Art, Soho Square, London

6 April 2011

6th April 2011


Marriage, Partnership and Inequality

23 February 2011

Today I came across Nick’s piece on sosogay about Facebook’s addition of “in a civil partnership” to their relationship status list:

The thing is, for the last five years I felt Facebook already did recognise my relationship. I’m married. My husband was listed as just that. There was no fanfare, except the day or so after our big day when I changed my status from engaged, and then it was from our friends. Then just last week I updated my status again, this time to civil partner. A flurry of likes filled the post on my timeline – but, in all honesty, I felt a bit cheated.

Now, while I welcome Facebook’s recognition of civil partnerships I agree completely with the author that it’s yet another reminder of inequality.

I’m very pleased to be getting married myself, in Canada this summer, a country that allows marriage between people of the same sex… and to be able to say I am married (even though it is only recognised as a civil partnership on this side of the Atlantic). The fact that despite such recognition in the UK a Civil Partnership would count for nothing in Canada is another reminder. If it’s not marriage, it’s not marriage.

Regardless of what it’s called, your partnership should be about what you feel it is.

Until we have real equality in the UK it still won’t officially be marriage – maybe having your relationship as Civil Partner is a way to keep reminding others that gay people still face discrimination and inequality.


Queer statistics

24 September 2010

So the Office for National Statistics has released data suggesting that almost three-quarters of a million UK adults say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual – equivalent to 1.5% of the population: 480,000 (1%) consider themselves gay or lesbian, and 245,000 (0.5%) bisexual. London is home to the highest concentration of gay people at 2.2% of the population, while this proportion falls to 0.9% in Northern Ireland.

Of course it’s easy to look at that data and conclude it is much lower than the most commonly used estimate of 5% to 7%, which was cited by ministers introducing civil partnership legislation and implied a non-heterosexual population of 3.5 million.

It was data that surprised me. And it’s data that is – I believe – is being misrepresented as wholly accurate. Here’s some reasons why:

  • All the survey’s statistics are considered experimental, or in a testing phase, as they have not yet been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority.
  • Only people aged 16 and over were questioned about their self-perceived sexual identity – a large proportion missing when you consider that their age profile is also much younger than the rest of the population.
  • People were asked to respond with one of four options: heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual or other. It’s not always appropriate to apply a label with boundaries to yourself. If Stephen Fry would label himself as just 90% gay how could he tick a survey box explaining he fits into one of those four exclusionary categories?
  • Many homosexual people would not be happy to admit to a stranger that they are gay, or bisexual. Sexuality remains deeply taboo to many people.
  • Many gay or bisexual people may be in a heterosexual relationship (maybe married) and not want to admit their sexuality.

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.


Seriously, why can’t we just all get on with life?

30 July 2010

Why should anyone care who’s gay? So Tom Hardy’s had gay lovers, and Joe McElderry has come out. I admire them both, for their bravery. Some may say “so what?”. But it’s a big thing. Coming out is a shock, a shock tou yourself, to your family. But why? Why is it a big issue still? Why should we be shocked? Why should we make the news? Perhapss those people who don’t understand how difficult it is to come out should try being a gay child. It’s not easy. It’s really not easy. Trust me.

Well, just look at Claire Balding. Look at what’s happened to her recently. She put it better than I ever could myselfr:

When the day comes that people stop resigning from high office, being disowned by their families, getting beaten up and in some instances committing suicide because of their sexuality, you may have a point.

This is not about me putting up with having the piss taken out of me, something I have been quite able to withstand, it is about you legitimising name calling. ‘Dyke’ is not shouted out in school playgrounds (or as I’ve had it at an airport) as a compliment, believe me.

It may be your job to defend your writer and your editorial team but if you really think that homophobia does not exist and was not demonstrated beyond being ‘the butt of a joke’ then we have a problem.

The point, surely, is why it even needs to be an issue. If people didn’t still get bullied, shouted at, beaten up for being gay it wouldn’t even need to be an issue. Until it’s no longer an issue, Joe, and the others, should be praised for their bravery, and celebrated.


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).


That sounds good to me!

29 May 2010

Tonight is Eurovision 2010 – in Oslo. Last year’s fiddler won resoundingly and took the contest to Norway this year. Having seen the semi-finals (including the shock ejection of Sweden!) I’m looking forward to a night of musical camp and frivolity.

For Pete’s Sake! This year’s UK Eurovision entry may have come in for criticism – and to be honest I don’t know a single friend of mine that thinks it’s much good – but That Sounds Good To Me (below) has certainly grown on me. The title refrain has not only been going round in my head all day, but coming out of my mouth too!

Azerbaijan are known to be favourites this year. Their ballad-ic eurostyle song (Swedish written, of course) is one that – in song terms perhaps – should do very well. In a quirk of eurovision Cyprus this year is represented by a Welsh boy. Not so sure they’re favourites though, sadly.

But I have a couple of other personal favourites. Romania’s catchy little number (musically less melodic than Azerbaijan, but more catchy than Pete Waterman’s ditty) is one of those tracks that sticks in your head and you remember in the midst of the other short numbers that merge into one as you watch them all.

The Ukranian track is another memorable one, less camp, more quirk but with a mild svensk-schlager slant. Interestingly this song was selected in a re-run of the country’s own contest this year after a new president of the state controlled television network was appointed by the government. Finally, however, Bulgaria have realised that it’s not only about the song – it’s the performance – in Bulgaria’s case a dance track accompanied by babyoil coated dancers (for which you may have to watch tonight!)…

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UPDATE: well I’ve just been reminded you won’t be able to look out for babyoil boys – their dance number failed – like Sweden – to make it through the semis. Shocking, i know!


NYC: Next Fall

7 March 2010

Last Tuesday, while I was still in New york, I went to see another Broadway show. The play, Next Fall, has had a magnificent welcome. Starting out last year off-Broadway it progressed and was in previews at on Broadway when I saw it.

It’s a play that deals with relationships between couples, parents, friends, and God. The relationship at the haeart of the play is a gay one. But it could be any one. I tend to connect with plays that have a theme about relationships (how could one be written without such?), but in particular gay oned (I also saw a tremendous piece of gay theatre off-Broadway, The Temprementals, while I was in New York). The play opening formally in March, was written by Geoffrey Nauffts and produced by Elton John and David Furnish.

Next Fall one opens in a hospital waiting room – a place where, no matter where in the world you are (New York, London, Bogota) the same emotions come to the fore: fear, worry, stress, loss, worry, concern… The story is about a gay couple and starts in what is, essentially, the final scene. It progresses with a series of flashbacks to tell the story of Luke, who ens up in a hospital bed, and his partner Adam.

The synopsis:

Luke believes in God. Adam believes in everything else. “Next Fall” portrays the ups and downs of this unlikely couple’s five-year relationship with sharp humor and unflinching honesty. And when an accident changes everything, Adam must turn to Luke’s family and friends for support… and answers.

The religion aspect is one which interests me in particular. Growing up ‘different’ and having a faith are things that are not necesarilly easilly reconcilable. They’re something that takes some personal struggle. And this play asked some uncomforable questions as part of the plot. But it also proved that understanding it requires a personal belief.

The play particularly shows how this, combined with family relationships, can cause gay people to remain uncomfortable. In a country where Proposition 8 has recently been introduced, to stop the progress that had recently been made on introducing gay marriage in the US, it’s a situation that remains, and a story that should be told. Ironically, Porposition 8 was voted for the same day as President Obama won the US presidential election – and this juxtaposition brought forward the ideaf for Next Fall.

At times, through the flashbacks, I felt like only part of the story was being told – I felt as though the struggle between faith and sexuality was not being fully explored. But alongside resolving the sixth character’s position the reason for Luke’s understanding of faith and exuality became clearer.

It was brilliantly acted, but – even more so – a fantastic, emotional funny and thought provoking well-written script. I’d gladly see it again, and I’d most likely well-up in the same way. If you get the chance to see this Play in New York, or wherever it is lucky enough to be produced next.

Read more here, see the show’s website here and twitter page here.


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.”

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Follow-up, 7pm:

Two brilliant pieces by Charlie Brooker and Alistair Campbell


BWO

30 September 2009

I’ve been a fan of all things Swedish for some time now, ever since I spent six months there in 2003 (that makes me feel old). So I have been surprised not to have attended the Scandinavian pop night Scandipop before last night. I went with a friend (who was late) but also met a couple of friends there for some live music from BWO, a.k.a. Bodies Without Organs, a Swedish “laptop pop” trio in the style of Army of Lovers with a quirky humourful poppyness and recent hits including Chariots of Fire, and Sunshine in the Rain.

I just thought I’d share a few pictures of BWO from last night.

4photo

3photo

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2photo

1photo


A la carte

25 September 2009

I’m writing from the departure lounge at St Pancras station waiting for the 16:25 departure to Paris. A while ago my partner realised he would be working in the South East of England on Friday and Monday either side of this weekend. We originally contemplated a weekend in Canterbury. But then quickly realised it’d be just as cheap to pop under the Channel to Paris for a short weekend break (as Bridget Jones put it: A Mini-Break means true love). With the help of my Nectar Card my return ticket cost me just £50, and my partner will join the train at Ashford. So what’s the plan for Paris? primarilly to sit in cafes, drink coffee, eat croisants and soak up a bit of Parisian autum. What more could a boy want from this Indian summer?


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.


Going to the Isle of Man

14 August 2009

At the moment I am sat on a ferry. I’m not a fan of boats. And this one is swaying far more than I would like. I can feel the bottom of my stomach swing right as my body swings left (thank goodness my chair’s tied to the floor), It’s the Great British Summer and this is the Irish Sea: the ferry is en-route from Heysham, on the Lancashire coast, to Douglas, on the Isle of Man. We’re going to the Isle of Man for a wedding.

A couple of months ago we were looking how to get to the IOM. Flights were pretty fast, but not necessarily cheap. And flying certainly ain’t the most environmentally friendly way to travel. Conscious of our carbon footprint, we looked up alternative routes. For a summer fare of £103 each (it’s cheaper off summer-peak) we were able to get on any train from London Euston with a through-ticket to the Isle of Man. The IOM Steam Packet Company’s ferries go from two ports that more or less connect with the trains: our outward journey was a 09:30 am train from Euston, and a change at Lancaster which took us directly to Heysham port (directly to the ferry terminal). The (relatively slow, unfortunately) ferry to Douglas is where I am writing from now. The route back (with a ferry that takes half the time) is via Liverpool.

I’m looking forward to my first trip to the Isle of Man, although I must say I know very little around it. Looking around me as I type I can see a combination of bored staycationers, bored homegoers and northern families taking a weekend trip. It might be that boredom (well, it’s a long trip and a heavily swaying boat – you may not want to look at the horizon) which means that people are looking at me, or it might be the fact that I’m wearing clothes of a far more joyful hue than most of the people on the ferry. It may also be that – at least as I understand it – homosexuality has not long been accepted on the IOM (maybe it still isn’t). That provincial nervousness has been nagging me since our arrival in Lancaster – that nervousness of looking out of place, odd, strange, overtly gay… who knows. But regardless, and despite of this, the trip to the IOM, marking the start of my holiday season, is an exciting one. Seeing friends getting married is always an exciting thing (and would be even more exciting if summer actually came to the Irish Sea in mid-August).

I am sure I will tweet and blog my thoughts soon enough…


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.


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