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London BiFest: this is why we need to celebrate the bisexual community

Written by gaytourism

London BiFest 2018 will take place on 18 August. | Photo: supplied

While bisexuality still feels a little underrepresented in mainstream LGBTI parades, smaller events catered to the bi community are increasing in popularity.

Activist Kate Harrad is the bisexual woman behind London BiFest, a one-day celebration of bisexuality in the UK capital. The festival, calling all bisexual people and allies, will take place at the Kingston Quaker Centre in Kingston, southwest of London, on 18 August.

BiFest will have craft areas and sessions providing attendees with the chance to socialize in a safe environment.

Bisexuals might experience rejection within the LGBTI community

Harrad highlights the importance of hosting an event for the bisexual community.

‘The bi community doesn’t have the same kind of established pub or club culture that the gay community does. There are no bisexual pubs and only a handful of club nights,’ she explains.

‘If you are bisexual and don’t know anyone else who is, you might not know there’s a community at all. Worse, you might try entering the gay or lesbian communities and be rejected for your sexuality, which does still happen.’

Moreover, a recent Pride in London’s survey found that 46% of bisexual people aren’t out to their families, compared to 12% of gay men and 17% of lesbians.

Therefore, Harrad’s aim is to host bi events ‘that aren’t scary’.  She wants BiFest to be an accessible, friendly event which gives people a chance to talk about bi issues’.

‘Pride is not great for bi representation’

The Bi+ Float in the Pride in London Parade | Photo: Hollie Wong

Pride in London featured its first Bi+ float in 2018. | Photo: Hollie Wong

‘I didn’t go to Pride [in London] this year, and that was partly because it’s not been great for bi representation,’ Harrad says.

‘Although we had our first bi+ float this year, which was a massive achievement.’

Harrad, who is in an opposite-sex relationship, points out how some bi people feel they don’t fit in mainstream LGBTI events.

That applies ‘especially [to] those in different-gender relationships,’ she says.

‘Maybe I’m wrong, but in any case, my preference is for the smaller, more grassroots events that my community tends to provide, such as BiCon and BiFest. It’s a completely different atmosphere. People will make more effort with issues like using people’s correct pronouns and enforcing a no-touch-without-consent rule, for example.’

London BiFest is open to all

London BiFest in 2017.

Sporting the bisexuality colors at London BiFest 2017. | Photo: supplied

London BiFest, as many of the other events celebrating a specific segment of the LGBTI community such as Black Pride, still faces some criticism.

While it does focus on the bisexual community, London BiFest is an open-to-all event.

‘Anyone who is bi-friendly can come,’ Harrad says.

‘We try to remove as many barriers to attendance as we can. We offer free tickets to people of color, hold BiFest in a wheelchair accessible venue, keep it affordable and provide a code of conduct.’

The venue also has gender-neutral toilets.

This year’s event is bigger than ever

The first edition of London BiFest dates back to 1999. However, after going on a relatively long hiatus, the event only returned to the capital last year.

‘There was a long gap before the next one, but eventually, a few of us formed a small team and started running [bi events] yearly. They also happen in other cities such as Birmingham and Oxford,’ Harrad says.

This year’s BiFest has several LGBTI rights advocacy groups onboard.

‘We’ve got Amnesty International’s LGBTI network, The Outside Project, Bi Pride UK, the Bisexual Index, Transmasculine London and so on,’ Harrad says.

She is trying to ‘push the idea that LGBT groups should want to focus on bisexuality more than they do’.

Read more here.

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We need to talk about bi erasure in media: ever heard of the Unicorn Scale?

Matilda star Mara Wilson opens up on her ‘bisexual impostor syndrome’

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