Based in Manchester, the LGBT Foundation was originally the Lesbian & Gay Foundation, formed from the merger of Manchester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and Healthy Gay Manchester. The idea of getting bifurious.co.uk came at a bi activist weekend that was held at one of their previous offices, but that almost certainly had nothing to do with the way that it finally adopted its new name in April 2015.
This month, they've come out with a report "Hidden Figures: the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on LGBT communities in the UK".* The bit that's attracted most attention amongst bi activists is this:
Since the UK went into lockdown, our helpline has seen significant increase in calls about discrimination. We've seen:
+450% calls about biphobia
+100% calls about transphobia
+52% calls about homophobia
We're still here if you need us. Call us on 0345 3 30 30 30 pic.twitter.com/cu1zlrfVAe
— LGBT Foundation (@LGBTfdn) May 27, 2020
"Since the UK went into lockdown, our helpline has seen significant increase in calls about discrimination. We've seen:
+450% calls about biphobia
+100% calls about transphobia
+52% calls about homophobia"
It turns out (p17) that this is looking at the period from "23rd March – 12th of (sic) April" compared to the previous three weeks.
I don't doubt the percentage increase, but without the actual figures, it's a bit hard to judge what is going on here.
Going from two to eleven calls that mention** biphobic discrimination is a "450% increase", for example. The homophobia figure is clearly given to the nearest 1%, so we have to presume that the others are too and it very probably is '11 calls compared to 2' or '22 compared to 4' etc.
Which is it? Any increase in biphobia is clearly not good, but how does the actual volume compare to the others? And what are the figures for the sexual orientation of callers?
The timescale we now know about suggests that it's not particularly likely, but another thought was to wonder if this was partly a case of bisexual people being prepared to use a service that, to put it politely, has not been all that great on bi issues at times in the past. If so, it's quite possible that the actual level has been higher than the LGBT Foundation has realised for ages.
Or have the people answering the calls been given a prod about it and started to record biphobia properly rather than go 'discrimination on the basis of a same gender attraction, that's homophobia'?
Why might they do that?
Remembering that when the LGBT Foundation came up with an officially NHS approved 'Good Practice Guide to Monitoring Sexual Orientation' in 2017, amongst other things it managed to say all bisexual people were covered by 'Straight', I thought I'd have a look at the definitions.
They might not have updated the Guide to correct this problem, but for at least two years, they've had first one and then another person on their board who should be able to recognise mistakes like this. Both, as far as I am aware, identify as bisexual, so you'd expect the LGBT Foundation to get them right now.
BISEXUAL: a person who experiences sexual and/or romantic attraction to people of more than one gender, also referred to as "bi"
.. or basically a slightly longer version of the UK bi community's definition of bisexual. I'd say 'a person attracted to more than one gender' is better, but if you want to make it clear that you're not just talking about sexual attraction (hello biromantics!) or you want to specify "people" for some reason, great!
Bisexual / Bi: Someone who is attracted to people of the same gender and other genders
WTF?!? I'll happily agree that most bisexual people are attracted to (some) people of the same gender, but any organisation that accepts that gender isn't binary – as the LGBT Foundation does – cannot start declaring what genders bisexual people are necessarily attracted to in order to count as 'bisexual' in the first place!
Spot the missing bisexuals!
Perhaps same-gender attracted bisexuals are the only ones the LGBT Foundation cares about?
I struggle to think of another reason why they'd change from a perfectly good definition to an odd one like this..
.. and so I decided to search for the phrase "Someone who is attracted to people of the same gender and other genders", because I'd never heard such crap before.
It turns out that, before I started talking about it and because it hasn't indexed the previous 'Hidden Figures' report which has the same set of definitions, Google knew of exactly one previous use of it. It's not somewhere you'd want to copy from.
OK, what about the other definitions?
LESBIAN: a woman who primarily experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other women
GAY: describes a person, usually a man, who primarily experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other people of the same gender.
Gay: Someone who is almost exclusively romantically, emotionally or sexually attracted
to people of the same gender. The term can be used to describe anyone regardless of gender identity but is more commonly used to describe men
Lesbian: A woman who is largely or exclusively emotionally, sexually, and/or physically attracted to other women
What a fascinating distinction between 'almost exclusively' – what's that? Kinsey-attraction 5 or 6, rather than the previous 4-6? – for 'gay'..
.. and 'largely or exclusively' for 'lesbian'.
'Exclusive' is obviously Kinsey-attraction 6, but how large does it have to be for 'largely'? I can see an argument that because it no longer says 'primarily, it's "more than incidental", i.e. for lesbians, Kinsey-attraction 2-6 counts. Even if that's not right, Kinsey-attraction 3-6 certainly does, because equal attraction must be large:
There's also the hilarious way in which physical attraction gets mentioned for lesbians, but not gay men…
.. but the reality is that these are, again, attempts to minimise the incidence of bisexuality – attraction to more than one gender – by pushing the 'identity trumps everything else' agenda. Someone who's got a Kinsey-attraction of 5 is bisexual by our definition, regardless of what they identify as.
Speaking of minimising the incidence of bisexuality…
HETEROSEXUAL / STRAIGHT: a person who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to people of a gender other than their own
.. or, in my paraphrase, everyone who is 'bisexual' is also, because of their other gender attraction, also 'straight'?!?
That's because the definition includes nothing like 'exclusively' or 'almost exclusively' or even 'largely'. If you are attracted to another gender you are, by this definition, straight!
Heterosexual: Someone who is romantically or sexually attracted to someone of a different gender, typically a man who is attracted to women or a woman who is attracted to men
.. well, at least we're no longer 'straight'.. we're just 'heterosexual' for exactly the same reason.
(Update: I've only just noticed that compared to the other definitions use of 'people' or 'other women', this one talks about 'someone'. So if you're attracted to even a single person of another gender, this says you're heterosexual?!?)
Again, a big chunk of the gay and lesbian population will be covered by this too, because of the way their 'almost exclusive' or 'largely' attraction for their own gender is means they're
bisexual attracted to another one too.
Using these definitions, the LGBT Foundation could change its name to LGST – Lesbian, Gay, Straight, and Transgender – Foundation and not lose a single person it says covers!
Astonishingly, given all this, the new-to-this definition of pan is, to my eyes, OK:
Pansexual / Pan: Someone who is emotionally, sexually, and/or physically attracted to others regardless of gender identity
even if, because of their attraction to different gender, they're also all 'heterosexual' according to this too. Obviously.
The gender bits appear ok to me too, with cis, gender, gender fluid, gender identity, genderqueer, intersex, non-binary, and trans* all covered.
It also includes
Misgender: The act of referring to someone as the wrong gender or using the wrong pronouns (he, she, boy, sister, etc.). This usually refers to intentionally or maliciously referring to a trans person incorrectly, but of course can also be done accidentally
.. which is ironic, given how much 'mis-orientating' the definitions include.
This is what erasure looks like.
* Or 'Hidden%20Figures-%20The%20Impact%20of%20the%20Covid-19%20Pandemic%20on%20LGBT%20Communities' to give it its PDF title. Somewhat confusingly, it's labelled as the third edition.
Possibly, one of the previous editions was the 'nothing to do with Covid-19' "Hidden Figures: LGBT Health Inequalities in the UK" or 'Hidden%20Figures%20FULL%20REPORT%20Web%20Version%20Smaller' published in March 2020..
** I've worked for a service that had performance monitoring for funders, and there's a strong incentive to tick every possible box to keep those figures looking good, so it's unlikely to be 'calls just about biphobic discrimination'.