Someone recently wrote me to let me know that they want to start a reading group about my book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution, and to ask me for input. In response, I went ahead and planned out a series of 10 meetings.
I’m putting this up here in case anyone wants to start a reading group of my book and wants input on how they can do that. Feel free to adopt, adapt, use and abuse all of the the following, or any part thereof. Also, if you have a question, need more information, or want to consult me about anything related, do contact me :)
Hope this will be of assistance to you all!
Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Reading Group
If I were to facilitate a reading group about the book, I would first of all construct the structure of the meetings in a similar way to what I do with the bisexual consciousness raising groups that I facilitate. This is a general structure for all meetings:
- Short opening: Explaining the rules for discussion (which are, in my groups: everything said in the room remains in the room, don’t mention things people have said or directly quote them [general references are okay], speak only on your turn, don’t interrupt people while speaking, respect others and what they’re saying, don’t presume anything about anyone [interests, lifestyles, identity, gender, orientation, race, etc.], try to notice how long you speak and that you leave enough time for others as well).
- Opening round (20-30 mins) – Based on two regular recurring questions: 1. Something positive that happened to me recently; 2. When did I recently feel/experience my bisexuality/pansexuality/etc.? (This can be anything from “I felt attracted to a pretty person” to “I got into a biphobic argument on facebook”, and anything in between, or anything else anyone comes up with). In a group like this, I would probably also add a third question that’s more related to the book, such as: “Which chapter did I read this week and what is my general impression of it, or feeling about it?” (though you’d have to be careful here not to let people go off into long monologues here, but just give their general feelings/impressions).
- First discussion round (40-50 mins) – One or two questions for discussion, discussed by person each in turn.
- Short break (10 mins).
- Second discussion round (40-50 mins) – Same as the first round.
- Closing round (20 mins) – Based on two regular recurring questions: 1. What did I take from this meeting (ideas, feelings, reflections, new things learned, etc.); 2. Where am I headed from here? (i.e. home, out, etc…)
I would dedicate a meeting for each chapter, plus one meeting for introduction, and one for conclusion (10 meetings in total). The first round of discussions would address the personal/emotional aspect, and the second would address the aspect of ideas/thoughts.
This is the only session that doesn’t follow the general pattern (it’s also shorter in terms of time). The purpose of this session is to be an ice breaker and to allow people to feel more comfortable with one another.
Opening: (5 mins). Welcome and short explanation of the purpose of the group and the structure of the meetings. Explanation of the discussion rules.
Short introduction round: (5 mins). Each person says their name and their preferred gender pronouns.
Icebreaker activity: (1 hour).
- Divide the group into smaller groups of 3 people each, and distribute pre-made “information cards” for filling out
- Questions for the cards: name; age; where are you from; do you have a sexual orientation/identity, and if so what is it; do you have a gender identity, and if so what is it; one thing you hope to get from this group, or that you wish would happen in the group; one thing you hope would not happen in the group; one thing you want people to know about you; something positive that happened to you lately.
- Give people 30 mins to interview each other in turn. For example, if I’m in a group with Jack and Jill, then I would interview Jack and list his answers in my card; then Jack would likewise interview Jill, and Jill would interview me.
- After the interviews, everyone goes back to the main circle. At this point, each person takes their turn to introduce their interviewee according to the information in their cards. For example, if I interviewed Jack, then I would introduce him like so: “I’m Jack (pointing at Jack), I’m 25, I live in X…” etc. After I’m done, Jack is given an opportunity to correct me or to add information. Then you go on to the next person, and so on… (This round should take 30 mins).
Break: 10 mins (always announce 5).
Second activity: (30 mins).
- Distribute pens and paper to the group.
- Give people 2-3 mins to write their answers to the question: What topics/issues would I like to discuss in the group meetings? (This question enables the facilitators to be attentive to people’s interests and to modify the program if need be).
- Have each person in turn read whichever items they like from what they listed.
- After this round, do the same with the question: What do I need in order to participate in the group? (This can be anything from comfortable chairs or vegan food, through someone to watch my kids, to a good atmosphere in the group. This question enables the facilitators and the group to be attentive to each others’ needs).
Closing round: (20 mins). Each person in turn says one thing that was good about this session, and/or anything else they want to say about it.
- First round: How do I define my bisexuality? How did the book interact with my definition?
- Second round: Do I agree/disagree with the book’s definitions for bisexuality (some or any part of them)?
- First round: What are my experiences of biphobia/monosexism? Do my life experiences correspond with the statistical information in the book (regarding health, mental health, suicidality, poverty, sexual violence, etc.), and if so, how?
- Second round: Do I agree/disagree with the author’s ideas of biphobia and monosexism? Do I agree/disagree that monosexism exists?
- First round: What are my experiences of passing, or not passing, as bisexual or as monosexual? How did people respond to me in either of these situations?
- Second round: Do I agree/disagree with the author’s concept of privilege, passing and bisexuality? How do I feel about the author’s suggestions for bisexual activism at the end of the chapter?
For this session, I would ask that only women speak and that everyone else stay silent. (Only in the main rounds – everyone speaks in the opening and closing rounds). (Working definition for “woman”: anyone who identifies as a woman, as female or as feminine – people choose themselves whether or not they fit this). This is because women are often expected to be silent about their experiences, and to tone down their voices and views in general. On the other hand, men are often expected and encouraged to speak, be vocal and opinionated – this is an opportunity for them to practice listening and attentiveness.
- First round: What is it like for me to be a bisexual woman/female/feminine person? How did the book interact with my personal experience as a bi woman/female/feminine person?
- Second round: Do I agree/disagree with the author that specific oppression exists against bisexual women? Is there anything I felt was missing from her analysis?
For this session, only the men would speak in the two main rounds. (Working definition for “man”: anyone who identifies as a man, as male or as masculine – people choose themselves whether or not they fit this). This is because masculinity is always a transparent given in society, always presumed but never spoken. This is an opportunity for men to speak about their masculinity, something many of them have never had the opportunity to do.
- First round: What is it like for me to be a bisexual man/male/masculine person? How did the book interact with my personal experience as a bi man/male/masculine person?
- Second round: Do I agree/disagree with the author that bisexual men’s oppression is different to that of women? How do I feel about the author’s view that bisexual men must acknowledge and work on their privileges? Which of my privileges do I feel I need to work on?
For this session, only trans* people would speak in the two main rounds. (Working definition for “trans*” – anyone who identifies under the trans* umbrella, as genderqueer, as nonbinary, or as none of these things but who has transitioned in terms of gender – people choose themselves whether or not they fit this). This is because trans* people and their experiences are often silenced both in straight culture and in our communities. This is an opportunity for them to speak and for cis people to listen.
- First round: What is it like for me to be a bisexual trans* person? How did the book interact with my personal experience as a bi trans* person?
- Second round: Do I agree/disagree with the author that bisexual trans* people experience oppression differently from cis bi people and from trans* mono people? Is there anything I felt was missing from her analysis?
For this session, only people of color would speak in the two main rounds. (Working definition for “person of color”: anyone who identifies as a person of color or as non-white/European/Chritstian American). This is likewise because people of color are often silenced and not given the opportunity to speak about their particular experiences, while white people’s experiences are considered default. This is an opportunity for white people to listen, and for people of color to speak.
- First round: What is it like for me to be a bisexual person of color? How did the book interact with my personal experience as a bi person of color?
- Second round: Do I agree/disagree with the author that bisexual people of color experience oppression uniquely from white bi people and from mono people of color? Is there anything I felt was missing from her analysis?
- First round: What are my personal experiences around normalcy in bisexual and gay communities (i.e. do I feel I’ve been policed to be normal/have I policed others to be normal? Have I ever felt obliged to tone down my bisexuality to make others more comfortable? etc.). How did the book interact with those experiences?
- Second round: Do I agree/disagree with the author’s views about marriage, the military, and assimilationism? Do I agree/disagree that bi movements seek to assimilate into assimilationist gay communities, and do I agree/disagree with the author that this should stop?
- First round: How did the book (and this group) influence my understanding of bisexuality and my of experiences as bisexual/pansexual/etc.?
- Second round: How did I respond, or how do I wish to respond, to the understandings and suggestions written in the book?