Sep. 4th, 2014

So I mentioned I am going to start volunteering with the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard.
I really hesitated and one of the reasons was the name.
When you go to their website, it talks about how they support all lgbt folks. And I spoke to a few people who confirmed that before I applied (including [ profile] yoyoangel, thank you!)

The interview was great because it really confirmed that. There was a group presentation and then we were each interviewed individually by two existing volunteers. I asked a few questions in the group presentation that reassured me and then I had a great chat to one of the 2 people at the end of my interview about the name, the support offer and related things. Also the interview itself explicitly covered not just individual questions about bi and trans callers but also other intersections - how people's race; disability; class etc might change how they experience things. I was really impressed with that. It was probably the best example from that side of the table I've had of how interviews are as much for interviewees to get more info about the organisation as for them to find out about you. Very positive. I left really wanting to volunteer (and I am, hurrah!)

It's really making me think though.
Seems like there are a lot of what are, now, lgbt organisations that are still called 'lesbian and gay...' What does that mean for the rest of us?
Apparently the switchboard get a decent amount of calls from people asking about bi, trans and other issues. So it's not (totally) putting people off. They have written things so that you'll find them if you google for 'trans advice london', for example.

And they have been going for 40 years. So I know that there is a BIG legacy/ branding issue. People know who they are. Everything has that name. You can't just change it... Can you?

Similar thing, recently - I went to a lunchtime seminar at work run by Inclusive Employers and one of their chief advocates who works a lot with Stonewall [whose recent changes are a whole differnt post]. The title was just 'Inclusion: lgbt' (they had done previous ones on neurodiversity and making the case for an inclusive workplace).  And I was really impressed. It was pitched at a VERY introductory level (I was surprised that there were people in the room who didn't really understand what lgbt meant, I forgeet this isn't common knowledge. Glad they had come though). She spent a lot of time just talking about that. Maybe 5 minutes each on 'gay' and 'lebsbian' and then a good 15-20 minutes on 'bisexual' and about half an hour on 'trans', talking about a lot of differnt things. It's the first time I've been in a workplace type inclusion talk that has given more weight to those 2 parts.
And one of the main things she talked about was her work with the LGF [Lesbian and Gay Forum]. And she did say it's not JUST the LGF anymore. But again talked about legacy and branding.

And how long is that sustainable? What does it mean for the future?

I don't feel comfortable saying 'you should change your name'.
I work in comms. I know the value of a brand (even if that's a horrible term sometimes) - the value of people knowing who you are, what you do. But. What about the people who feel excluded from that? But also what about the people who built it? The lesbians and gay men who risked everything at a time when these issues were taboo or illegal to set them up? But what about the bi and trans activists who are following, who need a space as well. the frightened kids who feel like there isn't anyone looking out for them because they haven't realised 'lesbian and gay' increasingly means 'lgbtqi+'. And what about the biphobic and transphobic people who don't want that to be the case?

I don't have any answers but I would really like a conversation about this.
How do we build a future of lgbt support and activism that acknowledges the good and bad bits of the past and helps people who need it now?

Bicon is obviously rubbing off on me!
As I said before I have started building an lgbt group at work, and this... I am not a natural activist, but this stuff interests me and I want other people to have the support and resources and social life it took me a while to build.

What next?

I am going to open this post up. If you think someone could give me good advice please point them towards it



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