Most LGBT organizations know they should be bi-inclusive but arent always sure how to go about it. Some arent aware they are falling short. This article gives a list of suggestions and guidelines for how LGBT organizations can become more fully bi-inclusive. Feel free to reprint as a handout for your organization’s staff or for organizations you’d like to educate.
Things LGBT Organizations Can Do to Put the ‘B’ in LGBT
Always use inclusive language:
- Use “LGBT” or “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” instead of “gay” or “gay and lesbian” in your press releases, action alerts, speeches on LGBT issues.
- Use “LGBT rights” instead of “gay rights” or “gay and lesbian rights.
- Use “LGBT community” instead of “gay community or “gay and lesbian community.”
- Use “same-sex couples” or “LGBT couples” instead of “lesbian and gay couples” or use other inclusive terms like “freedom to marry,” “right to marry,” “marriage equality,” “marriage protects LGBT families.”
- Use “LGBT veterans” or “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the military” instead of “gay and lesbian veterans” or “gays in the military.”
- Dont assume that everyone in the room at an LGBT event is lesbian or gay: some are most likely bisexual.
- Dont assume that everyone on your staff is lesbian or gay: some are most likely bisexual.
Use bisexual examples: When writing a press release or action alert on LGBT rights issues, include a bisexual example (ie: how this issue could effect a bisexual person), not just lesbian and gay examples (or gay, lesbian and transgender examples.)
Seek out stories of bi people for your website: who are same-sex married, veterans, activists for LGBT causes etc to put up on your website with wedding photos, photos in military uniform etc. One site even has a bisexual opposite sex couple who declare their belief that all couples should have the right to marry.
Appoint a bi staff member as liaison to the bi community: Someone who can assist your organization in taking action when the bi community is under attack and can advise other staff on how to keep their ad campaigns, press releases, action alerts, speeches and membership/donation mailers bi-inclusive. Bi Community Liaison doesn’t have to be their only responsibility.
Seek bisexual advisory board members: They will let you know if you are slipping up on bi inclusion and can outreach to the bi community for your organization, passing on action alerts and event notices.
Ask bi organizations/activists to review your website/press releases/brochures/ad campaigns/media guide etc for bi-inclusion and report back to you if there are any problematic areas or updates needed.
Have an inclusive organization name: Change the name of your organization if it currently has “Gay and Lesbian” in the title but not Bisexual and Transgender. (Keep the same acronym “nickname,” if you want. Just add the B&T when you are spelling the whole name out.)
For example: Let’s say there is an organization called Gay and Lesbian Organization for Peace whose acronym is GLOP. The new name would be: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Organization for Peace, but the acronym could remain GLOP or be expanded to GLBTOP.
It may be a bit awkward, but not as awkward as leaving out bisexual and transgender people!
If you are an LGBT services organization: Bisexual people seek out the queer community for support for being queer, but are often challenged and rebuffed if they come out as bi, once they get there. A bisexual person will often not return to a group if they feel under attack for being bisexual, even if it is only by one or two other members.
Comments that could make bisexual people feel unwelcome: “So you’re still on the fence?” “Cant make up your mind?” “Why dont you pick a side?” “Bisexual is just the slow train to gayville.” “It’s just a phase.” Telling a bi person they are “confused.” “Bisexual is not an orientat ion–its just being slutty.” Calling someone “Tila Tequila.” These types of challenges are often couched as “humor” but are designed to needle and invalidate. They are bullying behavior and should be discouraged by the group facilitator.
Support and discussion group facilitators should intervene if a group member/attendee challenges another for their bisexuality during a group meeting. The facilitator should point out that bisexual people were invited to this group, belong in this group, because bisexual is the ‘B’ in LGBT and bisexual people are part of the queer community. The facilitator could further state that bisexual is a valid and distinct sexual/romantic orientation and that bisexuality is not a phase for bisexual people (even though it could be for some gay people.) This should be part of facilitator training. Note that bisexual people may participate without coming out as bi, until they feel it is safe. Dont assume there are no bi people in the group and continue to use language that is welcoming and inclusive of bisexual people. Remember that even gays and lesbians sometimes explore bisexuality while identifying as gay.
According to several research studies, bisexual people are even more at risk for suicide than gay people, as well as more at risk for drinking, drugs and health problems. Like gay people, bisexual people lose support from family and friends when they come out. But they often dont get support and acceptance from the gay community either, so feel very alone and isolated. LGBT service organizations need to do their best to make sure that the needs of bisexual people are being met. To this end, the organization and its services should be as welcoming and inclusive of bisexual people as possible.
*Adapted from the handout “Things You Can Do to Put the ‘B’ in LGBT” by Sheela Lambert for the Bi Writers Association. Feel free to reprint, with proper credit.
What Lesbian, Gay and Transgender People Can Do to Put the ‘B’ in LGBT
What LGBT Press and Bloggers Can Do to Put the ‘B’ in LGBT
What Mainstream Press Can Do to Put the ‘B’ in LGBT
What Politicians and Their Staff Can Do to Put the ‘B’ in LGBT
What Bi People Can Do to Put the ‘B’ in LGBT
Things You Can Do to Put the ‘B’ in LGBT – intro w/links to the whole series
Articles on Understanding Bisexuality