Saturday, 30 January 2016

So I've Read Lynne Featherstone's "#EqualEverAfter"...

It has been a couple of years since the end of the same-sex marriage debates and it is about time we got some insider knowledge of how same-sex marriage went from fringe issue (fringe even within the LGBT community, trust me... I was there!) to actual legislation.

And Lynne Featherstone was a central figure within that, there is not denying it. Now there's been some unkind mocking, including from me, of the way the book has been portrayed as being all about how Featherstone was the one and only person behind same-sex marriage becoming law. But let's get this out of the way from the start: even without reading what is in this book we all know she played an immensely important part in getting same-sex marriage on to the agenda and through Parliament. She justly deserves respect and appreciation for that.

So... the book. There are no massive revelations in it for any of us who followed the news and social media updates at the time. I don't think there's any surprise in how Theresa May gave Featherstone's proposals her blessing, how David Cameron got in the way of opposite-sex civil partnerships or how the churches and fellow travellers reacted.

Nor should any of us be surprised that Chris Bryant, Labour MP, "battled ferociously" against the idea at first and "didn't see the point". Nor how Ben Summerskill was "very dismissive" until the hard part was over when he was "literally lording it and loving it".

Basically if you read Pink News, or even just this humble blog!, you'd probably be well aware of all this stuff and more.

This book is not really a book about same-sex marriage, it is a book about how Lynne Featherstone got us same-sex marriage. It is a memoir and, if anything, merely one source for the yet-to-be written full history of the fight for equal marriage (also yet to be finished!).

Is it worth buying? Probably not. It's written in a very easy to read conversational style, broken down into themes rather than strictly chronological and perfect for a commuting read. But... it just didn't tell me anything important than what I knew already.

The one interesting little detail I saw was mention of Ed Fordham attempting to turn Tim Farron on the issue... using scripture! Ugh. I'm glad I'm out of that party now.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Going Against The Grain On David Mundell's Coming Out

There's few moments in one's life as important as a gay man's "coming out". Maybe it is just to a friend, maybe to the whole world. But it will come with fear, relief and often celebration (especially where it happens voluntarily).

So I have a great deal of sympathy for David Mundell. In his fifties and now in the public eye, he has come out as gay.

But where I think I differ from a lot of people is that I have a variety of emotions about it which never seem to be reflected in the press coverage and social media applause.


  • This is a bittersweet moment for any gay man of Mundell's age, based on my personal experience. For although now the tension between private and public has been relieved, there is no turning back the clock. No chance to experience the life of the openly gay young man, an opportunity now forever missed. A tragedy for many men in Mundell's situation. 
  • Though I have no doubt it was difficult for Mundell to come and took personal courage, a man of Mundell's position is hardly at much risk of personal injury or insult in this day and age. Glib comments about his bravery must sting the young boy struggling in school, desperate to hide his true feelings from the savages that lurk within every school waiting for the first sniff of weakness or non-conformity. Now a boy coming out there... that takes real bravery!
  • Many often make out the story of a man of his age coming out will be inspirational to young gay guys facing a similar choice. This is hardly credible. How many young gay guys find themselves "inspired" by a politician in his 50s coming out? Most of them won't even know he did (or ever hear his name) for politics is not exactly the realm of the majority. And what is inspirational about a man who spent decades coming to terms with his sexuality? Is that something to aspire too? I'd hope not. 
  • Every time I see a news story about someone coming out, I just think "And?". Why is that even a news story nowadays? Man acknowledges he finds other men attractive. Wow. Mind-blowing. NEXT!
I know it is easy for someone like me who had a very gentle and easy coming out experience, with supportive friends and little trauma, to pontificate but these stories have started to grate with the glib comments and public self-congratulation from the great and good. Moments like are absolutely personally important to the person involved. But it is far gone time we just stopped caring about it. 

It'd all be a lot easier if our forebears had heeded Harvey Milk's advice 40 years ago. Alas. 


“Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene" 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Goldsmiths University's LGBT+ SU Group Oppose... Erm... A Human Rights Campaigner #exmuslimbecause

Maryam Namazie is a well-known campaigner for human rights, who is best known for opposing Islamist attacks on Muslims and ex-Muslims alike. She can be quite forthright and, as a member of a Communist party, is hardly uncontroversial. However she doesn't threaten people and is always extremely clear that her problem is with radical Islamists not Muslims and she is clear that Muslims are usually the first and main victims of Islamism.

So when she came to speak to the atheist and humanist student group at Goldsmiths University it was to be expected that the group representing Muslim students would take some offence at her presence. They are hardly without blemish in regard of "controversial" speakers. They, after all, hosted Andreas Tzortzis earlier this year who has compared homosexuality with cannibalism.

Her talk did go ahead, despite the feminist society coming out in support of their Muslim colleagues, and she faced some rather childish protests. Take a look about 12 minutes in to this video (though I do recommend watching it all!)


Despite this fairly clear silliness, today the LGBT group at the university came out in support of... the people who tried their darnedest to silence Maryam Namazie and her message against radical Islam. See their Facebook message here. They appear to have finally stopped deleting comments and I think the fact that some comments are approaching 200 likes and their original statement remains on just 12 likes show how popular their decision has been.

I really cannot begin to describe how disappointing, if unsurprising, I find this. Namazie is standing in opposition to groups who are persecuting and murdering Muslims, ex-Muslims, other religious people, women and LGBT people. As the Islamic State throw gay men to their deaths from tall buildings, Maryam Namazie is trying to educate people on the dangers of their ideology.

And the LGBT group of a university didn't choose to support her, nor to remain silent over this but instead chose to support a group of disruptive young men who used intimidation to try and get their way.

Thankfully Namazie wasn't phased, I get the impression she is used to this, and finished her speech. Sadly without the support of those she fights to protect and, in fact, she finds those most at risk from Islamist violence actively opposing her message.

Truly disappointing stuff.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Going Full Right Wing Nut-Job

I've always been an individualist. No matter what political question I've considered, my response has always been heavily influenced by my belief that individual rights and freedoms are very important. I'm no purist, I'm willing to concede they aren't the be all and end all, hence why I've always preferred the term liberaltarian rather than libertarian.

My beliefs that people do need a "safety net" and that being nice is a virtue caused me to side with the centre-left generally despite my support for free enterprise. I value social freedom over economic freedom (even if it has been hard to separate the two!). The centre-left, I thought, were the people most willing to help fight social conservatives, prudes and authoritarians.

Oh how naive I was. I know my posts over the last few years have shown my increasing disaffection with "progressive" thought, but the last few months have really been a watershed period for me. I can no longer pretend I share common ground with more than a handful of people on the centre-left. How can I when we have people from the left opposing sex workers rights, fighting to ban porn, creating division where there need not be any and generally undermining personal choice.

I left the Lib Dems a couple of months ago. I now find myself politically homeless. I can't even see myself voting Lib Dem again. I would describe myself proudly as a cultural libertarian. I have concerns about my fellow travellers (I'm not a big fan of coarse language or cruel insults) but I accept their "flaws" because... I'm not an authoritarian! I don't want to live in some dehumanised clinical world where every thought is policed. I don't want to live in a world where the sanctimonious thrive and bland corporate statements fill social media. You can't experience joy without sadness, you can't see the beauty in humanity without seeing the flaws. Or as Eric Idle says

"Life's a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true."

I'm tired of listening to debates where the majority value feelings over facts. So I'm coming out... I'm an ex-progressive and I don't give a damn who knows!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

At Last People Are Waking Up To The Tactics Of The New Puritans

It is a shame anything involving Germaine Greer and her vile comments about transgender people seems to have helped bring some sanity back to the world of political commentary. As we have seen there has been a new puritan spirit rising across the nation as politicians try to ban/filter porn, suppress sex workers freedoms and ban some magazines. And it isn't just in those sort of initiatives one can see it... there's a creeping sense of conformity drifting back across various aspects of our lives. Just look at the adulation given to same-sex married couples and their kids on the gay news outlets for an example of this (having children isn't exactly pioneering, my other half has 4).

Anyway. After some students sought to ban Germaine Greer from giving a talk at a university because, well let's be frank, she's a really horrible person there finally seems to be a few more voices rising up to defend free speech (even if its hers). Ironically many of these voices are ones who didn't stand up against porn blocks or other infringements of our freedoms, but hey the number of Labourites standing up for marriage equality prior to 2010 could be counted on one hand. These things change gradually. Referring to the neo-progressives as a cult is pretty much on the nose except I don't really like the word cult. One person's cult, is another person's religion. Certainly neo-progressives, with their love of woo and hatred of the atheist movement, share much with the religious.

Howard Jacobson has also got the measure of the latest type of prude.

Our country is in a censorious mood. The more educated we are, the less we are prepared to tolerate views contrary to our own. Shake any institution of higher learning and a dozen boycotters will fall out of it. If the academic community gets its way, we will soon all be speaking with a single voice.
Others are also getting a sense of just how far things have already gone. In universities the students are cleansing their courses of anything that might offend.

Using tactics like trying to get someone fired to silence them (then getting upset that their own businesses might get hurt in the blowback), we are seeing the real "morality" these puritans are preaching.



But more are starting to stand against the shaming.


Nick Cohen says it all here.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Escalating Criminalisation Of Youthful Sexuality

Last year I expressed concern that Stonewall's advise to teachers and parents would lead to kids being criminalised for expressing themselves sexually. That concern appears very well placed given the latest news that a 14 year old boy sending a sext to a girl (who then appears to have engaged in some revenge porning against him by sharing it around the school) has had his actions recorded as a crime with some serious consequences for his future.

Kids do stupid things. Kids do stupid sexual things. Kids really are dumb. And the job of adults is not to criminalise their minor indiscretions but to counsel and point them in a better direction.

Did I do stupid things as a teenage? TONS. Did I do stupid sexual things? Hell yes (and I don't regret one of them!). I came out the other side alright.

It is time adults stopped outsourcing their responsibility of care for children to the police and instead stood up and became the role models this kids deserve.

It is disgusting that our society is criminalising children who are just discovering their sexuality rather than giving them guidance.

Shame on the adults involved in this case.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Experience Of Watching Ray Comfort's Latest Movie "Audacity"

Like Tim Farron, Ray Comfort believes homosexuality is a sin (equal to stealing, adultery and "fornication"). His latest movie "Audacity" is dedicated to the subject of witnessing to homosexuals. It makes for some uncomfortable viewing.

Uncomfortable mainly because of Ray Comfort's excruciating "gotcha" footage where he wanders up to people in the street and leads them off down the garden path.

Just like watching this video of Richard Dawkins destroying an ill-prepared Brandon Flowers (I love Dawkins but seeing him up against Flowers is as uncomfortable as watching a lorry drive over a rabbit), Comfort bamboozles these unprepared people by playing with words.

For instance he gets them to say whether they think homosexuals are "born that way". If they agree he then asks if they think adulterers are "born that way". This is draw a comparison between betraying the trust of someone you love and loving someone of the same sex. Like deers in headlights they are taken aback by this "logic". Yet Comfort's belief that these two things are both equally sinful is based solely on scripture whereas adultery and homosexuality are facets of human existence that have extremely complicated genetic, social and psychological causes and explanations that require a lot more discussion than just a "gotcha" attempt at conversion.

And his question "Are you a good person?" seems to bring out the worse in people. Who on Earth just says "Yes" or "I think I am"? All of us know we are in some way flawed (and no I'm not suggesting we're all sinners but that we could all be better people), the only way I could ever answer that question is "I try every day to be better". He then uses their silly answer to tell them they are sinners and they need to repent. It is like watching a cat play with mice. Painful.

The movie itself, set around these visual asides, is full of cardboard characters who don't appear fully human. The angry gay. The good Christian boy. The questioning girl. The easily converted gay (okay there are actually a fair number of these). I'm really not sure this movie was aimed at actually converting anyone, it is all very much "soul food" for the converted. Maybe I'm just not the target audience but it just seems to rely too much on a belief that the Bible is true. I mean if you don't accept that, how on Earth does the rest of it make sense?