Meanwhile, from “across the pond” in the UK…
By Jen Yockney
On July 24th I had the unexpected honor of being the first person invited to represent the bi community at the annual LGBT Garden Party held by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
A few days earlier I had received an unexpected note: “The Prime Minister Requests The Pleasure Of Your Company.” Well, if he was putting it like that who was I to say no? So to London and to Downing Street. First you meet charming yet obviously armed police at the entrance to Downing Street who check your passport and check if your name is on their list. You pass through scanners and suddenly you’re past the security point and stepping onto one of the most filmed places in England, normally the preserve of senior ministers and visiting dignitaries. On the TV it looks like a grand sweeping arch of space but it’s a surprisingly small road: they must keep the TV cameras on wide-angle lenses to get the feeling of space.
In through the door of Number 10 (and as a politics geek from a young age, you cannot imagine how hard it is not to bounce off the walls with excitement) and Number 10 staff direct you along corridors lined with portraits of premiers past, down stairs and into the garden of the Prime Minister.
Cue endless canapes and staff making sure your glass stays topped-up; I was wise to go for the fruit juice as I might have had to be carried out if I’d drunk that much wine. There was about an hour of milling about, meeting and talking with around 100 other people from around the UK who do fantastic things in other parts of the LGBT community. As a bisexual genderqueer woman it was good to spot a couple of familiar bi faces and a couple of familiar trans faces; they were invited for non “bi activist” briefs though. There were many religious figures, all of Britain’s senior out-LGBT clergy: the theme of this year’s gathering being the UK government’s plans to legislate for same-sex marriage.
And then here’s Cameron. He speaks for about ten minutes off the cuff, praising the work of many in the crowd, and talks about “gay marriage” and how he thinks the churches are making a big mistake in opposing it. For US readers, imagine a Republican President condemning the church for not supporting same-sex marriage and saying his party had been wrong to be against LGBT equality in the past. He may not be word-perfect on his queer terminology, but this is a man elected seven years ago on an anti-gay rights ticket, so it is great to hear him having come so far in that time.
Then more drinks and mingling and—about 45 minutes after the official end time—the Downing Street staff usher us out. Of course being outside Number 10 means spending half an hour on the doorstep taking photos of one another.
This time there was just me; a great honor to be the first, but the UK has many brilliant and vibrant bi projects: BiUK, Bisexual Index, BiPhoria and more. I do hope next year there are three or four of us.
So that was my 39th birthday. I’m a little worried how to top it for my 40th next year!
Jen is the editor of the UK magazine, Bi Community News and has been a bi activist for a very long time.