Bisexual and Trans inclusivity at The LGF

We may be 'The LGF' though where do we stand with regards to inclusivity of the 'B' and the 'T' in what we do as an organisation? It is a question we get asked often and we'll endeavour to answer it here.

Bi inclusivity at The LGF

Historically across society, awareness of sexual orientation has often focused on same-sex attraction, particularly that of gay men and lesser so lesbian women.  Often there has been very little awareness and understanding regarding bisexual people.  Even today, there remain persistent issues about ignorance and a lack of visibility, and biphobia exists not only within wider society but also within LGB&T communities themselves.

Here at the LGF, we are sometimes questioned whether we are inclusive of bisexual people,  because of our name, (The Lesbian & Gay Foundation) and our mission statement, (‘Ending Homophobia, Empowering People’). Whilst our Trustees are clear that in the current climate, now is not an appropriate time for a rebrand or name change, we are absolutely committed to our long-standing vision of ‘A fair and equal society in which all lesbian, gay and bisexual people can achieve their full potential’.

We are also committed to implementing the recommendations from ‘The Bisexuality Report’, which was launched in February 2012. This is an important document that helps highlight many of the problems and frustrations bisexual people presently face.

It is therefore vital that we do as much as we possibly can to increase support and inclusion for bi-people and their needs, and increase awareness of specific issues relating to biphobia.  The report is available on BiUK’s website at: http://bisexualresearch.wordpress.com/reports-guidance/reports/thebisexualityreport/

As an LGB organisation we always use the phrase ‘lesbian, gay and bisexual’ whenever and wherever appropriate, with due consideration for both shared and specific issues.  This is not only true of our printed and online materials, but also in our conversations; in our consultation responses; and in how we think about, and respond to, the diverse needs of LGB people within our services.

It’s true that we don’t always get it right, and when such instances occur, they act as a reminder to be continually vigilant and mindful of all our communities.  Some examples of where action has been taken by the LGF include:

  • Supporting the group Biphoria to submit a successful bid to Awards for All, and helping to produce the guide ‘Getting Bi’. Available at: http://biphoria.org.uk/publications.html
  • Setting up the National LGB&T Partnership, and ensuring specific reference to biphobia, as well as homophobia and transphobia in the mission. For further information, please see: http://www.lgf.org.uk/policy-research/The-National-LGB-T-Partnership/
  • Amending the boxes that hold our condom packs to include the wording ‘bisexual men’
  • Implementing bisexuality training for all LGF staff (delivered by Meg Barker, from BiUK).
  • Increasing content and stories across our communication channels, written specifically by and for bisexual people

This is therefore an ongoing process, and whilst it’s encouraging to hear that people have noticed a positive trend, we know there is more that we can do.  The more we have bisexual people involved within our staff, volunteers and services, the more we can realistically capture, reflect and respond to bisexual people’s experiences and needs.

We would love to have more bisexual volunteer counsellors or members of our Community Action Panel (who help review our resources), as well as more real-life stories and role-models to include in our magazine and on our website.  So if you think this could be you, please contact volunteer@lgf.org.uk.

Furthermore, as well as seeking to increase our own inclusion of bisexual people, we also believe that there is a gap at a national level for a bi organisation.

To this end, we are currently supporting BiUK to become a constituted organisation, and have successfully negotiated for them to become a new partner of the National LGB&T Partnership.  Once BiUK has become constituted, we also aim to support them to submit funding applications to help establish a much needed presence in this area.

Trans inclusivity at The LGF

Over the years, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGB&T) people and issues have often been grouped together.  In large part, this has often been because society has not really understood the differences between a person’s gender identity and their sexual orientation. Put simply, we would say if is the difference between who you are and whom you are attracted to.

Although this ignorance is gradually changing for the better, confusion does still remain.  It is important that we continue to help people broaden their understanding and attitudes, (including within our own communities), for instance in healthcare and marriage law, where many trans people have specific needs that are not currently being met.

As a charity, The LGF’s focus is on sexual orientation, having been created out of a merger between Healthy Gay Manchester and The Manchester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard.  However, we aim to support all LGB sections of society (regardless of their race, faith, gender identity, age, disability status or gender).  This importantly includes trans people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

We strive to create an environment that feels safe and supportive for everyone.  As part of this, we’ve taken a number of steps as an organisation to ensure that trans individuals feel better able to access us and receive a positive service.  For example, we’ve implemented gender identity monitoring, rolled out staff training on trans inclusivity, and made physical changes such as installing gender neutral toilets.

On occasion, when someone is primarily requiring support regarding gender identity, we will usually try to help identify an organisation that specialises in this area and can better meet their needs.  In the coming months, we are also aiming to provide greater signposting information on our website.

However, we also recognise that many of the issues faced by both communities are the same.  This includes topics such as a lack of mainstream support; low levels of funding; and lack of information and awareness by policy makers and service providers.  Therefore, although this area of work is currently unfunded, we do try to provide capacity-building support to the LGB&T sector as a whole.

The Lesbian & Gay Foundation has done this through supporting members of the Trans community to develop and provide specific services and support; so that individuals who are better placed than us to support the community can do this.  For example, we have:

  • Provided support and office space to help TREC establish itself
  • Provided free meeting and event space to TREC and Transforum
  • Worked with TREC and GIRES at a national level to ensure that gender identity issues are included in policy debates, particularly around health

Periodically, we’ve also been able to run projects, (usually in partnership with a trans organisation), where a service or project has been open to both LGB and trans people.  When this happens, we will do our best to promote this in any associated marketing.

So, in summary, we’re an established sexual orientation charity, and we know that other people can do trans-related issues better than us.  We will never turn anyone away, so if you are seeking support around gender identity and we are able to tell you about another organisation that may be able to provide a better service for you, we will.