Monday, 27 May 2013

A Loaded Topic Indeed, But Shops Should Be Allowed To Sell Lad Mags

The fate of lad mags must surely be the one thing on this planet that I really shouldn't be concerned about. 1) I'm gay, so most of the content (i.e. barely clothed women) is of little interest to me, 2) I regard cars, football and exercise with the disdain they all very much deserve and 3) I'm nearly 30!

If Loaded, FHM, Nuts, Zoo and pretty much any other magazine aimed at the majority of young men were to suddenly disappear, would I really feel that bad? Probably not, I would have thought. In fact, if you had told me yesterday that they were going out of business I may have taken you out for a celebratory pint., a "Lose the Lads' Mags" campaign was launched via a letter to the Guardian. Rather than attempting to convince men that such magazines are beneath them or just pressuring stores that sold them to drop them, they have taken the tack of threatening the use of the Equality Act to get rid of these magazines from stores to protect employees from "pornographic material".

Something about this really rubs me up the wrong way. I've heard all the arguments about the objectification of women, the evils of pornography and the horrors that result from a man reading Nuts (personally I think the true horror is what a man needs to be like to actually want to read Nuts, but hey that is just me). But none of them ever really address things with an even view. Gay men, and I very much include myself in this, objectify other men all the time. I've had women not just reading 50 Shades of Grey in my presence but openly discussing the intricate details of what is described in there (including within my work environment). In fact I've had women at work send me half naked pictures of men and ask me exactly what I think about them. But my sexuality, and those of the women I work with, seem to be "acceptable", yet heterosexual male sexuality is looked at as if it something to be deeply ashamed of, controlled and kept away from "decent" people.

I believe sexism still very much exists. And I think rape and violence are real issues (when they happen to women or to men) that need to be discussed and solutions looked into. I do not believe that reading Nuts is what changes a man from being a decent, upstanding member of society to being a rapist or a abuser or someone who doesn't hire a woman for a job she is capable of merely because she is a woman.

But I also believe there is an almost puritanical dislike of heterosexual men's sexuality that really is beginning to border on the insane. So shops get rid of Nuts, Zoo, Loaded etc (is Loaded even still published, let alone still read?). Shouldn't they get rid of Gay Times and Attitude too (especially their naked editions)? Aren't those naked issues actually sexual harassment of any male employees? Are gay bars and clubs up and down the land in breach of the Equality Act for exposing their employees to copies of the free gay mag Boyz? Let me tell you, the contents of that magazine make Nuts and Zoo look like a Ladybird book. I've asked this question many times before but are male porn stars being objectified? If men reading Nuts makes them have a poorer attitude to women (rather than that I suspect some of those who read Nuts have a poor attitude towards women, which is quite a different thing) doesn't looking at gay porn mean I'm more likely to treat men badly? I personally don't think it does, and thus is can't be the act of objectification that is the problem.

I absolutely hate to say this but: Toby Young makes some good points over at the Telegraph. Caron makes some reasonable points about feeling uncomfortable with men reading these sort of magazines in public. However, I feel uncomfortable when a straight couple start making out in front of me (a mixture of not wanting to appear to be looking at them and not wanting to be seen to be not looking at them on purpose as this would mean I had seen them which would be embarrassing enough; a very British problem), but does this mean I would expect them not to? I'm not a big fan of it that is for sure. What about the man who gets uncomfortable because the guy across from him is reading Attitude? Is that man within his rights to remonstrate with the Attitude reader? I think not.

This is all a bit of a brain dump, and would almost certainly be ripped to shreds by any feminist intellectual out there, but I really feel very uncomfortable indeed about telling off men (generally of the lower, poorer classes) for daring to buy something others don't like.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Very Little Time Left To Help Get #EqualMarriage Passed

In just over a week the Lords will have their Second Reading of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill. The House of Commons easily passed this Bill (with the usual ineffective Tory and DUP grumbling), but all signs point to a tougher fight in the House of Lords.

It is absolutely essential that, if you support marriage equality, you write to a peer or two to let them know how you feel. There is simply no time to hang around. Do it today.

Don't know what Lord to write to? Let me know, there are few that still need to be contacted.

The debate on the 3rd of June is looking to be very long and, I suspect, rather unpleasant. Positive voices may help keep it a little more civil that the Commons.

Write to a peer, be polite, be sincere and you never know what might happen.

The time to act is now!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Ex-Gay Therapy And I

When it comes to how to deal with ex-gay therapy, I'm deeply conflicted.

On one hand:

- I'm pretty confident that it does not work. Suppressing your sexuality is not changing it. The evidence seems to back this up and even former ex-gay leaders are starting to admit this.
- As it doesn't work, giving "false hope" to those, often vulnerable, individuals who want to change their sexuality is dangerous. It serves only to make them feel even worse when they are told their sexuality can change but it doesn't.
- You don't go to a Doctor and expect to receive homeopathy (unless you're a little mad) so you don't go to a psychiatrist and expect to be offered ex-gay therapy. It seems to be deeply wrong for any professional psychiatrist or counsellor to offer this.
- I just don't really get it because I don't see why anyone would want to change their sexuality. But that's just my bias...

On the other hand:

- As long as there is no coercion, this seems like a straight-forward case of freedom both for the individual to pursue this sort of therapy and for people to offer it.
- I don't want people to be gay. I want them to be happy. If not being gay makes them happy, who am I to deny them the right to work on that? Although how finding one gender attractive and the other not can make you happy/unhappy I don't know. Oh bias again...
- Ex-gay therapy is often given a good kicking but when will we review all other sorts of dangerously unscientific therapies like "sex addiction" therapy or anti-masturbation counselling (trust me, the Mormons have this!)

So yes, I'm pretty conflicted on this subject but feel I should welcome Diana Johnson's proposal for Parliament to tackle the subject. Certainly the idea that NHS funds have been used for conversion therapy makes me feel a little sick. I just know that if this subject ever does make it to Parliament, the debates will be just awful to behold.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Some Of Us Have Been Waiting For Today For A Very Long Time... But It Isn't Over Yet

I've been arguing, I hesitate to say fighting, for marriage equality for a very long time. Way back in 2005 I was rather distressed at the introduction of civil partnerships, and in 2007 decided that sitting around moaning about it wasn't going to get anywhere so I began writing to MPs and blogging on the various efforts to convince people that marriage equality was something worth fighting for.

We are not there yet. But today was one major milestone in the journey. The Government's Same-Sex Marriage Bill passed through its third reading in the House of Commons by 366 votes to 161. It was weirdly anti-climatic as, despite the House of Commons being our elected part of our legislature, the Bill is only halfway to being law. But it is a chance to take a moment and think how far we've come from the days when people like Ed Miliband seemed a little shocked to even be asked if they supported marriage equality

That is due, in no small part, thanks to hard-working MPs like Lynne Featherstone, Nick Herbert and Julian Huppert. And thanks to campaigns like the Coalition for Equal Marriage. These are the people who put marriage equality on the agenda. And I feel we owe them a great deal of gratitude. 

The Same-Sex Marriage Bill remains deeply flawed, lacking pension rights and transgender rights supporting amendments. And the fight in the Lords is likely to be tough. 

If you can help by writing letters or emails to peers, or even donating some money so more can be posted, then please let me know. We've won this battle, and some!, but the fight for our freedom continues. 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

YouGov Again Show No Basis For Tory Jitters Over #EqualMarriage

Let's take a look at this weekend's YouGov poll which has a number of questions on same-sex marriage. I think it will make sad reading for those desperately trying to make same-sex marriage into a storm to bring down David Cameron.

The first question was "Which of the following issues will be important to you in deciding how you vote at the next election? Please tick up to three or four" Out of 17 options same-sex marriage came 12th (beating out "Other", "None of these" and "Animal Rights") in terms of importance in influencing votes and got only 7% overall (note 7% was also the number of Tories AND UKIPpers who felt this issue would influence their vote!).

These 7% were asked "In the previous question you said that the issue  of same sex marriage would be important to you in deciding how you vote at the next election. Will you"

Be more likely to vote for a party that supports same-sex marriage - 58% (of Tories 28% and UKIP 24%)

Be less likely to vote for a party that supports samesex marriage - 42% (of Tories 72% and UKIP 76%)

Now by my calculations this means that, overall, 4% of the population are likely to base their vote mostly on whether a party opposes same-sex marriage or not.  5% of Tories are likely to vote against the party over marriage equality. This is hardly a major rebellion!

Next question: "Since 2005 same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships. While civil partnerships offer the same legal rights as marriage, same-sex couples are not able to marry. Would you support or oppose changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?"

A leading question, one which some critics sometimes wish was asked more often as they feel it favours the anti-equal marriage cause. This poll doesn't hold that hope up. 55% said they support changing the law over 36% opposed (consistent with most other polls). 48% of Tory voters oppose over 45% supporting. Yet we've seen those who oppose have more important issues that influence their votes. Even UKIP have "only" 53% opposed (I say only given the weight many are giving this issue).

It does go on to stress a strong support for civil partnerships being extended to heterosexuals and moderate support for a referendum (39% to 34%) but then most people support referendums when given the opportunity for most things.

It becomes clearer with every poll that the Tory right-wing "loons" are out of touch not only with the public but with the issues that their own supporters think are important. Time to focus on what they really want...

Muslim Leaders Come Out Against #EqualMarriage, And Yes They Are Wrong!

One of the most annoying criticisms one receives as a gay liberal is that, in some bizarre way, I must thus be some Muslim fanboy who wouldn't dare criticism Islam because obviously everyone politically to the left of Nigel Farage must be in kahoots with fundamentalist Muslims! "Oh you criticise us Christians but you'd never dare criticise a Muslim!" is the commonest formulation of this argument (usually used by UKIPpers who, on this issue, are ironically allied with Muslims!).

The main reason I spend less time moaning about Islam than I do Christianity is that we live in a Christian country (our Head of State is the head of the Church of England, if we weren't so damn British about it all we'd be living in a Christian theocracy!). Most of the powerful and organised vocal opponents of LGBT rights are Christians. The people physically attacking the police in Paris and attacking LGBT rights activisits in Tblisi weren't Muslims, they were Christians led to the protests by their priests!

But that doesn't mean I think Islam isn't just as silly as Christianity is. And I know some Muslims are just as dangerous to LGBT people as Christians are. Here in Britain some Muslims have called for us to be tortured, to be put to death and have even threatened to kill Muslim politicians who support our rights. It is in the light of this that one must look upon the recent letter to the Telegraph from ranking Muslims. Where was their letter condemning the death threats or the incitements to violence? What makes them angrier: my prospective marriage or my prospective murder? 

The letter suggests they are concerned about children, their education and their care. Laudable aims except whilst they feel we want their children educated on marriage equality (a side effect rather than an aim I'd suggest), they themselves imply they would rather our children were taken away from us (and that would appear to be an aim rather than a side effect of their opposition to marriage equality).

Which is worse? I think you know where I stand.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Tory Minister Has To Remind Senior Lib Dem What Equality Is About

Simon Hughes has never really been my cup of tea. This blog post of Younger (Angry) Jae got quoted in the Guardian just because of my deep seated dislike of the man. Whilst I apologise now for the harsh tone, the sentiments have very much returned today as Maria Miller, a Tory might I remind you, had to tell Hughes exactly what believing in freedom and equality actually mean:

“One factual error in what you said is that there was a very clear statement by the Conservative Party around looking at same-sex marriage in our Contract for Equalities that was issued at the general election. It was in a very extensive manifesto commitment document around equalities and it highlighted commitment to equality in this area.”  
She added: “Any claims that this has been fast-tracked is not accurate. The amount of consultation, the largest consultation that Government has ever seen, really took place over a year. Since the consultation, extensive analysis of that, then discussion around the bill.”
And fast tracked? Whilst we've been labouring from consultation to consultation, changed Equalities Minister and suffered through some seriously unfunny arguments from our opponents (remember old O'Brien's grotesque comments?), Minnesota went from voting on whether to ban same-sex marriage 6 months ago to voting it into law today! We are moving at a snail's pace as marriage equality becomes law in more and more countries.

Simon Hughes once answered a question of mine and confirmed his support for marriage equality. Obviously "support" means "drag my feet kicking and screaming whilst paying lip service to supporting it" in Hughes' language.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

A Majority Supports Introducing #EqualMarriage... And Doing It This Year!

I know. You won't read that headline in the Telegraph (which appears to be C4Ms publicity machine) but those are the figures shown in the latest YouGov/Sunday Times poll.

53% of those surveyed supported introducing marriage equality, 36% were opposed and 12% were Don't Knows. When asked if the Government should change the law this year 46% said yes it should against 37% saying it shouldn't (i.e. almost wholly those completely opposed).

These figures back up the Coalition for Marriage's own findings through ComRes the other day which found only 34% wanted marriage equality off the agenda completely.

In other interesting news a majority of Tory voters now support marriage equality (48% to 41%). Political betting shows that this is quite likely due to the rise of UKIP, although other polling suggests the increase anti-equality voter base of UKIP is merely a symptom rather than the driving force behind the vote switching.

Of course a majority supporting something doesn't a moral case make. Nor are these positions set in stone. And those polled aren't the ones who will be voting which is why it is important for you to contact a peer today and make sure they know about these new figures.

In the light of these figures, the fact Tories are calling for a public referendum suggests they are no longer as confident with the capability of the Lords to vote this down as they were before. You'd have to be desperate to put this issue up for a public vote right now.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Charles Moore and Nadine Dorries On #EqualMarriage: Your Dose of Hate In The Morning

Last night Charles Moore's latest article on how awful marriage equality is went up on the Telegraph's website. A few of us mocked it on Twitter for how rubbish it was and we moved on. Unfortunately some credulous MPs found it thought-provoking. Enter Nadine Dorries.

Charles Moore states some rather bizarre things in his article.

According to the “public sector equality duty”, all acts and institutions of government must enforce Equality in all its various “strands”. (There are seven of them, and “gender reassignment” is given the same status as “religion”.
Because believing in whatever deity you may means you are way better than those evil transgender people who just want to... erm... live their lives? Instead of calling it "equality" we should refer to it as "treating people as we would wish to be treated". I shall label it the Golden Rule. Could found a few religions on that...
But it failed to still the anxiety. If marriage is redefined by statute to include same-sex marriage, then a teacher who refuses to teach this as right is in breach of his public sector equality duty. And while a church will be protected in its own premises, a Christian charity providing services to all, or religious groups wanting to hire council facilities, can be banned by the accusation that they are “homophobic” organisations.
Moore ignores fact teachers are at risk of being sacked right now for supporting equality if they work in a religious school. And ignores that, under "public sector equality duty", Christian charities and religious groups will be under no more risk than they are today of being refused facilities. Why? Because they could be labelled as "Homophobic" organisations with or without marriage equality. Such a red herring.

The Government has listened too much to pressure groups and far too little to people who know about marriage. Thus the gay lobby group Stonewall has become a partner with government in educational projects (such as Lesbian and Gay History Month). Its 60,000 signatures in favour of gay marriage were accepted during the Bill’s consultation period as representing that number of individuals, whereas the Coalition for Marriage’s petition signed by 650,000 – more than 10 times the Stonewall number – was counted only as the single voice of one group.
Ignoring the fact that Stonewall submitted no such petition. And the Coalition for Equal Marriage's petition (which I suspect he thinks Stonewall is behind!) was NOT accepted. Both petitions were treated the same. Even the Telegraph states that here.

Too late, they discovered, this cannot be done. Civil servants, confronted with the embarrassing task of working out what defined the consummation of a homosexual relationship, faltered. Since homosexual acts have no existential purpose and no procreative result, consummation is a meaningless concept. From this it followed that the Government could come up with no definition of adultery in a homosexual marriage. A law designed to be equal, is not. Under the Bill, non-consummation will not be grounds for divorce in same-sex marriage. Nor will adultery. 
By accident, then, the Government is introducing, for the first time, a definition of marriage which has no sexual element. Yet it refuses to face the logical consequence of this surprising innovation. If sexual intercourse is not part of the definition of same-sex marriage, why should blamelessly cohabiting sisters not marry one another in order to avoid inheritance tax? Why should father not marry son? Why shouldn’t heterosexual bachelor chum marry heterosexual bachelor chum? What, come to think about it, is so great about the idea of monogamy, once sex and children are removed from the equation? Does the word “marriage” any longer contain much meaning?
This total non-issue is a quirk of English and Welsh law and not of the fundamental nature of marriage. Hence why this hasn't been part of the debate in other jurisdictions. Has everyone forgotten Scotland? Charles Moore has.

Why shouldn't a mother marry a son in Scotland? I don't know. Charles Moore presents no argument here. Charles Moore gets so carried away with trying to link homosexuality to incest that he sort of forgets to think outside of the London Metropolitan Elite (see what I did there?) and pay attention to how things work in other areas of our own country!

So most people reading this highly flawed article would have thought "Oh Charles Moore, what were you thinking?". Except Nadine Dorries. Who thought it was amazing?

Oh Dorries. What are you going on about? Same-sex marriages, under the proposed law, can be conducted in a church. Does Nadine think a humanist marriage in Scotland is unacceptable? Does she want to tell those humanists to stop what they are doing immediately? No. She just doesn't like gay marriage. It really is that simple.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Coalition for Marriage Admit Only 34% Want #EqualMarriage Dropped

The Coalition for Marriage asked people to choose between ditching two completely unconnected Coalition policies (unless we're getting back to that whole "Gay sex is more dangerous than smoking" stuff); same-sex marriage and plain cigarette packaging. Only 34%, of 2000 people, chose to ditch same-sex marriage. Everyone else chose neither, don't know or plain cigarette packaging.

In order to get a headline they decided to pit marriage equality against something completely unrelated so they could say "more people are against same-sex marriage than..." This is where their polling has taken them. Remember when they said 70% opposed same-sex marriage? Either that polling was completely wrong or we are seeing one of the biggest swings in favour of something in a very long time. Thanks to the Coalition for Marriage for documenting this transformation!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Tories Are Just Looking For An Excuse To Drop Same-Sex Marriage Bill

The media is reporting today the suggestions Tory MPs have for fighting back against the "UKIP surge". They still aren't even in Parliament but Tory MPs spook easily it would seem.
Peter Bone, the Wellingborough MP, said Mr Cameron should halt the gay marriage Bill, currently going through Parliament, and cut overseas aid. "Those are things that Conservatives want and that's what Ukip voters want."
UKIP voters want to halt the same-sex marriage Bill? Really? Let us look at the evidence. The Coalition for Marriage, understandably, likes to terrify the jumpy Tory traditionalists with its tales of doom for any who support marriage equality. They crow about how the same-sex marriage Bill is causing people to leave in droves. Yet their own survey shows only 26% of 2010 Tory voters would be less likely to vote for them because of this issue. That is less likely not "completely unlikely" and that percentage is not even all those Tory voters who oppose same-sex marriage (last year half of all 2010 Tory voters were stated as opposing it).

C4M likes to draw conclusions that because this many say this and this many say that there is some link between same-sex marriage and the Conservatives current woes.

However in a YouGov survey this week, where potential 2015 UKIP voters were asked to mark up to 3 issues as their top reasons for supporting UKIP, only 12% of those surveyed marked opposition to gay marriage as a reason.

Even the more open, but possibly related, reason "Ukip reflect personal values and beliefs" only got 20%. By far and away the top reasons for voting for UKIP were immigration and the EU (no surprise there then). As many Tories like to say: the public don't care about equal marriage. 

The equal marriage bill is something that will benefit few people but, when asked, a majority support the legalisation of same-sex marriage. For all C4M and the right-wing Tory carping, it is a non-issue and even if UKIP had an equal number of MPs to what the Lib Dems have at the moment there'd still be no reason to suggest this marked a complete rejection by the electorate of this policy. 

The Tories are projecting their desperation to vote down equal marriage on to an electorate who have quite different priorities. Showing just how out of touch they really are and perhaps that explains the rise of UKIP more than any one policy. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Why I Might Seem To Be Obsessed By My Sexuality

My obsessions come around on such a regular basis and have such a cyclic nature that I can almost mark them down on a calender.

Among the topics that crop up are dinosaurs, Mormonism, Scientology, Star Wars, Doctor Who and comics. Pretty much all over them occur at a low level most of the time but one will flare up here and there and consume most of my time for a while (right now I'm coming down from a very intense obsession with Mormon history, to the point of reading decades old BYU dissertations and editing Wikipedia entries).

Yes I'm gay and I write about LGBT issues (mainly equal marriage) on here and Twitter which seems to mean I'm "obsessed" with my sexuality (or "sexuality" in general) .It's a bit of a weird statement to make to a man in a monogamous relationship, who isn't on the scene, doesn't buy gay mags (that is Attitude and Gay Times before any of you dirty minded people make assumptions!) and doesn't even see his gay mates much at all. And the idea I'm some nympho who spends all day obsessing over sex is as far from the truth as can be possible. I spend most of my day wondering whether Joseph Smith knew he was lying or really believed he was a prophet of God (I'm erring on the side of a little of both).

That isn't to say I wasn't once obsessed with my sexuality. I used to be out on the scene, into cruising, regularly at Pride, bought every gay mag there was and was just generally fabulous. Even just a couple of years ago I was part of an LGBT grouping at my job. But as I've grown older and settled down with Jim I've mellowed. Now the practicalities of life, and the rights I have, are mainly what concern me. Hence my focus on things like marriage equality.

And that focus is only on Twitter and here. Sure I write letters and bug relevant people IRL too but I think sometimes people assume what I choose to focus on in certain outlets is what I am completely focussed on everywhere. I use Twitter mainly as a place to be political and thus it will contain an overwealming percentage of tweets about LGBT issues. This doesn't mean I'm obsessed with my sexuality. It means that it has I choose to use Twitter.

And the whole idea my sexuality shouldn't be something I'm concerned about strikes me as a bit bizarre. It doesn't matter how quiet you are about who you love, eventually you'll have to face some sort of annoying and unwelcome intervention or reminder of your difference.

Item: A couple of years before I met Jim my then boyfriend and I had stones throw at us for daring to hold hands in public.

Item: Every time we check into a hotel we face the usual "Are you sure you want a double room?" question from the reception. And it is not likely we don't have to be concerned we might be refused one. It has famously happened before!

Item: Jim used to get concerned about me buying GT because of what might happen to me if the wrong people saw me carrying it in the street.

So of course my freedom to just live my life with Jim and ensure our life together is protected ranks up there on my list of worries. When some people suggest it shouldn't I just wonder how they feel about their other halves and family. Aren't they the one thing that is important above all else? We still have people in this country not only calling for people like Jim and I to break up but actively working to get into power to make sure it happens. I'm not going to sit back and say "Oh well".

I'm the boy who has had a "Has it happens" Google Alert for Jurassic Park IV since 2005. If you think I'm obsessed by my sexuality, then you can't possibly comprehend how much more I'm obsessed with other things!