Sue Balcomb: Full Interview
Interviewed by Rebecca Brunk
10th February 2019
RB: This is Rebecca Brunk. I'm here with the West Yorkshire Queer Stories, and would you like to introduce yourself?
SB: Yeah, I'm Sue Balcomb. Pronouns she/her, um I identify as bisexual and I'm here as part of West Yorkshire Queer Stories to make sure there is some bi history in there.
RB: Wonderful. So... I guess, why don't we start… you said you wanted to speak a little bit about being bi in the '80s. Do you want to start maybe with, like, when did you realize that you were bi? And what was that experience like? [silence for a moment] Hefty question.
SB: Yeah, no, no, no [laughs]. No, I mean, that would be the, that... you know that is the place to start. That is the place to start. Because, you know, I know that the ‘80s doesn't seem very long ago really but it was so different then, you know, really different. I mean being queer of any kind was still really difficult, you know, like now you wouldn't, I mean obviously there are lots of, you know, still lots of prejudice and things but then it would, it was much more of a hidden state, your sexuality. So, I don't think that I'd met anybody who was bi… before I thought I was [laughs]. Like I didn't even know it was a thing. I didn't know it existed. So I knew... I didn't really even know any gay people either. I mean, I knew that was possible and I guess at school, you know, people might have whispered about some girls or something, you know, that they, that they were, where they would probably use ‘lezzy’ or, you know, like, quite pejorative terms.
But I hadn't really made it, you know, I hadn't met any friends or known anybody, really, and certainly didn't know that bisexuality was a possibility. So I don't think I'd really thought about it. I don't think I'd even particularly... fancied girls. I mean, I think I'd hung out with women a lot more and, I mean it was a feminist thing, you know, when I became and learned about feminism in the ‘80s, so I was in my early 20s, and that was certainly a revelation about suddenly realizing how... well, just understanding, sort of, gender politics in… and how women were oppressed by men and my eyes were really opened by that. It really was, you know, a revelation and that was actually through the Labour Party. I was involved in the Labour Party, and they used to have a women's group, meetings, and partly through that and other sort of feminist meetings was where I, kind of, had a chance to just hang out in women only spaces. I'd never done that before... um...
So I guess I probably began to meet one or two people who would identify as lesbian in those spaces as well. But actually it was more that I met… I worked with somebody in a job. We were Community Development Workers. And, you know, now I think this is amazing that I worked with her for a good six months, or something, before she came out to me, and actually... I mean now when I think about it, she used the word ‘bent’. She said, ‘I'm bent’, you know, you know, like if you never use that word now would you? And I can remember going, “Oh my God, I never really would have noticed”, and yet she was such an obvious dyke, you know, it's like, really, dear me! And then we had a relationship [laughs] so I was, so that was really when I think, you know, I was living with a man at the time…
RB: How old were you?
SB: Twenty... six. And um, yeah, and then had a relationship with, with her, then obviously told my boyfriend as well, and then… but, you know, as I say… even – even then I don't, you know, really didn't know anybody else who was bi or…, and I can't think how I then connected a bit with the bi community. I obviously found… so there is a Bi Community Conference that happens every year. And I think... I don’t know what year I first went?
RB: And is that in Leeds?
SB: No, it’s all over the country. Has been in Leeds, but though – I can't even remember where the first one I went to was... maybe Edinburgh or somewhere.
And I kind of got a feeling that I took my boyfriend with me. Dunno, but I can't, you know, I can't, I can't actually remember. You know, cause it was a journey for both of us I think, to even know that that was really a possibility and how that might work. So that was [chuckle] really how I… yeah, how I first knew and then...
RB: Do you remember what it felt like to, kind of, be in a relationship with a man and then realize that you had feelings for a woman? Like what was that kind of revelation? Do you remember what it felt like?
SB: Well, it's very nice [laughs]! Not being in a relationship with a man but discovering you could sleep with a woman… particularly – sexually, but also just emotionally. Yeah, it was just, yeah and... Do you know at the time you just sort of like, this is what's happening to you. Not really… I don't think I particularly analyzed it and I think I was a bit taken aback. Like, ‘oh my God, so does that actually mean that I might be lesbian then?’ And then thinking but I'm not but then I don't know anybody else… who feels like this and I don't even... I don't even know that the word bisexual, apart from perhaps… meant, maybe David Bowie had said something about being bisexual. But other than that, I think it wasn't, you know, I, I didn't know anybody to talk to or anybody. So I think then within... well, and certainly through then, through the ‘80s, I think mostly hang… Like I really still didn't know any bisexual women. It was, you know, I’d hang out in queer spaces but it was lesbians you'd hang out with in the, in the more, sort of, feminist, lesbian spaces. There used to be women's discos, monthly, in Leeds in the ‘80s.
But I think I often felt really like, that I couldn't really be out… there. I felt that, I mean certainly over the, I mean it's awful isn't it that you get biphobia from the queer community. But I certainly did much more than I did from the straight community. So a lot of criticism, a lot of... stuff around, you know, I can be very positive as well. But you know, I'll just tell you the negative bits [laughs] but it's, you know, stuff about using up lesbian energy, and sleeping with the enemy, and like just being, ‘haven't you made up your mind up, yet?’ All those sort of, you know normal bi slurs, really. And a lot, I think peoples’… women… lesbian women, sort of, were like, ‘really, are you still…like, how can you possibly be attracted to men in any way or want them, even want them as part of your life?’ Because I think it was a very, it was a more separatist feminist space then. So it made me hide, it made me not say... like I'd be in spaces but I would just, wouldn't say anything. And then I feel like that I shouldn't be there really, or a bit like an imposter ‘cos you couldn't... yeah, I found it really difficult to be out from having so many, you know, such a negative response... such consistent negative response, I think. That... um, I think, yeah I do.
So I probably didn't even go to that many queer spaces because I felt it wasn't my space, but then now and again, you know, I'd be like, ‘yes, but it is. It is.’ And because of course it didn't, it wasn't LGBT then; it was just lesbian and gay, so the ‘B’ wasn't there at all. And in fact, I then, an’ I’d forgotten about this bit, well not forgotten but… it's not actually a ‘B’ part of the story, but I seconded a motion at Labour Party Conference around lesbian and gay rights, and it… and that, and I didn't really think very much about it at the time. So I was involved in the Labour Party and I think they actually wanted a woman, they realized that they'd got male speakers and it's like, ‘Oh God! No! Yeah lesbians count as well. Yeah, maybe we should have to have a woman speak’, and so that's how... I didn't – I didn't know I was going to do it before I went to conference.
And I didn't really think much about it, you know, afterwards. It was in Spare Rib [laughs], but...
RB: Where is that? What is that?
SB: Spare Rib? It's a feminist – oh, iconic feminist magazine of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Yes, definitely worth looking up. You know, UK-based one. So there's a little article, picture in there. But then when I saw the film Pride, have you seen that? So at the end of Pride they talk about the Labour Party taking on lesbian and gay rights as being, like, the starter of all the equalities legislation and it's, like, I seconded that motion.
RB: That's so cool. So forgive me, what does it mean, really, to second a motion?
SB: [rustling of wood in the fire]
So yes, seconding a motion. So when you go to a political party conference the branch, well not the branch, the… constituency parties will often put forward a motion that they want the Labour Party to take on as policy, and then, will... you know, say a proposal. It's a proposal really, I guess, that they want, you know, that the Labour Party to, or any party, to take on. So somebody proposes the motion and then somebody seconds it, and when you second it you do a speech both proposing and seconding. You do a speech to say why that motion is, should be something that the Labour Party should do. But… I don't think I did a very good speech but I did do it, and then, as I say, when I saw Pride I was like, ‘Oh my word!’ Like I was part of history and I didn't even know really. But then that was funny because that was only lesbian and gay rights. You know, like, even then... so I knew I was bisexual then, but even then I couldn't put the word bisexual in there. That wasn't something that anybody was recognizing, and not recognizing… I think not… like, not even recognizing as a need to have bisexual rights in any way. And I think that was probably because... I mean it was, it is incredible how times have changed in, in those sort of 35 - 40 years. It is amazing the difference, and um... but I think people still feel that bisexual is a choice, so that…, and whereas, you know, you can't help being lesbian or gay but bisexual, surely you could just make your mind up and then, you know, and you could choose to be straight if you want so you could choose not, you could join the mainstream and not be... not have any discrimination or disadvantage. So maybe that's partly why, but I mean, it just wasn't a word at the time.
And then, I mean, it's a bit hazy, the order of these things. Because how would that have happened? So I went to Bi Conference, which, which was really interesting, anyway, that it existed.
RB: And is that what it's, like, officially called?
SB: Bi Con, I think. Just Bi Con. And um, so it's been going certainly since the beginning of the ‘80s because I think it was about ‘84, ‘85 that I went. Or 86, I don't know, some time. And it's still there, still goes on. So I went. It was in… Bradford actually, a few years ago. So I went when it was in Bradford.
But it wasn't quite my space… even, I mean it was, it was good to be there in a space with a few hundred other people who identify as bi and things, but, it wasn't that I was like, ‘Oh, I'm going to go every year. They're my people, kind of thing’.
RB: Why didn't it feel like your space?
SB: [Long Pause] I don't know really, I mean partly because I think some of it felt very sexualized and that's not really where I was at.
RB: I feel like that's something that bisexual women struggle with as well, quite a bit – overly sexualized kind of perspective.
SB: Yeah, and I think Bi Con is still like that when I look and, you know need to look at all the workshops. Like there's a lot of BDSM workshops and, I don't know polyamory, and... comics, people like comics. Bi people like comics [laughs]. But… I don't know, you know, it didn't feel… I guess is what, I'm being a sort of socialist left-winger anarchist it didn't, it wasn't that sort of space either. But yeah, I couldn't really, you know, I don't know. Those are the just sort of feelings around it. Really.
RB: So what was, kind of, your first experience combining that, kind of, social anarchist work with, like, bisexual rights? So we've talked about how you've seconded for the lesbian and gay rights but was that kind of the first work you realize that you were doing that was political and bisexual?
SB: Talking at conference?
RB: Yeah, and I mean, whatever, I guess that's the question. What was it?
SB: Well I probably didn't I don't know that. I don't know that I kind of... I don't know. That didn't seem particularly political really, it was just a thing, you know, I was very involved in the Labour Party, but most of that wasn't about queer politics at all. And, you know, and they used to be... For a while in Leeds there were meetings called Queer Unity, and that was good ‘cos that actually did, at least nominally, include bi people as well. It was, like, I guess the ‘80s were quite... a lot of it was quite separatist for women. So Queer Unity was about, like, linking up with gay men too, and then making, you know, challenging things I guess, in the... in the city, or making new space. But I couldn't tell you – I don't remember anything that I did, particularly, in that. But it was, I quite liked it, that it was called Queer Unity and I like that it existed. So I went to a few of those meetings. Whether I did any actions or anything from it, I don't know? I mean we used to have Pride, there was obviously the Pride March which is now enormous. So, that, you know, I can remember going to Pride Marches in London.
In fact, for my work, I'll send you it, a link to it… because I wrote a thing about, an article about being bi, as well. That's just quite recently. Which is called ‘Ain't No Lie, Baby I'm Bi, Bi, Bi’ [laughs], because nobody believes you are. Like, do y’know? Like it was still that whole thing about “oh, are you still bisexual, still think you’re bisexually…?”
RB: When I first came out to my boyfriend in high school, or in college, he was like ‘like, I get that being lesbian and gay are a thing, but I just don't understand how you can be bisexual’, and I was just like, ‘What? What does that even mean?’ [laughs]
SB: Well, exactly, and I think that's what, I think lots of people do still, they still, because there are very…, there are very few bisexual role models. Or, I mean, not even role models, but ‘out’ people who, who are bi, and that is partly from that, from that old prejudice as well. That, y’know, to be bi, a) you’ve got to be sexually active, b) bound to be sleeping with lots of people, you know, it's like polyamory. It can't, you can't be bi and be in a relationship with just one person and all of that kind of thing. So I guess it's more difficult for people to be out publicly and bi, because there’s going to be so much more curiosity about their lives.
RB: Well, we also erase a lot of bi figures. In Hollywood there are quite a few now, I think, who have come out and yet are still, like, labelled as gay or lesbian. Y’know, Channing Tatum is bi and everyone, I think, doesn't ever talk about it, so…
How has Pride changed since, ‘cos obviously now we incorporate the B and the T. So what was, kind of... did you notice… a change, or did it just, kind of like, fall into place? What was the… has Pride changed, the parade, how we do the celebration?
SB: Well now it's, I mean like, the Leeds one is really corporate […] Nah, I mean they had, what was it? There was a… rainbow chicken and I was like, what is that? And then somebody told me it was Nando's! It was like, really? Nando's really care about LGBT rights? I don't think they do, really. They can't even pay their workers properly, but... err. Yeah, so that's really a bit weird, I think. That so many people, like, it feels, like jumping on the bandwagon and the pink pound kind of, really like: ‘Oh, yeah, let's just put a rainbow flag on our thing and then, and then, we can all join in’. Like this year when I went to Pride… I don't know, I think there was, like, 200 groups or something like that, at least that many groups that are doing it.
So I went with the Leeds Bi Group, who, I don't really know them, but I didn't want to – I didn't want to march on my own. I wanted to be visible. I think that’s err… in the end, I think that's one of the most political things, is about trying to be a bit visibly bi and saying, ‘Yeah, [laughs]. I am still, I am still here and I am still bi’, you know, even though I might not be doing much in terms of, kind of, activism. So I wanted to march with the bi flag. And it was nice, and it was really nice to see people in the, that’s the first time ever, I think, in the crowd, people with bi flags and, like, cheering when we went past. I wouldn’t say I was moved to tears, it was just like, you know, at least a tear in my eyes like, ‘Oh my word!’, like, at last, really! That there was people out there also going, ‘Oh, thank you!’ really, for being visibly bi out there. Cos it’s still not a bi... you know, that's a tiny, tiny part of Pride and I still think there is a lot of that prejudice and… fear, out there, that you might steal their girlfriend or whatever [laughs].
Erm, what was I going to say? Oh, I was gonna tell you something about the bi women's weekends that we did because that was in the ‘80s too. I can't quite remember how that started but in... possibly connected to BiPhoria. Have you come across them in Manchester? So they were the act… the only active, really, bi group, I think, that… and I... maybe they put on a weekend? I can't remember who did the first one. What I've got is some publicity from the seventh one, and I can't remember if we did them all, that's bad now isn't it? I can't remember. Whether we did them all at the Women's Holiday Centre? So the women… have you come across the Women's Holiday Centre? I’ll give you a leaflet in a minute. Which has been going since the late ‘70s. So it's a women and children – it’s a big house in the countryside, and it's a women and children's, like, low-cost accommodation space. And it works on a sliding scale, so that no-one's priced out of having a holiday, or a break away. So it’s really nice. So the lowest price is, that it would never be, our, the philosophy, I wasn't involved right at the beginning, was, it would never be more than one night’s benefit so that even if you were then on, at that time it was Income Support, if you were on Income Support, you'd still be able to come, and stay. And that cost includes – so it was calculated, that’s how we still calculate it, the lowest band to be one night of standard benefit, like Jobseeker's Allowance, and it includes all your food as well. But you cooked, well you can cook on your own or you cook together. It's like a big house with, like, two, like, dormitory-type rooms – dormitory sounds a bit, shared rooms and then, and two double rooms as well. So you can be private too. An…, and, I don't, I can’t remember if all the weekends were… all the bi women's weekends were there, but certainly there was a few and that was great. And again, I don't… y’know, I don't know how that connection came, maybe Bi Con had been in Leeds that year or something? But anyway, I must have somehow… because it's pre-Internet you see, so... you know, really how did we actually manage that? So, yeah, you can't even imagine how you're connected up really. How do we do it? But… telephones! [laughs]
RB: So what was the Bi Woman's Weekend then? Was it just…?
SB: So, it was a whole weekend for bi women. Honestly, they were great at, at Horton. So, I mean, just imagine being in a whole space just with bi women. It was really nice, and uhm, just talking about, so like, it was like a mini Bi Con, but actually much more relevant to me, I guess. So we would run different workshops... mostly doing different workshops, actually. Maybe we… it's, it’s right out in a really nice part of the Dales. So maybe we went out for walks as well, can't remember [laughs]. But we certainly did workshops ‘cos I can remember one about describing your orgasms. And that was just such a great workshop, because even in the ‘80s, you know, I was born in the ‘50s, like… I'd never been in a group where women would even really have said they had orgasms, let alone describe how that felt physically in your head and the images, or whatever, to do with it. That was great!
And then we did talk about... I wasn't a parent then but, you know, there were workshops on being a bi parent or what you might tell to your children. And… dealing with biphobia and all the different levels of biphobia that people had. And then obviously the usual coming out stories and, and how much more I think he... how much more, that's quite true. But it feels like you're kind of coming out all the time when you're bi, that, because... [pause], one of the, because… like one of the things I think was that there was no… Whereas in the ‘80s there was more of a lesbian identity, obviously, for the more, sort of, separatist, kind of, butch dyke type of things but there was the symbols and, y’know, there were ways you could be wearing your double female symbol as your earring and then that would indicate that you were a lesbian. And it could indicate that you were bi but then you wouldn't want to be giving the wrong impression and so you, like, so I would never have worn them because I thought, ‘well, then that means I'm saying I'm a lesbian when I'm not, I'm bisexual’. But what's our...our, we don't have a code, and we haven't got Polari, y’know, like we're... what is it that – how do we, how do we... sig… We wanna be out and signal that we're queer but how do we, how do you actually do that? Because – and there still isn't really a recognizable… symbol, that has taken on, there is now the bi flag which is something. But even that, I think people don't know it's the bi flag.
RB: Yeah, that's true
SB: Quite often, an’they quite often think it's a trans flag. But… yeah, so there isn't really sort of a bi symbol, so that was – that was – I'll show you in a minute. That was one of the things we were trying to do. Could we create a bi symbol? Or, or, think about what badges we could... in fact we made some badges... as well. Not badges, they were stickers. Hmmm. So, don't know if I still got any of those.
RB: I would love one of them.
SB: [laughs] They were just, like yeah, they were just printed on erm, y’know, like address labels. Y’know, like old fashioned stuff. Because we didn't have computers then really, y’know, they were very few computers around.
RB: What, err… did you end up making a symbol?
SB: Well, we did have one which I'll show you, but I don't think we ever really then did anything with it. I mean we didn't, y’know, we had no funding and no, and I think we felt… like… still quite a minority, a small minority group really… so.
An’obviously we're, even without the bi women's weekend, you know, you'll have a whole set of different people. Some people who are not in any way political… had just come for support, and sharing, and being with other bi women, not... So any […], yeah, so I don't think we, I don't quite know why we didn't, but anyway, those weekends were really important… to me, and I made a lot of, you know, and I made new friends re… like a couple of friends from that time are still my friends now. In fact one of them I texted to say, ‘ooh look, I'm doing this bi thing, you know, like do you want to add anything in or do you want to be interviewed yourself?’ And she was like me, she was going, ‘Oh God. I can't remember anything’, [laughs] y’know.
Probably enjoyed ourselves too much and did our memories in [laughs]. Can't remember exactly what we did. But, she was, yeah, talking and she was remembering Bi Conference. And, in fact, she was living with her boyfriend. She came to Bi Conference once and then we went in London… erm, and she was living with her boyfriend. She moved out with her, from her boyfriend's house, to, to live with – she just texted me and reminded me… to live with two lesbians. But then she did eventually move back in, with him, but in a… collective, co-operative house, in Meanwood. And then since had two children with him and, and now – and still lives with him. Because they were definitely suited to each other. But um, but still, one of the few friends, I think, who would still say that she was bisexual. Y’know, but not having... only in a relationship now with her – in fact she's married him… her fella, her partner. Whereas some other people, I think… out of the women I know, don't even – won't use the label at all. So, more, I know probably more women in relationships with women who have had relationships with men, and often children with men, but won't use the label and… but if you push them on it, they would still say they were, were bisexual, probably. But they wouldn't actually say that they're just, y’know, I'm just living with a woman. It's… and I think that's partly to do with the – the stigma of being bi, that that's still, like, difficult to manage. So it's just easier just to go, ‘well, I just live with a woman’. You decide, you can make up your own, kind of, mind or thought about it.
An… so over the years I've kept, in terms of keeping in contact in any way with the bi community, as the, the – there's a newsletter called Bi Community News. Have you come across that?
RB: Yeah, I was given that… uhm.
SB: Which is kind of a funny item really, but, y’know, I'm really pleased it does exist. I mean, it doesn't really have much in it at all. And… but as, y’know, used to be… I've probably got some old ones of that actually… used to be a, y’know, just a printed newsheet. In fact, it probably had more… I dunno whether it had more stuff in it before. Now, it seems to be... it's certainly not news [laughter], erm, even though it's called Bi Community News. It's listings of groups that would – are bi, or bi friendly. So that's good for new people, I think. Erm… and then they do a sort of bi watch looking at bi people in, y’know, in TV and out there which is good, because as I say there is very little of it. So that's nice that somebody's looking out for that and, kind of, picking that out. And then occasional articles and... about different aspects. But… like, it only comes, it’s only every other two months now, but, I mean, I've had that delivered to my door in a little brown paper envelope, so discreet, for… 30 years, I guess.
RB: That's interesting that they should, they would deliver it, like, covered and so that you couldn't see. I mean it would make sense but I wouldn't have thought about that. It's really interesting.
SB: Yeah. Well, it's funny though, yeah, it's really [something?], y’think it’s still in a brown, you know, like a brown paper envelope, was like a code word for, like, secret things, you know. In the past it would be like, whatever, you know, if it was a, I don't know, blood money or something, that would come in a brown paper envelope. So it's quite… it does amuse me slightly that it does. But I guess you don't, you know, you don't want your, necessarily, want your post person to know that.
RB: Yeah, it makes total sense why it would.
SB: But it is, you know, it does feel, it does still feel, feel a bit kind of old fashioned, I guess, to come through like that. But I do quite like it when it comes to the door, and I think, ‘Ohh yeah that's good’. You know, and it's only a small subscription and they do quite a lot. They… there’s obviously quite a few bi academics. So I think... who, who keep bisexuality, sort of, visible a bit in academia. And so they all talk about academic studies and, and then there's been quite a few books – bi books of which I probably got most of them – with bi stories in them that, that were quite, you know, a source of, like, at least reading about different people and how they did their lives really. And then obviously the odd bi film that we’d all get really excited about going, ‘Oh my goodness. Look, this is actually a bi film!’ Of which there is not very many at all. Well, again, maybe there are now and I don't really know. Like… maybe I don't hear what they are. But there were very few.
RB: I don't find there to be too many. I mean, there's a lot more characters now in TV and in movies, who are bi. But I don't think there are any, like, bi movies – at least, there are very few.
SB: Yeah, well, like yeah, I mean, I don't know what I mean by bi movie really but just you know, like with that being a theme. A theme of it that isn't about betrayal and infidelity and ‘not making your mind up’ type of thing.
RB: What was it like to be a bi parent?
SB: [Pause] I actually think it was probably quite… lonely, on a sexual identity level. I was a single parent as well – that I chose to be. I knew that... I realized at some stage that I was really unlikely to meet someone who might actually... I suppose I was still thinking that... y’know, like, I don't know why I thought that really. Hold on. I was going to say, like – meet some… like, meet a guy that I would want to be with. But I don't know why I wouldn't have thought that I could just do that with a woman. Maybe I just thought I wouldn't meet anyone that I really, y’know, I thought bringing up a child would be – is such a commitment, that you'd have to want to be... you have to be sure that you wanted to bring your child up with another person. Erm… because I've got another, that's reminded me, I’ve got another story but um...
So, I… asked a friend to do me a favour [laughs]. So I knew that I was bring… gonna bring her up on my own. So that was quite, that was, you know, like it's been lovely and I, we, have a great relationship. So, it, I don't regret it one bit but I mean it was pretty tough really, because you do all the, all the jobs on your own, basically. You're doing a double parent and actually in the ‘80s single parents were really frowned upon still, so you were seen as, especially by the, when the Tories were in, you know, they were really anti-single parents and very negative about them. So already you had a lot of… discrimination, or stigma, against you for being a single parent. So being a bi single parent would be... I don’t, y’know again, I think I didn't say it very much. It would be very rare that I would… come out... and I didn't really meet any other bi parents. So there was, and there was a lesbian parenting, hmmm [pause] was it just lesbian? Pink Parents, anyway. I think they were gay as well, but I think there was mostly lesbian parents within that, and they did, y’know, they would meet up and do things, but again I felt like an imposter. Like I shouldn't be there because actually it was really about lesbian and gay parents, and they didn't really... I don't know to what extent you exclude yourself from some things but I certainly didn't feel it was, that I could join in wholeheartedly in Pink Parent stuff because I didn't think I was being invited… really.
Erm… so yeah, I think, y’know, the only time that I would talk about being a bi parent would be at Bi Con. You know, so I’d go to the bi parents’ workshops. And I took my daughter, you know, to Bi Con as well. So they were good on childcare and things, as well, and very… in general, accommodating to children so... but that would be really the only...
RB: Did you have to like, did you ever end up having the conversation about, like, sexual identity with your daughter or was it that you were bringing her to conferences and things from such a young age that she didn't really... she figured it out, I guess?
SB: [pause] I don't know whether she'd have figured it out at that stage, but then when she was… seven, I had a long-term relationship with a woman for six years who – in, in Bradford. So she, kind of from 7 till 13, you know, I was with Jane so she knew then. But I guess she would have seen, you know, I've got quite a few bi badges and… I mean, she might not have known what it was, particularly, but it wasn’t that I… I don't know what she thought when we went to Bi Conference. I mean, maybe, I would have... I think I would have told her. I would have told her something about it, but I don't know, when you're only 7, I don't know, or 8 or 9 or 10, whether, what, at that time. I think now if you're a 10 year old you'd be much more aware of… of, you know… different sexual orientation and things but I, you know, like a 10 year old, that, even that, even 20 years ago, I think was different.
So, I don't know, I’d have to... I'll ask her.
RB: Was there any conversations that you [overlap SB: Pardon?].
RB: I was gonna say, did she ever ask any questions about, like, being bi?
SB: No, I don't think so. Don't remember any, I don't remember any questions at all. But, but it will be interesting, I'll ask her, because whether she ever had to field any questions from friends of hers? And I never really thought about, y’know, like friends who would come here, even if they thought I was gay, if I was lesbian, you know. Did some of her childhood friends comment on that? Like, ‘cos when we did, I don't know, when she had birthday parties or something Jane would be part of those parties and I never really spoke to her particular… well, I didn't speak to her about any negative response that she might have about that or... So, I don’t know, maybe it was just that, yeah, she just...
RB: Well, I'm sure as a parent, as well, if it's just normalized she might have just err, gotten to a point, it's like Santa Claus, in a way, almost right? Like… you can't really remember when you stopped believing in Santa but, y’know like, that eventually it just made sense.
RB: Yeah, could be the same thing.
SB: I made her believe in Santa Claus for a long time [laughs] or pretend she did. I mean I guess we would have had, I don't know, I mean I, because I was a single parent she came everywhere with me. So she's, you know, had been on all those Pride marches and, once she'd been born, obviously! [laughter] Although she was an egg inside me before then, so she did come on those as well. Yeah, but, but I'll ask her. So yeah, I think bi parenting was pretty, you know [pause], yeah, lonely… or, or ... not quite lonely. P’haps that wasn’t… but, isolated, sort of, it, I didn't get to meet very many other bi parents at all.
SB: I think the other thing about being out is that you've got to say the word ‘sexual’ [laughs] and we used to have long debates about that. Well, what other words can we use? You know, like should we just say, if you just say ‘bi’... but even ‘bi’ never really… came on just as a... I don't know, it's still ‘bisexual’ and then you've got to... there's something about then, that ‘sexual’, that saying it's about... you mentioned sex in our identity. And, I mean even now, I find it hard to, y’know, I’ll be in queer - well, and straight and queer spaces... and I'm like, ‘ooh, I don't know if I ought to do this’, you know, like, what, ‘and what's that going to be like?’ But I ha… obviously I have, you know, at work and then I wrote this article which was for work. And in my... see, I wouldn't, all the time at work, but like, with the LGBT group I'd obviously was, was… letting them know that I shared an identity with them.
RB: In the ‘80s, ‘queer’ was still quite a derogatory term wasn't it?
SB: Yeah, I think that's why I quite liked... when Queer Unity formed…it was a real… reclaiming of the word, I think, so… And I liked it and I also like, I like the word ‘queer’ because –
RB: I love the word ‘queer’.
SB: Pardon? You do? [laughs] Because it covers it, because it covers such a lot, like you don't have to say, you don't have to say it all. You don't... I don… maybe because saying ‘bi’ is hard, or ‘bisexual’ is hard. It's nice to go, ‘Yeah, but I'm queer’, d’y’know like…
RB: Yeah, because I think with queer, you can avoid the discrimination. Because like you could be queer and you could be a lot of different things and nobody asks you, ‘oh, what kind of queer you are’. Or, at least they shouldn't [laughs]. So, yeah, I agree, I quite like queer.
SB: I mean, I think that's how I even, you know, like when Queer Unity was meeting, I was drawn to it because they'd call themselves Queer Unity as a group, and it was like, ‘yes, okay’. That feels like a, quite a… reclaiming of it but quite a political sort of thing as well, but...
RB: Yeah, definitely, I’d agree with that…
SB: So, maybe I should find you… a few… bits of paraphernalia.
SB: See whether… erm… and then I might have to look. I know where, I think I know where one or two things are. Oh…and the t-shirt. ‘Cos we made some t-shirts. So, you might wanna turn that off for a sec.