Wednesday 4 June 2008

Manchester Challenge

I'd made some protest flyers but when I woke up, I just wasn't in the right mood for that kind of confrontation action and wanted to build bridges a little instead. So, I sat on a train to Manchester and scribbled on an A5 sheet a question.

“Bisexuals are the invisible majority of the LGB community. But where are they? If your LGBT-sector organisation has moved in name in recent times from being LG to LGB or LGBT, what work are you doing to engage with the bi people you were not previously working with? How are you recruiting and targeting them? And if you have not changed how you are working, is it time you were working with groups like BiPhoria to change that?”

And, at the very end of the segment of the conference where people from local LGBT organisations could talk about their work, I gave a fleeting overview of bis in the city and then read from my script.

So, it constitutes my challenge issued to LGBT organisations represented at Manchester City Council’s annual LGBT Consultation Day today. The council has run an LG(BT) community consultation event annually-ish for the last five or six years, and in theory it draws many of the key activists and organisers in the LGBT communities across the North West of England. In practice, they hold it on a midweek daytime, so what it draws is youth/student groups, council employees, and the organisations large enough to have paid staff.

Manchester City Council has a genuinely good, strong record on lesbian and gay issues, and have made serious and sincere moves on the conservative end of trans issues in recent times, but are still yet to put the B into their LGBT. Really in a way that shows a contrast very badly. I mean, they have council employees who are the gay mens officer, lesbians officer, and gender officer, so the LG and T are now all pretty strongly covered. They have gay mens and lesbians lead spokespeople on the governing party's benches, and have had for at least a decade.

So today's agenda included presentations from L, G and T work and organisations, and I was able to do some really useful networking with them, but spent far too much of the day having to interject "and what about the bis?"

It needs a change of culture at the top that permeates into the rest of our city's LG scene. I fear the homocentric agenda is so entrenched though that the only way to change the embedded power base there is for Labour to lose control of the council... at at the current rate of Lib Dem progress in the city that'll be another 15 years. Bah.