Monday, 23 February 2009

Manchester city council marginalising bis again?

Each year my local city council holds an LGBT consultation day.

They call it slightly different things from year to year, and it's only I think last year and this that is has finally moved from being "Lesbian and Gay" to LGBT. Overdue perhaps but still movement in the right direction. So if you're reading at the Town Hall - thanks folks, I know how hard it is for a council with such a right-wing administration and so many issues of entrenched power to move forwards on anything and so this is a welcome change.

Trouble is, Manchester City Council on LGBT issues is a bit like many other organisations that have made the LG to LGBT jump over the past decade, doing really well on consciously working on T without having moved much on the B beyond changing the stationery.

Ten years ago whether in equal opportunities, service user monitoring or what have you, it was a matter of city council policy here that bisexuality did not exist. Bi people were in some kind of queer Schrodinger state, they might be indefinably either gay or straight but as soon as you looked at one you would be able to collapse their waveform into the one or the other. The council even produced EO monitoring forms with three tickyboxes to cover all possibilities on sexual orientation - straight, gay or.... lesbian. Gosh, there was me thinking that might have been partly covered on the just-two tick boxes for gender on the previous line.

Even in the early part of this decade, as the council set up a Local Strategic Partnership structure for the voluntary sector, it was fascinating to see that soon after the lesbian and gay LSP declared itself to be LGBT in response to the member organisations values, the council set about slashing and then abolishing its budget, making it the only one of the 29 streams of LSP work they have abolished.

Then after years of insisting that all queers were either lesbian or gay, the jump to LGBT happened. It seems to have been by grassroots insurrection: the council started a staff group for their gay and lesbian staff, which declared itself to be LGBT and kept putting the four-letter acronym on things.

The momentum had built by last year and thus the Lesbian and Gay Day became LGBT; but was noteworthy for having a series of speakers and workshops on lesbian, gay and trans issues and representing organisations whose work focuses on the L, G and T communities. Afterwards I got in touch and suggested once again that some B inclusion was well overdue and offering a speaker or workshop slot; to the degree of offering taking a day of unpaid leave from my day job at a busy time of year to make sure it could happen.

This year's event has just been unveiled. It's got plans for sessions on lesbian, gay, trans, and... erm... nope, that's all folks.

There's a surprise.

I shall be making enquiries, but I'm not holding my breath.

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