Moralising at tangents

25 August 2010

I was pointed to an amazing moralising Christian article by a Facebook friend recently. I’m not going to make any judgment on the diary piece in the Newyorker magazine it refers to. But I will copy one incredibly written but fabulously tangental paragraph from it.

“Why do we allow ourselves to be raped repeatededly [SIC] by the homosexual media? Who are they to invade our lives? They lure our teens and 20-somethings off into darkness with nasty promises. They violate the conscience of millions of Californians with activitst judges. They taunt the vulnerable even on our tv sets, adding subversive messages to every child’s show, from Glee to True Blood. And they are not finished yet. Once they grab the young generation from the real world, they are not even close to being finished. Who could describe or truly know what our Malthusian future holds? For now, they destroy our values with each stomp of their damp, musky sneakers on after-hours disco floors, crushing our very souls as harsh lights illuminate their flourescent Charlie Brown t-shirts and cocaine-pale faces and even then they find new frenzies, rubbing harder and harder into each other, aspiring to the perfect veneral opprobrium to all the hopes and dreams that people like Sarah Palin represent”.

I have a number of problems with this. I won’t go in to them all but

  • since when has True Blood been a child’s show?
  • was the Judge in California really activist? Or just implementing the law?
  • what are these hopes and dreams Sarah Palin represents?

It’s a wonderful piece of prose but the implication that the homosexual media lures people is plain wrong. You can’t be told to be gay. And where I lose all respect for the writer is the implication that homosexuals are all disco dancing drug fueled sex-maniacs. By all means – from your point of view – criticise 28, male, Williamsburg, gay [who wrote the Newyorker diary] but sweeping generalisations and aggressive assertions do nothing to sell your point of view to an intelligent reader. More importantly, though – how far off of the original point of view is this? And why say that Williamsburg is “stone’s throw away” from Ground Zero when that stone would have to be thrown over three miles, if not only to exaggerate outrage? This is moralising at tangents.

There’s a lot wrong with the gay scene. Attitude’s issues issue, and the Observer report on it, prove that clearly. But surely it would be far more constructive to seek to change that, to provide alternatives, to help the disproportionately large proportion of gays who suffer problems of mental health.

The fact that “the result of living as a stigmatised minority is that you self-medicate” with drug and sex addictions proves how much damage articles like ChristWire’s do. If that’s your point of view surely it’s better to do something proactive than moralising and making sweeping judgments.


Pride London: some photos

21 July 2010

Pride London, Saturday 3rd July 2010.

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A couple of weeks ago was London Pride. Despite my reservations about some elements I really do enjoy Pride. I’ve uploaded a slideshow and gallery of some of my photos.

There are more Pride photos on Pride’s flickr and iamsoho (1) and (2).


Germany’s out

13 July 2010

So the German football team is a “bunch of gays”. Although I’m not sure who the “experts” that “estimate that around 10 per cent of all Bundesliga professionals are gay” are (experts in gayness? football? gay football?) it would not be surprising if the team which as been “celebrated for being the youngest in 76 years and more ethnically diverse than any team in Germany football history” had a few gays in there too.

Football – perhaps sport in general – is an area where being gay is still a tabboo. Just look at how few gay athletes were at the Beijing Olympics. It’s one of the reasons the Gay Games still exists – that and a lot of the gay teams that enter are perhaps not up to the caliber of more professional teams – this year, ironically in Cologne, Germany. I wonder if any of the German football team will turn up? I also wonder if Britain can do any better at making London 2012 athletes feel comfortable coming out? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful legacy to leave sport?


Sciccors and Kylicious loving

1 June 2010

Two new videos have caught my attention this week. I recently linked to the Scissor Sisters teaser track, Invisible Light, and haven’t been able to stop singing it since. It’s a brilliant track, made all the better by Sir Ian McKellen’s spoken section talking of “Babylon, where mortal diamonds tower”, a place where “whores, gladiators and party children all wake from their slumber”.

But this isn’t the first track to be released as a single. That honour goes to Fire With Fire, the video for which was released this week. Loving it (can’t wait to see them in three weeks time).

The new Kylie video for All The Lovers has also just been released. Although not quite as excited as my friend Gari, I’m loving the video. Although the sexualness of the video reminded me of a news story I also heard about today. As you watch the video (white inflatable elephant and all) and see all of Kylie’s lovers writhe about beneath her, boy-girl, girl-girl, boy-boy, spare a thought for the number of indirect lovers that would amount to… Sex & The City’s four girls [indirectly, at least] had 115 MILLION partners between them. Play safe guys.


Vilification? Vindication?

27 October 2009

A couple of things have been causing a fuss this last week, there’s been a lot of fuss about the BNP’s appearance on Question Time and ongoing debate about Jan Moir’s article in particular.

Earlier this week I was convinced that Question Time was the wrong format if you thought it was going to show the BNP up. Well, was I wrong? I think it’s fair to say that the normal Question Time format was abandoned. People agreed it was a five against one kicking of Nick Griffin with Dimbleby and the four panelists directing their views very clearly. Even Griffin agrees. The questions chosen were challenging Griffin – there was nothing on the Postal Strike, for example, which would have clearly appeared at any normal Question Time. I’d agree that a low key grilling on Newsnight would have been better and less sensational. People, though, seemed to agree he performed badly, even his adjacent pannelist said he was creepy.

Which, incidentally, is what Griffin called gay people. Or at least, he said most people (particularly christians) find the sight of two grown men kissing “…really creepy”. Now this was in response to a question about whether the Daily Mail should have printed Jan Moir’s article (which I have posted about here and here). Moir, of course, ‘clarified’ her story on Friday. Apparently. Not only did she only actually apologise to Gately’s family for the timing of what she wrote, not the content, there are many people who think she’s trying to rewrite history, not clarify what she meant.

And when she says her “observation that there was a ‘happy ever after myth’ surrounding such unions was that they can be just as problematic as heterosexual marriages” I’d have to question who actually promulgated this myth about civil partnerships all ending happily ever after? As a Twitter follower of mine said “No-one. The myth itself is a myth”.

So what of these two stories? There’s something as worrying about the acceptance of public pronouncement of such views – whether they’re racist or homophobic – as there would be if they were silenced. The debate about whether the BBC or Daily Mail should have allowed publicising of such views is as worrying as the fact that they did. Because there’s freedom of the press, but there’s also a need to think about the way you say things. Whether it’s the way you question a BNP member on TV, or the way you express uncertainties about a death, there’s a responsibility. I’ve already posted on the implications of publicising ‘hate’ – the increase in homophobic attacks and hate crimes and implication of acceptibility by what people write, or the BNP appearance on Question time being “the trigger that turns into an attack”. And sometimes maybe you have to question whether it’s actually the right thing to do, to use the right you have. Or whether, for the benefit of your business, your medium, the public at large (people have been vocal in saying the BBC should take it’s share of blame for any increase in racist attacks, and there’s been concern that BNP membership will increase), you should think twice about whether you use the right you have to say what you want. Or whether you should think twice before you make a decision – whether you think about the implications before you say it. Because the responsibility is in your hands. Will your actions be vilification or vindication for people’s actions? And, frankly, is it really worth it?


A comment on hate crimes

21 October 2009

Last week I posted about about an Daily Mail comment piece by Jan Moir with an undercurrent of homophobia and thoughtless premise. This week the BBC are reporting that homophobic crime in London has risen by nearly a fifth, according to the latest figures on incidents reported to the Metropolitan Police.

The article says that while it’s believed that more people are reporting homophobic crime that’s most probably not the only reason for the increase. The increase is real. And it’s happening. “I don’t know why it’s happening but homophobic crime is definitely increasing,” says Kate, manager of gay pub George and Dragon in Hackney Road – reports the BBC. Just last week Ian Baynham died after a homophobic attack in front of many people in Trafalgar Square, right in the heart of London. Patrick Strudwick, writing on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free pages today also argues that the increase in hate crime is real, and not just a product of greater degree of reporting and measure of Police success.

It’s not that long ago that David Morely was killed on London’s South Bank and just ten years since the Soho pub bombing.

It’s important not to be complacent about hate crimes and homophobia. Jan Moir’s article and dismissal of gay relationships, and the others that still appear, does nothing but continue to undercurrent of homophobia – it does nothing to fight hate crimes and arguably fosters them. Hate Crimes need to be fought against and clearly unacceptable. People who take a laissez-faire attitude to homophobia need to consider what impact this can have on people who feel that hate crimes are justified, are OK.


I’m not saying Stephen Gately died because he was gay, but he obviously did.

16 October 2009

Jan Moir’s article for the Daily Mail this morning was – at the least – badly conceived and at worst homophobic and bigoted. It’s been a massive story on Twitter all day, and led to the Daily Mail pulling adverts from the page.

Jan’s article

Let’s start by pulling out a few snippets of what she said (I am selectively quoting here, read in context here):

The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again. Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this. After a night of clubbing, Cowles and Gately took a young Bulgarian man back to their apartment. And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy.

The reaction

Moir suggesting there was nothing “nautral” (her quotes) about his death has provoked a strong reaction:
It is “little more than ill-informed conjecture and sickeningly insensitive bad taste” and she “implies that there is something inherently immoral, dirty and wrong about same-sex relationships by dragging poor Matt Lucas [whose former civil-partner recently committed suicide] into her vile logic”.
• She insinuates “Gays can’t help but be hedonistic and do drugs, are rampantly unfaithful, unhappy and DIE!”
• Her train of thought is obscure: “Is Jan Moir really trying to link drug use with being gay? Or saying that civil partnerships will lead to death? Or what is she trying to do?”

What was she going on about?

So what was she saying? And what should we think about it?

Firstly she seems to dismiss that Gately died of natural causes. As far as I know she’s not a medical expert, nor does she have access to more autopsy information than the rest of us. Even the Daily Telegraph point out that this is like Chris Morriss’s Brass Eye “Genetically, paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me. Now that is scientific fact. There’s no real evidence for it, but it’s scientific fact.”

But more worrying is what comes next. She talks about his sexuality and clearly states she thinks there is something sleazy about his death. She points out that Gately and his partner had been out clubbing the night before. She points out they brought somebody back to their apartment. She makes accusation and innuendo that is very clearly bigoted. And implies that this caused his death. Now then Jan, it’s one thing to make unfounded medical claims that you know nothing about, but it’s another to make a thinly-veiled attack on gay relationships implying that they’re sordid, they result in drug taking and unhappiness and lead to death.

Finally she concludes that Gately’s death “strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships”. (I don’t know who she’s aiming this at. Has somebody said that Civil-Partnerships are more likely to be happy-ever-after than heterosexual marriages?) She links Gately’s death to that of Matt Lucas’s former partner. There’s a clear underlying tone that implies gay relationships are the cause of unhappiness and – well – death.

Moir has since issued a statement that she only wanted to point out that there are unanswered questions about his death (I guess she knows something that the coroner, his family and we don’t – I wish she’d tell us), and thinks that “In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones”. She is wrong. Firsty the the campaign against her was clearly not “heavily orchestrated” – the outrage on twitter was the result of many individuals showing disgust – even some Daily Mail website comments showed the same disgust. But – and this point is key – if this was what she wanted to say she should have done so without the undercurrent of bigotry, sordid accusations, wild medical claims and veiled implications that homosexual relationships are invalid. She’s a clever woman. She could have done so.

More reaction

The Daily Quail parodied her article wonderfully: “Some might say the death and the fact that the deathee was gay are unconnected. To them, I say: ‘no’. Look at the facts – he died, and he was gay. Therefore he died of gay. If a young, healthy man dies whilst suffering from a cold, obviously nobody would suggest that the cold had killed him, but with gay it’s different. Medical reasons, and that. Isn’t it? Yes, I think it is.”

===

Follow-up, 7pm:

Two brilliant pieces by Charlie Brooker and Alistair Campbell


I Love Man

18 August 2009

So I’m on a train now, returning already from the Isle of Man. I was, after all, only there for a wedding on Saturday (which I must say was an amazing and stunning affair).

It’s a very beautiful Island. Part British seaside-town (Douglas, at least), part Celtic and mildly irish it is a fascinating combination of cultures.

It is a self-governing Crown dependency and the head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann, but is not Monarch. It is neither part of the UK, nor the EU. But foreign relations and defence are the responsibility of the government of the United Kingdom. The Island is inhabited by about 80,000 people, and it’s approximately 32 miles (51 km) long and between 8 miles (13 km) and 15 miles (24 km) wide, and has an area of around 221 square miles (570 km2). A passport issued on the Isle of Man says “British Islands – Isle of Man” on the cover but the nationality status stated on the passport is “British Citizen”. Despite this, because the Island doesn’t have membership of the EU you do not have the same rights as non Mann British citizens. It’s complex huh!

Yet one of our taxi drivers spent 25 minutes ranting rabidly about those foreigners coming over and taking their jobs. Not me, mind you “those non-whites” he said, although quickly clarified “non Islanders, I mean” – like who? – “you know, those Asians, and the Eastern Bloc, those Bulgarians”. It was like having a taped version of the Daily Mail played on a loop for the journey down country roads where at any point he could have pulled over and stabbed the two gays in the back of his car (!) He even blamed “the British Government” for selling the Isle of Man down the swanny.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom has paramount power to legislate for the Isle of Man on all matters but it is a long-standing convention that it does not do so on domestic (‘insular’) matters without Tynwald’s [the Manx parliament] consent. Apparently, the Isle of Man has had several disputes with the European Court of Human Rights because it was late to change its laws concerning corporal punishment and sodomy. The Isle of Man was once known to be rather homophobic, and gay sex has only been legal since 1992. More recently the age of consent was equalised – in 2006.

Despite the fact that whenever I said the name of the Island I tripped over my own words accidentally saying I Love Man, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to grow up as a young gay man on the island. Even on our short trip, the hotel “double (not twin) room please” scenario and looks and [rather blatant] stares made me an uncomfortable gay outsider. I’ve obviously been to worse places (Warsaw, pár example, or gay pride in Galway where a man outside the bar wielding a rather large kitchen knife forced us to lock ourselves in), but provincial attitudes aren’t really my scene.

It reminded me on some ways of my growing up in small-town midlands. My home town is about the same size. But I could escape easily. Half an hour on the train to Birmingham allowed me, growing up, to get out of the town which could at times feel choking. Small town middle England isn’t for me. But on the Isle of Man (OK the landmass is significant, but there are still only 80,000 people) it’s not as easy to escape. There are no 30 minute train rides: it’s a 3 or 5 hours ferry ride to England.

I’ll try to post some of the amazing pictures when I have a moment. If I have a moment. I’m off to Bristol for work then to Copenhagen and Stockholm for a holiday this week. Right now, though, I just want to get home and to bed.


40 years ago: the story of Stonewall

28 June 2009

40 years ago this weekend the Stonewall Riots, widely regarded as the beginning of ‘gay liberation’, took place in Greenwich Village, New York City. The riots were the first time that gay people had stood up against enforced oppression. Riots of bar frequented by gay people were commonplace. The story is a fascinating one, which I have summarised here.

“The Stonewall Inn catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the most marginalized people in the gay community: transvestites, effeminate young men, hustlers, and homeless youth. Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn, and attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later.”

At 1.20am plain clothes and uniformed police officers raided the Stonewall Inn. About 200 people were in the Inn at that time. The raid did not go as planned. Standard procedure was to line up the patrons, check their identification, and have female police officers take customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, upon which any men dressed as women would be arrested. Those dressed as women that night refused to go with the officers. Men in line began to refuse to produce their identification. The police decided to take everyone present to the police station but had to wait for transport. Those who were not arrested were released from the front door, but they did not leave quickly as usual. Instead, they stopped outside and a crowd began to grow and watch. Within minutes, between 100 and 150 people had congregated outside, some after they were released from inside the Stonewall, and some after noticing the police cars and the crowd. There were scuffles, arrests, pushing and violence (it was reported that the most feminine boys were the most badly beaten) with aggression from gay people who were reacting to arrest.

We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration…. Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.

But aggression spread and more police called to rescue those trapped inside the Stonewall by crods outside: “I had been in enough riots to know the fun was over…. The cops were totally humiliated. This never, ever happened. They were angrier than I guess they had ever been, because everybody else had rioted … but the fairies were not supposed to riot … no group had ever forced cops to retreat before, so the anger was just enormous…” Police started arresting the crowd on the streets, but the crowd faught back: “All I could see about who was fighting was that it was transvestites and they were fighting furiously”. They formed dance ‘kick lines’ against police who continued to hit them.

The next night rioting again errupted in Christopher Street. Some people from the night before who had returned to the badly damaged Stonewall Inn, and many more. The crowd filled Christopher Street and surrounding blocks. They surrounded buses and cars, harassing the occupants unless they either admitted they were gay or indicated their support for the demonstrators. As on the previous evening, fires were started in garbage cans throughout the neighborhood. More than a hundred police were present and at 2.00am the Tactical Police Force (deployed the previous night to free officers trapped in the Stonewall Inn) returned. Dance ‘kick lines’ and police chases continued throughout the night, and the crowd fought against arrest (witnesses noted it was usually the most effeminate boys again who were arrested).

Disturbances continued over the following days, and American Independance Day on 4th July was a chance for gay people to show out in force (as in previous years picketting Independence Hall in Philadelphia, for instance). Christopher Street Day, which started on the first anniversary of the riots in 1970 have led to Pride marches and Pride Parades around the world in years since.

Gay rights here in the UK have undergone a different course. We haven’t had a Stonewall, but there have been watersheds in gay rights, most recently the introduction of Civil Partnerships. London’s Pride Parade is next Saturday.

But it’s not a time to be complacent: homophobia is still rife, particularly in schools, and homophobic crime in Northern Ireland is “rife” according to recent reports. Poland is one of the worst European countries for inequality and pride marches in Moscow are met with violent protest by police. Stonewall was a watershed, an international one, but was the start of a long process whic, 40 years later, should not wain.


Spring Awakening

14 May 2009

I often leave the theatre and rave about how much I enjoyed what I saw. Usually quirky, odd fringe theatre where you’re sitting thirty centimetres from the action. But tonight I went all out to the West End to watch the musical Spring Awakening. Based on a German play written almost 120 years ago it’s the story of coming of age, sexual awakening and the turmoil of youth.

…and I left raving and amazed at how incredible the musical was.

The amazing combination of fascinating storyline, overtly sexual story, beautiful quirky design and fantastic acting (together with great tunes) left me speechless. I’d laughed, I’d cried and felt the whole range of emotions you could feel while sat in the stalls. It reminded me of Rent in it’s rock musical and emotionally-driven style.

Sadly, it’s closing early at the end of May. I do not think it’s an understatement to say that (although I knew before I went, but after I bought my tickets) I am shocked that such a great show would close so early. I would urge everyone to see it in the last two weeks. If you want to read a review from my friend, who is far better at reviewing these things than I am, click here.


Valentines Day Economics

15 February 2009

So, Saturday was Valentines day. You know, that day when you spend crazy amounts on overpriced roses, dinner out with other couples all trying to compete as to how in love they are, and then end up too full of food to do anything romantic on arrival home.

Maybe it’s OK to hate Valentines Day, I mean we’re in a CREDIT CRUNCH people! Maybe forget the overpriced flowers (by the way, it’s not the florists fault their suppliers increase prices) and drop a fifty pound note in a card instead.

Or perhaps there’s more to it, a rational approach to Valentines day:

  • The peacock tail effect. Peacocks elaborate tails prove their genetic fitness. Similarly, a man who spends money on Vally day is signalling his ability as a provider: “look, I can offer you so much that I can afford to fritter money away on gestures.”
  • Investment in commitment. Dinner together is an investment in the other person.
  • A man who rejects the social norm of Vally day increases uncertainty about who he is. The partner thinks: “if he rejects this cultural norm, what other norms does he reject. What sort of guy is this?”
  • If your partner is looking for commitment, they’d not want a the kind of guy who is so rational that he’d economically reject Vally day: such a man will leave you the moment a better offer comes along, surely.

Or perhaps, it’s just romantic…

I took my partner to our favourite local tapas bar – somewhere we both like where sharing food (romantic, hint) is part of the deal, but not so overly-candled and over-priced that you’d feel compelled to pull out the diamond ring.

Stuff the ignorant, economic or rational approaches to Valentines day, and go for the romantic – the one you and our partner will love, because you know them and you know what they like… surely that’s the most romantic gesture of all…


Oh well, that’s alright then

19 October 2008

Since my last post, Homophobia, the City, the Church and why it’s wrong, I saw that Reverend Peter Mullen published a column saying “Why I was wrong”. He says

“I much regret making some off-colour jokes about homosexuals on my website and I have offered a full public apology. I made those remarks and they are the responsibility of no one but myself. I repeat, I’m sorry I wrote what I did.”

I’m pleased to hear he apologises for his remarks – saying “Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS. In addition the obscene “gay pride” parades and carnivals should be banned for they give rise to passive corruption, comparable to passive smoking”, and “There ought to be teaching films shown in sex education classes in all our schools. These would portray acts of sodomy and the soundtrack would reinforce the message that it is a filthy practice”.

Of course – in his apology – he goes on to say he supported the decriminalisation of homosexuality, but that gay people should stop there. He implies his main point is about Gay Pride similar parades (although it only appear to be ‘in addition’ in his original comments). He says that he opposes “the corrupting influence of the promotional parades of homosexuality by such as Gay Pride demonstrations”.

The Reverend is making the same snide assertions that are damaging as Section 28 did in the 1980s. He implies that homosexuality is promoted (as if people will become gay through watching and enjoying a pride parade) and thereby implies gay people should not be allowed to seek equality. He ignores the destructive way that being made to be, not just feel like, an outsider is damaging.

The Reverend himself talks about the suicide of Shaun Dykes in an earlier column, but ignores the fact that comments like those he makes can have a damaging effect, as I very clearly set out in my last column:

This is one week after Shaun Dykes, a gay teenager in Derby, was goaded and jeered by a crowd – filming him on mobile phones and shouting “jump you [followed by a stream of expletives]” – into killing himself (a story which made very little press) and another similar suicide in Manchester. It is also the same week as a United Nations committee has called on the UK to take “urgent measures” to fight intolerance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans young people.

Thank you, Reverend, for your apology but – whether you meant it or not – you should know better and realise what damage you do. As I said last time, your comments are nothing but damaging.


Homophobia, the City, the Church and why it’s wrong

10 October 2008

It’s ironic that, in the midst of a Credit Crunch – at least partially caused by loose-lipped City bankers talking down stocks – a loose lipped City cleric can cause damage of a different kind. The Rev. Peter Mullen, chaplain to London’s Stock Exchange, said:

Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS. In addition the obscene “gay pride” parades and carnivals should be banned for they give rise to passive corruption, comparable to passive smoking.

I’m not sure what I can say about this. Apparently a “joke“, the reverend used the immortal line some of my best friends are gay – or at least the slightly more caged “many of my dear friends have been and are of that persuasion” (note the have been). Like our Tory friend, but in a rather different way, he is wrong on so many levels.

Google’s cache of his blog shows us he believes that “We disapprove of homosexuality because it is clearly unnatural, a perversion and corruption of natural instincts and affections, and because it is a cause of fatal disease”. He is right that some sexual behaviours are riskier than others. But HIV is not a gay disease. Of course he doesn’t let that get in the way of promoting modern day branding torture for gay man.

It’s also ironic he is chaplain to the London Stock Exchange. As I have previously posted the number of prospective City employees open about their sexuality has plummeted recently.

Disturbingly, the Reverend suggests that:

There ought to be teaching films shown in sex education classes in all our schools. These would portray acts of sodomy and the soundtrack would reinforce the message that it is a filthy practice ending with the admonition: “We do, after all, know the importance of washing our hands after going to the lavatory.”

This is one week after Shaun Dykes, a gay teenager in Derby, was goaded and jeered by a crowd – filming him on mobile phones and shouting “jump you [followed by a stream of expletives]” – into killing himself (a story which made very little press) and another similar suicide in Manchester. It is also the same week as a United Nations committee has called on the UK to take “urgent measures” to fight intolerance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans young people.

Rev. Peter Millen’s comments are nothing but damaging. Whatever his opinions – I’m not going to delve into debates about the bible and homosexuality – he has a responsibility not to make sick ‘jokes’ which add to the latent homophobia that still needs to be tackled in this country.


It’s my duty to vote Tory

4 October 2008

apparently.

Prospective parliamentary candidate Margot James believes the Conservative Party really has changed its attitude to homosexuality… An “astonishing” number of target seats have picked gay candidates, she told a Stonewall fringe meeting at the party conference in Birmingham. “I have yet to meet another (gay) woman I regret to say – but we do have a marvellous number of gay men.”

Going on to talk about how, because gay people are less likely to have children they get less out of the taxes they pay she says we should have angst with Labour’s waste of our taxes. “There is so much wrong with this government’s policy, gay people should not just vote Conservative, they have a duty to vote Conservative”.

How dare this millionaire Tory lesbian, who has been heard saying that she hoped her partner’s name, Jay, would be mistaken for that of a man by reporters, tell me what my duty is. Her party responsible for some of the most homophobic, damaging legislation of recent times, which it can’t quite shake off. But she says they’ve changed. On the face of it they may have. But what of the blue-rinse brigade?

But my anger isn’t just directed to damage her party’s done in the past. It’s the narrow-minded blinkered view that, just because I don’t have children, it’s my duty to vote for a party that would spend my tax more wisely? I’m not going to pretend this thought hasn’t crossed my mind before but there’s something bigger than the individual isn’t there? There’s something more important about all these people on this island living together…

Some important things to consider: This country spends 0.5% of it’s GDP on the under 5’s, half as much as France who spend 1%, and Denmark spend 2% – helping children in their formative years to develop the skills that they’ll need as they go through to school and into work (it’s proven that these years are vital to development) to end cycles of poverty. And it’s not just the under 5’s, it’s wider spending too, schemes helping people get back to work, schemes giving kids something to do and some purpose. And what about Labour’s pledge to end child poverty, which is slowly succeeding?

It has been estimated that the UK Government needs to invest an extra £3bn a year in tax and benefits to meet the 2010 target of halving child poverty. Three billion sounds like a lot, but it is the equivalent of just 0.5% of total Government expenditure. In 2007, City bonuses totalled £14bn; BP made £3.44bn in three months this year while thousands up and down the country are plunged into fuel poverty… It’s not just about morals either. We cannot afford to not make this extra investment. The long-term costs of doing nothing are much greater with the TUC estimating that £40bn a year is wasted on tackling the consequences of child poverty. Child poverty limits children’s future life chances for employment, training, positive family and social relationships, good physical and mental health and longevity and it affects their childhood experiences profoundly.

Does she think this doesn’t affect my life? These are the people around me, these are the people who I share the street with when I walk along, these are the people I will rely on to contribute to society when I’m older, even contribute to my pension. It’ will cost me dearly, and society even more, if I – as a citizen (rather than a gay, childless man) choose to take the same individualistic narrow minded point of view as she does.

It will never be my duty to vote for any party – it will certainly never be my duty to vote for a party because of my sexuality. Especially one that has such a dubious homophobic history and tells me my duty is based on such a narrow minded opinion of life.


A Wilde Performance: Dorian Gray (Sadler’s Wells)

9 September 2008

I was talking to a couple of friends of mine a few months ago and they mentioned they were looking to get tickets to Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray at Sadler’s wells. I was dubious. Ballet’s not my thing. I don’t tend to cope well when there’s no words. But I’m very glad I went.

It’s been a long time since I tried to read Wilde’s book. I only gave up because the small font of my copy wasn’t conducive to the harsh lights of the Northern Line on my journey to work. But, at least after a synopsis, I could comprehend the story presented on stage in all it’s brash, gory and modernised detail.

The Aesthete, Lord Henry’s corrupting influence on Dorian leads him to believe that beauty is the only worthwhile aspect of life. The picture, or in Bourne’s production, photograph Basil Hallward paints of Dorian symbolises that. Dorian wishes it would grow old in his place. The story goes on to tell of his loves and desires, their ugliness, and his experiments with numerous vices. In the modernised version the cocaine, partying and homoerotic sex are portrayed as graphically as I’d imagine ballet would allow (indeed beyond what it would allow).

The show’s received mixed reviews:

The negative commentary on Dorian has been especially interesting because so much of it has focused on the fact that the choreography looks trashy and posey, despite the fact that the world of celebrity it’s portraying is itself trashy and posey. It raises the question of how deep a satire can go into its subject without taking on the qualities it criticises…

Personally I think that Bourne gets away with the limitations of the choreography (even the repetitive shagging and partying scenes) because of the credibility and detail with which he dramatises Dorian’s world.

The performance was incredible – although I admit I have not seen true ballet before. The dancers were beautiful – which was how they were portraying the ugly world of fashion, Dorian’s dismissive nature clearly apparent in the performance. The music has been much-criticised but it served a purpose – mainly to make you feel uncomfortable with what you’re seeing, even though what you’re seeing is ballet. I couldn’t tell after the show whether I wanted to look as good as the dancers, or whether the message of Wilde’s story about obsession with youth and beauty made me disgusted at the thought.

The Guardian has a gallery of photographs here.


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