1. What are the guidelines?
The event now known as BiCon began in 1984 as volunteer-run community gathering(s) by and for bisexual people and is considered by many to be the highlight of the bisexual year. (We are aware that not every bisexual person in the UK chooses, or is able, to attend BiCon. With this in mind please note when the word 'community' is used in the following guidelines it refers to the community of BiCon attendees, unless otherwise specified.) A history of events can be found here.
The Guidelines to support organising BiCons were originally written by members of the community and adopted unanimously at the decision making plenary of BiCon 16 in 1998. These guidelines set out what BiCon should be and what BiCon organisers are expected to do to make continuity of the event easier. Since 1999 the guidelines have undergone several changes to respond to community needs and developing perspectives over time.
As well as this the charity BiCon Continuity was formed to safeguard community money and legal obligations in 2011.
2. Mechanisms for guideline review
The BiCon Guidelines and wider community processes should be reviewed as a whole a minimum of once every two years including wider community consultation and participation. Acceptance should be voted on at the DMP. If passed by simple majority, it will then become the current version to be worked from.
Individual proposed changes to the guidelines can still be brought forward to the DMP. In this case, where any change passes by less than a 75% majority, it should be returned to the next year's BiCon plenary for a second vote. On that second vote it needs a further simple majority to be successful.
Notes on Decision making
Decisions about who should run future BiCons and how BiCon surpluses will be made by BiCon Continuity in line with their legal obligations, charitable objectives and strongly guided by decisions of BiCon decision making plenaries.
BiCon Continuity may make independent decisions where no plenary decision exists but will generally only contradict plenaries when required to do so by law, regulations, or to protect BiCon's assets and reputation.
All BiCon Decision Making Plenaries and BiCon Continuity official decision making meetings, should be minuted and the results reported on bicon.org.uk or its equivalents.
3. BiCon Guidelines
Statement of intent: what BiCon is and what it is for?
BiCon is a weekend-long gathering for bi+ people, their friends, partners, and others with a supportive interest in bisexuality.
"Bisexuality is not just for white folks"
– Bis of Colour 2010-2021
Neither is it just for well, able, neurotypical, middle class, educated, childless, UK native citizen, cis folks of a particular age.
BiCon should be open to all bisexuals, their friends and allies, and anyone with a positive interest in bisexuality. BiCon organising should be open to folks of all backgrounds. Whilst not every UK bisexual person chooses to or is able to attend, the aim remains to support the wider UK bi+ community and not only current BiCon attendees. BiCon should have an unashamedly progressive stance in facilitating access for all bisexual people and their allies. This means to actively engage so that, as far as possible, anyone in the wider bi+ community who wants to attend BiCon is able to. If someone is unable to attend because BiCon that year cannot meet their accessibility needs then accommodations should be made at future BiCons so that they can attend, or in the unlikely event that this isn’t possible, a very clear reason should be published as to why not.
BiCon is at heart a community organisation. Everyone has responsibility for awareness of who is (and is not) at BiCon. Accessibility should not be automatically delegated just to organisers (or worse, a single representative on the organising team) or to people tokenised as representative of a particular group. Organisers should be encouraged to seek opinions and recommendations from people and organisations representing relevant groups both that they are part of and those that they are not, to avoid tokenism and over-burdening individuals.
BiCon must actively work to avoid accidentally reproducing the harmful marginalisations and power dynamics that are so common in most of our wider society.
What BiCon is and what it should contain:
1. BiCon is the UK national bisexual conference or convention (folks got bored of arguing about which a long time ago) and should ideally happen annually, generally between June and October. BiCon should be at least a two day event, including a Saturday.
2. BiCon is run by volunteers approved by and in consultation with BiCon Continuity, and should ideally be run by a different set of bi+ people (which may include previous organisers) and in a different place, from year to year.
3. A coherent system for sharing information and support between years should exist. If this is beyond the remit of BiCon Continuity, we recommend the formation of a BiCon Organising Support Space (BOSS) to coordinate a place for collecting community resources and anonymised feedback plans and policy documents to preserve the efforts of past teams and allow a mentoring space for new organisers. This said, work from previous years shouldn’t be used or replicated uncritically. For data protection reasons it is only appropriate for BiCon Continuity to hold necessary personal data, no personal or identifiable individual data should be in BOSS.
4. BiCon can be run virtually but an in-person event is usually preferable if circumstances allow.
5. Participants at BiCon events must agree to abide by the Code of Conduct which includes anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and confidentiality. People who repeatedly or seriously breach this code – for example by harassing others or any other unacceptable behaviour – should be required to leave and may be banned from future BiCons. BiCon should have a clearly communicated system in place to deal with incidents at the event and to allow people to report harassment, discrimination and other incidents anonymously, plus a system for passing a conduct report to the next year's team (via BiCon Continuity for safeguarding). Each year’s team should start with the current template, and publish a proposed code of conduct at least 3 months in advance and hold community discussion(s) to make sure it is current to the year/time and prevent labour being lost between teams and ensure the community agree with any changes.
6. Groups running BiCon may be of any structure, but should be explicit about how they are organised. (For instance previous BiCons have been run by collectives, by a core group with helpers, and by dictatorships with helpers.)
7. Information for participants should be sent out in advance. This should include a clear mechanism where participants are invited to give access requests. Information should always be presented as clearly and accessibly as possible, and resources on best practice and discussion to support this should occur in BOSS.
For virtual BiCons Information will include joining information for sessions, including technical knowledge where relevant.
For in-person BiCons, this will also include local information, information about how to get to BiCon, and registration desk times. BiCon literature published before the event (including the website) should give a clear description of the accessibility of the site being used and details of adaptations facilities available. Any deadlines for any part of the process should be made clear. Ideally extra space should be provided for last minute items (sessions, socials, or agenda points.)
8. BiCon should contain at least one Decision Making Plenary (DMP, the exact name of this meeting is still to be determined we will use DMP for the time being) at which decisions about future BiCons can be made. Other sessions should not be scheduled against it.
9. Those wishing to run a BiCon must present a plan for how they intend to serve the wider UK bisexual community, and facilitate access for all of our community including clear strategies for (at a minimum):
- Age and young people – teams should set out clearly their intentions for how child tickets, crèche aims, and under 16 and 16-18 year old attendees will be able to access the event, or any limitations to this.
- Anti-racist action. (As of 2021, this included anti-racism community education groups, mandatory anti-racism training for white attendees and paying for the labour of consultant racialised minorities. This is a starting point and needs to continue to be developed. Teams should use this existing labour and review it by/with racialised people if they wish to update). There should be a specific report process and group to oversee racism complaints at the event itself, and to take things forward.
- Consent and anti-harassment. (At present all attendees must agree to abide by an up-to-date code of conduct in order to attend, organisers must consider the appropriateness of party/session themes and safer spaces for community subgroups must be offered.)
- Disability access (this includes access for people using wheeled mobility assistance (manual + electric wheelchairs, scooters), people who walk (with or without aids) but with poor mobility, deaf people, blind people, those with neurodiversities, chronic illnesses (both those defined as "mental illness" and "physical illness") and other disabilities. As of 2021, this included Live Captioning, auto captioning, multiple modal forms of information sharing, BSL interpretation/translation where possible. BiCon 2021 is being held online and therefore access considerations will differ somewhat from other years.
- Social Class factors – class factors including biases against working class people and working class cultures still exist and affect people’s ability to attend BiCon these are also often mixed with biases against poverty, disablism and racialised biases.
- Partnering with other organisations – organisers should be clear about any partnerships they plan to enter into – and make sure it’s not against other guideline sections, notably the sections "Partnerships with external organisations" and "Conflicts of interest".
- Financial accessibility (Outline how payments are structured. If free/access tickets are reserved for members of a specific groups it should be made very clear why – i.e that this is in recognition of the additional social and financial barriers that can be faced by those groups and not "all X are poor". But "X are less likely to have advantages and opportunities to be financially well off and we want then to be able to attend."
- Any other circumstances or considerations (For example parenting, carers, etc. See sections below.)
- Physical access (In particular at in-person events, your plans to make this easier and any considerations specific to your venue – previous years templates can be used as starting point. Quiet space, chill out space, non-alcohol space should all be considered. Also to consider is where BiCon attendees have exclusive access or not and any routes or maps of the areas, numbers of accessible bedrooms.)
- Digital access (Especially, but not solely, during online BiCons. Which platforms, what pros and cons each has, and what you will do to assist, again, previous years templates as a starting point.)
- Community engagement and transparency (how you will engage with the community, where, when and taking into account the 'real names' guideline etc previously voted on.)
- Obtaining feedback and reviewing the year’s event(s) – each year’s organisers should have a clear, direct method for feedback that they personally oversee, and provide an upload (anonymised) to the organiser's document area for the event feedback itself and the equalities statistics. The community should be able to review these.
- Support at the event – how will problems/breaches of the code of conduct be dealt with at the event. Organisers should make every effort not to accidentally reproduce oppressive dynamics of wider society (e.g. they should not minimise or ignore reports of harassment and they should always seek to respond promptly to access support requests.)
10. BiCon should contain at least one programme stream of workshops/sessions, where smaller groups of people can participate. Workshops should largely be run by volunteers from the bi community, and BiCon should never be taken over by professional speakers, facilitators, or external organisations – although they are welcome to run a session. Individual bi+ professionals may be paid for their labour if they are delivering a specific piece of work for the community e.g. specialised training. BiCon values its autonomy and therefore we would not support entering a financial partnership with an external organisation that then has control over content. However, we acknowledge that many volunteers dedicate a lot of unpaid labour to enable BiCon to run, and also that certain marginalised groups are typically more likely to have their labour undervalued and be expected to donate their time, energy and expertise for free. We do not wish to replicate this dynamic from wider society.
11. At each event there should be an alcohol free quiet "chill out" space available at all times.
12. At each event there should be at least one party or social. Ideally there should be social events throughout BiCon.
13. At each event there should be a voluntary support/listening team, and a separate independent welfare team to support reporting issues and breaches of the code of conduct so there are multiple avenues to support issues being raised and dealt with.
14. It should be possible for people from the bisexual community to sell their own bisexual related materials (zines, t-shirts, badges etc). This will be the sole responsibility of the sellers. BiCon will hold no responsibility for people's materials or finances. BiCon will not sell items on others behalf.
BiCon should produce detailed accounts within three months of the final venue bill being paid. These should be sent to BiCon Continuity to be published and be made readily available to interested parties. They should also be put into the Dropbox/community organising space.
Usually, organisers will budget to break even after the event. If BiCon makes a surplus after the venue and other suppliers have been paid, this should be passed on to BiCon Continuity to be made available to future BiCon organisers. If the surplus reaches a higher total than is needed to fund the next two BiCons, BiCon Continuity may allocate funds to bi+ activities in the UK in line with their charitable objectives and recommendations from BiCon meetings.
There should be ample opportunity for attendees to give their views of BiCon, both during and after the event. There should be an easily accessible feedback form for the benefit of attendees and future BiCon organisers. Feedback results should be shared with future BiCon teams via BiCon Continuity along with a short report or handover session on that years BiCon and this should also be put into the dropbox/organisers/community space (in a form appropriate for confidentiality).
4. Specific general policies arising from community consultation/previous iterations of the guidelines (arranged alphabetically)
Alcohol free spaces
Daytime workshops and sessions should be alcohol free unless signposted otherwise. There should be provision for alcohol-free social spaces during the day and evening. Where alcohol is permitted in social spaces this should be clearly indicated in the programme. BiCon attendees are accountable for themselves at all times and required to comply with the Code of Conduct whatever their choices regarding drinking alcohol or any other substance use.
Carers and Personal Assistants (PAs)
Many people who attend BiCon are disabled and need support to be able to attend. This support may be given by friend(s), partner(s), paid professionals, e.g. a PA (Personal Assistant), or a mix of these. In these guidelines we use carer to apply to anyone providing support for a disabled person to access BiCon. Many people come to BiCon both as attendees for themselves and as a carer for their friend, partner or family member.
There should be complementary tickets available for those who attend as a professional carer. Financial support such as complimentary tickets should be available to informal (unpaid) carers on a case by case basis, for example they should be provided in cases where the disabled person would be financially disadvantaged, i.e. if the disabled person has to buy tickets for their unpaid carer(s) as well as their own ticket. Needing carer support should not be a barrier to anyone coming to BiCon. Complementary carer tickets holders must still sign up to the code of conduct/fulfil any other attendance criteria (e.g. anti-racism training/engagement).
If a carer is no longer able to support the disabled attendee for any reason (including illness or the extreme case of being asked to leave because they have breached the code of conduct), the BiCon team will do their best to find alternative support options to enable the disabled person to continue to attend.
Carers in specified group only sessions
Attendees/session leaders should assume that if a carer is accompanying a disabled person in a session that the disabled person needs their assistance during the session and not question them on their care needs.
If a carer is accompanying a disabled person to support them to access a restricted session, to which the person who needs support meets the session criteria but the carer does not, the carer may be present only to provide support. The carer may not participate for themselves but will be there to provide support. That support might include things such as assisting with care, communication needs, translation, mobility and medical needs, being on hand to help, but will not include speaking on someone's behalf in this space.
If a carer is needed but the members of the specified space are uncomfortable with the disabled person’s usual carer because the carer has breached the code of conduct, e.g. the carer has perpetrated microaggressions against members of the specified group, the BiCon team will do their best to find alternative support solutions to allow the disabled person to access the specified space.
Conflict of interests
We understand that approaches that may facilitate access for some can sometimes present a barrier for others and we strive for a more/and approach (#both/both/bothisgoodmeme). If there is direct conflict we feel a dynamic (and regularly reviewed) harm minimisation approach should be used. e.g. it is more important for racialised minorities to feel safe at BiCon than for individuals who may be bisexual and also in the Police or Military to be able to use our events for recruitment (e.g. to LGBT police groups). We acknowledge that there are bisexuals from racialised minorities and working class (and racialised working class people) and those of other marginalised subgroups in these professions. Individuals in these sub groups are able to attend BiCon, but organisers at this time must not engage in a larger, more systemic way with the police/military etc. No recruitment stalls or sponsorships.
Many BiCon attendees have physical, sensory and cognitive and neurobiological differences and are disabled by society.
BiCon must prioritise and set out an approach for disability access. Information sent out in advance should include attendee consultation and information on accessibility, event schedules, and Listening Team contact details.
Organisers should prioritise finding, multi roomed, wheelchair accessible venues with audio loop provision as much as possible, and should always consider other access needs as well (e.g. background noise for neurodiverse attendees as a start).
BiCon literature should also be made available in alternative formats, e.g. a different language on request.
In planning the programme, organisers should be aware adequate breaks between sessions are essential for access for some people.
Where funds are not adequate to fully cover all adjustments requested by attendees, such as live captioning or BSL interpretation, BiCon should make it a priority to cover the decision making sessions and disability safe spaces.
A fund is available for additional costs of attending BiCon that may be incurred by disabled people (e.g. carer's costs) and this should be publicised appropriately.
Faith / Religion / Belief
BiCon should be accessible to and positively support people of all religions and faith systems, and people who have none. Everyone, whether organising or not, should be aware that religious identity is often closely tied to cultural identity and that anti-religious expression can be problematic within any space that wishes to be diverse. At the same time organisers should also recognise that many people who attend BiCon have had difficult personal experiences of religions.
Organisers should provide as much detailed information about how attendees can manage food and eating as possible. This should include details of the kitchen facilities and equipment available, if any, where food can be purchased and information about what kind of food this is. Where possible, the food requirements of people with differing dietary needs should be considered.
BiCon should be an accessible and inclusive place for people of all genders and none, and acknowledge the way women, trans (including non-binary), gender diverse, and intersex people are marginalised. Organisers should be aware of the impact of sexism, misogyny (including transmisogyny), interphobia, and transphobia and actively work against them. Self-identification should be accepted. Sessions with gender restrictions should be open to all people self-identifying as the gender(s) that the session is open to, and non-binary people should be allowed to join those workshops that feel appropriate to them.
Where some facilities, e.g. toilets, are restricted on the basis of gender, efforts will be made to provide non-gender specific facilities. Non-gender specific facilities will be made the default but not the only option available, where possible. Whatever is available should be clearly advertised. Signage is often changed at BiCon to ungendered alternatives e.g. Toilet with Urinals & stalls, Toilet with stalls & sanitary bins.
Parents of children
BiCon should aim to be accessible to parents of children. Where there is not sufficient demand for, or it is not possible to provide, formal child care facilities BiCon should consider what alternatives it may be able to provide instead e.g. giving a parent a reduced cost BiCon, or putting parents in touch with each other to share childcare responsibilities.
Breast or chest feeding of infants is welcome and acceptable in any BiCon space.
Partnerships with external organisations
Organisers should take into account the principles outlined in the statement of intent when working in partnership with external bodies. This includes, but is not limited to, inviting external bodies to run talks, stands and stalls at BiCon or to advertise in BiCon literature. Organisations that share the principles outlined in the statement of intent should generally be welcome to run stands and stalls, subject to practical and spatial constraints. Organisers should not allow partnerships of any sort with bodies that oppose or work against these principles. In cases in which this is a matter of interpretation, organisers should consult widely before making decisions.
No financial or working partnerships should be entered into with arms companies, police, or armed forces. For the avoidance of doubt, people employed by such bodies are welcome to attend BiCon in a personal capacity.
Protecting confidentiality of vulnerable and marginalised groups
When communicating with attendees, organisers should not use any social media platform with a 'real names' policy for anything more than read-only announcements (2019). We recognise that different parts of the community find different online platforms tricky and technological barriers exist, community groups on multiple platforms exist and organisers should keep aware of discussion on them and signpost and offer support to access official discussion spaces.
How race is thought about in society is a real issue with real consequences we decided to use "racialised people" to described folks who are othered on the basis of perceived "race" (for more info see Black British Academics' 'Racial Categorisation and Terminology') as we felt this most accurately reflected our position.
There is huge diversity of experience between people who are racialised in different ways and that racial prejudice can be, and, far more often than we would like, is, perpetuated by people from other racialised groups. We all need to be careful of our assumptions and actions. No one can be the voice of all racialised minorities and we don’t pretend to be. We welcome input from anyone of marginalised experience, especially those who feel we’ve missed their view. We feel this needs to be an ongoing conversation as we as a community learn and grow.
"Specified group only" and safer sessions and spaces
BiCon should facilitate, if requested, the provision of session and social spaces which are only open to a group of specific lived experience e.g. people who are bisexual, racialised minority(ies), trans, disabled, survivors etc. BiCon may also offer sessions restricted to specified gender(s). In accepting sessions with restrictions on who may attend, care should be taken to avoid further marginalising already marginalised groups. Where restrictions exist, these should be very clearly advertised.
All outdoor space at BiCon, with the exception of designated smokers' areas, will be non-smoking – this includes electronic cigarettes or similar devices. Smoking areas should be advertised clearly. BiCon teams should make efforts to ensure that smoking areas exist and are accessible to those who wish to use them.
As adopted at the BiCon 2021 Decision-Making Plenary.