A member of the bisexual activist group writes on how they set up and why it’s important for bi people to build their own voice in an increasingly corporate and hostile climate.
London Bi Pandas are a collective of bi+ activists, supporters and allies. As a community group we are trying to create spaces for bi+ folks to feel like they belong. Both bi-phobia and bi-erasure has often meant that bi+ people are often excluded from both “straight” and “gay” spaces. And as activists, we want to connect with each other on more than just our sexuality, but our values and actions. We go to protests together, we march, we host vigils, we host events.
The name came from a joke that’s been floating around the bisexual community for a long time, that despite being labelled as “greedy” or “promiscuous”, bisexual people are in fact not very good at flirting!
Social theories around this talk about how most bisexual people are socialised to find only one gender attractive, which means that their romantic and sexual history is often with that one gender (i.e. as “straight” or “gay”). And when bisexual people want to flirt with or engage with any other gender or agender people that they have not had the same level of experience with, they lack confidence, they are more shy, they are fearful of that romantic pursuit. And so similarly to pandas, bisexual people simply do not have sex with anyone! It’s now become a verb, “to panda”, often meaning that we are hesitating, holding ourselves back when it comes to romantic pursuits.
In addition to all of that, there are also continual other constraints on how queer people socialise. We are forever fearful of being labelled predatory, or worse being harmed and abused for our sexuality. In a landscape of rising homophobia, the risk of getting it wrong and hitting on someone that you’re not sure is queer who might turn out to assault you is quite prevalent.
The group actually started from a small community of friends and peers who decided that we needed to have a Bi+ float at this year’s London Pride event. We had some amazing people in the team who helped make it happen all the way from managing the application, to driving the float, to fundraising, to organising events, to managing spreadsheets, to social media, to building our community, to engaging with activism, to managing the social media channels on the day and even more!
The float was a radical, political act that showed that you could celebrate, party, dance — but that you can also take action while doing so. The theme of the pride float was #PrideIsAProtest. We spent days making placards with all of our beliefs and values. We strapped some very shocking signs like “Guillotine the bankers” and “ACAB” to our float. We had signs in queer solidarity like “No TERFS on our turf”.
We wore badges that said “No Pride in War” to protest arms firm BAE’s participation in London Pride, and their sponsorship of Surrey pride. We wanted to protest everything that we believed was wrong. We wanted to be provocative and we wanted something for everyone in the crowd to connect with.
For so many bi+ pandas, Pride has always been a challenging experience. The commodification of our sexuality, the rainbow capitalism, the focus on party over protest while we are still being harmed by the status quo, the heavy and inappropriate brand sponsorships, the involvement of the government, the police, arms dealers in the march — it meant that pride was no longer a place so many of us are connected with. We wanted to take Pride back.
The response to our float was beautiful and full of emotionally-charged connection. The cheering when people saw us, when they danced with us, when they read our signs, was phenomenal. There was an energy there that changed us all. Every fist that raised itself back with ours, and every person that leaned over to high five us, or hug us — they were why were there.
We had a huge influx of members after Pride, and still to this day we have people recognising our t-shirt, or patch, or badge and coming up to us to tell us that they loved the float so much. Our little humble community now has over 600 members on Facebook.
We regularly participate in activism, but we also try to create spaces for Bi+ folks that are more community-based including a Book Club, Panda Dungeons and Dragons, Open Mic nights, Drag Bingo nights, Queer Life Drawing, Workshops and a regular and informal social meet up!
From a rebellious Pride float we have grown so much. Today we’re so many things for bi+ people — we’re a collective, we’re a community, we’re a movement.
You can join us on Facebook.
This article was written for the Winter 2019/20 issue of Freedom Journal.