"What makes a man?" asked the late Charles Aznavour in his 1972 song. If you're not familiar with his work, you might perhaps think he's "just a French crooner," but to sing about a gay transvestite back then was certainly challenging taboos, and at a time when the subject of identity is a hot political topic in many places, the lyrics are still pertinent.
I ask myself what I have got
Of what I am and what I'm not
What have I given
The answers come from those who make
The rules that some of us must break
Just to keep living
I know my life is not a crime
I'm just a victim of my time
I stand defenseless
Nobody has the right to be
The judge of what is right for me
Tell me if you can
What makes a man a man
In both the UK and the USA, the topic of transgender rights has been cropping up a lot lately; in the UK, it has been prompted by a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, which may make it easier for transgender people to obtain official recognition of their gender. In the US, increasing visibility of trans people is matched by attempts to exempt them from legal protections.
So, last month on Twitter, I addressed where BLUF stands on trans issues. This isn't a new policy - just a restatement of where we have stood for many years.
Firstly, to answer the question "Why is the T in LGBT?" I personally believe that in many areas, wherever you stand on the rainbow, we face very similar issues. That might be employment protection - the right not to be fired because of your sexuality or gender - or health care access.
It could be the right to housing free from discrimination, or to be able to have your spouse recognised on a marriage form, or to have them receive your pension after you die. Even just the right to be counted, to have the state know how many gay, or bisexual, or trans people are using their services.
And yes, in the fine detail, some of what trans people need might not be exactly the same as what gay men or lesbians or bisexuals need. But the broad principles are the same, and fighting together, I believe we are stronger. We can disagree on some points, but I think we can all agree we have a right to exist, and that, as the song says, "nobody has the right to be the judge of what is right for me."
As far as BLUF is concerned, the answer is simple - you tell us you're a man. That's it.
The vast majority of applications to BLUF have always been done online, without an applicant having to be seen in person. Nor have we ever required proof of identification, still less of gender.
The requirement to join is that you are a man, and you meet the dresscode. The bulk of our members are gay, and it would be fair to call us a gay club. But we have straight members, and bi members too. If people ask "I'm straight, can I join BLUF?" my answer is "Sure, if you meet the dresscode, but be aware you may be hit on by guys wanting sex. If that's a problem for you, you probably won't enjoy it."
Of course, since we don't require people to disclose anything during sign up (other than to state they're over 18), we really don't know - and never have - how many members identify as gay, straight, bi. Or even trans.
I'm pretty sure that we have trans members, but it's up to them to tell people if they want to. We've never checked what's in someone's pants before they join, and I'm not about to start rummaging in them to throw people out either.
Since we don't do those checks, it would be futile to say "trans men are not welcome in BLUF," because all that would do is encourage people to be quiet and stay in the trans closet.
That last time I raised this, about six years ago, some people said "OMG, I might be talking to someone on BLUF who has female parts."
Well, yes, I daresay you might.
But you know what? Anything more than chat is a negotiation between the two people involved.
If you can't have fulfilling sex without fisting, say, I'd expect you to mention that to someone before taking them to bed. And if you think your genitals might not be the ones someone is expecting, I think it's polite to mention that too.
No one is insisting anyone has a right to have sex with anyone else. Whatever the reason, when it comes to sex, we all have the right to say "No."
What we don't have is the right to second guess your gender for you. We don't accept other people questioning our definition of our own sexuality, and I don't think we should accept questioning someone else's gender.
All are welcome; openness and honesty are encouraged. That, above all, is one of the things that makes a man.