Great to see somebody finally setting the record straight on bioluminescence and the 50/50 horse-myth. Come on people, it’s 2021!
That’s great. Prior to 2011 men who’d ever had sex with men, as well as women who’d had sex with such a man within the last 6 months, were banned from donating blood. That rule clearly spun out of the AIDS hysteria of the 1980s and generally entrenched homophobia. It probably did little to protect the recipients of blood, and certainly did a lot to increase the stigma experienced by non-straight men.
The 2011 change permitted donation by men who’d previously had sex with men… so long as they hadn’t done so within the last year. Which opened the doors to donation by a lot of men: e.g. bisexual men who’d been in relationships exclusively with women, gay men who’d been celibate for a period, etc. It still wasn’t great, but it was a step in the right direction.
So when I saw that the rules were changing to better target only risky behaviours, rather than behaviours that are so broad-brush as to target identities, I was initially delighted. Evidence-based medicine, you say? For the win.
But… it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The new rules prohibit blood donation regardless of gender by people who’ve had sex with more than one person in the last three months.
So if for example if there’s a V-shaped relationship consisting of three men, who only have sex within their thruple… two of them are now allowed to give blood but the third isn’t? (This isn’t a contrived example. I know such a thruple.)
Stranger still: if you swap Brandon in the diagram above for a woman then you get a polycule that’s a lot like mine, but the woman in the middle used to be allowed to give blood… and now can’t! My partner Ruth is in exactly the position: her situation hasn’t changed, but because she’s been in a long-term relationship with exactly two people she’s now not allowed to give blood. Wot?
On the whole, this rule change is an improvement. We’re getting closer to a perfect answer. But it’s amusing to see where the policy misses again and excludes donors who would otherwise be perfectly viable.
For the first episode of the Human Tapestry, I talked to Dan, a bisexual man who lives in Oxford, England, with his partner and her husband in what he describes as a “polyamorous V-shaped thingy”. Listen as we talk about relationships, identities, the “bi-cycle”, and various forms of vegetarianism.
Fellow Automattician Mike has just launched his new podcast, exploring the diversity of human experience of relationships, sexuality, attraction, identity, gender, and all that jazz. Earlier this year, I volunteered myself as an interviewee, but I had no idea that I’d feature in the opening episode! If hearing people in your ears is something you like to do, and you’re interested in my journey so-far of polyamory and bisexuality, have a listen. And if you’re not: it might still be worth bookmarking the show for a listen later on – it could be an interesting ride.
Possibly SFW, depending on your work. Specific warnings:
- Some swearing, including use of a homophobic slur (while describing the experience of being a victim of homophobia)
- Frank discussion of my relationship history (although with greater anonymity than appears elsewhere on this blog)
- Annoying squeaky chair sounds in the background (I’ve replaced that chair, now)
- Skimming-over-the-details of specific events, resulting in an incomplete picture (with apologies to anybody misrepresented as a result)
Caveats aside, I think it came out moderately well; Mike’s an experienced interviewer with a good focus on potentially interesting details. He’s also looking for more guests, if you’d like to join him. He says it best, perhaps, with his very broad description of what the show’s about:
If you have a gender, have attractions (or non-attractions) to certain humans (or all humans), or have certain practices (or non-practices) in the bedroom (or elsewhere), we’d love to talk to you!
Go listen over there or right here.
Worcester’s closer than I remembered, and – once Claire‘d gotten used to the Vauxhall Astra we’d rented – we made good time there and back. It’s a really simple journey, really – you just drive along the A44 until you get there, and then you stop (well, okay, there’s a brief stretch on the A470 near Rhayader, but that doesn’t really count, does it?). The biggest difficulty we had was on the University of Worcester campus itself, which is a maze of twisty little passageways, all alike.
The usual student halls affair, although with rooms far larger and kitchens far better-equipped than those in, say, Penbryn. Also, the organisers must have run out of regular rooms, because the flat Claire and I were in had en-suite rooms, which was an unexpected luxury.
An interesting quirk in the halls of residence at Worcester is that they’re very, very keen on motion-sensor-activated lighting with very short timers. The lights in the hallway outside my room would come on for barely seconds, and when I first checked in, I’d only just worked out which was my door and dug my key out of my pocket before I was plunged into darkness and had to leap around to get the attention of the sensor and get the lights back on. The one in the kitchen was even worse – while playing board games on the first night, we eventually grabbed an anglepoise lamp from one of the study bedrooms to use, as it was simply too frustrating to begin your turn right as the lights turn off, and have to wait for a few seconds until your movement is enough to turn them back on again.
On the other extreme, the light (and the – noisy – linked extractor fan) in my bathroom was so sensitive that it would turn on if I so little as walked outside the door to my bathroom, while it was closed, and often wouldn’t turn off for several hours.
Registration was the usual fun and games, with less time than usual setting up our badges in accordance with the “sticker code” (sort of a handkerchief code, but with a key and an atmosphere of being a little more playful). As usual the sticker code started small (and, unusually, with a distinct and separate “official” code) and expanded over the course of the weekend, such that by the end of the conference it looked like this:
I didn’t spend very long on my badge and stickers this year: just enough to get a core message across… plus a not-on-the-key “Q scrabble tile”, as a reference both to being a board gamer and to Claire and I’s unusual surname. There’s probably at least half a dozen others I could have legitimately added to my pass.
To save you squinting at the pictures (or clicking on them to see bigger ones: that’s allowed, too), I’ll decode my badge for you: polyamorous, likes hugs, possibly available (as in: I’m theoretically open to new relationships, but seriously – where would I find the time?), and the aforementioned “Q scrabble tile” and another “Q” that I found in the sticker stash.
Claire volunteered for a shift of reception desk duties, which is cool, because they’re always in need of more folks there.
Other People’s Workshops
I didn’t go to as many workshops as I have in previous years: many of the things I was interested in clashed with one another, and other slots were simply full of topics that didn’t catch my attention. Also, I’ve found that going to a workshop in “every other” timeslot is a perfectly good way to get by, and spending the alternating periods hanging out, meeting people, and playing board games is a great way to keep energy levels up in the otherwise quite draining busy-ness of BiCon.
- Right at the start of the conference, I narrowly missed going to Genital Show & Tell, which I later heard was awesome – I’d gotten carried away talking to people and got there after they’d locked the door, putting a sign up on it that read “This workshop is closed. Sorry.” and underneath which somebody had added “Yes, it is possible to have too many genitals in one place!”
- I enjoyed Fun & Games, at which Ele joined me and we shouted lots of rude words, although never in as articulate a fashion as Nomad.
- Went to the Smutty Bisexual Storytelling workshop for the first time this year, and it was amazing: huge thanks to the amazing Jacqui (is that spelled right?) for that fabulous (hot!) session.
- Loved the talk and the discussion at the Quaker Marriage workshop (much thanks to the facilitator, whose low-key online presence suggests might prefer to remain unidentified), and the fabulous religion/marriage/sexuality conversation I had afterward with another participant in that workshop.
- Hung out at two of the three scheduled Naked Lunches, at which I enjoyed bonding with several other (naked) geeks over a shared love of Interactive Fiction. Who’d have thought?
This year was the first year that I ran a workshop (last year’s impromptu purity test party doesn’t count), and, because I like a challenge, I ran two:
- Alongside “fire_kitten“, I got bullied into (well, okay, I sorta promised) running a workshop entitled Different Approaches To Polyamory. As the only official poly-workshop on the programme (that’s why I offered!), it was somewhat over-subscribed, and we actually ended up with almost a quarter of the conference attendees present, and for part of the workshop we had to split them between two rooms. A lot of people grabbed me later during the conference and thanked me for the workshop, which was pleasing, especially as I did very, very little: mostly I gave the participants some conversation topics and split them up into groups, and chaired a bit of a chat about it all at the beginning and at the end. But if it worked, it worked, and it sounds like it worked.
- When I’d first heard that there was a minor shortage of workshops, I felt compelled to provide one, but I couldn’t think of anything that I knew enough about to stand up and talk about, that people might actually be interested in hearing about. And then I thought of something. I did my other workshop on Listening Skills for Supporting Others, and it also went really well. It was a little under-subscribed, probably because it was timetabled against the time that many people will have been preparing their BiCon Ball costumes (hell, if I’d have been doing so at that time, it’d have made things a lot faster and easier for me!). However, it got some fantastic feedback, even from folks who seemed skeptical at the beginning that any good could be done by listening and supporting feelings, rather than by providing practical help.
The theme of the BiCon Ball was Crime and Punishment, and so there were – predictably – plenty of burglars with swag-bags, police officers, superheroes and villains, and the like. The standard of body-painting was even better than normal (a number of people opted to wear virtually nothing, instead being painted as, for example, Wonderwoman, who didn’t wear much to begin with).
Just to be that little bit different – and to take a metaphor to it’s illogical extreme in our characteristic manner – Claire and I decided to actually dress as a crime itself. She dressed as a salt shaker and I dressed as a Duracell D-Cell, and together we were… a salt and battery. Get it? Everybody else we spoke to that evening did, too, eventually, although many of them needed some prompting.
And There’s More…
Other highlights and notable moments include:
- The “settling in” period seemed a little worse than usual this year than last year. Somehow it took me a little while longer than normal to “get into the BiCon groove” and to start appreciating BiCon for the heap of awesome that it really is. It’s always challenging jumping into that environment, and that’s to be expected, but something made it a little slower this year. Perhaps the lack of a beer in my hand!
- Thoroughly enjoyed the last-minute late-night picnic party we helped kick-off after the BiCon Ball. Some of the coolest people at BiCon found their way to the quad not far from the students union, carrying their leftover food supplies, and we broke bread and exchanged hugs and chatted and it was fabulous. After all that and one thing and another, I finally got to bed at almost 4am, knackered but happy.
- Discovered some cool new board games that might be finding their way to a Geek Night near you (assuming you live in Aberystwyth) soon, including Frank’s Zoo, Snatch, and Type Trumps (Top Trumps, but with typefaces; yes really).
- Feeling like I’d helped make BiCon a success by volunteering to do a variety of bits and pieces (like the workshops, above) and generally being useful. It feels great to contribute back to the event and the community.
- Katie managing to accidentally break a pool cue between her breasts. I didn’t even know that such a thing was possible (apparently, it’s left quite a bruise, and I’m not surprised).
- Catching up (albeit only in passing) with Henri and Pascale, with whom we shared accommodation at our very first BiCon.
- Spending an hour and a bit chatting to somebody who seemed to coincidentally know their way intimately around pretty much every interest I’ve thrown myself at over the last twelve months. But better. The killer was when it turned out that she spoke Esperanto better than me (if it’s any consolation, she made up for knowing everything by being gorgeous).
- Watching another somebody dancing. Honestly, I could have watched him all night.
- Everyone seemed to like the campus, which is cool (presumably they didn’t have rooms with extractor fans that whirred until three in the morning, which is quite irritating if you happen to have gone to bed before then, which happens sometimes).
- Didn’t see as much of my flatmates as usual, which is a pity, because it included some fabulous people.
- Having common sense. Knowing what to say yes to, and what to say no to, and why both are okay.
- Not too bad a “coming down” post-BiCon period, this time.
Right; that’ll have to do for a BiCon 2009 Roundup, because Ruth‘s cooking me dinner so I need to go eat.
It’s been hard to find time to post a blog entry here, with everything that’s been going on. Here’s the quick rundown so far:
Thursday. Arrived. Checked in. Accommodation is a lot like Penbryn, for those who know what I mean, although with bigger (but more sterile-feeling) bedrooms. Caught up with loads of folks from last year. Drinks at the bar. Board game (Apples To Apples) with friends. Fab.
Friday. Quick trip to Sainsbury’s (we were looking for Asda but got lost) for food supplies. Bacon sandwiches for breakfast. Opening plenary. Bigging Up The B In LGBT (which turned out to be about how trade unions can better represent their bisexual members). Being Bisexual In The Workplace. Then clothes off for the Naked Lunch. Chilled out for a bit. Solving Conflict In Poly Families (met some people with fascinating poly-backrounds). Dinner of pasta. Self-Harm: How We Cope With Stress (some fascinating perspectives expressed there). Missed out on Naked Twister. Drinks on the grass. Ran a Purity Test Party. Fell into bed at about 2am, but some folks were partying all night (none of this “bed at dawn” nonsense: ACTUALLY partying all night).
Saturday morning. Flapjack for breakfast. Juggling workshop (fun ball-tossing fun and perving at hot poi-people). Non-Traditional Families (lots of interesting child-raising ideas). And now I’m making a packed lunch to take to today’s Naked Lunch, then time for a few more workshops before driving up North to Penny and Gareth’s party, picking up passengers on the way.
All in all, having a fab time. Wish you all were here.