicked. Why had I never seen a bi float? Why was the bi flag I had tied around mine and other attendees waists the only ones I’d seen at a Pride? Maybe it was just a south coast thing, but it wasn’t good enough.
Baxter-Williams, (director at Biscuit), kept asking for answers, now joined by a chorus of prominent bi voices. When Pride in London called her “demanding”, I wrote an article for The Queerness about why bi people belong at Pride. After a lot of yelling, another group gave up some of their wrist bands so the bi community could be represented.
It wasn’t long after one of the first girls I ever got tangled up with told me that no one would ever really want me because I was “too gay for straight men and too straight for lesbians”.
But that wasn’t enough, we wanted full representation at Pride and that meant going big – float-sized big. Libby launched the campaign to fund the Biscuit float a few months later and it hit it’s stretch goal within 48 hours. People were hungry for this.
It was more work than any of us imagined. And more money. There was a lot of late nights, and not a small amount of tears. We all questioned if it was worth it. All this for a two hour walk? What were we thinking?
On the morning of Pride, I led a group of Biscuit marchers down through the streets of London where everyone was setting up to our float in the front block of the parade. I was stressed and anxious, already sweating, and my voice was going hoarse from yelling to keep everyone together as we weaved through the other floats. I’ll admit I was asking myself some very stern questions in that moment.
When we arrived, I came to a halt as I felt my face light up. That thing inside that had awoken and felt the sun on its face at my first Pride was stirring again. But this time, there were no shadows on it.
Our building crew was still holding bits in place, screwing on letters, and busily adding final touches. I watched as our marchers swarmed the float. They took selfies, waved bi and pan flags, re-applied glitter, made new friends, and danced with each other. I knew they were all feeling the same as me. It was the first time I felt truly represented and accepted at an LGBTQ+ event. My whole self was here, I didn’t have to hide.
Unfortunately, the actions of a few angry and misinformed individuals and the decision made by Pride in London to let them march stripped that feeling from the many trans people marching and watching the parade. Our float was unaware of what was happening up ahead and we as a group fully condem both the actions of the “protesters” and the decision of Pride in London to allow them to march.
I felt my face light up. That thing inside that had awoken and felt the sun on its face at my first Pride was stirring again. But this time, there were no shadows on it.
Our marchers were as wonderfully diverse as the bi community itself. We had older butch women. Young trans men. Couples, made up of all genders. I watched as the face of bi people in the crowd changed as we approached. Our marchers swarmed to the barriers to hug and high-five everyone holding a bi or pan flag.
Somewhere in the audience there was a bi teenager attending their first Pride. I hope they saw us and realised there’s a community out there that will accept every part of them.
We did it for them.
Follow Lois on Twitter (@Lumpi_corn)
Photos by (c) Hollie Wong