Thursday, April 09, 2009

Putting Our Money Where Their Mouths Should Be

UPDATE: While the number of states with marriage equality has changed since I first posted this, and other LGBT issues are claiming headlines, the need for greater inclusivity remains (unfortunately). ::sigh::

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With multiple victories for marriage equality in the last week -- including Iowa, Vermont, and Washington, DC -- many LGBT organizations sent out a flurry of emails and press releases about all the progress our movement had made.

Some, like NGLTF, used wonderfully inclusive language, hailing the various events that granted "the freedom to marry to same-sex couples."

Others, like HRC, continued their spotty and inconsistent (and frankly, inaccurate) language expressing excitement for all the "loving, committed lesbian and gay couples" who can now marry. Particularly disappointing is GLAAD, an organization that's supposed to be a watchdog around language for the LGBT community.

What's frustrating is that it isn't difficult to do it right. "Same-sex couple" is both more inclusive and more accurate, because two women in a couple are not always lesbians or in a "lesbian relationship." Ditto for men and "gay." Heck, for that matter, not all different-sex couples are heterosexual. (Depending on the gender identities of the people involved, "same-sex" and "different-sex" may be no more than approximations -- but these terms get closest to the crux of the struggle and are the best we have right now.)

Countless letters and phone calls and personal interactions and educational sessions and explicit non-donations and behind-the-scenes pressure over many, many years have done little to change the institutional culture wherein such exclusive language is acceptable. For whatever reason, too many supposedly LGBT organizations just don't get it -- it's not about throwing the occasional B and T into the mix. It's about standing up for us as integral parts of the queer community, all the time and every time.

This week, my bisexual wife and my bisexual self had had enough. Again.

She suggested and I created "checks" that you can fill out, print, and mail in (see below). It includes a note underneath: "This might have been a real check if you had been more inclusive." They are brought to you by the "bank" of BiPOL, a bisexual political action group.
Bisexual check (single) [PDF, 157k]
A single check, with plenty of room to write a note, if desired

Bisexual check (multiple) [PDF, 179k]
Three bi checks on one page, for efficient printing if you don't need the blank space

Transgender check (single) [PDF, 157k]
As above, but focusing on transgender exclusion

Transgender check (multiple) [PDF, 258k]
As above, but focusing on transgender exclusion

Our goal is to drive home the point that excluding bisexuals and/or transgender people is not only unacceptable, it costs the organization donations.

I should mention that there are many, many LGBT nonprofits out there doing fantastic work on behalf of all of us, and they DESPERATELY need -- and richly deserve -- our support. (In fact, only about 5% of LGBT people give to LGBT causes. We need to do far better.) That's why it's all the more important to let groups like HRC know that we're being strategic with our bi/trans/ally dollars and not rewarding them when they can't even remember to talk about us (much less address our most serious issues).

So download the files, link to them, share them with friends, invest in a few stamps, and demand that the organizations supposedly representing YOUR community do better. In this economy, perhaps we'll have enough leverage to institute lasting change.

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Blogger Jen said...

I really like this idea, but in the "carrot and stick" principle of rewarding good work as well as protesting weaker work, maybe the idea could be expanded by people consciously putting their five €, £ or $ or whatever to one side.

Then donate with a followup equivalent "Bank of Bi-Town payout" kind of slip when the organisation they have sent this lobbying cheque to, when it does some postively b-inclusive work.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Lou said...

I love this idea! May I use it? Our Pride is this weekend and I want to make some Bi and Trans "checks" like this and hand them out at our booth, but with BOP (Bisexual Organizing Project) as the account holder.
Is that ok?

Lou Hoffman
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN

7:37 AM  
Blogger Lindasusan said...

Lou: Yes! Yes! Yes! Please feel free to spread them far and wide. That would be awesome! (I do recommend leaving the line of text under each "check" -- keeps it clear that it's not drawn from an actual bank.)

Jen: I'm totally on board with this concept. Whenever I see an organization doing a particularly good job on bi inclusivity, I make sure to thank them -- often times in the form of a donation. In fact, I've made some gifts *specifically* because I was impressed, and I always tell the organization why.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this. Thank you so much! HRC will be getting "donations" from me again very soon. ;)

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Thaniel said...

In the name of inclusion, though, it saddens me that you don't have a ""bi AND trans" option. Isn't the whole point that I shouldn't have to choose between the different parts of my identity?

4:42 AM  
Blogger Lindasusan said...

Thaniel: I did think about that when creating them. As it was, though, these 4 versions took a LOT of time and work, and at some point, I had to call it a day. As the saying goes, I didn't want the Perfect to become the enemy of the Good.

Here's another way to frame the options, though. Rather than choosing between parts of yourself, these tools just ask you to decide where to put your focus for a particular issue. For example, DADT applies to sexual orientation rather than gender identity, so you might select the bi check when a group's language is off. (Not that trans soldiers are allowed either, but that's a different kettle of fish.) If we were facing another non-inclusive ENDA, the trans check would make the point better.

Because invisibility is so entrenched at many organizations, you'll unfortunately have plenty of opportunities to alternate. :-)

Also, don't underestimate the power of including a personal note, which lets you expand beyond the confines of these 8.5" x 3.5" slips of paper.

10:20 AM  

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