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.

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.


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


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.


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.


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