Guest post: Civil partnerships and the NUS

// 3 May 2009

Katie Sutton reports on the NUS LGBT Campaign’s annual conference

Last weekend, the NUS LGBT Campaign held its annual conference in Nottingham, to elect officers for the 2009/10 academic year and vote on new policy, which I attended as an observer in the role of the bisexual rep elect on the committee for the NUS Women’s Campaign.

Many of the motions passed without much debate, including policies on improving mental, physical and sexual healthcare, gender-neutral toilets in further education institutions, opposing Miss University pageants, and equal maternity and paternity rights. Within the Society & Citizenship Zone, a motion was put to Conference entitled “Civil Partnerships are Civil!” which called for support for the Scottish Equal Marriage Campaign, recognising that the “separate but equal” system of marriage for heterosexual couples and civil partnership for same-sex couples was not, in fact, equal.

Whilst I supported this motion in theory, I submitted a procedural motion – a suggestion regarding not Campaign policy but to do with the way Conference runs – to ask that the question not be put to Conference, and that it should instead be rewritten and sent to the LGBT Campaign Committee, because, despite its good intentions, it was worded amazingly exclusively: I counted seven references to gay men and gay women, but not a single mention of bisexual or trans people. Unfortunately, delegates weren’t interested in hearing the case for the procedural motion, and with the against speech having already been taken by another delegate who spoke about marriage being heteronormative, I had to request an extra round of speeches, which sadly was also rejected. Conference duly passed policy which superbly recognised the inequalities faced by gay men and lesbians, but lightly skipped over bisexuals and trans people as if they don’t want equality, or worse, don’t exist.

I later spoke to the author of the motion to explain my complaint, and they said that they would make a statement to Conference and change the wording to be more inclusive, but the statement was never made. As for the change to the policy’s wording, time will tell.

Comments From You

sianmarie // Posted 4 May 2009 at 12:26 pm

thanks for posting on this. the invisibility of bisexuality is something that has long irritated me. the more we can do to encourage visibility of bisexuality, and encourage the fact that bisexuality is a viable and real sexuality, the better. too often bisexuals are ignored or subject to the bi-phobic beliefs that we are waverers, flighty etc etc (i don’t really want to type them as i feel that can repetition can sometimes enforce these beliefs!!!). hopefully these perceptions will change one day, and making stands like the one in the post above will help bring about this change.

magic_at_mungos // Posted 6 May 2009 at 2:56 pm

The lack of awareness of bi phobia and transphobia is a refelction of wider things. I’m attending the TUC LGBT conference in July and looking at some of the proposed motions make no reference to bi or trans phobia in the context of homophobia despite the first conference being held in 1998.

I don’t know whether it’s a hangover from when the first movements towards equailty were bening made by lesbian and gay groups or whether it’s a marker of underlying bi and transphobia within the LGBT community

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