Thursday, 26 April 2012

Sleeping With Someone Of The Same Sex Isn't Gay!

Own up, who clicked though thinking the title doesn't make sense? I'm here to tell you it does. Homosexuals aren't the only people who sleep with someone of the same sex. Not only do you get those "situational homosexuals" in same-sex environments (most infamously in prisons) but there are also those, oft-thought mythical, people known as bisexuals. 

"Bierasure" is something I've seen mentioned a lot, mainly thanks to the close eye I keep on opposition to Stonewall. Stonewall are rather infamous for ignoring bisexuals. It's really opened my mind to the concept and sometimes I'm left rather blown away by the examples I find online. 

But today there is a story which has really shown just how deep "bierasure" is embedded into our culture. An inquest has ruled that man killed himself after having sex with another man. His parents are upset about this as they feel it was not consensual sex, and that there is a cover-up going on at the RAF. I make no comment on that matter as I'm in no position to question the results of the inquest or the events it looked into. 

However, take a look at some of the things his parents say:

“My son was living the dream. He was happy and engaged to be married. He was due to go out to the Falklands and had signed up for Afghanistan.  
“There is no way my son was gay and we believe something terrible happened to Robert that night that he couldn’t live with.
And then:

“He had had lots of girlfriends in the past and had been engaged twice. 
“It doesn’t make sense that he would be gay for one night, then regret it so much that he would kill himself. 
“We are not anti-gay, far from it. We have a lot of gay friends and if it was something Robert wanted to do he would not kill himself.
It seems to be completely beyond them that someone could have lots of girlfriends and still want to sleep with a man. It's quite possible for someone to be bisexual. As society becomes more accepting of same-sex relationships, they are increasingly seeing sexuality as an either/or scenario. Either, in some people's minds, someone is straight or they are gay. Marriage equality, though obviously something I welcome, is not going to make it easier to educate people that sexuality isn't black or white but far more broad, fluid and remarkable than many give it credit for. 

It doesn't help, of course, that a lot of people dismiss bisexuals as "closet cases". Just last week we had claims Jessie J wasn't bisexual but was instead a lesbian who was trapped in the closet to keep her career going. Generally I find this is because bisexuality doesn't fit that person's particular agenda (be it political or personal). 

Let's start opening our minds a little more to the fact people don't easily fall into the boxes we want to put them in. Hell, bisexuality is a word that doesn't really give justice to variety of different types of "bisexuality" there are. We need to realise each person is individual and their sexuality is just as complex and individual as their personality. 

Some people are bisexual. There's no getting over it, just get used to it!

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Monday, 23 April 2012

My Own Personal Brand Of Patriotism

St. George's Day. As any one of my personal acquaintance would know, this is not a day I respect. On many subjects I am a rational person with a healthy scepticism. I like evidence-based science. I find religion fascinating but ultimately false. I enjoy reasoned arguments from others and like to try and keep my beliefs consistent. But on the subject of patriotism, reason leaves me and is instead replaced with the sort of passion others seem to reserve for their deities.

And my form of patriotism is not one rooted in popular culture. It's my own brand mixing royalism, unionism and personal loyalty to strangers. I no longer attempt to argue against English nationalism as I once did. Nor do I argue against republicanism, given I find many arguments in favour of it both logical and compelling. But I also do not expect anyone to ever change my own beliefs on the matter.

I find English nationalism dull and and without romance. It seems unfocussed and, occasionally, loutish. I don't mean to say people who consider themselves "English" are louts, but that often the expression of nationalism that is most often encountered (i.e. through sport) is loutish.

And I find republicanism to often be less expressed in the logic that is so compelling and more about a personal hatred of Her Majesty and her family. The snide comments on Twitter I often see RT'd by @RepublicStaff are indicative of this nastiness and it leaves me cold. Furthermore, republicanism shares English nationalism's unromantic nature.

Perhaps it's my love of fantasy, my interest in British (plus earlier English and Scottish) history or a very human need for a little bit of irrationality in one's life, but I love the monarchy. I love the United Kingdom. I find a great deal of comfort in knowing the Queen is on her throne and she reigns over us. I like the pomp, I like the chivalry and I like the notion of personal loyalty to someone.

In my job I encounter so many unreasonable, impolite and, often, duplicitous people that I find I crave something as simple as being unfailingly loyal to another person without expecting anything in return. It's seems so pure and honourable to keep one's word to another; like something from that better part of our nature that we so often don't get to show.

I am personally loyal to Her Majesty and her heirs, to her United Kingdom and it's territories. I do not accept that patriotism means waving a big flag, celebrating some long dead saint or dying in some politically motivated war. It's not about "shared culture", where you are born or some historic borders. It's about loyalty, honour, decency and fellowship. To me it's about progress, innovation and goodwill.

Whatever happens to this country, whether it remains at it is or becomes an English Republic, I will remain a loyal British subject. Unwavering in my personal loyalty but respectful of other's beliefs.

St. George means nothing to me, but if he so moves you to acts of passion then far be it from me to try and dissuade you. But I'm more moved by things such as this excellent Youtube video I posted about yesterday:

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 22 April 2012

An Anthem For Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee

Very Thai-style tribute to Her Majesty (if you've ever seen any of the cinematic tributes to His Thai Majesty, you'd know what I mean!). Absolutely love it.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

It Doesn't Matter Why I'm Gay

Nature or nuture? When I consider that ever present question regarding my sexuality, I regard it with the same interest as that other important question: what colours were the dinosaurs? In other words I find the subject fascinating but essentially it has no bearing on how I live my life or how I view the struggle for LGBT rights.

The reemergence of last year's "A stroke turned me gay" story, thanks to a documentary on BBC Three tonight, has spurred some debate. Thanks to such things as the recent "ads on a bus" scandal, the concept of one's sexuality being flexible (or, my preferred word, fluid) is a "No go" area for some LGBT folk. Paul Flynn in the Guardian, and even Chris Birch's own fiance, seem convinced that Birch was always gay but was just in denial. The idea some event, be it a stroke, therapy or a magic spell, might be able to change one's sexuality goes completely against their world view. It plays, by their way of looking at things, into the hands of those crazy Christians who spend their life trying to convert gay men, lesbians and bisexuals to the "correct" sexuality.

I sometimes wonder if they are suggesting sexuality is something mystical or holy. The idea that it is immutable is akin to believing one has a soul. It's as religious, and unscientific, a belief as those who think it can be changed by therapy.

Making the argument about whether it can be changed or not is the real danger here. What does one do if science proves one's sexuality can be changed? That's the danger you face if you sit there fighting the case for an eternal and unchangeable sexuality.

To me it doesn't matter if it's nature, nuture, magic, cultural, or a mixture of all or some of those and other factors. It doesn't matter if it's a choice or not. There is NOTHING wrong with being gay, bisexual, a lesbian, asexual, straight, pansexual, polyamorous or just about any other consensual sexual flavour one can imagine. That is the beginning and the end. Even accepting one side of the argument or the other is to tacitly agree there could be something wrong with it, that if it was a choice it'd somehow be a bad thing to choose.

Now, what do I believe? Based on no evidence whatsoever I suspect it's a mixture of nature, nurture and a significant splash of cultural construction. I also believe that our current distinction of LGB and straight will disappear, that our current "gay culture" is but a passing phase that will go the way of homophobia.

But that doesn't change the fact I might be very wrong indeed, and it doesn't change the fact it doesn't matter one iota.

So I'm perfectly content to accept that I didn't choose to be gay, that some might find "benefit" from ex-gay therapy and that Chris Birch could indeed turn gay because of a stroke. I'm not quite as happy to accept one must stop playing rugby, lose some weight and get a terrible hairstyle in for the bargain though.

Pink News managed a rather more thoughtful comment piece on this than the Guardian managed.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Friday, 13 April 2012

Reasons The Ex-Gay Bus Ads Were Stupid And Why They Shouldn't Be Banned

Yesterday a rather impressive Twitter storm raged after it was discovered Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust were going to mount a counter bus ad campaign to Stonewall's famous "Some people are gay. Get over it" ads. These have recently reappeared on buses thanks to Stonewall's new marriage equality campaign.

If they were aiming for massive exposure, they were successful even if the ads have now been refused by Transport for London thanks to Boris Johnson's (record time) intervention last night. But if they were aiming to enlighten the public, I feel they may have really missed an opportunity (thankfully for us LGBT rights enthusiasts!). So here's a few points on what is wrong with the advert (leaving out that ridiculous exclamation mark after Not Gay which is wrong on far too many levels).

1) The phrasing. "Ex-gay" and "Post-gay" are not really terms in common circulation. People like me (and probably you) know about ex-gays because of the harrowing stories we hear from organisations like Truth Wins Out. Christian fundamentalists know about ex-gays because they are good friends! Post-gay is a bit more confusing, as to me that means someone looking to a time when sexuality doesn't really matter. I don't think that was the intention of the advert, but I could be wrong! I really think this advert is far more likely to confuse than to enlighten it's target audience. On that front alone it was a bit of an own goal anyway.
2) The concept. The idea that one can change their sexuality is not one I'd argue against. I believe that is true, and that sexuality is far more fluid than we'd like to admit. And I'm certain that there are some people who have been successfully "helped" by ex-gay organisations. But their treatments are not scientific and are NOT likely to "cure" even a large minority of those who ask for their help. I'm all in favour of freedom so I think ex-gay organisations should be allowed to operate (with adults). However, it's not something one should brag about running. The treatments and tactics of these organisations are awful... Ex-Gay Watch has more on that.
3) It's possibly the least Christian response, to what they perceived as attack, that could be conceived! Whatever happened to turning the other cheek, offering a positive response or even a loving response?? Truly, truly bizarre from so-called Christians.

But saying that, I can nothing here to ban it. The advert is not offensive. I know, don't hate me, but it's not. If you find this offensive than I would ask you not read any more of the internet immediately. It's simply (alright not simply, I'm assume this is what it says given how unclear it is!) stating that straight people, ex-gays and gay folks who have moved beyond their sexuality exist and are proud too. And it makes no unscientific claims.

Recently I criticised Tim Farron for asking the ASA to give an exception to a Christian organisation that advertises that prayer heals. That is unscientific and is, 99% certainly, a false claim. No such false claim has been made in this case.

I think it should've been allowed to run on free speech grounds alone. It didn't incite violence, made no false claims (unless you deny the existence of people claiming to be ex-gay!) and isn't offensive. It was ridiculous, pointless and not very nice. But I really think all that a ban has done is kept the story, and exposure going (as proven by today's news the anti-gay organisations might attempt to sue).

People around the world want to silence LGBT people because they find what we say offensive, we must be better people than them.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Brian Paddick for Mayor of London Election Broadcast

Excellent video I have to say, very strong indeed. Team London obviously doing the Lib Dems  proud :)

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Lib Dem Local Elections 2012 PPB

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Ken Livingstone Should Remember LGBT Rights Are Not Like Karma

Ken Livingstone has been a constant friend to the movement for LGBT rights. He fought against Section 28, he brought in the London partnership register (which earned him a great deal of respect from me!) and he's been there by our side when the going has gotten tough. No one can take that away from him. But like many people in Labour, he suffers under a major delusion. Because of his past unblemished record he thinks that he is immune to doing something wrong. Ben Bradshaw fell into that trap this weekend, and now Ken Livingstone has clearly shown his opinion of himself.
'I was getting a load of abuse, openly campaigning for lesbian and gay issues,' said Livingstone.

'Loads of people assumed I was gay and I got a lot of flack for all that because I wasn’t going to insult the gay community by saying there’s something wrong with being gay.

'And he [Paddick] was in the closet. I was doing it for decades before he came out.'
I'm going to ignore the rather nasty implications of that comment (Straight person dictating that Paddick should've come out sooner*) as I don't think that's actually what Livingstone was trying to say (ditto for his gay banker comments and his very recent "riddled" with gays comment about the Tory party, yes I'm stretching "benefit of the doubt" to it's limits here). However it's clear Ken Livingstone thinks his past actions make him untouchable on LGBT rights. That, I'm afraid to say, is not the case. It's not karma; you don't build up brownie points. Being in favour of LGBT rights should be the default not something that makes you better than others.

The thing that bothers me most is Livingstone's defence of Yusuf al-Qaradawi. I understand politicians often have to engage with people who they'd rather not. David Trimble and Gerry Adams for example! And there's nothing wrong with someone reaching out to another community, even to people who aren't all that pleasant. There's quite a difference though in defending their actions and refusing to accept the evidence that they aren't pleasant. All Livingstone had to say was "Yes, I understand the concerns but I felt it better to engage with him than to shut down a conversation". Instead he says:

"“No. I made no effort to change it, this is what he said, and if I’m asked to judge a person on what I hear them say, or what I read about them in The Sun, sorry but I’m going to believe what I hear.”

I.e. I don't believe he is homophobic! al-Qaradawi has called for the death penalty for homosexuals and this is well-known and documented here. Livingstone's continued defence of these comments shows that either he's not listening or worse he's lying!

He wants to be a Mayor for all Londoners, he even got my 2nd preference at the last mayoral election, but he is unable to admit his mistakes. This makes me very concerned for what he might do in the future and who he might welcome to London.

Livingstone does not deserve to be Mayor again. He suffers from foot-in-mouth syndrome even more than Johnson does (and that's an achievement!) and seems unable to back down once he's said something that comes out the wrong way. He has none of the characteristics of a good leader, and all the characteristics of a very divisive one. 

Keep Ken out, for the good of all the communities of London.

*I'll admit I've had my issues with people not coming out in the past on this blog but at all times I was keen to stress it was because their actions (i.e. Nigel Evans) were hypocritical. People not coming out but also not doing anything to hurt others isn't something that bothers me, and I completely sympathise with why they may wish to stay in the closet.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Brilliant Video On Legal Difference Between Civil Partnerships and Marriage

Please view and share this excellent video that shows some examples of why civil partnerships are different to marriage (despite what Ben Bradshaw and others might say!)


If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Ben Bradshaw MP Plays The "Semantic" Card On Marriage Equality

Here's a quote from a Washington Post article from the 30/03/2012 regarding Britain's march towards marriage equality:
“This is more of David Cameron trying to drag the Conservatives kicking and screaming into the modern world,” said Ben Bradshaw, a ranking Labor lawmaker who in 1997 became one of Britain’s first openly gay members of Parliament. “Of course, we’ll support it, but this is pure politics on their part. This isn’t a priority for the gay community, which already won equal rights” with civil partnerships. He added: “We’ve never needed the word ‘marriage,’ and all it’s done now is get a bunch of bishops hot under the collar. We’ve been pragmatic, not making the mistake they have in the U.S., where the gay lobby has banged on about marriage.”
Today on Twitter he's defended these comments by stating that the fight for marriage equality is just semantics. With the interview he played into the hands of homophobes and then he made things worse when on Twitter he used one of their arguments! Marriage equality is not just semantics, but unfortunately Ben Bradshaw follows in the tradition of LGB Labour politicians of not really understanding the legislation they originally supported. Certainly he points out above his understanding that civil partnerships were a cheap ploy to give LGB folks rights without the need to fight with the religious over them. Compromising on freedom isn't really something I'm comfortable with but that's playing politics in a nutshell so he can't really complain when Cameron does it! 

But on the uncomfortable nitty-gritty effects of civil partnerships on transgendered individuals he doesn't seem to have a clue. Civil partnerships certainly haven't given us equal rights for all, just a semblance of them. I won't go into too much detail here as we've got this article to refer to.

And I was a bit surprised to see Mr Bradshaw use the semantics argument for, unless I'm much mistaken, wasn't it he who got rather upset when someone referred to his civil partner as his "boyfriend"? Such a semantic problem, but words don't matter to Mr Bradshaw.

He's even gone on to use that old chestnut of "But isn't *insert issue here*  more important?" that may be, but since when did one need to only fight one battle at a time? It's not hard and we're not playing some sort of game of who cares the most about LGBT rights. It's simply a lack of understanding on his part that concerns me. It was almost, but not quite, forgiveable in 2004. It's absolutely unforgivable now. 

Ben Bradshaw might not think marriage equality is important, but he really needs to get with the programme, stop feeding the bigots quotes and start chipping in with LGBT activists for whom this is just one of many important issues they are working on. But that may be too much to ask given his record, and he doesn't really want to upset any Bishops after all!

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Invasion of the Falklands: An Ungentlemanly Act

30 years ago today, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. I think sometimes we forget the actual event, focussing more upon the war that followed and it's aftermath. But there was plenty of heroics that day among the islanders, their Government and their defenders most of who tried to act with honour despite the overwealming odds against them.

Many people see the Falklands War as some sort of British imperial expedition, a throwback to a bygone era. But what it really was a reaction against a dishonourable, cruel and nasty act carried out against (nearly) defenceless civilians. With the current sabre-rattling in Beunos Aires I think many countries have completely forgotten what Argentina did and how unnecessary the deaths that followed (on both sides) were. The United Kingdom, in my opinion, acted correctly in seeking to liberate the islands from their invaders and acts correctly now in protecting the right of self-determination of the islanders.

907 people died because Argentina was unable to live in peace with her smallest neighbour. Let us ensure no more die needlessly again. Peace must be the aim because war carries far too heavy a price.

For a rather brilliant, and not too propaganda-ish, dramatisation of the events of 02 April 1982 take a look at An Ungentlemanly Act below.


If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Government Internet Snooping - Please Let This Be An April Fools

It is being report today that the Government plans to introduce legislation to monitor emails, texts and internet surfing history. It feels like something New Labour would want, and in fact it's very similar to a law they unsuccessfully tried to introduce.

I've put up with tuition fees, the NHS bill, disability benefit cuts, even the lukewarm marriage equality consultation. But it would be immoral for me to remain in a party that, whilst in Government, allowed this sort of attack on our basic freedoms to go through. I'm fairly confident that our Lib Dem ministers in Government will vigorously oppose this snooping law. Well they better do so anyway.

Seriously, this Government has lost it's way. They were supposed to roll back New Labour's authoritarian legislation not create more!!

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist