My name is Virginie Assal. I’m a French, black, bisexual woman. I was hired a month ago to be the Women’s Programme Inclusion Officer for the LGBT Foundation in Manchester, so it is my job to improve inclusivity for BAME, trans, older lesbian and bisexual women. Being a minority within the LGBT+ community can be challenging; visibility, access, and representation can be very limited as we all fly under the same rainbow flag, but I’m here to help LGBT Foundation promote the issues that matter to minorities within our community.
Last year, LGBT Foundation conducted a consultation and learnt that in the Women’s Programme, the lesbian and bisexual women who were accessing our services were mainly white, cisgender and under 50 years old. The Foundation wants to be accessible and represent all members of the LGBT+ community, so our job is to make sure our work is relevant and representative of what matters to all the lesbian and bisexual women of Greater Manchester.
“we have to juggle our identity to access support and services, and sometimes have to ignore a part or our identity when we are in different communities”
As a black and bisexual woman, I have found that having multiple minority identities can be very demanding as we have to juggle our identity to access support and services, and sometimes have to ignore a part or our identity when we are in different communities. There’s always a chance of not being welcome, as typically we don’t fit the mould and can, therefore, fall through the cracks. To be honest, it can lead to feeling mildly lost in your own identity. But, one thing that I’ve always found that helps is having a space and community where I can be all of myself and not just part of me. That’s what we’re aiming to set up for women with multiple minority identities.
As someone with such multiple minority identities, I’m tired of having to choose who I am before entering a room. That’s why I took this job – I want to create safe spaces for women like me, so they can be themselves and talk about the issues that affect them (not just the issues that affect part of them).
The first step for this project is to ask women with multiple identities what they want these spaces to look like. There’s no point having the LGBT Foundation deciding for you, we need public involvement so we can really make strong communities with a true identity and voice. If you are a lesbian or bisexual woman living in Greater Manchester, with multiple minority identities, I would be very grateful if you could fill out this quick survey to tell us how to make this work relevant to you.
“we are organising a workshop for LGBT+ minorities and creating a safe space for them at Pride”
The second step is Pride. We all know what Pride looks like in Manchester, loud and colourful, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, to be blunt, not everyone feels welcome or comfortable in this environment. I know personally I don’t like being in crowds with lots of drunk white men I don’t know. As a result we are organising a workshop for LGBT+ minorities and creating a safe space for them at Pride, with the aim of engaging in a dialogue about self-care during The Big Weekend, as well as celebrating our existences and thinking about how to make things better for our communities. This workshop will be open to everyone who identifies with more than one minority group, and it will be held at LGBT Foundation on 26 August; Saturday 4 – 6pm.
Finally, the third step will be starting Intersectional Community Events. We want to create spaces for lesbian and bisexual women with multiple minority identities to come together and discuss issues that are important to them, meet others, and consider where to go next and how services can better support them. We want safe spaces for debate, for sharing, for learning and for celebrating, and we want those safe spaces to be catered around the needs of these lesbian and bisexual women – developed by them, for them.
I’m really excited to have started this work with LGBT Foundation, and, we’re committed to making a real difference for LGBT+ minority women in Greater Manchester. We really need your involvement to make this a success, so please complete the survey, come along to the workshop at Pride, share this article and help us make the differences we need to see in the LGBT+ community and beyond.
If you want to get involved or have any feedback about these events, please get in touch.
Register for a free place in the Pride workshop by emailing [email protected]
You can subscribe to the LGBT Foundation e-bulletin here.