Calling Civil Servants
How I became a Bi activist, the Bi Officer for CSRA (Civil Service Rainbow Alliance) – and why I need your help!
I never wanted to be a bi activist. After all, I can’t speak for the bi multitudes – how could I? You are all so unique, such different individuals and your opinions, naturally, vary widely. I cannot speak for you. And yet I find I must. Well, for the civil servants amongst you, anyway!
I started working at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the day after BiCon 2004. Not long after joining I discovered they had an LGBT staff network and that staff were encouraged to join and go to meetings. Soon a meeting was announced. I asked my line manager if I could attend, permission was granted and off I went. About fifteen to twenty people were sitting round a table and I listened, trying to work out what was going on, until I heard someone say, “But of course we don’t have any bisexual members,” which was my cue. I duly jumped up out of my seat, waved madly and said, “Oh! You do now! I’ve arrived, let the party commence!”
Well, it was a memorable start, and the guy who had given me my cue is now a good friend. I attended network meetings and socials, got to know who the main activists were, and when the call went out for helpers to organise the network, with my line manager’s support, I joined the steering group. I’ve helped organise conferences, worked on contributions to consultations about various bits of proposed legislation, attended Stonewall conference, and even the Stonewall Awards last year, which is where I met the very nice man in strategic HR whose duty it is to liaise with the LGBT network. We got along famously. (I was a bit miffed about the event, as I’d only put my name forward because originally John Barrowman was supposed to be hosting it
and it ended up being hosted by someone I’d never even heard of!) But still. I chatted with our HR guy about my experience as a bisexual person in the organisation, bi events
and the bi community and he listened.
Not long after that I was helping, along with other network steering group members, to look at how we could raise our Department’s position in the Stonewall Top 100 employers’ list. Apparently one thing that could improve our standing would be if the Department was seen to be sponsoring LGBT events. I’d already told our HR colleague about BiCon and he’d been of the opinion I should have claimed my one day ‘volunteering leave’ for my contributions to BiCon last year. Well, I had a brainwave. Feeling a bit cheeky, I suggested that as they already claimed to be supporting staff to attend BiCon, if they really wanted a quick win on the sponsorship front, they could offer to sponsor a delegate to attend this year’s BiCon. I gave him the figures – a bargain at £260 for a four day event, surely!
The Department is used to paying a lot more than that for even single day training events sometimes.
After some discussion with his colleagues he came back to us and said they would! We sought clarification that this meant they would pay the person’s conference fees and that the days would be recognised as official duty, meaning that the person wouldn’t have to use any annual leave in order to attend. They agreed this too! We asked on our online forum and identified a new member of our network who had never been to BiCon and who wouldn’t have been able to attend without the Department’s help. I was over the moon and I believe the delegate had a wonderful time. All that was asked of him in return was a report back to the employer about the conference.
While all this excitement was going on, I was aware that CSRA was on the lookout for a Bi Officer as they didn’t have anyone on their committee with knowledge of Bi issues. CSRA is the cross-departmental network group that represents and supports lesbian, gay and bisexual staff in the Civil Service. All LGB&T members of staff within the Civil
Service are able to become members of CSRA. They do things like organising the civil servants’ float at Pride, for example, as well as policy work. Our network chair, who
attends their meetings regularly, put my name forward, “We have a very active bi member in our network,” he said, and after some discussion I agreed with my partner Marjorie’s help to take it on.
I’m a little anxious as there is a workplan involved – however, I’ve already been able to supply a Bi speaker to their forthcoming conference, and, thanks to Livejournal and
supportive contacts in the community, I was able to sort this out in very short order indeed, which impressed the Chair no end. (Thank you – you know who you are!)
I sincerely hope, with the help of my community (I’m seeing those old adverts that those of a certain age will remember about getting the strength of the insurance company around you!) I will be able to fulfill my mission, provide information when needed and help government departments to ensure the B in their LGBT networks is no longer silent.
I know you will help me all you can!
Please, if you are a civil servant, (i.e. you work for a central government department or one of their agencies) could you contact me and let me know where you work? It would be really helpful to have an idea of where the bisexual civil servants are, and this, with Livejournal, is the best way I can think of to find you!