Biphoria is coming to Hamilton

Catherine McCormack may be brand new to Hamilton, but that is not stopping her from jumping feet-first into community organizing. The resident of just three months has already started the planning of a local iteration of Biphoria, a performance space and variety show that centres amateur musicians, spoken word poets, artists and other creative types who are bisexual, pansexual, queer, or otherwise identifying as attracted to multiple genders. Hamilton’s Biphoria show is planned for September 22nd, the weekend of the International Day Against Biphobia, and McCormack has already found an enthusiastic and energized group of collaborators to help pull it off. I spoke with McCormack about resiliency and pride in the face of bi-erasure and biphobia, her organizing experience, first impressions of Hamilton, and what to expect from Biphoria.  
 

 

Bent Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Catherine McCormack: I moved to Hamilton 3 months ago and I love it so far!­ I’m a social worker who has been employed in the mental health and addiction field for several years; I’m also a singer who has dabbled in art and theatre. I identify as a bisexual, queer, and polyamorous cis woman, as well as a person living with clinical depression and anxiety. I embrace radical honesty, I once won a pie eating contest, and I really, really love cats.

 

Catharine McCormack

BQ: What makes putting bisexuality front-and-centre in this project so important?

CM: In my experience as an organizer, activist, social worker, and community member, I have seen very few services, spaces, and events which center bisexual+ folk and their stories. Even those ones which claim to welcome all members of the LGBTQ2SI+ community tend to be dominated by L/G folk at all levels. So we are all but invisible in straight AND LGBTQ2SI+ spaces, and many of us shy away from queer events.
Most of us have heard the stereotypes about bisexuals that are still going strong- that we’re ‘greedy’, ‘indecisive’, ‘experimenting’ and that we have ‘straight privilege’. It is assumed that we’re really gay or lesbian and that identifying as bisexual is just ‘a phase’ or transitional identity. We’re labelled ‘promiscuous’ ‘cheaters’ and cannot be trusted to be monogamous (if that is our relationship style of choice). Bisexual men are accused of spreading HIV and other diseases to straight people. In addition, some accuse us of being transphobic because of the term “bisexual” and the meaning they read into that. Meanwhile, most bisexual+ people I know are among the most positive and affirming trans allies I have ever met (the ones that not trans/ non binary themselves!) I have heard these stereotypes come out of the mouths of L/G as frequently as straight people, if not more often. Meanwhile, bisexuals face incredibly high rates of sexual assault, poverty, mental health issues, domestic violence, addiction/substance misuse etc. The following is a great resource on the subject: http://lgbtqpn.ca/wp-content/uploads/woocommerce_uploads/2014/08/Bi%20Health.pdf.

One goal of Biphoria is to educate allies on the struggles we are facing and encourage discussion about bi erasure, inclusion, and support in our workplaces, schools, social groups and so on. To an even greater extent however, I want this to be a space for bisexual+ people to make connections, form friendships, and build community. If one person feels less isolated and more hopeful by the end of the night then I will consider it a successful show.

BQ: This is not the first Biphoria event you have organized, can you tell me a little bit about your previous Biphoria event? What is new or different this time around?

CM: I organized and co-hosted a Biphoria performance night in Toronto. It had a very intimate grassroots feel, which was exactly what I aimed for. It featured singers, a rock band, poets, a visual artist, and other amazingly talented folks. There was also an open mic/ community response portion at the end where people were encouraged to respond to what they had seen and engage in critical discussion about bisexuality, biphobia, and related topics. Great conversations were had and many friendships were formed after that night. It was really heartwarming to see.

Some participants of previous BIPHORIA show in Toronto

What is different? Well first of all, I have assembled an AMAZING planning and promotion team full of folks who are incredibly talented, skilled, and passionate about the message of Biphoria. In Toronto, the ‘team’ was composed of myself and one friend; needless to say it was very stressful period of time. I was also one of the MCs; I will definitely be passing that baton this year.

This time around I am also open to submissions from supportive allies, although I plan to prioritize bisexual+ performers should there be limited time. We also plan to do extensive outreach to marginalized and underrepresented folks such as people of colour, trans and non binary folk, Indigenous/Two Spirit folks, people of size, and youth. One valid criticism provided last time was the lack of diversity among performers. I attribute this partially to relying on advertising through Facebook and by word of mouth. As a person who is extremely privileged along race, class, and gender lines, myself and my community are NOT representative of all bi people in this city. This time we will be using multiple recruitment methods and hopefully will put together a cast that represents the incredible diversity among and intersectional identities of bisexual+ people.

BQ:  How have you been finding organizing in Hamilton?

CM: So far I have encountered a fairly small but extremely enthusiastic selection of people committed to strengthening queer and trans community in this city. I have met a number of folks who live and breathe this work and it is incredible to witness. My sense is that there are a number of queer folk who want to get involved and have plenty of passion and skill to offer, but just don’t know how to do so. Hopefully, Bent Q will assist with getting the word out about these opportunities. I also recognize that I am privileged to have the time, energy, and other resources necessary to do organizing work, so I am trying to give back where I can.

BQ: You are currently doing a call-out for performers, what sort of performance do you want to showcase at Biphoria?

CM: If you can perform or present it (or are willing to have someone do so on your behalf) we want to feature it. We’re looking for singers, bands, actors, comedians, dancers, visual artists, poets, rappers, spoken word artists, magicians, story tellers and more.

We especially welcome contributions from marginalized and underrepresented groups such as people of colour, Indigenous/Two Spirit people, (dis)abled folks, trans and non binary persons, fat people/ people of size and youth. No experience is necessary and in fact we welcome those who are first time performers or who have not performed for some time. This is the space for you if you struggle with mental health issues: we aim to make it accessible to fellow awkward, shy, geeky, nerdy, anxious, depressed, strange, and mad folks. We are not looking for professional performers- although I guarantee you are more talented than you think. Our goal is to provide an opportunity for  bisexual+ people to take up space and tell stories not only of pain, suffering, and oppression, but resiliency, pride, and celebration.

BQ: is there anything else our readers should know?

CM: For the purpose of this event a bisexual person is defined as an individual who is physically and/or sexually attracted to multiple genders. We also welcome contributions from folks who also identify as pansexual, omnisexual, queer, fluid, polysexual, multisexual, and others. There is no wrong way to be bisexual or express bisexuality- if it feels right to you then this event is for you! If not, we welcome you to support the event as an audience member. Look forward to seeing you on September 22nd!

 

Biphoria is now accepting submissions for participants. Check out the submission call below!

 

Want to participate in Hamilton’s first ever BIPHORIA performance event?

BIPHORIA is seeking submissions from writers, poets, spoken word artists, musicians, dancers, visual artists, theatre artists, comedians, magicians, and all other creative folks who identify as bisexual** and/or whose works relate to bisexuality. Supportive allies are welcome to submit although bisexual folks will be given preference. We especially welcome contributions from marginalized and underrepresented groups such as people of colour, Indigenous people, (dis)abled folks, trans and non binary persons, and youth. No experience is necessary.

In your submission, please include: your name/act name, description, any examples of your work (audio files, recordings, photos, text etc) and why the message of BIPHORIA is important to you. Submissions which are not yet complete are also welcome- just tell us about your vision!

Please email biphoriahamilton@gmail.com with any questions/ submissions.

Submission Deadline: July 31, 2017.

Take a risk. Tell your story. We’re listening.

**For the purpose of this event a bisexual person is defined as an individual who is physically and/or sexually attracted to multiple genders. We also welcome folks who identify as pansexual, omnisexual, queer, fluid, polysexual, multisexual, asexual, demisexual, and others.**)

James Dee

James Dee is an editor at Bent Q Media, a queer community organizer and sexual health educator in Hamilton, Ontario.

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