Bisexuals in Unison?

Issue 69

Originally appeared in issue 69 of BCN

For years, the lesbian and gay wing of Unison has kept bisexuals out. Following a change of heart last November they decided that they want to let us in …and now they find they can’t!

Right back in the early days of BCN we carried a story by Kevin Saunders about attending the national conference of Lesbians & Gays In Unison, where a vote was passed to exlude bisexuals from the organisation. This was clearly carried with vocal heckling of bi and pro-bi-inclusion speakers at a time when, he argued, they might have been better directing their energy to the battle inside the trade union over whether there should be a lesbian & gay section at all. This is less than a decade ago.

In the years since, those of us who have raised the possibility of bi inclusion with L&G Unison activists at conferences or on stalls at pride festivals have found clear hostility to such an idea.

So it came as very welcome news when it was announced, after last Autumn’s Unison lesbian & gay conference, that after extensive debate delegates had voted to alter their organisation’s remit to include bi and trans people. Other gay groups might have got there ahead of Unison, but here would be a high-profile change to encourage other organisations to follow suit.

There has to be a ‘but’ in a story like this, and here it comes. While the lesbian & gay wing of Unison had decided on the change, this had to be ratified by the general conference of Unison in June. There was a stony silence on the issue from Unison’s press office after the debate, and it turned out the general conference had ruled not to allow the L&G group to make such a change. Lesbians & Gays In Unison it remains.

It doesn’t end there though, and this Autumn’s lesbian & gay conference will welcome bi and transgender attendees as observers. The agenda features bi and trans issues as the focus of several motions for debate, in addition to a considering how to move the bi & trans inclusion agenda forward.

Next BCN we will have a report from the first Unison L&G conference since the main Unison ruled against the change.