Happy Anniversary BPI: Fifteen Years at the Forefront
Since its inception, Blind LGBT Pride International, or Blind Friends of lesbians and Gays, as this organization was originally named, has been at the forefront in setting an example for inclusion and equality! Like any group, the growth of this affiliate is marked by fantastic successes as well as growing pains. The main focus of BPI has never shifted, however. We strive to support and embrace every aspect of what it means to be individuals who happen to be blind or vision impaired as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
In 1996, a group of members within the American Council of the Blind believed a voice was missing in the organized blind movement – that of individuals who were lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. This small group held the first of four annual informal meetings to begin discussion of the needs of the vision impaired glbtq population; these gatherings also began to ponder what it would mean to build a path forward to getting their voices heard by the broader community. During the ACB convention in Los Angeles in 1999, a decision was made to apply for formal status as a special interest affiliate.
On February 20, 2000, the ACB Board of Directors approved the request for affiliation of the members of Blind Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or BFLAG. The affiliation certificate was presented during the first general session of the ACB convention that year in Louisville, Kentucky. . Rob Hill became the first president of the new organization.
BFLAG continued its growth in Houston, Texas in 2002, and Connie David was elected as president. Many of the local Houston LGBT volunteers became members, and the week was very successful.
The next year saw a great deal of hard work pay off for the members as BFLAG earned its 501c(3) status, and a new logo was created. These two events made it much easier to promote the work and objectives of BFLAG, and this lent the organization strength in pursuing donations. Our organization also received the Growth Award by ACB for having the highest percentage of new members for 2003.
2008 saw even more growth as BFLAG reported its 200th member as well as the formation of four affiliates – BFLAG Washington, D.C., BFLAG Texas, BFLAG Tulsa and BFLAG Mid Atlantic.
2009 saw more growth for BFLAG, as our name was changed to Blind LGBT Pride International or BPI. This was also the year that board meetings became open to the public, providing more transparency to members, allowing them to have firsthand knowledge of how organizational business was conducted.
As we enter into our 15th year of existence as a special-interest affiliate, we can be proud of the work that has been done to further the advancement and inclusion of people who are blind or visually impaired and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. We must also continue to ask ourselves, what we can do to further our goals and reach more individuals with our powerful message.
As members of BPI, we are part of the only organization in the world dedicated to the issues experienced by those that are LGBTQ and blind and vision impaired. We can continue to be the leading special interest affiliate as LGBT baby boomers begin to age into vision loss.
According to a study released by the American Foundation for the Blind in 2008, by 2030, rates of vision loss will have doubled along with the country’s aging population. Blind and Vision Impaired individuals who are LGBT face a number of particular concerns as they age. Several studies document they are less likely than their straight sighted counterparts to access adequate health care, affordable housing or other social services that they may need; this due to attitudinal barriers, institutionalized discrimination, and a lack of access to safety net programs. As an active member and advocate dedicated to social justice and equality, you will have the opportunity to collaborate in a joint effort that works to reverse this pervasive trend.
You belong to a unique organization that strives to make a difference. I invite you to more fully support our continual efforts to eliminate societal barriers while increasing opportunities for those members of the LGBT community who happen to be blind or vision impaired. I look forward to working with you as we head into the next 15 years at the forefront…