by Louise Carolin, co-facilitator of ODL's Bi the Way group

Earlier this month Opening Doors London staff, members and volunteers were thrilled to take part in the UK’s biggest ever Bi Pride event. Well over a thousand bi people, together with friends, families, partners and allies, came together to celebrate in a fabulous, festive and inclusive atmosphere. There was music, comedy, magic, panel discussions and a busy, buzzy information fairOutside, the sun shone brilliantly and colourful banners streamed, signalling the proud presence of people of colour and trans, queer and non-binary folk, among the crowds of bisexuals of every persuasion 

Monday 23 September is International Bi Visibility Day. It also marks the sixth birthday of ODL's Bi The Way group, which will be gently celebrating with a stroll around the corner to peruse the shelves of Gay’s The Word bookshop, followed by a cup of tea and a chat about our favourite bi reads. 

Founded by former ODL member Nickie to give bi people some visibility within ODL, the Bi the Way group meets monthly and while focused primarily on the needs and concerns of bi/pan people who are over 50, we welcome our allies of all ages and orientations to join us for relaxed conversation, occasional heated debate and a range of invited speakers and activities. In the last two years we have enjoyed seated yoga, group singing, gender neutral ballroom dancing and bi-focused talks on gender identity, coming out, hate crime, ageing and media representation. 

Already marginalised, bi people often become even less visible in our public and private lives as we age. In long-term relationships, we vanish, assumed by all to be straight or gay. Wrongly associated with youthful confusion, bi identity can feel hard to embrace for older people coming out, as if we should by now “know our own minds”. The implied emphasis on sexual exploration can feel inappropriate, because older people’s sexuality is routinely denied or stigmatised. 

“The Bi The Way group is an excellent resource for older bi people to not be so isolated and invisible,” says Sam, who values the recognition shown by Opening Doors London in hosting BTW. “Often the B in LGBT+ gets utterly ignored and side-lined, so the fact that ODL supports a bi group for over-50s demonstrates an awareness of the isolation some of us feel.” 

Too often so-called “LGBT+” spaces are actually dominated by monosexual (lesbian/gay) people, with the expectation that everyone there is just like them. While bi people may be able to blend into such environments, it can be an isolating, anxiety-provoking experience to feel that you are presumed to be something you’re not, always aware that revealing your true self could result in the withdrawal or withholding of precious friendship and support. 

Bi The Way is rare space that centres the needs and experiences of bi people over 50. “For me it’s a chance to hear others in the hope it resonates, gives me perspective and connections with others who really understand my experience,” says Mark, noting that much of the London bi scene attracts a younger, louder crowd, and can feel “inaccessible to a quiet, reserved types like myself”. 

Group co-facilitator Lisa joined ODL as a volunteer in 2018 and has this to say about her experience: I really enjoy volunteering to support bi events for ODL.It's not only a great way for me to take an active role in my community but it also gives me the opportunity to meet with bi people from different generations and to share our experiences. I really enjoy learning from people who have been involved with the bi community for a long time, as well as supporting older people who are exploring their sexuality for the first time. And, most importantly, it's a lot of fun!

Bi The Way meets on the fourth Monday of each month (except Bank Holidays) between 6-8pm at Tavis House, 1-6 Tavistock Square, London WC1N 9NA. 

For details, see our monthly listings