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Video of a speech on “Bi erasure”

Seven minutes of me talking mostly about bi erasure, with subtitles and timings, plus some back-story in the blog post.

On Sunday 17 May 2015, it was IDAHoBiT – “International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia”. I was one of about half a dozen people who spoke at a gathering in Nottingham. I took “bi erasure” as my main theme.

Hannah took a video of my bit on her phone, and here is the result :-)

Content note for video: respectful, sad allusion to suicide and bullying approx 4’45″-5’25″. Plus predictable miscellaneous examples of dubious things said to bi people.

Technical note: the sound cuts out on a few words. It isn’t the video, it was the PA system on the day. More on this in the back-story, below.

timings themes
0’03″ Acknowledging diversity, by way of intro/context.
0’33″ Overview.
0’45″ Three reasons why bi erasure matters.
2’06″ Three ways that bi erasure happens.
2’22″ Layer 1 of bi erasure – the whole idea.
3’02″ Layer 2 of bi erasure – individual people.
3’57″ Layer 3 of bi erasure – the put-downs.
4’29″ Anti-bi prejudice plus anti-same-sex prejudice.
4’44″ Quote, related to bullying & suicide.
5’29″ Ways to make things better!
6’50″ Thanks / credits.

More below on the event, and on how this video came to be made, for anyone who’s interested.

Background to the event

It was Richard Townsley who had the idea and enthusiasm for some IDAHoBiT stuff in Nottingham and Notts this year. People put rainbow flags up at County Hall and some fire stations and police stations, and there was a gathering at Speakers’ Corner in town on the actual day, preceded by a “streaming” – sort of like multiple little marches.

For the gathering, Richard wanted to ensure that each of the L, the G, the B and the T had at least some representation. He asked Hannah of BiTopia if any bi people she knew might want to do a speech. Hannah thought of me, and asked me if I fancied it.

In some ways, it wasn’t looking entirely like my kind of event. The general flavour seemed on the institutional/respectable side of things. I thought it was likely that the wider representativeness (e.g. class, race, disability) wouldn’t be to my satisfaction, unless I poured more energy into the event than I was willing to allocate to it. (And wow, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the navigation of suchlike “contribution line-drawing”, which I won’t get into here.) Plus I’ve been moving away from the language of “biphobia” in recent years, and language is important to me.

Nevertheless, I did have a spark of enthusiasm for speaking at it. Almost the minute Hannah mentioned the possibility, I thought: ooh, maybe I could do a spiel on bi erasure, similar to my article on Kenji Yoshino’s 3-layer bi erasure framework thing. And it would reach some of the local L/G/T activists who might not have thought about the subject in those terms, while being an affirming thing for the bi contingent to hear. So in the end I said yes.

I spent quite a lot of time in the preceding weeks pondering what ought to go in my bit, and in the last few days, wrote several drafts and practised them.

On the day, there were a few little technical hitches with the PA system. It was a radio mic with the battery beginning to go flat, and unfortunately there weren’t any ordinary ones with cables on site to substitute in – only another radio mic also eating up batteries at a ludicrous rate :-) But overall, there was a nice vibe, and the various speakers said a lot of different, worthwhile things about the world we live in. Hannah and I reckoned afterwards there had been maybe around 150 people there.

Origins of the video

I hadn’t actually planned to video it. I was meaning to record the audio so I could listen back to it myself later, but in my haste on the day, I set that up wrong and it didn’t come out. But luckily Hannah had asked me if she could do a video with her phone, and that did come out.

Before I watched the vid, I wasn’t sure whether I’d want to share it. I thought I might not like how I’d done it, and I might just want to never look at it again and forget it happened :-)

On the other hand, someone on the day had said something like “you explained it very well”. And I know that people who maybe wouldn’t read an article might watch this. So then I thought, well if I can stand the sense of exposure & weirdness, it would be a good activisty thing to put it online.

Technical challenges

The first thing I needed to do with the video was rotate it. Hannah had instinctively held her phone “portrait” way up, as one might with a photo, whereas the playback on my computer was automatically presenting it as “landscape”, with a sideways me. The first attempt at rotation came out as only the middle bit with my hands and body, so then I had to find out how the video prog could reframe it to have my head in the picture! (I ended up using kdenlive.)

Once I’d figured it out, I did a bit more playing with the framing capability, though I didn’t attempt to get rid of all the little movements from the phone moving about – that would’ve taken ages.

I’d never done subtitles before. As a writer, I found it pleasingly absorbing to think about where to split phrases for the best reading experience. It occurred to me it’s a bit like arranging the lines in poetry.

I edited out a few short bits where I had to repeat a phrase because the mic was playing up (though I left in one bit where that seemed to fit – you’ll see), or where I got in a slight muddle with the words. And there’s one place in the middle where we swopped to a different mic, and I cut that out too. So this is actually a few percent shorter than the real-time event. If you do notice a little jump of the picture, you didn’t miss anything important in the chopped bit.

Aside from the places where the mic dropped such a chunk that I repeated a phrase, there are several little gaps in the audio which I couldn’t do anything about in editing – where it cut out for just a word or half a word. Hannah’s phone did actually pick up what I’m saying just by my unamplified voice, very quietly. If you’ve got good hearing & you’re in a quiet environment, you might be able to hear the “missing” words that way. Or, if you can watch and read, then the subtitles help to compensate for the gaps.

… and how it ended up

By the time I’d got half-way through adding the subtitles, I’d lost most of my self-consciousness about it being me on the screen, and was thinking “oh, this has come out OK actually – at any rate good enough to share, even though it’s so wobbly and there’s these missing scraps of audio”.

It is comically wobbly in places – especially when I ask Hannah if we’ve got BiCon flyers, and she starts delving in her bag for them! haha.

Also, you might wonder what that bloke with the pink fluffy necklace is doing next to me. He is holding onto the podium so that it doesn’t blow over! and did throughout all the speakers that day! You can see it was really windy from the flags flapping around, and the way my hair is all whooshed back.

Watching it again now, I’m reminded that at the end of all the speeches, I zoomed round with a stack of BiCon flyers, offering one to everyone in the audience. Everyone took a flyer – not one person turned it down. So I feel pleased with how the “invitation to know and share about us” part was responded to by the listeners.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it – all feedback and ideas for improvements welcome :-)

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