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GLBA stays gay and lesbian

Trans-inclusive name not considered

GLBA board members: Steven RodRozen, Brent Lehmann, and Lisa Voldeng. Credit: Rosamond Norbury Photo

Geography trumped identity politics when 29 out of a possible 400-plus members of the Gay and Lesbian Business Association of Greater Vancouver (GLBA) showed up at the organization’s annual general meeting (AGM) May 16 to vote in favour of changing its name to GLBA of British Columbia.

The change signifies an expansion of the organization’s mandate to include businesses province-wide, but leaves the core identifiers “gay” and “lesbian” in its title.

The vote, held at the West End’s Coast Plaza Hotel, came after a year-long exercise in which some members pushed for a more profound name change to reflect the evolving diversity of the GLBA’s membership by removing the words “gay” and “lesbian” from its title.

The naming committee’s choice–Spectrum Business Alliance of British Columbia–did not resonate, however, with the GLBA’s wider membership, which voted 107 to 43 to reject it in a referendum the organization’s board of directors spearheaded earlier this year.

Travel consultant Rick Hurlbut, a member of the naming committee, says the AGM went “as well as it possibly could,” with no one interested in supporting a motion to change to Spectrum.

“It didn’t catch fire. Obviously, it was not well received by the membership. At that point it was understood it was not a popular move, so when we addressed the [original resolution to] change to GLBA of BC it passed unanimously.”

The weak turnout at the meeting did not concern Hurlbut, who says it was “like any other AGM.

“It’s always up to the membership to exercise its franchise,” he points out. “It’s like an election for the government of Canada where people express their view one way or the other. Everyone receives the same information packages with the agenda. Forty-three people supported Spectrum. It was up to them to be in the room. You can’t do anything more. There was nothing unusual about the size [of the turnout] that showed up Tuesday.”

Diversity trainer Roz Shakespeare, another member of the naming committee, agrees the vote was fair, highlighting “a clear historical attachment to the name GLBA.”

Shakespeare, a transsexual lesbian and newly elected board member, says she has always felt included in the GLBA despite the wording of the association’s title, but favours the addition of a catch-all phrase or tagline after GLBA to “let others know that this is an inclusive space.”

“It would indicate a recognition of every colour and identity, but get away from some of the other older names like Pride and Rainbow Coalition. Maybe within the next year, the tagline can be added to GLBA of BC. But it would be better to stay away from the alphabet soup concept,” she adds.

Feng shui interior designer Tien Wee did not attend the AGM, but the transsexual man had hoped the GLBA would adopt a more inclusive name.

“Being specific, stepping up to the plate and saying this is who we are, and this is what we do, is important,” he told Xtra West before the meeting. “The argument that we can still be the Gay and Lesbian Business Association but will include all other kinds doesn’t work for me.”

With the Spectrum debate at least temporarily sidestepped, the most contentious moments of the meeting surrounded the word “the” preceding “GLBA” in the name change motion.

Officially, the organization is known as Gay and Lesbian Business Association and the word “the” does not appear–despite its impromptu appearance on the name-change resolution. Enter an amendment to strike the “the” from the name and to move the quotation marks to the front of the letter “G” in the word “Gay.”

Eventually, the way was cleared for a vote on the main motion: “To change the name of the society to ‘GLBA Gay and Lesbian Business Association of British Columbia.'”

The vote was unanimous.