Remembering My Hat

3rd August 2016

EuroBiReCon16: Workshop on ageing

This is some notes from a workshop that I co-organised with Sue George and Nickie Roome, as promised to the participants. Our abstract said:

Growing older and being bisexual

What is it like to grow older as a bisexual person? What issues and needs are likely to become more important? How can bisexual and LGBTQ communities be more inclusive of older people? How can research best serve the needs of older bisexual people? This open discussion session will discuss these and other questions related to bisexual ageing. People of all ages are welcome to attend but those who feel these questions have personal relevance are especially welcome. The facilitators of this session are: Sue George, long-time bisexual activist and author of Women and Bisexuality, Nickie Roome, founder of the UK’s first group for older bisexual people and Rebecca Jones who researches and campaigns around ageing and bisexuality.

 

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(cc) photoscarce

It was great to have a room full of people all wanting to discuss ageing – about 25 people in total, I think. We started off with some introductions from Sue, Nickie and me, about why we had wanted to run this workshop. Then we generated some possible topics to discuss and each person voted for their favourite. There were two topics that only one person wanted to talk about (‘being ‘younger’ older’ and ‘working with existing organisations for older people’) so those people chose a second topic. This left us with four topics:

  • Making bi space more age-inclusive
  • Identity and history
  • Sexuality, sex and ageing
  • Inter-generational issues

I took some brief notes while listening in on the groups, and also as each group fed back to the whole group. But if anyone who was in one of the groups would like to add more detail so we have a better record, that would be great – just let me know.

Making bi space more age-inclusive: This group talked about recognising the resources that older bisexual people can offer to bisexual communities and individuals. These resources include both personal experience gained through having lived a relatively long time and also, sometimes, long experience of activism and organising community events. This group also talked about the importance of recognising and acknowledging different choices of identity labels.

Identity and history: This group talked about painful personal experiences of their bisexuality not being accepted by others. They commented that it seemed to be very different for (some) young women now, with ‘bi-curious’ and similar identities seeming to be much more common. They noted that this new acceptability of female bisexuality is often very sexist and thought that we would really know that bisexuality had become acceptable once more men felt able to claim it.

Sexuality, sex and ageing: This group discussed the invisibility and taboos around later life sexuality and sexual activity. They felt that this did harm to both ageing individuals and to younger people and communities more widely. They also talked about significant age differences between partners seeming to become more taboo in later adult life, and about the possibility of intimacy becoming more important than sex for some people. They also discussed coming out in later life, dating apps and the impact of parenting on sexuality.

Inter-generational issues: This group started off by discussing some hurtful personal experiences of being excluded from an LGBT group on the grounds of age, because older bisexual men were seen as sexually predatory. It then went on to talk about experiences of ageism in both directions – from older people towards younger as well as vice versa. The group talked about the way in which someone’s ‘length of being out’ age may not match their chronological age. It suggested running workshops on inter-generational issues at future BiCons and other bi gatherings.

 

smaller sunset amsterdam

“Sunset over Amsterdam” (cc) by Peter Eijkman

20th July 2016

Looking Both Ways: At last some real-life case studies about older bisexual(ish) people!

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 15:35
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Case studies about people are great, in education and in workplace settings. They help you think about complex issues in a human and manageable way. They can make abstract ideas concrete and graspable. People generally like to read them, which is half the battle as an educator or trainer.

Training and education for health and social care sector workers often uses case studies, and within my particular specialist area – the ageing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people – there are some brilliant case studies where people’s individual stories powerfully make the case for why sexuality and gender identity continue to matter in later life. But, until now, there’s been a bit of a shortage of case studies about bisexual older people (and there is still a shortage for trans older people). There are a few but usually only focusing on the person’s same-sex relationships, not on what it means to have had relationships with more than one gender.

Some sort of flag

(cc) Peter Salanki

So about three years ago, I and two colleagues – Kathryn Almack and Rachael Scicluna –  cresting a wave of enthusiasm at a seminar on bisexual ageing in the Minding the Knowledge Gaps ESRC series, decided to do something about this. We set out to interview people aged over 50 who either identified as bisexual, or had bisexual pasts but didn’t now describe themselves as bisexual. We only had little bits of money to enable various parts of the study, so it took us two years to gather 12 interviews but we’re really pleased to now be able to present the case studies within a short report.

The people we talked to probably aren’t representative of older people with bisexual histories or identities – we don’t actually know what older bi(ish) people are like, as there’s been so little research with this group but the people who took part in this study were all white and predominantly middle class and well-educated.

The report and the case studies are copyright, but with a creative commons BY licence which means that anyone can reuse and rework them, as long as you acknowledge the original source. We hope that they are useful and would love to hear any feedback.

You can download the Looking Both Ways Report online version here. BiUK have kindly paid for some print copies as well, so I can send these out to individuals (but don’t have enough for mass mailings). I’ll be bringing some along to EuroBiReCon as well.

 

 

 

28th January 2015

Older LGB&T people: Minding the Knowledge Gaps. Final conference.

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 15:53
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My usual partial and erratic liveblog-ish notes from a seminar. Not a complete record of what’s going on – just the things that interest me [and my own responses in brackets].

Liz Barker: How far we’ve come: Older LGBT rights movement[s?]

Greengross & Greengross (1989)  ‘Living, Loving and Ageing’ called by Daily Mirror a ‘raunchy sex guide for older people’ [Fantastic! It’s just not! I’ve got half a paper written comparing LL&A with modern sex guides for older people. Maybe I should revisit that…] A really important start to awareness about older people’s sexuality in the UK [although academically the interest in older people and sexuality starts earlier with (I think) the Starr-Weiner report]

HIV&AIDS as a catalyst for work around OP’s sexual health, and older LGBT people [as so often – such a mixed blessing – raises awareness of the existence of a group, but in a context where it’s a problem. Like the history of public awareness of bisexuality]

Polari did first research  on LGBT older people (initially on housing options) [again, not sure this is true if you include academic research. When was ‘Gay and Grey’?]

Spark to (then) Age Concern Opening Doors programme was an older gay man who was a carer who was told council couldn’t help him with his partner because his set up wasn’t ‘normal’.

Opening Door report and first seminar in 2001 [I was there. It was great].

Opening Doors didn’t originally include T because they didn’t want to assume issues were the same and their sample was very small and opportunistic [no explanation given for why they didn’t include B. I’m pretty sure the first report was originally called ‘Working with older lesbians and gay men’ which does not include older bi people. I think it later got rebadged as ‘l, g and b’].

Round up of past seminars (various speakers)

1st seminar on bi ageing – made a nice change to be first seminar in a series, given usual erasure of bisexuality within LGBT acronym.

Being told you are too old to be bisexual – that you ought to have made up your mind by now

Intergenerational work with LGBT really adds to diversity and complexity of labels and experiences people have.

Being BME and LGBT can increase visiblity in unhelpful ways (with migration status sometimes as another intersection) – research on Irish Gay men working in England.

Venn diagram – three overlapping circles, older, LGBTQ and BME – that gives you overlaps of older and LGBTQ, LGBTQ and BME and older and BME, with the overlap in the middle of older, BME and LGBTQ. Middle group is relatively small and but can extrapolate from other overlaps (e.g research on LGBT and BME experiences or on older BME people’s experiences). Lack of visible older BME LGBT people is also a problem for younger people who need elders and role models. [Importance of being able to imagine your own ageing].

How and in what circumstances do older LGBT people wish to be visible to H&SC services? [Not always].

Need for staff to know about LGBT history, so they can understand possible fears and reticences.

Shd the focus be on specialist provision or enhancing pracice across the sector? [Both! But if I had to pick one, I think it would be the second]

10th April 2014

Quick wins for bisexual inclusion

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:30
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Bisexuality is often erased as a legitimate sexual identity. There’s an example of that happening here, when I last felt moved to blog about this. This time, I thought I’d try to do something more positive in response.
I’m going to assume here that people do want to include bisexual people when they are talking about ‘LGB people’ or ‘LGB&T people’. I’m going to assume that when they fail to do so, it’s a slip-of-the-tongue, a habit that they want to change. So here are some suggestions for rewordings for common slips-of-the-tongue and the pen.

Although I’m focussing specifically on bi inclusion here, I’ve tried to be trans*-inclusive within this focus, but would especially welcome corrections or additions to this. I’m not trying to cover ‘quick wins for trans* inclusion’ here, but I am trying to ensure that what I am suggesting about bi inclusion is not trans*-exclusive. And of course other suggestions and comments on anything here are very welcome. What have I missed? Do you agree? What other quick wins might there be?

Don’t describe someone as ‘gay’ just because they have a same-sex partner

… because many bisexual people have same-sex partners and don’t describe themselves as ‘gay’. Use the words people use to describe themselves.

This applies to public figures too – Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, Tom Daley and whoever the latest male politician or sportsman is to have hit the media for having a male lover. Obviously, if they do now describe themselves as gay, then so should you. But if they don’t, then don’t. You could describe them as bisexual or as being attracted to more than one gender or just talk about what has happened without using sexual identity labels. But, best of all, use whatever words they use to describe themselves.

Don’t say ‘gay and straight relationships’ or ‘same-sex and heterosexual relationships’

… because that excludes people in bisexual relationships. Depending on what you actually mean, try ‘all types of relationships’  or ‘LGB and heterosexual’ or, to some audiences, ‘queer and straight’. You might try ‘same-sex and different-sex relationships’, if that’s the distinction you’re really interested in, but that isn’t very trans*-inclusive, because it implies that two people are either the same or different sexes, and sex can be more complicated than that.

Bisexual people in different-sex relationships are not ‘in a heterosexual relationship’ because they are not heterosexual. A heterosexual relationship is something that heterosexual people have. Well, subject to the point above about using people’s own terminology – if bisexual people in a different-sex relationship do want to describe their relationship as heterosexual, then of course they can, but don’t impose that label on them.

Don’t use ‘gay’ as a shorthand for LGB or LGB&T

… because most bisexual people don’t think of themselves as gay – if you say ‘gay’ they feel excluded. ‘Gay’ as a shorthand to include trans* people really doesn’t work well. And some lesbians really don’t like it either. In more formal writing, such as policy reports and research findings, it’s easy enough to avoid using ‘gay’ in this way  – just use LGB or LGB&T or LGBTIQQA or any other such acronym that is appropriate to your context. In speech and some types of media it can be harder to find replacements for ‘gay’ as a shorthand. ‘Queer’ works in some contexts. ‘Non-heterosexual’ works in others.

Don’t forget biphobia (and transphobia)

… because while bisexual people may experience homophobia, they also experience biphobia too. Try ‘homophobia and biphobia’ or ‘homophobia, biphobia and transphobia’. Or, depending on the context, ‘hate crimes against LGBT people’.

There’s more discussion of biphobia and how it differs from homophobia here.

Don’t say you talked to ‘LGB&T people’ if you only talked to lesbians and gay men

… because that suggests that LGB&T people really means lesbians and gay men. Say ‘lesbians and gay men’ if that is who you talked to.

If you had hoped to talk to B and T people as well, but not managed to do so in the end, you could say that. But the fact that you know that there is more to LGB&T than L and G doesn’t make it legitimate to generalise from L and G to LGB&T.

Don’t always subdivide your group of LGB people by gender (e.g. ‘lesbians and bisexual women’ versus ‘gay and bisexual men’)

… because that erases bisexuality by making it sound as if gender is always the most the important difference between LG and B people. Try looking at the bisexual women and bisexual men together as one category. Or see whether some other subdivision, such as race/ethnicity, age or social class is more important.

 

19th September 2013

Bi Visibility Day: Over-50s event in London

I’m so delighted that this year Opening Doors London and activists from the UK bi community are getting together to organise an event for over-50s as part of Bi Visibility Day, the 23rd Sept (I’m posting a little early, in case it helps publicise the event).

You can get all the details here but I just want to mention their excellent slogan ‘old enough to have made up our minds’.

That’s such a good riposte to the common charge that bisexual people are indecisive and will eventually ‘make up our minds’ and settle for attraction to only one gender, whether that be the same as our own or different. One of the things everyday ageism does is to characterise older people as fixed and rigid in their habits and thinking. But a more positive spin on that is as not-indecisive and as having made up our minds. I love the way this slogan plays with and combines the two.

(cc) salanki

18th September 2012

Bi erasure

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:24
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One of the things we talk about in The Bisexuality Report is the way that bisexuality gets erased as a legitimate sexual identity when people tack ‘and bisexual people’ on when they are really talking about lesbian and gay people. It’s often quite subtle.

For example, the opening three sentences of this Stonewall UK page about families and parenting are:

Gay men, lesbians and bisexual people have been parents for a long time. Some have children from a previous heterosexual relationship, some adopt and others become foster parents. More recently, LGB people have entered into surrogacy agreements and co-parenting arrangements.

The first sentence sets the scene and establishes the important point that queer parenting is nothing new. The second sentence lists the ways in which this has happened for many years. The third talks about more recent ways of forming queer families [1]. But the second sentence ignores the possibility that bi people may have different-sex partners with whom they conceive biological children. Their experience is made invisible by this list of ways in which LGB people become parents.

(cc) KristinNador

Or does it mean to imply that you’re not really queer if you have a different sex partner? That the ‘B’ in ‘LGB’ only covers bi people who are currently in same sex relationships? Are you in ‘a heterosexual relationship’ if your partner is a different sex? Some people who experience attraction to more than one gender might define themselves as heterosexual when they are in a monogamous different sex relationship, but others do not.

It’s not enough to tack ‘and bisexual’ on to something that is really about lesbians and gay men. Taking bisexuality seriously makes things more complicated – you have to think about the distinctions between identity, attraction and behaviour more, for a start [2]. But surely that’s a better way of thinking about such a multi-faceted  and changing thing as human sexuality.

[1] The historian in me is suspicious of the claim that co-parenting has happened only recently. Likewise, surrogacy, depending on what you mean by that term.
[2] As I’ve written about here: Jones, R. L. (2010). Troubles with bisexuality in health and social care. In R. L. Jones & R. Ward (Eds.), LGBT issues: Looking beyond categories (pp. 42-55). Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press.

17th August 2012

BiReCon 2012: Bisexuality and mental health

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 11:24
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Last weekend I co-organised a conference on bisexuality and mental health. It was even harder work than organising conferences usually is but, thanks to the wonders of the internet and to one of the plenary speakers, Dr Meg Barker, who is brilliant at mobilising non-traditional academic media, writing it up here is extremely easy:

You can see the call for papers here.

You can see the programme and abstracts here.

You can listen to Meg Barker’s plenary speech (and my introduction to the conference) while watching her Prezi presentation here.

There will  be a write-up for BCN which I may post here too. But, in summary, it went really well. The plenary speakers were all great and beautifully covered three distinct areas but with clear links and wider relevancies. The individual papers also went very well and there was some really good discussion in the final plenary.

If you are interested in the context of this event, you can also find out about BiReCon and its parent organisation BiUK

 

5th July 2012

Another list of resources: Bisexuality and ageing

Here’s another one I prepared earlier (actually, just now). It’s a handout for the talk I’m giving at the British Society of Gerontology conference at Keele University next week. I’m part of a double symposium on LGBT ageing and I’m talking under the title ‘The disappearing B in LGBT ageing’. I’m not only going to talk about that – for those of you who were at the Critical Sexology Up North seminar in Huddersfield a couple of weeks ago, this paper covers the same kind of ground as that one, but tweaked a little, so this list might also be of interest.

Further reading on bisexuality and ageing

On what is distinctive about bisexuality:

Barker, M., Richards, C., Jones, R., Bowes-Catton, H., Plowman, T., Yockney, J., et al. (2012). The bisexuality report: Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity: The Open University.

Available here: http://bisexualresearch.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/the-bisexualityreport.pdf and elsewhere – just google it.

Guidelines on researching and writing about bisexuality

The guidelines: http://bisexualresearch.wordpress.com/reports-guidance/guidance/research-guidelines/

Accompanying article:

Barker, M., Yockney, J., Richards, C., Jones, R. L., Bowes-Catton, H., & Plowman, T. (in press, 2012). Guidelines for Researching and Writing about Bisexuality. Journal of Bisexuality, 12.

Empirical studies of bisexuality and ageing

WEINBERG, M. S., WILLIAMS, C. J. & PRYOR, D. W. (2001) Bisexuals at  midlife: Commitment, salience and identity. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 30, 180-208.

JONES, R. L. (2012) Imagining the unimaginable: Bisexual roadmaps for ageing. IN WARD, R., RIVERS, I. & SUTHERLAND, M. (Eds.) Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ageing: Providing effective support through understanding life stories. London, Jessica Kingsley.

JONES, R. L. (2011) Imagining bisexual futures: Positive, non-normative later life Journal of Bisexuality, 11, 245-270.

Speculative literature

(Not empirically-based but suggestions based on evidence about ageing lesbians and gay men and younger bisexual people)

DWORKIN, S. H. (2006) Aging bisexual: The invisible of the invisble minority. IN KIMMEL, D., ROSE, T. & DAVID, S. (Eds.) Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender aging: Research and clinical perspectives. New York,ColumbiaUniversity Press.

FIRESTEIN, B. (Ed.) (2007) Becoming visible: Counseling bisexuals across the lifespan, New York, Columbia University Press.

KEPPEL, B. (2006) Affirmative psychotherapy with older bisexual women and men. Journal of Bisexuality, 6, 85-104.

For ‘Muriel’ case study and general discussion of the disappearing bisexual:

Jones, R. L. (2010). Troubles with bisexuality in health and social care. In R. L. Jones & R. Ward (Eds.), LGBT issues: Looking beyond categories (pp. 42-55).Edinburgh:Dunedin Academic Press.

22nd February 2012

Older bisexual people: In a nutshell

Here’s one of the bits of The Bisexuality Report that I wrote.  It’s a very concise summary.  I would have said much more if there had been more space.

For older bisexual people there may be increased invisibility due to assumptions that older people are no longer sexual, as well as the multiple discriminations of biphobia and ageism. The commercial gay scene, which some bisexual people access, is highly youth centric and may be hostile to older people, even those as young as their thirties [158]. The age profile of those attending bisexual events is somewhat older than that of the commercial lesbian and gay scene but is still fairly young (17-61, but with the largest group in their 30s)[159]. While there is a growing body of research into the impact of ageing on LGBT people in general [160], there is hardly any research on bisexual ageing specifically [161], and a great need for more information and understanding about the needs of older bisexual people.

The footnotes are:

158 Ward, R., Jones, R., Hughes, J., Humberstone, N., & Pearson, R. (2008). Intersections of ageing and sexuality: Accounts from older people. In R. Ward & B. Bytheway (Eds.), Researching age and multiple discrimination, 8, 45–72. London: Centre for Policy on Ageing.

159 Jones, R. L. (2011). Imagining bisexual futures: Positive, non-normative later life. Journal of Bisexuality, 11 (2), 245-270.

160 Stonewall (2011). Lesbian, gay and bisexual people in later life. London: Stonewall.

161 Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., & Pryor, D. W. (2001). Bisexuals at midlife: Commitment,salience and identity. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 30 (2), 180–2

This summary leaves out lots of  interesting stuff  about identity politics and different generations of sexual minorities, and what it means to look back on a life course from later on. But, for now, I will put just that up in case it is useful to anyone looking for a succinct summary of some of the issues.

25th January 2012

Media tips for academics

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 22:54
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Today I went on some training for academics on dealing with the media. It was very good. The OU organised it but it was provided by inside edge media training. What follows are some of the key things I want to remember.

(cc) tim ellis

The training was called ‘Media training for experts’, which initially gave me pause – it feels over-claiming to describe myself as an expert although I suppose I am on a small number of topics. But thinking about myself as being positioned by journalists as ‘an expert’ was very helpful. As they said, if you’re being interviewed in your role as an academic, they’re not going to treat you as a politician, so they’re probably not going to push you as hard as they would David Cameron. And, as they didn’t say but I thought, being positioned as an expert who is also an academic will usually tend to position your statements as being more reliable and unbiased than other types of expert. Of course, that’s not necessarily true, but it’s an advantage.

But relatedly, you do want to come over as a real human being as well as an expert. So drawing on your personal experiences of whatever you’re talking about (if appropriate) can be a good way of doing this. I, and I suspect most academics, tend to depersonalise and generalise. But, just as in teaching, you often need to start with a concrete example and then move to the more theoretical point you want to make, so that your audience cares about what you are talking. One of the pieces of personalised feedback I had from the trainers from my mock interviews was that I needed to be clearer about why I wanted people to hear my message. I think saying to myself ‘I feel passionately about this because…’ might help with this.

I was amused to hear them talking about news values, which I’ve written about in K319, so that bit made a lot of sense to me. Hooray for teaching and other work synergy! I need to hang on to a sense of ‘now’ness, action, and things happening, especially when I’m trying to create news, rather than responding to an existing news story.

I need to identify in advance of any media work:

  • what my ‘top line’ is – the key message I want to get across
  • what the contrary argument is – journalists (generally) try to appear fair, so I may well need to argue my case. Or there may be a second guest arguing against me (although they should warn me in advance if that is the plan. But they might forget, so it’s worth checking).
  • what the contentious or difficult questions might be. Then try to think of strategies that would allow me to acknowledge the validity of the difficult stuff but then make a link back to the key message. So saying things like ‘yes, that’s true in a small number of cases but the vast majority…’ or ‘but I do want to make the wider point that…’
  • who does my message potentially put me into conflict with?
  • what are the key examples/case studies/anecdotes that will help me make my wider points.
  • what are the areas I cannot or will not talk about, and agree these with any other members of the team who might be doing media work
  • if it links to my personal experiences, whether and how much I am prepared to talk about those.
A particularly empowering piece of advice was that it’s probably better not to take up an unexpected opportunity to be interviewed than to do it unprepared. The trainers said that most journalists will re-order things if you say you’re not available for an hour, which gives you time to prepare yourself. And if they won’t, you’ve only lost that opportunity, not all future opportunities.

A chronological account of a piece of research might go ‘we got some funding to investigate A, so we did B and the results were C which has the implications D’. But to make it news friendly, you need to start with D.

Don’t get distracted by the mistakes journalists make that aren’t really important. In my mock interviews, the trainer described me as the sole author of a report rather than one of many and used some terminology that I wouldn’t. But correcting that would just have distracted from what I wanted to convey in my precious 3 minutes. It’s hard though, because I do care about my co-authors feeling elbowed out and about precise use of language. But I need to ignore those kinds of things in this context.

Use direct and everyday language, keeping it as concrete as possible. Try not to use jargon at all and don’t use complex language unless you explain it immediately afterwards – in the next clause, not even in the next sentence. It just distracts people. For example, while most people probably know roughly what ‘LGBT’ means, if you don’t immediately say what the letters stand for, people start trying to work it out, so stop listening to what you are saying. Also, don’t mention details that are irrelevant to your key message but important to you, like who your funders were or where an event is taking place. They’ll distract too.

Some very practical tips:

  • at the end, don’t hurry to take the headphones off or get out of the chair, even though you really want to. You might still be audible/visible/wired up.
  • don’t wear noisy clothes – things that rustle or jingle
  • feeling at ease is your responsibility – the interviewer is unlikely to have time to try to help you.  Try some breathing exercises or shoulder rolls.
  • journalists are often looking for someone to interview in the 6-7am slot. And if you do that, you may get to set the day’s news agenda.

I’m anticipating doing some media work when The Bisexuality Report is launched next month. I may not actually be asked to do any interviews, but I feel much better prepared than I did.

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