Recently I’ve noticed a few charities and organisations have changed their names to include the B and/or T in LGBT. This has been a really positive thing for me as it feels like after years and years of being and feeling excluded by LG named institutions things are finally (slowly!) changing for the better. The LGBTQ Taskforce, and The LGBT Foundation in Machester are some of those that have made the switch in the past year.
The latter changing its name has been a really great thing for me because for years the charity, formally known as The Lesbian and Gay Foundation, dealt with questions about changing their name in a really hurtful manner. I also once attended an event for Intenational Celebrate Bisexuality Day where one of the charity’s staff members was a speaker. The first thing he did was launch into was a painful, lengthy explanation of why the charity wouldn’t change its name to include bisexuality. It was so unnecessary and so uncalled for. Couldn’t he have given a speech about bisexuality or the issues bis face in Manchester instead?!
The fact that some big charities have made the change gives me hope that many more will follow. For me it kinda feels like there is no excuse for any LG named organisations now. I can point out those who have already changed along with a list of reasons why they should when I question their uninclusive and erasing name. (Just to clarify, I’m talking about charities that support all LGBT people, but are named something like The Lesbian and Gay Foundation, rather than charities that have a more specific group of services users where the name is an accurate reflection of who they support.)
However one thing that does worry me is tokenistic name changing. I would much rather have a lesbian and gay named charity that fully includes bi and trans people at all levels than an LGBT named charity that doesn’t. The latter causes so much damage, as they speak and act on our behalf in ways we don’t want and don’t agree with. They come up with new projects and ideas without consulting us or having any training about us. This leads to advice giving and polices that harm us. These are spread further when other charities and organisations (such as health care providers) work and consult with that LG focused charity to improve their own services, thinking they are helping all LGBT people.
In addition, changing a name (or planning a name change) obviously doesn’t automatically stop them from doing stupid and hurtful biphobic things either. Organisations and charities need to be fully aware of bi erasure and biphobia, and have a sound understanding of what we want and need in order to be fully supported. Bi people need to be in positions of power and decision making. Bi people need to be staff members, volunteers, and service users. All staff need to have the relevant bi training.
I know we still have a long way to go but I’m going to celebrate every little good thing along the way, even if it’s just one name change. :)