Thursday, 30 November 2006

Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again

On Tuesday this week an advert appeared in the Times paid for (a full page advert in the Times is abou £25,000.00, if I remember well) by group of Christian calling themselves "Coherent and Cohesive Voice". This to protest against the upcoming Sexual Orientation (Goods and Services) Regulations (pdf file) (the SOR) which will make it illegal for anyone who provides goods, services, facilities, premises, education or public functions to someone else, to discriminate against that person on the grounds of their sexual orientation i.e. whether they are homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. The regulations also make harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation - and not simply overt victimisation - illegal.

A consultation was launched by the government in March this year, which received, I think, one of the largest number of response ever for this type of exercise (over 2000). The responses were divided between LGBT people and moderate Christians supporting the proposed law and fundamentalist religious zealots who opposed it because it would prevent them to be as bigoted as they want to be. The advantage being slightly on the side of the supporters of the new regulations. As a result, the implementation of the Regulations, which were due to come into force in October 2006, because of the large number of responses which ended in June. The Government have now committed themselves to bringing the Regulations into force in April 2007. This means it is likely that the Regulations will be voted on by Parliament at the latest during February 2007.

Northern Ireland, however, are getting the SOR early (in the New Year). So in response to this, showing great examples of the tolerance the Christian faith is supposed to uphold, some uname zealots have decide to spend their energies and a lot of money into fighting the new law, while they could spend this in doing something more Christian and more useful.

I have not been able to see a proper copy of the advert (other than the one reproduced above) but this is enough to see that as always, they have their priorities wrong and firmly set below the belt. This law is not about sex, it is about equality, freedom and tolerance, three things that some Christians are quite happy to have for themselves but are obivously not so keen to share with others.

The small text of the ad is so bad that it prompted, Meg Munn, an Under Secretary of State (not usually the most locacious type of people) to come out and call it "innacurate", branding it "wild speculations".

Using the same weapons as those dear Christians, I have complained to the Advertising Standard Agency about the advert. Will you?

Alternately you can also contact Ruth Kelly (herself a staunch Catholic) and Meg Munn to put forward the counter-argument, condemn the actions of this pressure group and support the new Regulations.

Emails are:

Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Minister for Women
kellyr@parliament.uk

Meg Munn MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Women and Equality)
munnm@parliament.uk

While you are at it, you might ask them why the "Equalities" section of the "Communities and Local Government" departmental website doesn't appear to mention sexual orientation as part of its range of diversities.

Read further thoughts on this here (link added 01/12/07)


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Free Donation for World AIDS Day

Bristol-Myers Squibb have set up a website with the US National AIDS Fund (financial profile)and have pledged to donate $1 to AIDS research every time someone goes to there and "lights" a candle.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is one of the large drug manufacturers with its hand in AIDS treatment medication. The cost of the necessary medications can be out of reach for many (or most) people who need them. It is so expensive that recent articles indicate the cost of these drugs to be as high as 6% of Botswana's national budget.

It is time that those companies who benefit from this terrible epidemic start helping find a real way to assist those who suffer.

Please forward this to your family, friends and contacts.

It only takes a second to raise a dollar but millions are needed.

Use the link below:

www.lighttounite.org




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Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Self Portrait by Others

For some reason, Saturday, Sunday and Monday have seen several people (including myself) using a wide range of words to describe moi. For some reason, I was so receptive to this that I got inspired to turn this experience into what I will pompously call a work of art. And because I spend way too much time with Slightly, this has taken a typographic form.


My typographic consultant (!) however tells me that, although it is an interesting idea, what I have just posted above is not finished. That it is a starting point and that I should "play with it" more. I am not sure what he means and I am not sure I can be bothered but who knows?

As ever, watch this space...



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Friday, 24 November 2006

Camp as Christmas

In a month's time exactly, it will be Christmas, that time of tack and excess. To get in the mood and make yourself jolly, you can come and see me with 150 of my closest gay friends onstage at the Barbican Hall.

London Gay Men's Chorus, Make the Yuletide Gay 2006 - front London Gay Men's Chorus, Make the Yuletide Gay 2006 - back

Prospective audience members could book online or by phone on 020 7638 8891 but it is now apparently sold out.

Other opportunities to see the London Gay Men's Chorus perform (for free) include:
Friday 1 December
World AIDS Day - St Pancras Church, in aid of Cara. - 1.15 to 1.45pm

18, 19 and 20 December
Carols @ Selfridges - Oxford Street, London - throughout the day

www.lgmc.org.uk



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Thursday, 23 November 2006

Pains

Earlier today, I received a reminder email for an event at Waterstones on Oxford Street, tonight. It was the launch of the latest edition of Chroma ("an international queer literary and arts journal". It is published twice a year). Since I have nothing to do, I decided to go along. Four of the authors published in the current issue read extracts of their stuff.

One of them turns out to be a blogger (now included to my blogroll), and I managed to track the following piece which he read and I really liked. It was definitely the highlight of the evening.
ah, sweet pain!
Eyes-to-the-skies it. Glance-at-the-walls it. Four weeks of loving him, of watching him, of being loved and watched by him. Holding him. His hands and fingers. Fingertips. Onto him. Onto his gaze. Into his gaze. Into his any-little-bit-of-him. To hold that. To have that. To have and to hold that. To have that to hold. Having that to hold on to. Having that. Doing that. Pin him down. Play pin him down. Play down. Play hard. Play dead. Play till he pinned me down. Till he would pin me to the point of not playing. To the point of playing for real. To the point of playing till there was no point. To the point of not playing. To the point of screwing. Missing that. To smell. Yes! To have his smell. Smell his smell. Smell his smell on him. Smell his smell on me. The never-get-used-to-that. The never-get-enough-of-that. The after-bath aroma. The first thing of a morning. The last thing at night. Loving the smell of his smell on my bedsheets. Doing that. Waiting for that. Missing that. His laughter. His head-back-eyes-streaming-free-full-frank-full-on laughter. Laughing hard. Laughing long. Laughing in the thick of it. His laugh. His laugh at my laugh. Laughing loud like that. Missing that. Wanting him. Wanting him to want us. Wanting us. Wanting us to want us. Wanting. Never wanting to be naked of him. Missing that. Him. Us.
A Hand Full of Stars, June 2006.
At the end of the event, I overheard something this blogger said to an audience member to that effect that one sometimes end up living for blogging.

I wish someone could tell me how to do that. For about a month, now, I have been "working from home", this means that I spend all my days on my own in my room. I get out of doors two or three times a week (Chorus rehearsal, Weekly-Cultural-Outing-To-Tesco). Sometimes I bump into a flatmate and Slightly is regularly at the other end of the wire (phone or email), as ever. This is my life, now.

And that was me thinking, I had no life at all when I work at the Council! How mistaken.

Strangely though, I am not really depressed about it all (YET!). Time flows in a haze with very little intellectual stimulation. Stimulation of any kind really. Every day like the previous one, and like the next. I feel numb. I take refuge in gay themed films (thanks to µTorrent, I am now well furnished in that department), living by proxy even more than I did when I used to read a lot; something I seem to have lots the taste of. I don't even feel lonely (YET!) and when I find myself with people, where I used to be blank, I now feel ill at ease, a bit apprehensive and I think fear is not fear from the surface.

More than ever I am a wraith in this world, passing unnoticed, leaving no mark. I don't even live for blogging, as you will have noticed from the lack of post recently.

It seems to have stopped bothering me, though. Mercifully... Apathy and contentment huddled happily together under the duvet.


Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Sir Ian McKellen Speaks to You (again)

Here is the second installment of Sir Ian's little speech for the launch of LGBT History Month 2007 at the TUC on Monday.

The first part of this was posted yesterday, together with a short report on the event.


Clip courtesy of Slightly


www.LGBTHistoryMonth.org.uk


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Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Truancy with the C'lebs

Invitation to the launch - click to enlarge

Although, yesterday was Monday, I didn't attend Chorus rehearsal last night. Instead, I played truant and stuffed Slightly in one of my pockets and went to the "pre-launch" of LGBT History Month 2007 at the TUC's headquarters: Congress House, off Tottenham Court Road.

I remember attending the first of those events, three years ago in the cinema of Tate Modern and the one last year at the Met's Empress Building in West London. Every year, a series of speakers are invited who make very interesting contributions.

The highlights for me, this year, (out of the 10 speakers present last night) were the interventions by "Dame Ian McGandalf" (aka Sir Ian Mckellen), Allan Horsefall, Ann Marriott and Stella Duffy. Paul Patrick (one of the organisers), who was hosting the event, is also always good fun to listen to.

Apart from being the major screen star that he is, Ian McKellen has been a gay activist for many years and he knows what he is (eloquently) talking about. He warned us that although was had now more or less won the legislative battle (bar a few tweaks of the law, here and there), we were get to what is perhaps the most difficult moment of our struggle where we need to show people, ordinary people, who we are and that we are not as horrible and dangerous and whatever else as they may sometimes think.


First part of extracts of Sir Ian's elocution -
Clip courtesy of Slightly (view part 2).


Allan Horsfall is also a veteran campaigner and a part of of collective history. In 1964 he co-founded the North-West Homosexual Law Reform Committee with Colin Harvey which later became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). He briefly told us how, at the publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957, he decided to start challenging the Labour Party's prejudices against doing anything about gay rights because Labour MPs at the time thought the working class (their supporters) were homophobic at heart. This was not his experience (as was indeed that of Rex Batten, whom I heard speak at the launch of his autobiographical novel, last year I think)

He also explained how he found that the (limited) decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 sometimes actually made things worse for gay men with the police showing their displeasure at the new law by making more arrests than before it happen. Regardless, Allan Horsfall took the (for us) bold step to use his personal address to run the campaign. Surprisingly (again, from our perspective), there was no backlash from his local community, although his address was "outed" in the papers.

In his view, the current homophobia rampant in working class minds at the moment is all the doing of the press and particularly the tabloids. I think he may be on to something. Allan Horsfall has his own website: The Gay Monitor.

Having moved some years ago from Nottingham to a tiny Scottish island with a population of 63, Ann Marriott felt a little isolated as a lesbian. Today, she is the Scottish Executive's special appointed (for 2 years) coordinator for LGBT History Month in Scotland. And yes, this year, half of her island's population have to committed to come and organise to an LGBT event! They all seem to be so progressive up there (and I am not just talking about gay rights). As Paul Patrick said after her speech: it almost makes you want to move to Scotland.

A little inconguously perhaps, we then took part in a minute of silence to mark National Trans Day of Remembrance. I say incongruously because it is a US event not a UK one. Still, it was good to remember that we have very cushy positions here in London and that there is still some work to do.

Finally, Stella Duffy wound up the evening before a few drinks. I had already seen Stella "in action" during a Big Gay Read event and she also graciously attended a meeting of my reading group where she held our attention for a good two and half hours.

She is a fiesty, passionate, stirring, articulate, intelligent, funny speaker and because of this, the only book of hers I have read (Parallel Lies, her latest, I believe) was rather a disappointment and a (negative) surprise: a fairly good read, I suppose but a flawed one in need of a good editor and more depth, I think. Still, she must be doing something right: she has about a dozen books published under her belt.

Stella spoke about the need for closeted lesbians (and any LGBT person, really) to come out and testify, get involved, make themselves visible so that people stopping seeing us) as "that interesting lesbian woman" or "that original gay man". A way to reclaim our humanity, I think.

The tag line on a flyer given out at the event said: "Claiming our history, celebrating our past, creating our future". History Month is indeed probably more about our future than our past. It is about visibility but a visibility that, like Stella Duffy said, will in the end giving us annonymity and possibly a new kind of invisibility, where we don't stand out any more because people know about us and have stopped being afraid, defensive and aggressive towards us.

As Ian McKellen said there is not much (if anything) left, for the LGBT people in this country, to march about in the streets (which does not mean we should not remain vigilant) and it is, I think, time to change our attitude.

Things have moved on so fast in the last 10 years (or even less) that, quite understandably, people who have been in fighting mode for several decades seem sometimes to be finding it difficult to realise that the time of struggle is, thanfully, behind us, that the younger generations are taking things in their stride much more than we are, and that it is now time to live our lives for ourselves more, show we are quite ordinary human beings and reach out.

This is what History Month is about.

Slightly has video clips of several of the speakers, he will be posting them piecemeal on his blog over the next few days.


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Being Art

Slides

Last Wednesday, I became a piece of art for a while.


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Being Art

Friday, 10 November 2006

Hi Mum, I'm On Radio 4

Slightly had told me before I had a weird accent. I just thought he was taking the piss. It's true though...

The Inner Temple HallIn February last year, I attended a recording of the BBC Radio4 programme Any Questions? Although I had come prepared, my question had not been selected to be read on air.

Tonight however, in the rather grand Treasurer Office's Hall of London's Honourable Society of The Inner Temple, having study a bit more how successful questions are usually phrased on the programme, I was amongt the 10 people from the audience who were asked to come and sit in the front row.

The panel brought together:
* Lord Falconer: The Lord Chancellor
* Ann Widdecombe MP: Former Home Office Minister
* Martin Narey: Chief Executive of Barnardos
* Patience Wheatcroft: Editor of The Sunday Telegraph
I was number 6 and, in the event, the last to get a chance to read out his question. It ran as follows:
Despite the positive image "Tony Cameron" is trying to spin for his party, are the Conservatives still the "nasty party" for ethnic minorities and immigrants?
You can listen to the question and the responses from the panel here (MP3 file, 3Min40, 3.36MB).

In a perhaps slightly unfair move from Jonathan Dimbleby, the chair of the programme, Ann Widdecombe (a prominent member of the Convervative party after all) was the first to be asked to respond, without any time to think about what to say. Although she called me an "intelligent man", she clearly did not think to like the question at all.

It was (and Dimbleby slightly missed my point there when "translating" and explaining the question) in reference to the recent developments with the A-list system of selection which resulted, as Ann Widdecombe and Patience Wheatcroft both pointed out triumphantly, and in my view misguidedly, in the selection of two minority ethnic candidates. "Only two?", is my reply.

I was also referring to the fact that what I think is the first policy finally published by Cameron and co (quite unsurprisingly) focuses on immigration. The exact same issue that apparently lost them the previous general elections because they focused too much on it.

Contrary to what Widdecombe says in here reply, the term "nasty party" is not the result of government and media led spin but comes from her own party. During her speech at the 2002 Party Conference, Theresa May, the then chairwoman of the Conservatives, stated that the party was then perceived as the "nasty party".

I have to say I find rather amusing the fact of Widdecombe insising the conservative party is not "that kind" of nasty party; implying they are simply another kind...

I am of course myself both an immigrant and a member of an ethnic minority. Just one with a weird accent, it seems.

If you were out and missed the truly historic moment (probably one of the first ever French persons to talk on this almost 60 year old programme), you get a second chance to listen to the show on Saturday (tomorrow, 11 November) between 1:10 and 2:00pm, followed by Any Answers? where auditors phone in to comment on the show.


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Wednesday, 8 November 2006

"Behold The Atheist's Nightmare"



"Seriously [sic], the whole of creation testifies to the genius of god's creative theory"... even, and especially, bananas...


I don't even know where to start with this, another example of some Christian's lack of sense.

Thanks


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Tuesday, 7 November 2006

The Archers Go Pinker

Tonight marks the 15000th episode of the Archers; Radio4's long running soap about the inhabitants of Ambridge, an imaginary village in the English countryside. I don't follow the show as such but since I listen a lot to Radio 4, I can't help but stumbling on it from time to time and I therefore have a good idea of what goes on.

In March 2004, the series featured its first gay kiss. Since then, Adam and Ian's relationship has been developing nicely. They now live together and have been accepted by the community.

In march this year, a report by Stonewall criticised the BBC for the way it represented gay and lesbian people but I have to say that they are doing very well with this one.

Although all soaps have now had gay characters, they do not tend to last very long and are most of the time quite stereotypical (as in Coronation Street at the moment). By contrast, Adam and Ian give a positive and atypical representation of gay men. Of course say don't seem to have much of a sex life but otherwise they are in a stable and loving relationship. They are not camp, bitchy or even funny. They are almost boring, to be honest; like most of the gay men I know actually.

The Archers were the last soap to get a gay kiss but last week they started on the road to become the first soap to portrait a Civil Partnership. In a rather moving and romantic scene, which had me well up on the bus to rehearsal, Ian proposed to an unsuspecting Adam.

The synopsis of last wednesday's episode on the BBC website goes as follows:
Adam thinks he’s promoting Hassett Hills venison to a chef at a restaurant the other side of Felpersham but gets a surprise when he sees Ian there. Ian explains that it’s all a set up. There’s no meeting, only a special romantic meal to say thank you for everything Ian put Adam through with Madds. Adam’s pudding turns out to be extra-special. Ian has arranged for a ring to be brought out on a plate. Ian tells Adam he’s loved him from the moment they met and wants to spend the rest of his life with Adam. Adam never expected a proposal in a million years but thinks it’s a wonderful idea. Of course he’ll marry Ian.
On monday, I trawled the 300 odd messages posted on the relevant thread on the Archers' message board to see the reaction of the listeners. They are usually perceived to be middle class and quite conservative but I was quite surprised the find that the reactions were vastly positive. only 3 or 4 people were complaining about "PC tosh" in the story lines of the programme. The rest actually defended the "gay marriage" story line.

Along the way, the discussion digressed from the defining of the word "marriage" and whether marriage is an exclusively religious institution or not, one person saying that homosexuality doesn't exist in nature which proves that it is wrong while another said that because it exists in nature, it can't be a decent human behaviour (you just can't win!) to parenting and single parent families. Some listeners, considering the ceremony as already over and done with, expressed their expections of seen the two adopting and raising a child.

There has already been hints however (through one character's incredulous reaction to the news) that the ceremony might not happen as smoothly as one might expect.

It will be interesting to see the development in that department but in the meantime, I think the BBC should be complimented for their depiction of these particular gay people, even there is still some work to do in other areas.



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