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.


Night Train!

17 September 2010

Tonight I’m catching my first UK Night Train in order to get to a wedding in Cornwall. It looks like it will be slightly more luxurious that many of the European night trains I’ve taken – I remember for example sharing a tiny cabin with five loud, sweaty german teenege boys going from Berlin to Warsaw, and getting worken up in the middle of the night by a guard shouting in Serbocroat on a train without beds overnight from Budapest to Sarajevo.

The two-person berths look far more acceptable to my partner and me!

And of course, speaking of night trains, my friend Ben the ever-electro music maestro, directed me to this as soon as he heard.


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).


Wouldn’t life be better if…

16 July 2010

…we thought a little more and drove a little less?

Thanks to The Bear Party who posted this in response to my earlier post.


Drill Baby Drill!

5 June 2010

The Gulf oil spill is a disaster. Environmentally, economically – at least for BP – and socially, for those whose lives are affected. For those of us in the UK who can’t quite comprehend the scale of this disaster this map (from 1st June) is a good comparator (click on image for full size view).

Sarah Palin, Hockey Mum of Alaska, knows exactly where the blame lies. Firstly does she not trust BP, because it’s a foreign company (it’s obviously the fault of those devious Brits!). Now she’s blaming environmentalists. Oh, no, sorry – extreme environmentalists.

Perhaps she hasn’t noticed the non Deepwater disasters in countries that – although some way from the USA – provide 40% of it’s crude oil imports? And she seems to be ignoring the fact that those environmentalists concerned with the environment are not just worried about the land that’s dug up (although sometimes that land is worth worrying about). But will America change it’s oil consumption obsession? Will we, in the UK? The only way to drive this forward is by looking at the issue as a whole – looking at the environmental agenda as a whole – and the impact of, not just spills, accidents, disasters, but oil use on the economy and on society. We fight wars over it. It socially excludes people – not just the cost of petrol to drive to and from work, but the cost implications for food, for example. We need to look at our use of fuel (again, as a whole – the need to travel, local sustainability) not just the source of our fuel (which is essential to look at).


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!


A rainbow lands in central London

27 November 2009

Yesterday saw a beautiful rainbow arching over, and landing in, central London. I had to post pictures.


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.


Official Letter

17 June 2009

So June has been a busy time for me. The world of Strategic Planning (town planning) in London is swift moving, relatively, and I have been busy doing lots of talking, listening, finding-out and writing. I have spent a lot of time writing official letters. It’s a time-consuming and complicated business.

However, following my tweets today I happened to stumble across a link to this (slightly rude, beware) letter which is, apparently, real. If only my official letters could be be as exciting as this!

moscow

It reads (click image to open full size):

My Dear Reggie,

In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life, and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me he is called Mustapha Kunt.

We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.

Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr
H.M. Ambassador, Moscow


Rainy Days and Mondays…

8 June 2009

…always get me down, The Carpenters used to sing. I am not sure that’s what Channel 4 were thinking about when they commissioned their latest sculpture I saw outside their offices on Horseferry Road today, Monday.

The impressive sculpture, replicating the Channel’s idents, featuring a “you couldn’t tell from a different angle it’s a digit” gigantic Number 4’s, is made up entirely of umbrellas.

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I did see that today’s Sun (or possibly Mirror) headline could have better referred today to Rainy Days and Mondays, being “countbrown” (referring to Gordon Brown’s expected relatively limited time left as Prime Minister. However I was disappointed that, especially after the European elections caused a further crisis for the PM they didn’t go the whole hog and recall Europe’s “The FINAL Countbrown”!

I cannot write much about politics these days, but couldn’t pass by the fact that not only did the Centre Right increase their control over the European Parliament, but also that the British National Part got two seats from the UK. The blogospehere’s now alive with shock, but perhaps we are the more politically enlightened who express our opinions online. And much has been blamed, particularly the Proportional Representation system which gives more ability for smaller parties to get into parliaments than the traditional British “First Past the Post” system. But the BNP seats say a lot about the attitude of the British public, increasing dissatisfaction of the white working class and, in some ways, are a successful result of a democratic system, albeit one where people have been so dissatisfied with Politics that they are apathetic to voting.

Proportional Representation also gave the Greens an increase in their UK vote, and gave two seats to the BNP. (An interesting aside: some countries (mostly smaller European countries) split their vote nationally, rather than by region. If the UK vote was split nationally it would look like this). But, whatever you think of them, it shows how the system can work for the smaller parties. The next task is re-enfranchising people with politics so they vote.


Have Your Say

20 February 2009

Friendfeed pointed me to the fact that a friend of mine posted a link to this Friday rant. The blog is dedicated to the stupidity of BBC News Website’s “Have Your Say” – indeed BBC news more generally – encouraging the kind of people that love to moan to write in and tell the world their thoughts on a news story.

Anyway, the real problem with the BBC comments system is the range of options you’re now presented with. You’re left with a choice between clicking “Recommend this comment” or else stepping away from the computer and banging your face on the wall for a few minutes. There’s no button for “This is bollocks”, “I can’t believe there are people this gullible and stupid in the world” or “I pity the confused, angry, cat penis that wrote this”. Even the Daily Mail manages to provide both “Thumbs Up” and “Thumbs Down” buttons. The end result of all this is that browsing the BBC’s “Have Your Say” forums makes reading the Daily Mail seem like reading the Socialist Worker. Left-wing bias my fat fucking arse.

Why is the commentosphere full of whinging whiners? OK so the blogosphere has it’s fair share of moaners but at least most of them are committed enough to put some thought into what they’re writing and construct some relatively legible sentences, hell, even put them into paragraphs!

More to the point, why does the BBC, which refused to show the DEC Gaza Appeal for risk of appearing to be impartial allow these halfwits to splurt their ill-informed claptrap all over their “news” pages?


Postcode Lottery

17 February 2009

Postcode freakin lottery, gimme a frakin break. What a load of rubbish – I hear the phrase all the time and it’s  proponents complaining that it’s unfair.

A quick google search requires postcode lotteries of healthcare, recycling, disabled parking badges, rail refunds, even speed cameras.

This morning on Radio 4 there was talk of a ‘postcode lottery’ for autism care – depending which healthcare area you live in you get a different level of care. This followed a story on Planning (yes, not the sexiest of subjects) and a proposal to remove regional planning and leave it to local authorities to decide.

Now make up your minds – what do you want? Local autonomy or centralisation – because, whichever way you look at it autonomy will lead to some areas providing different levels of services by definition. If you choose to look at it by postcodes, that’s a postcode lottery. And the “dailymailirony” is that it tends to be the same people complaining about both things. Do they not see it?


Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race! (Burns Night)

25 January 2009

25 January is Burns Night, the celebration of Scottish poet Rabbie Burns. The “king of sentimental doggerel” wrote such famous odes as A Red Red Rose, To A Mouse and Johnie Lad, Cock Up Your Beaver (which apparently is about Johnie wearing a hat). Arguably though he’s most well known for tonight’s Address to a Haggis.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

This year, 250th anniversary of Burns’s birth, the Scottish First Minister has instigated homecoming year, encouraging people to “come home, to the ‘birthplace of valour, the country of worth’“. I have an unexplored Scots heritage: my Grandmother, who died in 2007, was a Fraser. Maybe I’ll take up the challenge and go to Scotland for the first time since a short trip I took to Glasgow over ten years ago.

Tonight is a night for celebration of everything Scotch. Being a vegetarian, though, Haggis doesn’t have quite the same appeal (despite vegetarian immitations being available) as for those meat eaters.

For those who don’t know, the Haggis, of course, is a small four legged creature found in the Highlands of Scotland. The legs on one side of the creature are smaller than those on the other, which means they can only run one way around a hill. One species has longer left legs, the other longer right legs: so while one goes clockwise around hills the other goes anticlockwise around them. The two species coexist peacefully, but cannot interbreed. Over time, therefore, the leg-length differences have become more marked. Haggis are hunted in the wild, particularly during Haggis season, culminating in Burns Night tonight.

To all those who will celebrate Burns tonight, in whatever way, enjoy the Haggis, the Whisky and maybe I’ll see you in Scotland this year.

Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a haggis!


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.


On London

17 October 2008

I recently received a link to the Boston Globe’s website, oddly enough, which – thinking about the end of the Beijing Olympics – has been looking forward another four years to London 2012. They have published some amazing photographs by aerial photographer Jason Hawkes which show my city at it’s best:

I must admit, I am very much a city boy. I love the way cities look and feel, even if they’re not seen in such a beautiful way as the nineteen pictures on the Boston Globe website. They’re places of surprise, where you never know what will be around the corner. They’re places where people have to mix, where you’ll share the same space, the same air, as someone you would never normally associate with. The heterogeneity of cities brings together a diversity of people creating a dynamic social mixture and cultural variety all of its own.

Even the least loved – not that agree that Birmingham, where I spent a lot of time growing up, is an ugly city – have relationships with people. But the relationships are not neutral. They’re personal. An individual’s relationship with the city is not just the physical. It’s about people, and places, and their interaction.

I love living in London – where children speak over 300 different home languages, where people come to find not just their fortune, but themselves. It’s easy to forget, stood on the Northern Line each morning – especially in a world of economic upheaval – that the city is more than just bankers and lawyers (and each of them has their own identity somewhere beneath the pinstripes).

It’s the yummy mummys of Knightsbridge, the suburbanites of Bromley, Brent and Barnet, the Indians of Brick Lane, goths of Camden, indies and dirty-fashionistas of Shoreditch, gays of Soho (and older gay men of Earl’s Court and lesbians of Stoke Newington), the Pechkamites, Claptonites, Kentish Towners and riches of Richmond. And it’s about how they all interact with where they are, as well as each other.

I never fail to be fascinated, walking along the street, who I see. I sit in a coffee shop, look out and wonder where the old lady’s going, what the schoolkids have been up to today, and why the rich bald man’s driving a 4×4 down Camden High Street, speeding through the red lights – what’s he got to rush to?

Try it sometime. Change your perspective.


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