Some specific things have helped this time round. Firstly, I realised on Friday, when I was walking to the shops feeling miserable because I was on my own, that it was crazy to feel "all alone in the centre of the crowd" - because who would I be with if I was at home? On a Friday in the middle of the working day, I'd be on my own walking or cycling to the shops, wouldn't I? So why should I feel lonely because I'm doing the same thing at a convention? I also realised that - while I'm somewhat jealous of the people who "do" BiCon as a couple or triple, it wouldn't work for me with my current people. Alexa & I don't have that kind of coupley relationship (in fact, I think it would drive us both nuts if we tried), and when I dragged Richard along to the London BiFest because I was feeling insecure, we just ended up feeling like we were both alone in the crowd together - which wasn't any more preferable to being alone by myself. In fact, it felt worse, because I felt guilty for dragging him along when I knew it wasn't the sort of thing he'd really enjoy (being introverted to the point where 3 people in the house can make him over-peopled). So I've been trying to do things to make myself feel less isolated - like actually approaching other people and talking to them! and it's been working a lot better.
Secondly, the horrible sexual undercurrent that I've felt at every other BiCon has been missing from this one. I don't know whether I've changed or whether other people have changed - it could be that the stricter Code of Conduct is helping. But so far, I've just had friendly conversations with people, and exchanged a few flirtacious comments, and expressed pleasure in other people's appearances without flirting, and this has all felt fine. No one has asked me to do anything I didn't want to, let alone kept on with the suggestions after I'd already said no, and so I feel safe and happy. Right now I'm wearing the three traffic light symbols on my badge together - red, orange and green - and a few people have asked why I have "Yes, I'm available" and "No, I'm not available" together, and I explained what it means. Every relationship I've ever had that started as a romantic/sexual relationship has ended in disaster, and the relationships I've had that started as friendships have been good. So, while I am "available" for a romantic relationship, I don't want to start one except with someone I already know very, very well, so that any potential incompatibilities or different ways of doing things have been addressed. So yes - feel free to talk to me with regard to a possible relationship - but realise that we're talking months to years in the future. And that's ok.
Thirdly, I met a nun from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who turned out to be the sort of person I'd expect to find as a sister, and not like the one I met at Edinburgh BiCon, which was my first major bi event, who reduced me to hysterical tears and completely ruined the event for me. It's proved to me it really was that person who was the problem, not me, and not their organisation. It seems fitting that BiCon is back in Scotland and for me to get closure in that way. (And now I'm crying writing that, but it's actually okay.)
It is weird being in Glasgow. Half the men have accents that are incomprehensible to me, while the other half sound like my grandfather who died 15 years ago, and I've been missing him terribly. While I've dated Scottish men, they've been from further North with a different accent, so not triggered that. But again, I'm mostly feeling okay about it.
Fourthly, I'm feeling reaffirmed in myself and my identity. While I claim any number of labels on a day-to-day basis, I haven't been very politically active for years, because I got burned out. There reaches a point when a person no longer wants to go out and talk to people about being bisexual or polyamorous, they just want to get on with their life and the people they're with. Now I'm feeling fired up again. I have ideas for workshops I want to run at PolyDay and future alt.polycons and BiCons - new workshops that haven't been run before - and I want to do some more low-key volunteer stuff. Being on committees kills me, it's not good for my mental or physical health - but I can do "small" jobs like reception desk and badges and registration, and give input to the venue wranglers and programme organisers. I can do this.
I think part of me has always felt like I'm in the way at BiCon - that I'm taking up a space that rightfully belongs to someone else, and no one wants me to be there. I don't feel like that any more. I feel like this is a space where it's okay to be whoever you are, and it'll be accepted. It occurred to me today how different this is from mainstream Western culture, which says that women must be a size 8, tall and slim, with perfect long blonde hair, manicured fingernails, and shaved to within an inch of their lives. Here, you can be who you are - fat, thin, inbetween, tall, short, whatever, hair doing whatever you want it to, shaving if you like to or not shaving if you don't - and it doesn't matter. However you look, there is a man, woman, or person of fluid or indeterminate gender here, who will find you attractive. And that's so unlike the messages we get from the mainstream media, or even from particular alternate scenes - I stopped identifying as goth because I found the goth scene too "conform-or-die"-ist, and I know that both the gay male and the lesbian scenes have a tendency to accept people only of certain physical appearances. In the bi scene, you don't have to conform to anything, because we welcome diversity. Being yourself is okay. And that's the part of BiCon I think I've always been looking for and never quite found, and the part I want to take away into my everyday life.
I miss the friends I'd usually expect to see at BiCon - memevector, wandra & Andi, mhw, the_maenad & Simon, to name just a handful - but I understand their reasons for not being here, and I know that sometimes people need a break to enjoy the con again. Because I did.