Pride and Community: A Q&A with the Organizer of the London Bisexuals Meetup Group

By Mary Garcia, Meetup Content Manager

When a friend asked John G. to lead the London Bisexuals Meetup group, John stepped up to preserve the space he found so valuable. Now, more than a decade later, it’s one of the largest LGBTQ+ groups on Meetup, with more than 8,000 members. In this interview, John explains some of the lessons he’s learned about building an inclusive and supportive community.

Tell us about the London Bisexuals Meetup group. What kinds of events do you host?

John G: I’m the organizer of the London Bisexuals Meetup Group (LBMG). I’ve pondered about adding pansexual or other related identities into the name over the years, but bisexual is still by far the most common label. All are welcome—anyone under the multi-gender-attracted spectrum (romantically or sexually)—whatever their gender. Some of our members are still figuring it out, sometimes these people describe themselves as bi-curious or questioning. Partners and allies are also welcome, so long as they’re respectful during our group meetings.

We’re strictly a socializing group. By that I mean we have a no-dating-events rule to keep it a safer space for everyone and avoid the extra risks and worries some members have about dating events. We’re also starting to edge back out to in-person meets like picnics outside.

What made you decide to organize a group on Meetup?

John G: It’s interesting how I became the organizer of this group. I wasn’t one of the group’s founders. Instead, I was a regular attendee. In September—which happens to be Bi Visibility Month—of 2007 I joined the group. A little more than a year later, the club’s founder reached out to me to see if I could lead the group after he moved away. I knew that if I didn’t take the group on, it’d dissolve. The space was so important to me, I knew I’d have to do what it took to keep the community going, even though my experience leading or managing people was limited. Nearly 13 years later, the group is still hosting monthly social gatherings and so much more! We support other local bi groups. We also organize a group presence at LGBT-oriented events like local Pride celebrations, queer comedy nights, cabarets, themed museum open evenings, and plays, as well as occasional night-clubbing, dinners, picnics, walks, and other social activities.

What suggestions do you have for making a group more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community?

John G:

  • Run a variety of events. For example, you might host a lot of events that involve alcohol.  There are higher rates of alcohol abuse within LGBTQ+ communities, and I’ve noticed that many queer people avoid it as a result. Try adding some other types of events to make sure you don’t leave anyone out!
  • Use inclusive language. Group members often follow the leader’s patterns; lead as an ally. Make it normal for people to accept who others are. Ask people for their pronouns. Share yours. Use gender-neutral terms like “folks,” “people,” “they/them,” etc.
  • Own it when you make a mistake. If you mess up, apologize appropriately for the level of harm, fix it, and move on. Bring compassion to your interactions and learn as you go.
  • Don’t generalize about members’ identities. If you’re intending to include the less-well-supported identities within LGBTQIA+, keep in mind that the people who fall within the LGBTQIA+ umbrella aren’t a homogenous group.

How has the London Bisexuals Meetup Group impacted or benefitted your members?

John G: Over the years I’ve heard from so many members who’ve found comfort in this group. One member comes to mind. He was experiencing a lot of harassment from his flatmates about the fact that he had romantic partners who were of different genders. After talking about this with the group, he came to understand that he wasn’t responsible for the biphobic or close-minded views of his flatmates. It was a relief for him.

These social events are so important for finding a community. Relatively few bi+ people are out. Some estimates say that only about 12% of men who have bisexual desires are open about it.  So many bisexuals feel alone and isolated, not knowing any other out bi+ people, maybe even constantly filtering their speech around attraction and dating topics to stay closeted because of the stigma from some communities. Some LGBT+ or gay and lesbian spaces that claim to be safe for bisexual people aren’t always comfortable for bisexual people. For some, Meetup events are the first time they’ve met another openly bisexual person, let alone a room full of racially-, gender-, and age-diverse bisexuals. It’s a beautiful thing to meet people who have commonalities.

How has the group impacted your life?

John G: The group has been woven into the fabric of my life. I’ve met many of my closest friends through the group. Taking a leadership role in this community has led me to become more of a bi activist than I might have been otherwise. As corny as it sounds, I’ve grown as a person. I’ve been able to learn so much more about people, bisexuality, mental health, along with other identities and conditions within and outside of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum that has enriched my life massively.

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