Last week, I accused Lip Service of being predictable. Well, as you can imagine, Friday’s episode certainly shut me up.
It may have been bizarre, shocking and more than a tad depressing, but it certainly wasn’t predictable. In fact, it was about as unpredictable as you can get without having all the characters suddenly turn into Dolmio puppets and sing ‘That’s Amore’.
It was also a very powerful reminder of life’s frailty, one minute you’re wearing a basque, touching yourself in front of an illicit shag-partner and worrying about your relationship issues, the next you’re sent flying by a speeding car and end up breathing your last outside a boarded up branch of Ladbrokes.
Between that, new character Dr Lexy and the hospital setting, the whole thing was about as close to an episode of Casualty as you can get, right down to the Holby City-esque bizarre mixture of accents (seriously, are there actually any Glaswegians in Glasgow?). It definitely didn’t feel like the silly, frothy, escapist programme we’d come to know and…well, know. In fact, it was incredibly odd.
One thing’s for certain though: we’ve seen the last of Cat. But how on Earth is the programme going to cope with what is clearly an unplanned and not-exactly-ideal early exit by Laura Fraser? The Cat/Frankie on-off love story was as central to the plot as the random mentions of herbal tea or the (now sadly lacking) sex scenes.
It’s crazy, equivalent to Mr Darcy being randomly taken out by a meteorite strike three quarters of the way through Pride and Prejudice. Or Belle from Beauty and the Beast being abruptly crushed to death by a falling chandelier during the iconic ballroom dancing scene. We emotionally invested in Cat, despite the fact she had a face like a cliped arse, to coin a Scots phrase. The least they could have done is prepare us for the worst by giving her a troubling cough last episode and then revealing she actually had terminal syphilis.
That would have a) allowed us to get used to the idea she wasn’t going to be around for long and b) saved us from having to sit through her sudden, gruesome, bone crunching death, which was not at all in keeping with the tone of the programme to date. We went from enjoying a diluted version of The L Word to watching Final Destination, or possibly that horrible advert where that small child slides across a road and then dies in reverse.
Transitioning from that to watching an oblivious Frankie mud wrestling in the Highlands with Sadie was very strange indeed.
Poor Frankie. What on Earth is she going to do now? Cat was her childhood sweetheart and officially The One, not to mention the fact that Cat wouldn’t have died if she hadn’t avoided work to have voyeuristic, dull sex with Frankie. You don’t get over that kind of thing unless you’re some kind of evil, heartless robot. A Dalek, for example, or possibly David Cameron.
There are now two choices: 1) portray Frankie as incredibly, unbelievably emotionally resilient, so much so that she bounces back faster than a homing kangaroo, or b) spend the next six weeks watching her cry in HD.
Neither are particularly appealing to be honest. Although she’d already started down the first path at the end of the episode when she demanded a grief-counselling, tear stained post-funeral shag from the increasingly wonderful Sadie, whose delicious East End drawl makes her sound like the love child of Marsha from Spaced and Danny the Dealer from Withnail and I. She kindly agreed to do it with Frankie in order to cheer her up: I don’t know about you, but nothing turns me on like a weeping, drunk woman covered in grave dirt.
Of course, we can’t forget poor, reliable Sam. When Heather Peace hinted in interviews that it would be a ‘dark’ series for her, it turns out she wasn’t referring to the fact they’d changed to energy saving lightbulbs on set. And it looks set to get even darker now she’s found the incriminating bit of fence with ‘I’ve been having an affair with Frankie’ carved into it (or words to that effect) in dear departed Cat’s pants drawer.
All in all, it’s a bizarre situation for a series to be in. However – and I’ll probably regret saying this – it still seems fairly predictable. True to form, Tess got rid of Fin the Footballer for crimes against girliness and she’s now hung up on new flatmate Lexy, who’s into recently bereaved Sam. Frankie is distraught, but not so sad she isn’t willing to continue to be Lip Service’s answer to Russell Brand, and Sam’s obviously going to have a harrowing showdown with her at some point in the very near future. It’ll be like watching Ripley from Alien battling Skeletor.
Conundrum of the Week: What kind of hospital leaves a corpse lying around so people can drop in to visit it? Don’t they have morgues any more, or did they all get shut down in the Glasgow area to prevent Frankie having sex in them?
Shock! Outrage! Adverts promoting ex-gay therapy and mocking Stonewall’s famous ‘Get Over It!’ campaign are about to roll out all over central London – they’re targeting vulnerable people, underlining yet again the idea of queer sexualities being a misjudged lifestyle choice, and they’re going up very soon.
And then – two hours after the ads are announced – in steps Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor, personally intervening to ban the adverts.
‘Thanks, Boris!’ says the Pink Paper. How reassuring it is to have a Mayor who really understands the issues facing LGBT+ people, who is willing to take such dramatic and controversial steps to protect our rights and welfare.
Thankfully, ex-gay therapy is a relatively uncontroversial issue in the UK. It is known that it shouldn’t be necessary, that it doesn’t work and that it is actively harmful.
The British Medical Association has voted to have conversion therapies banned, and nearly half a million American mental health professionals have rejected the idea that homosexuality should be ‘cured’, with the American Psychological Association naming that “such efforts have serious potential to harm young people”.
Stories of peoples’ experiences with conversion therapy have circled the Web, with people reporting becoming depressed and suicidal, losing their faith, their families, their careers and their savings.
Thriving survivor communities name the practice as abusive and provide support for ex-ex-gay people, and, significantly, earlier this week a key piece of research supporting ex-gay claims, which is cited by virtually all ex-gay organisations, was retracted by the author.
In a happier story: two of the male founders of Exodus International, a vast ex-gay organisation, fell in love in 1978, left and married. Wouldn’t that just make the loveliest rom-com?
Boris Johnson: PR Man Extraordinaire
It is an absolute no-brainer to ban these hateful adverts – no reasonable Mayor would have allowed them to run in London.
However, only someone like our current Mayor Boris Johnson would have made such a fanfare of that fact, allowing them to be accepted, allowing the blogosphere to react, and then calling the Guardian to say he was personally intervening to pull them.
In fact, Boris and his Tory government are attacking LGBT people far more than a handful of ex-gay adverts ever could.
Huge public sector cuts have impacted upon many essential LGBT services – the funding of organisations such as Broken Rainbow, PACE and the SHOUT Youth Group is under threat, and many LBT-specific womens’ services in London have already closed.
Cuts to the sponsors of LGBT History Month may well threaten this vital event. Trans healthcare services are predicted to close in the face of huge cuts to the NHS.
Hate crimes are on the rise, and cuts to the criminal justice sector as well as to LGBT-specific victim support organisations are likely to lead to under-reporting. [source: PCS] Things aren’t good.
It is an extremely easy piece of PR showmanship to ban these adverts and be applauded by the LGBT community. Instead, I’d like to see Boris and our government do the hard work that’s required to really support their LGBT citizens.
For any readers trying to reconcile their faith and their sexuality, there’s a comprehensive list of LGBT Christian organisations here – http://www.outcomeonline.org.
You may remember that a couple of months ago, Starbucks excitedly revealed its new PR strategy. Now, when you order a coffee, they ask for your name, so that hen it’s ready they can call you over to collect it.
This PR plan probably works really well in Seattle, but not in the UK. Not even the promise of a free latte to promote this new friendly venture could wipe the incredulous sneers off the faces of the caffeine-deprived British public. Give Starbucks our name? We’d rather give it two fingers.
It’s hard to think of Starbucks as a friendly local coffeeshop when we know full well it’s a megabucks international corporation, a behemoth brand crushing independent cafes as it dominates every high street.
And so I was quite surprised to find myself defending it, even vowing to support it, in response to a ridiculous boycott called Dump Starbucks.
Free gay rights with every latte
Thanks to the Dump Starbucks website, I found out that Starbucks is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage in the USA, and so a homophobic pressure group is encouraging a boycott because “every time you sip from a Starbucks coffee, you’re supporting gay marriage”. What a lovely surprise! I had no idea.
Presumably they’re quieter in the UK about their support for gay rights because, well, we actually have some gay rights in the UK, so it’s not such a big deal.
It turns out that Starbucks are actually a pretty nice company, once you get past the whole money-hungry-ruthless-corporation thing. They have LGBT support groups for their employees and in the States they offer healthcare for partners of gay employees.
But now that Starbucks has explictly stated their support for gay marriage in the USA, homophobic pressure group the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) are upset and are calling for a boycott.
NOM believe that ‘at least half its US customers, and the vast majority of its international customers’ are against gay marriage, and so it think its coffee boycott will bully Starbucks into reversing its ideology.
Let battle commence
‘Half of Starbucks’ US customers, and the vast majority of its international customers.’ Sounds like a lot of people doesn’t it? And yet, at time of writing, just 32,800 people have signed Dump Starbucks’ pledge.
Meanwhile, because Dump Starbucks is very kindly letting us all know how gay-friendly Starbucks is, a counter-petition has got underway.
This petition, created by Sum of Us, is simply to send Starbucks a thank you card on behalf of everyone who appreciates their support for equality. At time of writing, 647,593 people have digitally signed the card.
32,800 against Starbucks, 647,593 supporting Starbucks. That’s a difference of over six hundred thousand people. Wow. Embarassing.
So do your bit for gay rights – sign the petition, then go to Starbucks for a coffee. Or go to your local gay-friendly independent cafe for a herbal tea. Same idea, less crushing behemoth domination.
Anyone tuning in to last week’s episode of Lip Service expecting a revamp and possibly a new, jazzy L Word style theme tune (‘girls with bad mullets, who eat deep fried hag-gis; chicks driving fast, Irn-Bru in large glasses’ etc.) would have been disappointed.
Instead of using the year long break to refresh the format, fix some of the flaws from the first series and move the plot along a bit, we picked up exactly where we left off at the end of series one.
Despite being the thinnest person in Glasgow and therefore, theoretically, able to pull any woman she wants, we’re supposed to believe that Frankie is still inescapably hung up on Cat: a woman with all the charisma and personality of a shoe.
Cat, on the other hand, is still in love with her reliable, nice police officer girlfriend Sam. You know she’s reliable because she has a firm jaw and a centre parting so straight you could use it to hang a painting.
This means we’ll have to spend the next however-many weeks watching Frankie mope around the place looking like the lovelorn, skeletal corpse of Princess Diana. That’s no fun.
At least last series we could live vicariously through her, watching as she humped her way through the female population of Scotland while we sat at home on a Friday night with our long-term girlfriend in ‘hers and hers’ slankets.
It seems the writer and producers have taken the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and changed that to read ‘even if it’s broke, don’t fix it. Also, why not move it to a 9pm time slot so we have to reduce the sex scenes to the bare minimum?’
The sex was – arguably – one of the more edgy and convincing things about series one. It was Channel 4 levels of rude on the BBC, with strap-ons, bizarre morgue sex and naked boobs all over the place. In contrast series two seems positively puritan.
Things looked optimistic two minutes in when Cat and Sam, just back from holiday, decided to get frisky rather than unpack. They stripped each other down to trousers and a bra, fell onto the bed and then… the camera panned upwards to show their collection of ornamental plates and a cooker hob.
Ok, it’s true that we lesbians like home furnishings, but we like watching women having sex just that little bit more. Later in the episode Frankie and Cat got together in an alleyway for an illicit shag, and again the action cut away before anything exciting happened.
Come on! Do the programme makers really think focusing solely on the characters and plot is a good idea? That’s a very dangerous road to go down: the characters are wafer thin and lacking in backstory (apart from Frankie’s whole bizarre ‘my uncle was actually my dad all along’ story arc).
Similarly, the plot is as transparent as the ghost of a window. A little way into the episode, Tess is shown watching her boyish girlfriend’s football match with an expression most people would reserve for identifying a body. Later, she and Frankie recruited a hot, feminine flatmate, Lexy. Tess is clearly going to ditch the footballer and get jiggy with her, but no doubt the whole thing will be drawn out with various angsty twists and turns added in (‘but you’re my flatmate/have previously slept with Frankie/I’m seeing someone else!’).
The reason Tess and Frankie need a flatmate is that their landlord found out Frankie’s letting agent shag-buddy Sadie (who looks like a young Marsha from Spaced) was giving them discounted rent and kicked them out. When Frankie tracked Sadie down to complain, she delivered possibly the best line in the history of the series: “Frankie, sort yourself out and stop acting like a fucking cock”.
We like Sadie. She should get her own spin off show where she individually insults each and every self-absorbed idiot in the UK while wearing an oversized jumper and smoking a fag.
Conundrum of the Week: The constant references to tea were utterly confusing. At least four separate characters in different settings referred to the fact Tess had bought a ‘selection of tea’ culminating in a scene that saw a heavily Glasgow-accented conquest of Frankie picking up the box and making the words ‘goji berry’ sound like some kind of obscure sexual practice (‘fancy a Goah-Jee?’). Is this series being sponsored by Twinings?
The UK Government has announced its intention to introduce same-sex civil marriage by the next general election, meaning gay couples can legally refer to their partnership as a ‘marriage’ and use the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ rather than the more cumbersome ‘civil partner’.
In another move, a law was passed in December 2011 stating that civil ceremonies can be conducted in places of worship in England and Wales, and can contain religious content such as prayers or hymns. While no religious group will be forced to host them, those who wish to can apply.
If the Government does indeed go ahead with a marriage reform bill to allow fully-fledged gay weddings, then equality laws will apply to churches, meaning that gay couples will be able to have a religious wedding ceremony within a church. This is a fantastic move for equality, but do gay couples actually want this?
The religious view
All religions have different interpretations, but very few endorse same sex relationships. The most popular religion in the UK is Christianity with 71.6% of the population describing themselves as Christian (UK census 2001).
Christianity accepts that some people have homosexual tendencies and that in itself is not wrong. Gay relationships are not recognised though and any form of homosexual activity is considered to be sinful which makes the concept of gays marrying in most churches rather tricky.
Judaism, Muslim and Sikh view homosexuality in a similar way, though a few churches and places of worship are more relaxed. Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ and the Metropolitan Community recognise gay relationships. Liberal Buddhists and Quakers are also fairly neutral towards gays.
The Christian church believes that homosexuality can be overcome with prayer and help from God, so the proposed equality laws surrounding gay marriage could split the institution and cause a much ill-feeling between the gay community and the Christian community.
In December 2011 the church said ”A gentlemen’s outfitter is not required to supply women’s clothes. A children’s book shop is not required to stock books that are intended for adults. And a Church that provides a facility to marry is not required to provide a facility to same-sex couples for registering civil partnerships.”
Do gay Christians really want to marry in Church?
Due to its non-acceptance of gay relationships, it is fair to assume that very few of the “practising” gay population would consider themselves to be Christian. “Unpractising” gays who choose to remain celibate or enter into straight relationships would, of course, have no need for a gay marriage in a church.
Many gay people who were brought up as Christians have turned their back on the faith because their relationships are frowned upon.
It may be easy for a straight person to believe homosexuality can be overcome with prayer and that the gay tendencies will disappear. Most gay people will disagree and argue that they are born gay and crave the love, security and stability of a marriage just the same as any straight person does. Life for a gay person without the prospect of ever having a fulfilling relationship is not a happy concept.
Why, therefore, would gay couples be keen to marry in an institution that fundamentally does not agree with their union? Even if the church was forced to perform their marriage, surely a sense of pride will make most shy away? Why spend the happiest day of your life in a place where most people disapprove of you?
There is a long way to go before gay marriage will be palatable for the entire UK population. At present, roughly half the population agrees with gay marriage and 65 % believe in civil partnerships. Whether this is a religious issue, a homophobic issue or both, is impossible to say.
It will be interesting to see whether gay couples do decide to go ahead and book their weddings in churches, as statistics show that more time and patience is needed before these unions are accepted within society.
Until then there are plenty of other places for gay couples to wed; from local town halls to castles, from airports to museums. Quirky couples can opt for The London Eye and wealthy ones for Kensington Palace, who wants stuffy hymns and formal prayers anyway?
In February 2012 the Open University published The Bisexuality Report: a comprehensive overview of the issues facing bisexual folks in the UK today, and the second of its kind in the world after a San Francisco group published the Bisexual Invisibility Report last year.
The statistics on the health and happiness of bisexuals, in both reports, are absolutely dismal.
Bisexual people have worse overall mental health, and are more likely to suffer intimate partner violence, poverty, homelessness and abuse than our heterosexual, lesbian and gay counterparts.
We are more likely to be closeted, to feel suicidal, and to feel unhappy with our sexualities. We are less accepted by our families. We use more recreational drugs, drink more alcohol, and suffer from the biphobia of health providers (many of whom are positive in attitude towards lesbian and gay service users) – the combination of these factors with poor mental health suggests that physical health will also be worse for bisexuals.
Both reports have highlighted the double discrimination faced by bisexuals socially: the situation of facing oppression from both heterosexual society and the LGBT scene.
In addition, bisexuals suffer biphobia as well as homophobia and heterosexism: most commonly including bisexual erasure (the denial, exclusion and making-invisible of our existence and experiences), negative stereotyping and marginalisation, often from lesbian and gay people and in forms that are acknowledged as unacceptable for lesbian and gay sexualities.
The need for bisexual-specific support, to deal with the unique set of oppressions faced by bisexuals, is clear.
A thriving UK bisexual community has provided a vital support network for almost thirty years now. The annual BiCon attracts up to five hundred people, many regulars, for a residential weekend of workshops and socialising, while smaller one-day BiFests all over the country provide a space for people new to bisexuality the chance to discuss labels, coming out, common myths and much more – often for the first time.
It is not enough. People come to be bi community for a reason, and overwhelmingly that reason is that rampant biphobia in supposedly inclusive queer spaces is too prevalent and too much to bear.
In the past, bisexuals have had to fight for space in pride marches and deal with ‘gay-only’ door policies on clubs.
Today, many LGBT services have no bisexual-specific knowledge or resources, and many bisexuals report casual biphobia from people in LGBT groups: comments about ‘letting down the side’, ideas that we’re more likely to cheat or that bi women ultimately just want a man.
This has to stop. This awarding of gold stars, comments about sex with men being disgusting, about bisexuals being fickle and traitorous – this is enough. It is not funny any more. People are being alienated from spaces that should be safe for them, and they are being hurt.
Bisexual people have so much to offer queer communities. We’ve already been campaigning (erased under the banner of ‘gay’ rights) and running queer events at a grassroots, voluntary level for decades. We’re organised, and we get stuff done.
We’re more likely to live and love without concerns over labels, fixed identities and rules, and our experiences living as bisexual have led many of us towards a broader understanding of privilege and liberation.
The oppressions facing us as lesbian and bi women are the same: it is heteronormativity that is the enemy here, not the mechanics of individuals’ attractions.
Queer folks know the pain of having one’s sexuality and identity assumed, stereotypes, boxed and policed: we can do very much without new normativities in our communities.
By embracing and supporting a full spectrum of non-heteronormative sexualities, we as a community will be providing valuable support to one of our most marginalised groups, and we’ll be far stronger overall.
Over the years, music has frequently been used as a way to highlight good causes and to support charitable efforts. From the star-studded spectacle of Band Aid to the numerous singles released for Comic Relief, music has played its part.
Personally, I’ve come to have mixed views about this practise. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with supporting charities and I definitely love music, in all its many genres and styles.
However, I had reached a stage where I had begun to feel a little apathy towards the infamous ‘charity single’. I mean, there are only so many times you can watch ‘JLS In Want Of Direction’ (or whatever the ‘current’ boy-band happens to be called) swaying and “oooing” to a heart-wrenching melody whilst a black and white VT of the cause they espouse plays on an oversized screen behind them.
I felt bad about myself for taking holding this cynical opinion, but nevertheless, there it was. Then along came a charity single which completely changed my mind. A charity single supporting a cause so close to my heart that I could have whooped for joy when I heard about its imminent release. A charity single that, in my opinion, was long overdue.
The L Project
The L Project, spearheaded by Georgey Payne and Fi Milone, is an organisation which, in its own words, aims to help “anyone who has suffered or is suffering from any form of bullying, particularly that which is anti-LGBT.”
Its new charity single, It Does Get Better, released in February 2012, is arguably doing an amazing job of achieving just that. Harnessing the musical talents of an array of talented artists, including the legendary Horse, It Does Get Better sends a message of hope and strength to all those who are being bullied because of their sexual orientation, but particularly young people.
The single itself was in fact inspired by a 15 year old friend of Georgey Payne’s, who was suffering at the hands of homophobic peers. So what makes this particular charity single stand out? Why is this cause so close to my heart? Because I am a teacher in a comprehensive secondary school, and I see and hear first hand, every day, how deeply homophobic views and behaviour are still rooted in our society.
“That’s so gay”
We all remember being a teenager: the awkwardness; the lack of certainty; the constant nagging belief that, for whatever reason, you’re not quite as ‘perfect’ as you should be.
As a teacher, I routinely work with arguably the most insecure group of people in our society. And that’s true even if they’re heterosexual. Add the possibility that a student might be bisexual, homosexual or transgender into the mix and all of a sudden those fears and worries escalate exponentially.
Put another way, statistically, an LGBT teenager is three times more likely to commit suicide than a straight teen.
A simple stroll down a school corridor or a meander around the playground will bring with it the unmistakable cries of “That’s so gay!” or “You’re such a gay!” from a wide variety of students – even the ‘nice’ ones.
So long has the word ‘gay’ been synonymous with ‘bad’ amongst young people that most of them don’t even consider its impact anymore. On the odd occasion, I’ve even heard it from other members of staff. That’s right – staff; the people who are moulding our children and being entrusted with the responsibility of not just their academic but also their moral education.
Educating the educators
Our centres of education need education themselves – not just students but teachers and support staff too. Quite rightly, in our increasingly multicultural society, the recognition of racism and how to deal with it has long been a staple of PDC (Personal Development and Citizenship) lessons and of teacher training days. Now the same needs to happen for homophobia.
Too many schools (my own included) are too scared to deal with this issue, for fear of a backlash from parents or simply because they literally have no idea where to begin.
There are of course many success stories: Elly Barnes, a music teacher at Stoke Newington School, recently gained a very well deserved place at the top of The Independent’s Pink List, after her pivotal role in the successful implementation of a programme of LGBT education at her school.
Diversity Role Models, lead by the inspirational Suran Dickson, herself a former teacher, are doing amazing work in schools educating both teachers and students about LGBT lifestyles. Their theory? That knowledge leads to understanding which in turn leads to empathy and co-operation. I couldn’t agree more.
We need more of this kind of education in our schools. Every young person has the right to feel safe, happy and important, particularly as they run the gauntlet of their teenage years.
Both Diversity Role Models and Stonewall UK will directly benefit from the money raised by It Does Get Better, which in turn will help these organisations to continue the work that they do.
To my mind, this isn’t just another charity single; this is a chance to reach out to some of the most vulnerable members of our society and to reassure them that although, yes, they are different, so is everyone else and that, ultimately, that’s ok.
It does get better, it will get better, and long may it continue to do so.
Watch the video:
There are 5,000 professional male footballers in the UK, and every single one is completely heterosexual. What are the chances of that, eh?
Pretty slim, actually. By even the most conservative estimates, 1.5% of the population is gay or bisexual, which would mean that right now there are at least 75 gay or bi footballers playing professionally in the UK. And yet not a single one feels able to come out of the closet.
In the history of men’s football there has been one out gay footballer – Justin Fashanu, who committed suicide in 1998 because of the homophobia he experienced on and off the pitch.
Justin’s niece, Amal Fashanu, recently made a BBC documentary called Britain’s Gay Footballers, which was broadcast on 30 January 2012. In the same week, the Football Association (FA) proudly announced that all 20 Premier League clubs have signed up to the Government’s Charter for Action against Homophobia.
It seems that the right questions are being asked, and the issue is starting to get noticed, so could we finally be on the brink of a new era of gay-friendly football?
91% of fans don’t care
In her documentary, Amal Fashanu was frustrated at the silence she encountered when trying to talk about the issue of gay footballers. Hardly any pro footballers were willing to speak on camera about the issue, and those that did were explicitly identified as heterosexual in the documentary, just to avoid any potential misunderstandings. (Or litigiation, presumably.)
But current players who did speak on camera, including Queens Park Rangers’ Joey Barton and a number of Millwall players, were refreshingly open minded. No it wouldn’t make any difference if a team mate was gay, they said. Society has moved on, it just wouldn’t matter.
A few fans spoke on camera too, with similar attitudes. The general view seemed to be that as long as a player was good at football, his own fans wouldn’t care if he was gay. Opposition fans would use it as ammunition, but the player’s own team fans would protect him.
Of course there’s always a chance that there are still a lot of footballers and fans with more homophobic views, and they just didn’t want to voice them on camera. But the documentary’s anecdotal evidence points the same way as larger surveys – a 2011 study of 3,500 people by Staffordshire University found that 91% of fans simply don’t care about footballers’ sexual orientations.
“The word ‘poof’? It would only be used in a comical sense”
Team-mates don’t care, and fans don’t care. So who cares? Management, it would seem. Football is a young man’s game, but the real players in the business are the ones in the boardrooms. Often former players themselves, the men at the top of the clubs and the FA are from another era – Justin Fashanu’s era – when homosexuality was a shameful secret at best, an abhorrent scandal at worst.
There’s a telling moment in the documentary Britain’s Gay Footballers when Amal Fashanu is talking to John McGoven, who was team captain at Nottingham Forest when Justin Fashanu was on the team, and a close friend of Brian Clough when Clough was manager.
When he realised Fashanu was gay, Clough banned him from training with the rest of the team. And in his autobiography, Clough refers to Fashanu as a ‘poof’. “What do you think about that?” Amal Fashanu asks McGoven.
McGoven laughs in response, and feigns ignorance. “I take it that’s a slang word for homosexual?” he asks.
Amal pauses, incredulous. “Yes,” she says. “So was it ok, to call him a poof?”
McGoven tries that lighthearted laugh again, and brushes away any suggestion of homophobia. “I’m laughing because at the time we would have laughed as well, as footballers. I don’t even call that discrimination. It’s another word for what we’re talking about, being a homosexual… I think it would only be used in a comical sense, rather than trying to victimise somebody.”
Beyond tick-box charters
If the problem of homophobia in football exists in the boardroom, then the Government’s Charter for Action against Homophobia is surely a welcome move towards establishing better attitudes throughout all levels of football.
It’s certainly encouraging that all 20 Premiership clubs have signed up to it, but it’s a rather woolly statement about how everyone should be able to enjoy sport without discrimination. Only time will tell if it’s a box ticking exercise or a genuine commitment to changing attitudes.
It’s been 22 years since Fashanu came out. In that time LGBT rights have come a massive way – we’ve had legislation for an equal age of consent, gay people serving in the military, equal rights in the workplace, and civil partnerships. In the same 22 years, the football industry has managed to pull together one toothless statement saying Discrimination is A Bad Thing.
Gay professional footballers do exist. 30% of football professionals – that’s footballers, managers, referees and other officials – personally know current footballers who are gay, according to Staffordshire University’s report. Or to phrase it another way – just under a third of all the professionals in the industry know some gay footballers, and the world has not stopped turning.
A Charter against homophobia is nice, but it is nowhere near enough. Football clubs need to show that homophobia is as unwelcome as racism, and the FA need to lead. You can’t push gay footballers to come out, but you can show them it’s ok by encouraging gay football management to come out. Better still, employ people who are openly gay.
The FA need to employ people who are good at their jobs and knowledgeable about the industry, and who happen to be gay. People like Hope Powell.
The current England Women’s Football coach has already indicated that she is planning to leave coaching, so it’s the FA’s chance to give Powell a high profile, meaningful role in the men’s game where she can make a positive impact on the game and also attitudes towards homosexuality.
A woman, in a senior role in the FA? Maybe if we wait another 22 years we could have a charter for that.
Sick of shiny, crass Candy Bar, straight-packed GAY-Late and vapid scene queens who think they’re the dog’s bollocks with bells on? Hey Londoner, you got yourself a jammy new queer hang out to play in! Pull yourself up to Bethnal Green in East London to the next Bad Reputation evening.
So 285 Poyser Street may seem like a dark alleyway you don’t want to walk down at any time of day, let alone 11pm on a Saturday night, after slurping down a horrendous yet vibrant combination of Dr Pepper and gin… But, I’ll tell you now, it’s totally worth the initial pee-your-pants moment where you feel lost and confused and want to go home.
When you finally locate the place, head through the obscure side-door, under the murky railway bridge, pay three quid to the bouncy door-girl, and enter into riot grrrl paradise.
If listening to Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, L7, Babes in Toyland, Hole, The Raincoats and more rocks your rainbow coloured boat, this truly is heaven.
Perhaps I don’t get out enough, and do actually spend far too much time in Soho, but this was the only place I’ve ever heard the clit-rocking music I spent my teens listening to blare out into a room full of like-minded homos and hipster types and the occasional Rollergirl.
I proudly admit that when Veruca Salt’s 90s archetypal chick rock tune ‘Seether’ came on, that’s was the point my friend and I actually peed our pants. Glorious.
I was sold on what Bad Reputation professed online: “We are a diy dance party for queers, grrrrls, punx and geeks. We are a disco for bedroom dancers. Let’s be awesome and awkward in public together! We party hard each month at Resistance Gallery, Bethnal Green with djs playing indie punk pop riot grrrl queerxcore hip hop r’n'b rock emo party hits.”
What is depressing is that there is simply not enough of this stuff in London, but when it does appear once in a blue moon, it is worth grabbing with both hands.
When the night closed with Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’, I squealed. I care not for the geekiness of this. That opening riff, played to the beat of dozens of nerdy gay girls dancing awkwardly and gloriously in 2012, was outstanding.
Look them up on Facebook. Attend.
In February 2011 Heather Peace (Sam from Lip Service) and Kathy Caton (BBC3) took part in a frank and fascinating Question and Answer session, as part of the annual Lesbian Lives conference. (more…)
- The impact of being an out lesbian on Heather’s acting career
- On auditioning for the role of Frankie, “along with every other slightly androgynous actress in the UK”
- The sex scenes you didn’t see – the kitchen unit scene that almost went too far
- The similarities and differences between Frankie from Lip Service and Shane from The L Word
- On following in the footsteps of The L Word
- Lip Service viewing parties and the Twitter fans
- How much lesbian sex the BBC can show
- Why Lip Service was on BBC3, and whether or not it could ever move to BBC2
- Why Lip Service was set in Glasgow
The Government has announced an end to council diversity surveys, writes Milly Shaw. Or, as the Daily Mail preferred to phrase it, “town hall ‘sex snoopers’ will be banned from bombarding people with intrusive questions about their private lives.”
Residents seeking to access basic services are, according the tabloids, “grilled” about their sex lives, religion, disabilities and ethnicity, and have to reveal such detailed personal information “just to get their bins emptied or take out a library book”.
So well done Communities Secretary Eric Pickles! What a victory for common sense and decency, in this political-correctness-gone-mad world.
Except, of course, that it’s nothing of the sort.
Protecting personal data
Personal privacy has become a valuable commodity, and we know that companies want to know everything they can about us, either to better target their own sales, or to sell the data to other companies.
Sometimes we sign up willingly – trading shopping pattern information for loyalty card points, or using a free email service in return for eerily relevant adverts.
Other times we don’t give up this information so willingly. At the mildly intrusive end of the scale is the bike shop which demands your home address every time you buy something; at the other end is the thief who steals enough personal information to assume your identity and rob you of everything you have.
But what about councils? Why are they so interested in your personal life? They’re not trying to sell anything, so what’s in it for them? In a word, nothing. They’re not collecting information about your ethnicity, sexuality, religion or disability to make life better for them – they’re doing it to make life better for you and for the people who live around you.
Councils need to know who lives in the local community, so they ask people to complete a voluntary diversity monitoring form when using some council services.
Different groups of people have different interests and needs. If it’s a very elderly population, for example, maybe more money should go towards residential care facilities. If there is a large Korean community, then some council literature may need to be produced in Korean to reach more people.
Some of this information can be found on the census, but some won’t be seen there – for instance the census question about sexuality was optional, so doesn’t give a very accurate representation of LGBT people in the UK.
Asking questions about diversity while people are using public services is also a way to ensure that certain groups of people aren’t being excluded.
If 99% of library users say that they are heterosexual in an area known to have an LGBT population of 6%, then it raises questions about why more LGBT people aren’t using the library, and whether there is deliberate or accidental discrimination preventing them from using the service.
The people who complain about diversity surveys are, invariably: white, straight, non-disabled, English-speakers. They suspect that the purpose of these forms is for minority groups to get special treatment, and they don’t like it. What they don’t understand is that they’re part of a group too, and their majority groups gets special treatment all the time.
Anyone who is part of any the majority groups is so used to the world being angled towards them that they just assume it’s the natural, normal way of doing things, and that everyone else agrees. And some people get upset when this privileged position is challenged, however mundanely.
It’s a terrible shame that councils will no longer be monitoring the diversity of the communities using their services – minority groups have just as much right to access public services as majority groups.
A voluntary box-ticking form may not be the most elegant way to collect information, and it may annoy a few people with no concept of what it’s like not to be in the dominant group, but it’s the best system we have at the moment.
Scrapping the council diversity surveys is not a victory against “town hall sex snoopers”, and it’s not a victory for personal privacy. The victors in this saga – the white, straight, non-disabled, English-speaking majority – are so blinded by their privilege that they won’t even notice how it’s a step backwards for equality, and how it will have a negative effect on everyone but them.
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