Body Positive North West are organising a conference on older LGBT people's needs and experiences later this week. It's £75 a head and no doubt very swish. Attendees will get a "six hour CPD certificate" (me neither, but I guess it means something in the public sector or somesuch) and "an exclusive preview of the online training programme for LGBT friendly service delivery".
Hurrah for that. For a long time talk of such things was just about the LG, when there are I suspect a whole heap of unexplored questions about the experiences (not least healthwise) of older trans people. And older bi people may face very specific challenges too.
So what does this conference offer us?
- A guest speaker on older trans people's experiences
- A guest speaker on older gay men's experiences
- A guest speaker on older lesbians' experiences
- And refreshments.
You can probably guess what I've noticed is missing. Doubly so when one of the speakers has a strong track record of erasing bisexuality and marginalising bi voices that I and many other Manchester queer activists are only too familiar with.
So, I dropped the organisers a line. Hello, shiny event, seems to be no "B" though, am I missing something or do you need help with that.
After a long gap and with little time left before the event they came back to me. If I'd like to bring along a table of resources about older bi people that'd be welcome. Now, as it happens, I do have some of exactly that kind of resources. The exhibition is noted in the programme at 4pm, before the building closes at 4.30pm but after the final round of speakers at 3. But... for a start, I've run lots of stalls at conferences like this. The ghost slot at the end of the day as the people who did not leave already work out how to get to a pub is not the greatest of opportunities for engagement.
Let's consider the hierarchy that Body Positive North West are telling me they have:
- L gets a guest speaker with (it's fair to assume) travel expenses and (quite possibly) a speaker fee in the budget. A chunk of the day in the main hall will be focused on the issues you need to raise about your strand.
- G gets a guest speaker with (again, I figure) travel expenses and (quite possibly) a speaker fee in the budget. A chunk of the day in the main hall will be focused on the issues you need to raise about your strand.
- T gets a guest speaker with (we can guess) travel expenses and (quite possibly) a speaker fee in the budget. A chunk of the day in the main hall will be focused on the issues you need to raise about your strand.
- B meanwhile - the offer is: give up a day's wages, pay for your own travel and sit quietly in the corner being grateful for the chance to be there while going unmentioned at the podium, and maybe get a couple of polite nods from attendees on their way out.
On balance, I think I'm washing my hair that day.
There is a thing to reflect on there as event organisers though in how we react to equivalent challenges. I'm not pretending I've always got it right.
To me - assuming there wasn't room in either time or budget to add to the agenda - the sensible thing to do would have been to have made that offer with a clause about how the budget (perhaps) didn't stretch to coping with additional speaker costs, and looked to find a way to include the missing element in a future event such as by inviting collaboration on forming a panel on bi inclusion for the next such event.
I'll be watching for their next big bash and wading in earlier next time... Though I'd rather a slightly older bi took the lead, I'm not quite yet their magic five-oh.