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

10th April 2014

Quick wins for bisexual inclusion

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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.

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

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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.

11th October 2011

End of life care for LGBT people

I’ve been at a seminar on End of Life Care for LGBT people today, mostly focusing on older people, although with briefer mention of younger people who are also coming to the end of their lives.

I’m no specialist in end of life issues, although I know a bit because of knowing about later life, which is when end of life issues come up for most people. I went along partly out of guilt because one of the organisers had asked me for help with recruiting older bi people to attend and I had tried but (as far as I know) failed.

(cc 19melissa68)

We started by going round the table, saying what our particular interests were in later life and why we were there. At the beginning of that process someone said ‘same sex partners’ as if that was a common experience to all of us and I prepared to start banging the bi and trans drum of ‘same sex partners does not cover us all, all of the time’. But then someone said how important it was to include trans issues in our discussions and gave some examples of how and why. And then someone else said that they particularly wanted to include bi issues because they are bi. And then someone else mentioned bi stuff again, and someone else trans and, really, by the time it came round to me, I felt almost redundant. Which was very nice indeed, and very encouraging. We also had some good discussion of particular issues for LGBT people of colour and people who have been living with HIV for decades.

Someone other than me was talking about the importance of separating out data from bi people from data from lesbians and gay men, which was very encouraging in terms of the likely reception of BiUK (and friends)’s forthcoming The Bisexuality Report (watch this space) which is going to argue just that.

I was delighted to hear that Age of Diversity, which is the successor organisation to Polari, are going to launch their website next month (it’s still in construction at the moment, but you can find it by googling).

There was quite a lot of discussion of the issue of people using a different name than their official name and the difficulties and distress this creates when someone is not fully compos mentis, or when their friends ring the hospital to ask after them but don’t know their legal name. I don’t know whether using a name other than your legal one is particularly common in the LGB community (I know it is in the trans community). I can imagine that it might be, but to me it feels an entirely standard issue in later life because, I now realise, 3 out of my 4 grandparents/pseudo-grandparents went by a middle name, so it’s an old chestnut to me (but none the less important).

People also talked about the importance of debunking the notion and scrapping the phrase ‘next-of-kin’. It has no legal meaning when someone is alive, only once they are dead, and it’s one of the main routes by which LGBT people do not get to have their nearest and dearest involved in their care. Lots of (sadly familiar to me) stories of estranged family turning up and making decisions for someone they had not seen for twenty years, while their partner or close friend is shut out.

I loved a passing comment made by a hospice chaplain when introducing himself and his organisation ‘we’re lovely. In fact, like most hospice people, you could say we’re terminally nice’.

One of the outcomes of the meeting was that the organisers are going to collect together useful resources on this topic. I’ll post the link for that once I know it. But for now, a few resources that I managed to jot down:

  • REGARD (organisation for LGBT disabled people) and their campaign for ‘Sue’s Law’ (if you just search for ‘Regard and Sue’s Law you should find it)
  • Kathy Allmack published a lit review on End of Life Care for LGBT people about three years ago
  • NHS (don’t know which bit) has apparently just produced a guide on bereavement for (re?) trans people.
  • Report on palliative care for LGBT people: National Council for Palliative Care (2011) Open to all?, NCPC and Consortium of LGBT voluntary and community organisations, London ISBN 978-1-898915-89-8
  • Opening Doors Camden (part of Age UK) is launching a checklist for care homes and care providers on practical ways to be LGBT friendly. Out next week, should be available as a pdf on their website.

14th February 2011

20th Century Bi

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 00:22
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On Saturday I went to a seminar at Conway Hall in London as part of LGBT History Month. It was about the history of bisexuality in the 20th century (clue’s in the name).

(cc) LGBT History Month UK

What follows is, as ever, in no sense a representative account of what was said, just some of the things that interested me.

First off, Sue George talked about bisexuality before the 1960s, nicely overviewing the familiar terrain of androgyny, the impact of the Well of Loneliness, the bohemian freedoms for a few in the 20s and 30s and in the Second World War, followed by the social clamp down of the late 40s and 50s. One thing she said that I hadn’t thought about before was that the fashions of the 20s were actually remarkable androgynous, at least from the waist up. Did the fallout from the Well of Loneliness contribute to the more gender-marked fashions of the 1930s?

She also suggested that in the 1930s and beyond there was less discursive space for women to be bisexual (or ‘ambisextrous’ as one contemporary apparently, possibly jokingly, termed it), since a woman who had sex with women became seen as a lesbian.

I also liked a quote from Tallulah Bankhead:

“My father warned me about men and booze, but he never mentioned a word about women and cocaine.”

The next speaker was Christian Klesse on the connections between bisexuality and polyamory. This talk was, to my mind, the odd-one-out of the seminar, being both much more academic and less historical than the others, but it was still interesting. I was most interested in some of the things his interviewees had said about poly. One apparently said something along the lines of ‘poly is about love, non-monogamy is about sex’. I understand the rhetorical point they were presumably making, but I don’t think I use the terms like that – I think of non-monogamy as the umbrella term and poly as a particular type of non-monogamy, alongside practices like swinging and open relationships. (My own favourite definition is still a friend’s: ‘adultery by committee’.)

(cc) tworm

He also cited someone talking about the invention of the word ‘polyamory’ (in the early 1990s) and saying that although it mixes greek and latin, the alternative ‘polyphilia’ sounded like paedophilia (it just makes me imagine a fetish for decorator’s filler). Christian pointed out the way this suggests that, even from its inception, being poly was a defensive position, highly attuned to the wider context of sexual politics.

The next speaker was supposed to be Lindsay River but unfortunately she was ill, so Sue George stood in, speaking about bi in the 1970s, mainly autobiographically, which I always like.

She talked about the way that for her David Bowie connected bisexuality with creativity, androgyny and glam rock. She said that in the early and mid 70s polymorphous perversion was cool, but by the late 70s sexual politics had become much more polarised into lesbian, gay and straight. She said that when she first went to university in 1978 it was unremarkable and fine in her friendship circles to be bi, but that by the time she left in 1981 it was pretty much impossible to have a girlfriend without being a lesbian. That reminded me of my own experiences of sexual politics at university in the late 80s and early 90s.

The final speaker was Ian Watters who gave what I’m sure he won’t mind me describing as a bitchy, partial and highly amusing account of the history of bi involvement in London Pride. He also had photographs, which I’d have loved to have been able to see better, for the fun of people-spotting.

Then there was a general discussion session, where some of the familiar topics were hashed out again. Do people need organised bi communities anymore, if sexuality has become so fluid and variable and permissive, and you can meet people and get information on the internet? Is it only middle-aged dinosaurs and politicos (I count myself as both) who still do identity politics?

Sue George said that she had noticed a change from people saying ‘I have (or want to have) poly relationships’ to making an identity statement ‘I am poly (even if currently single)’. So poly becoming something that pertains to the person rather than to a particular relationship.

Then the seminar finished and most people went to a pub with a fabulous Victorian interior (the Princess Louise) which made me feel like a character in a Sarah Waters novel.

Many thanks to Lisa Colledge and Sue George for organising the seminar.

12th January 2011

Old year and new year themes

2010 was the year when I kept thinking about what it was like to imagine yourself growing older.

At the beginning of the year I organised a seminar in the CABS/CPA methodology series on ‘Imagining Futures’. This looked at the methodological, theoretical and ethical implications of asking people to imagine later life and ageing. Later in the year I did some research at BiCon 2010 when I asked bi-identified people to imagine their own ageing and later life (article coming out in the Journal of Bisexuality later this year. Also a chapter that I haven’t written yet for a friend’s book). For K319, I wrote a section of a unit about imagining growing old and just before Christmas I wrote an accompanying chapter for the K319 Reader.

It feels as if this focus came from me being extremely strategic and pragmatic about getting the most bang for my limited-working-hours buck. I thought ‘I need a new piece of research that I can do without getting major funding. What I’d really like to do is talk to older people who have some relationship to the identity ‘bisexual’. But I’d need funding to recruit them because I don’t know many older bi people, and I’d probably want to do interviews and that means lots of money to get them transcribed. But I do know lots of young and middle-aged bi people and I could ask them how they imagine their own old age. Why don’t I do focus groups at BiCon?’  From that, the CABS and K319 work felt like opportunistic piggy-backing on that idea.

But the other day I noticed this picture which I always have up on my office wall:

It’s by Simon Mooney and is called ‘Mah Jong Singers’ and I think it belongs to the Bradford Industrial Museum.

I was sent it in about 1994 and I immediately saw it as a reassuing vision of my own later life. I imagine they are singing in three-part harmony and I liked the idea that I could still go on singing properly, even in the likely absence of  men to sing tenor and bass, given women’s relative longevity. I like the female sociality it seems to suggest, including their friend sitting in the corner looking interested, even though she isn’t singing. I imagine that when they have had enough singing they are going to sit down to a nice cup of tea and some cake, and laugh and gossip. I like the laundry hanging about their heads, integrating the essential domesticities of life with more frivolous pleasures. I love the roomscape which, I am quite sure, is the back room of a northern English terrace, window to back yard and kitchen off to the left, hall and front room off to right.

I like the way that academic themes and foci develop without me entirely planning them. I like the way that some of them turn out to have long roots that I had forgotten.

I’ve a feeling that the focus for 2011 might be life courses, which was there as a secondary and intertwined theme in 2010, but feels as if I still have a lot of work to do. But it might not be. Maybe 2011 will be the year I start thinking academically about singing in later life!  (The hard thinking about domesticity is already being done for me by Rachel Scicluna’s fascinating work about older lesbians and kitchens).

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