As Euro 2012 approaches, the football seems to be fading into insignificance against a backdrop of human rights scandal. Racism is rife in the Ukraine and this has been much publicised, but what of the core of homophobic views and actions that riddle the country?
The picture above depicts a group of masked men setting upon Sviatoslav Sheremet, the head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine. At the location of this disgusting act (Kiev), there was supposed to be a gay rights parade, but this had to be cancelled due to threats of violence against the participants. Being humane and civilised people, Sheremet and parade organiser Maksym Kasianchuk decided that the threat of harm against any participant was enough to warrant calling off the march altogether. Unfortunately, their gallant actions were not sufficient to ensure that harm did not come to them.
Luckily, Mr Sheremet only sustained superficial wounds in this violent and bloody attack. However, every single day in the Ukraine, others are not so lucky. This once Soviet country is a place of ‘tradition’ to the extent that happenings like this are all too frequent. LGBT communities even go so far as to state that reporting these horrific incidents is pointless because the police themselves are often so homophobic that the crimes would be at best ignored and at worst commended.
Ukraine isn’t the first host of a big sporting event to have questions asked of it; the 2008 Olympics in Beijing were surrounded by a host of controversies, from environmental concerns over the city’s smog issue to the apparent lack of concern for human rights when families were forced out of their homes to make way for the Olympic stadia themselves. Once again, as with all events to have come under the spotlight in this way, boycotts by individual players and teams have been spoken of. Sol Campbell has, in a much publicised interview with Panorama, spoken of the scourge of racism in the country and of his fears for travelling fans. And that is one of the positive aspects of great sporting events being held in countries like this – they tend to cast a very public, international spotlight on that nation’s short-comings, often forcing them to address their issues.
However, it could be argued that there is an underlying current of homophobia in footballing circles in general; we only have to think back to the tragic case of Justin Fashnu to remember that. So whilst it is fantastic that someone has spoken up about racism in the Ukraine, what about the other issues? Is there even a fleeting concern for this epidemic anywhere other than in gay rights groups?
From my perspective, it doesn’t seem that there is. And this situation is even more concerning given the draft legislation that is about to wing its way into the Ukraine parliament. The new bill covers a variety of areas, but its main aim is to ‘lower the profile’ of homosexuals in the country. To cut a long story short, the bill will make it illegal to be homosexual in public. And we’re not just talking about PDAs here – oh no, any sign of homosexuality will be called into question.
Now, I don’t know about you but, whilst being gay doesn’t completely define who I am, it’s a pretty sizeable part of my identity if I’m being honest. To a large extent it influences the music I listen to, the friends I have, the way I dress and the perspective on life that I hold. How is it possible to be ‘not gay’ in public? And what determines being ‘not gay’ anyway? Clearly there are the obvious things, such as no open discussion of this issue and eradicating symbols such as the rainbow flag, but how much further, in practise, will this legislation go?
Yevhen Tsarkov, one of the authors of the bill, described being gay as “a mental illness” and, as such, also something which should not be displayed in public. With such prejudicial attitudes, how can Ukraine be allowed to host such a major event as Euro 2012? Having watched Panorama on Monday evening, I was shocked at the treatment of non-white football fans; they were beaten by white fans of the same team, whilst ‘security’ staff (and I use that term in its loosest possible sense) basically stood idly by and watched. And all this in the family section of the stadium. Truly horrific. With 50% of Ukrainians believing that LGBT people should not have the right to live their lives as they choose, it leaves us all in no doubt as to how they must be dealt with on a regular basis, just in case the brutal battery of Sviatoslav Sheremet wasn’t proof enough.
Hopefully, Euro 2012 will come and go with little to no violence, either racist or homophobic. Whether it actually does or not may be a different story. Whatever now happens though, it is important that this issue remains in the public eye, if only to eradicate legislation which is set to marginalise an already hugely victimised community.
Earlier this month, feminists were dismayed to see that the upcoming radical feminist conference RadFem2012 had installed a policy of only allowing ‘women born women living as women’ to attend – a clumsy phrase originally reading ‘biological women only’, and specifically intended to exclude transgender women.
Further, RadFem2012 had booked Sheila Jeffreys to speak – an old-school, terrifyingly transphobic radfem activist who has before called for transition-related surgery to be banned and who has a forthcoming book in which she criticises the very existence of transgender people. I was amazed that feminists existed who still felt that the human rights of trans folks could be a matter up for debate by cisgender people, let alone that there was evidently an entire feminist conference willing to platform and support these views.
A resistance quickly mobilised in response to RadFem2012 – a few people got angry on Twitter, and the conversation grew to a huge group of trans feminists, cis allies and many people in between. The blogosphere has exploded with messages of support and solidarity.
This trans woman writes with compassion and empathy about both sides of the fence: ‘my truth and your truth are both derived from a fierce feminism, but somehow remain diametrically opposed.’ This cis woman methodically takes down the radfem argument for excluding trans women from women-only spaces. Many more posts are listed here, and support continues to grow.
Large organisations have also expressed their support. The NUS Women’s Campaign said, ‘”We are committed to ending transphobia … and as such we condemn RadFem’s policy.” The Brighton Feminist Collective said, ‘”We will not support an event which fights for equality by promoting inequality, nor will we accept this strange formation of a hierarchy of women.’” Individual university-based feminist societies, including the Royal Holloway and Oxford groups, have also issued statements of support.
The venue, Conway Hall, has now expressed concerns to the conference’s organisers over hate speech and the legality of excluding transgender women from the conference, and they are currently in discussions.
Last year, a grassroots conference on trans issues, run by and for transgender people, replaced a cancelled conference organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists that included an advocate of reparative therapy in its line-up. Activists are optimistic that the sheer volume of support for the backlash against RadFem2012 could lead to something even bigger this year – there are already discussions abounding about running a fringe conference on trans feminism with an emphasis on intersectionality.
The message is clear: feminism must also fight for the liberation of transgender women. With around two-thirds of trans women also identifying as lesbian or bisexual, it’s also vital that LGB resources include the T.
At Lesbilicious, we have an explicitly pro-trans policy, as do many other large blogs for queer women and feminists. The US-based site Autostraddle regularly runs features from transgender writers, and the UK feminist site The F Word has a zero tolerance policy towards transphobia and cissexism.
It is remarkable that this is a battle we are still fighting in 2012, but I’m heartened to see that the solidarity within our communities puts transphobic voices very much into the minority.
After years of living in fear and anonymity, finally the gay communities of Malawi might have something to smile about. Can this set a precedent for reform elsewhere?
“The wind of change is blowing through the continent.” Macmillan had a way with words, didn’t he? Speaking out against the system of apartheid in South Africa, the then British PM summed up the mood at the beginning of an era of huge positive change for the whole of Africa, as the first small steps towards the end of its cruel and racist systems of government began to be taken.
Why am I re-hashing this quotation you ask? Well, aside from an unwavering conviction in the sentiments behind it, I believe that it now has a new application in Malawi. But this time, the “winds” are sweeping away the threat of homophobia, rather than racism.
Banda the Great
After being thrust into power last month following the death of her predecessor, Joyce Banda, the new President of Malawi, has surged straight into her role with a long-awaited attack on the country’s archaic criminalisation of homosexuality. Declaring the repeal of these laws “a matter of urgency”, Banda has vowed to overturn them; as she holds a majority in the Malawian parliament, this aim looks likely to be achieved.
Currently, Malawi helps to make up the 66% of African countries which have laws criminalising homosexuality. Arguably, in the modern world, this is indeed a shocking statistic. But this is a small step towards changing that situation; a small, but immensely brave, step from the leader of one of the world’s poorest countries.
So what of Banda herself? Who is this woman? And what motivates her to fly in the face not only of this conservative country but, indeed, the majority of the continent? Looking back at Banda’s life, it is clear that she is a remarkable woman dedicated to socialism and to upholding the rights of those whose rights have long been forgotten by everyone else. She is the founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation (not originally named, but we’ll overlook the unimaginative appellation), which aims to improve the education provision for Malawian children and also The National Association of Business Women and the Hunger Project in Malawi. In summary, it seems that her philanthropy knows no bounds. Banda is a true role model.
Change for good?
Despite all this good news, though, I am still sceptical. Not about Joyce Banda’s motives, although this new legislation would make her country more attractive to Western leaders and therefore make the chances of financial aid being given to the country far more likely. No, my concern comes from how likely this trend is to spread and continue. Malawi, and indeed the majority of African countries, are notoriously conservative and have ‘traditional’ beliefs that extend into many areas of life; their laws also reflect this. For example, just last year, Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a Malawian couple, were arrested and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment after holding a party to celebrate their engagement (Tiwonge Chimbalanga is a transexual woman).
When Macmillan made his anti-racism speech in 1960, little did he know that the scourge of apartheid was to remain for another 30 years. Some would argue that, in practice, it still hasn’t really gone away. Attitudes take longer to shape and change than laws do and, unfortunately, it is these attitudes that will remain, long after legislation has been eradicated. In addition, Banda’s term as President is only assured until 2014, when the country’s leadership election will be held and the Malawian people will decide her fate.
My hope is that this will be the start of a change. I hope that, over the course of the next two years, the new regime implemented by Banda will improve life in Malawi to such a degree that its inhabitants will barely be able to remember life before it. I hope that other African countries will take note of this new attitude and will also take steps to making their countries happier places for their gay communities and indeed for all minorities who feel threatened or scared or mistreated. I hope that Banda will forever be remembered as a key player in the international fight against homophobia. Whether this hope becomes a reality remains to be seen, but this I know to be true: in this fight, as with so many, hope itself is vital.
Debilitating panic attacks and being a senior police officer don’t exactly go hand in hand. It’s a bit like being a blind truck driver or a constantly drunk brain surgeon. Possible, but not exactly ideal.
Sam’s partner found that out to his cost last night when she had to go for a little lie down not long after he shouted for backup. She finally got round to looking for him some time later, but by then he’d been battered more times than a selection of Scottish food.
The failure of ‘Operation Beehive’ (seriously? Did it involve going back in time and experimenting with Marge Simpson hairstyles?), finally tipped Sam over the edge, causing her to contract a near-fatal condition called ‘staring moodily at yourself in a mirror for ages while the audience looks bored and waits patiently for the next scene with Tess or Sadie in’.
According to the medical journals, Moodyboring Lesbitis can only be cured by extremely attractive doctors with no clothes on. Called Lexy.
I have to say I was very disappointed by this. I’d hoped the finale would work out differently, ideally with Sam being shot by Phil Mitchell lookalikes while Tess finally got it on with her hot doctor flatmate. Sadly it was not to be, although at least we got to watch Sadie break an unreasonably expensive vase.
Lexy leaving Tess’s play at the interval was almost as unforgivable as Sam’s drink of choice (generic blended corner shop whisky – don’t they pay police officers anymore?), particularly as Tess was having such a hard time of it due to Nora’s vendetta and Hugh’s constant texting. It was like the entire opening night had turned into an extended video game boss battle:
Vinegar in tea… defeated! +3 emotional resilience.
But at least Lexy’s disappearance gave Tess the chance to translate some of her disappointment and longing into a darned good performance. She looked like a distressed pug with her trembling lip and gigantic tear filled eyes. How could Lexy do that to her? She’s clearly evil. And by ‘evil’ I mean ‘extremely attractive and addicted to fixing people’. Boring Sam doesn’t deserve her.
Things didn’t go well for Sadie either who was reduced to tears herself by magazine editor Lauren. Honestly, why would you break up with someone just because they gave you a gift that later turned out to be stolen? Surely that sort of thing’s traditional in Glasgow, no one’s bought a present for a loved one there for years. They just get endlessly passed around – it’s their version of recycling.
But because she’s Sadie she didn’t go all emo on us and start drinking Glen Shiel out of the bottle, oh no. She broke into Lauren’s girlfriend’s gallery, nicked all the cash in the safe and broke a – ahem – £35,000 vase.
Yes, that’s right. Thirty five THOUSAND pounds. That’s ridiculous – nothing costs that much in Glasgow. If it really was that expensive there’d have been a family of five living in it, or it would have been in a secure lock up guarded by burly men with rottweilers.
All in all, it wasn’t a satisfying finale. Even if you’d been rooting for Sam and Lexy to get together (why would you do that? WHY?), the sex was overshadowed by the fact Tess was at home looking almost as glum as Sam usually does. But we did get to see Anna Skellern’s boobs again, which is the important thing.
Despite the unsatisfying ending, as a whole the episode was slick, funny and well paced. Lip Service really does seem to have found its feet over the last couple of weeks and it’s a real shame the series was so short. A couple more episodes would have given the writers more space to try out ideas and tie up loose ends, instead of leaving us dangling like a Scottish man’s unmentionables in a kilt.
At the moment it’s unclear whether there’ll be a third series as BBC have said they need to axe either Being Human, The Fades or Lip Service as they’re reducing the drama output on BBC3. It would be a shame to end Lip Service now, like killing a wobbly legged foal that had just learned to walk. If you want to show your support for the series you can like this Facebook page.
Conundrum of the Week: The mystery blonde who showed up during Sadie’s heist. Apparently she’s called Janice and seems to be some kind of double-crossing sidekick from Sadie’s rascally past… but didn’t Sadie used to work for a letting agent? Although to be fair, the fees they charge are criminal.
France is somewhat behind in terms of lesbian representations. The French lesbians are still waiting for their Ellen DeGeneres to gain more visibility in the mainstream society.
The recent political events are leaning towards the good direction, – marriage for all was promised for 2013 by new President François Hollande, enabling LGBT topics to get a lot of coverage in the media at the moment, but a lot of it concerns gay males.
Despite a general reluctance to stand out as a lesbian on the social scene, some intrepid ladies are doing a fantastic job in the fields of the arts, the media or the academic research. Here is a subjective top 5 of the cheekiest and most talented women working around the lesbian realities in Frog Land.
Or, how to knock down clichés with frank humour and intelligence. Sick and tired of remarks such as “You can’t be a lesbian, you wear skirts!”, Océane Rose Marie, originally a singer, decided to write and stage ‘The Invisible Lesbian’, which is the show that she desperately wanted to see about feminine lesbians being mistaken for straight girls.
Smart and positive, Océane’s one-woman-show started confidentially in a small Parisian theatre in 2009. Her success has kept growing since then, and she is now touring the show in smaller cities, far from the relative acceptance of the capital, where she feels a huge crave for positive representations. Close to become a lesbian idol, Océane also has a surprising impact in the mainstream society, making her the new “token lesbian” of the media.
The 41 year-old academic published in 2010 an in-depth study entitled ‘Se dire lesbienne’ – ‘Calling oneself a Lesbian’ – about the self-nomination as a lesbian. For this unprecedented work, she meticulously interviewed 20 lesbians aged between 30 and 50 on a regular basis, over a period of 5 years. She compared their self representation with heterosexual women.
This work states really fascinating points, such as the fear of women to be excluded from the male normativity when being categorized as lesbians, and the 3 different routes followed by lesbians on their coming out process.
Natacha distinguished the “exclusive” route – women who have never had sexual relationships with men, the “simultaneous” route – women experimenting bisexuality before coming out as lesbians, and the “progressive” route – women who have had long or committed relationships with men. The progressive process is obviously the most common, even in the younger generation, and this is a big difference with our male gay mates whose exclusive route is much more frequent. . If you wonder why, get the full explanation here, for lucky French-speakers only!
Emilie, 35, who graduated from Les Beaux-Arts in Aix-en-Provence, defines herself as queer, feminist and sex-positive. She directed the first French female queer movie, called One Night Stand, in 2005.
Following this ground breaking opus, her queer road-movie Too Much Pussy! was released last year. This is a documentary capturing a small group of queer performers travelling Europe on a mini-bus on their ‘Queer X Show’ tour.
Initially released in specialized film festivals – including the 2011 edition of the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the film was later screened in mainstream cinemas. A pioneer worth knowing.
See the trailer of Too Much Pussy! below :
Marie-Hélène, born in 1947, is THE reference in Queer Studies in France, where she literally introduced the discipline by translating the iconic Monique Wittig and Teresa de Lauretis.
She is the author of Queer Zones and Sexpolitiques. Marie-Hélène is fairly famous abroad for those familiar with the discipline. Her work tackles many sub-categories of the Cultural Studies such as Gender Studies or Feminism as well as more subversive fields such as Trans and Porn Studies. She is a notorious queer activist, involved with several organizations and sometimes using performance as a political tool to express her views.
Believe it or not, Marie is the only journalist on French television who is out of the closet. In a very instructive interview published a few months ago in Têtu – France number 1 gay and supposedly lesbian magazine (but systematically displaying Mr Muscles on its cover), she revealed that many of her colleagues are hiding their orientation by fear of losing interest from the mainstream audience.
Marie gained fame when working on Pink TV, the French gay and lesbian channel, between 2005 and 2008. Since then, Marie moved to the super intellectual channel Arte where she is in charge of a cultural program. But she paved the way for more journalists of the new generation to come out and shake the still conservative world of the media.
When I meet new people and they find out I’m gay, there are a few questions that you can guarantee will come up pretty quickly.
When did you realise you were gay? That’s quite an obvious one, I don’t mind talking about that. Have you ever slept with a man? Sheesh, this is getting a bit personal. What do lesbians do in bed? I think that’s quite enough now, don’t you? But then, there’s this one: Do you and Sarah want children? It comes out, kind of hesitant, as if mentioning lesbians in the same sentence as children is ridiculous. Sometimes, it’s more direct: Will you and your wife adopt? Like coming out has shriveled my ovaries and adoption is the only avenue left. Then there are the people that don’t ask at all.
For the record, yes, I think we want children. I say think, because sometimes I see a baby and it literally feels as if my uterus will explode with pure broodiness and then there are times when the thought of a life growing inside of me makes me want to do a sick in my mouth. Just last week, a friend who is due in a month told me she can feel her baby dragging its fingernails down the inside of her uterus. Miracle of life? No, that’s just creepy. All joking aside, though, there are days I feel I couldn’t possibly be mature enough or financially secure enough or even have it in me to be a good parent and I’m terrified of getting it wrong, but then there are those days when I absolutely can’t wait to see my wife cradling our child in her arms and just the thought brings tears to my eyes.
I’m sure at some point, either the nausea or the explosive womb will win out, but I’m hurtling toward 30 at a rate of knots and I’m not sure which way it will go. Babies or no babies? Let’s face it, it’s hardly going to happen by accident. We’ve been “trying” for six years! When we do decide, what then? It’s not as easy as a having a drunken fumble (though you’d be surprised how many people suggest it as a viable option) and although many male friends have offered their baby batter that route is full of pitfalls and would take a great deal of negotiation. Adoption? I think it’s great but it’s not always an easy process. IVF is expensive, and I don’t think we could afford the price tag of a private clinic. I might be pushing 40 and only then looking into the options seriously. What if by then, it’s too late?
So you’ll understand why I and others like me welcomed the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) updated guidelines yesterday that recommended raising the current age limit for access to IVF treatment on the NHS from 39 to 42 for women who have no other chance of conceiving and have also suggested new groups of patients who should qualify for free treatment, including same-sex couples, people who carry infectious diseases like HIV and people battling cancer who want a chance to preserve their fertility.
Good news, right? Well, not according to everyone. If the NHS was the Million Pound Drop, not very many people would be rushing to put their money on fertility treatment when resources are already dangerously stretched. A right-wing group called Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) described the move as ‘an attempt to rewrite biology’ and called it ‘absurd’.
It would be easy to miss its significance through all the negative coverage, but this is landmark day for lesbian and bisexual women. Scotland already has equal access to IVF following a legal challenge in 2009 but this is the first time in England and Wales that the issues of same-sex couples have been recognised. We will be on par with heterosexual couples for fertility treatment when it comes to NHS treatment, whereas up until now, many same-sex couples have had to go private to start their families, often costing up to £8,000.
Ruth Hunt, director for public affairs with Stonewall, welcomed the recommendations. She said it was an ‘explicit acknowledgment of the issues same-sex couples face’ but there is still no guarantee that the NICE guidelines will have any impact on families who have no other chance to conceive, as it all depends on where you happen to live. Some primary care trusts (PCTs) deny treatment even when couples are eligible. Your GP might refer you, but the PCT could still refuse to foot the bill.
Professor Adam Balen from the British Fertility Society told the BBC that: “Excuses for not complying with NICE guidelines generally state that infertility is not a life-threatening condition, but this is unjustified: infertility causes psychological harm for many of the one-in-six couples it affects, and is recognised as a medical condition by the World Health Organisation”.
Yes, money is tight. We’re living in the age of austerity and the NHS is bearing the brunt just now but the benefit to thousands of families across England and Wales is immeasurable. PCTs have to work to make sure that the recommendations from NICE trickle down and have an impact. Susan Seenan, from the charity Infertility Network UK said: “We must be clear: the current ‘treatment by postcode’ situation surrounding the treatment of infertility here has gone on for far too long.
“It is vital that PCTs act quickly, and act now”.
How on Earth is it the penultimate episode of Lip Service already? I never thought I’d say this, but six episodes really aren’t enough, particularly when we had to spend the first three of them watching people weep in the aftermath of unplanned cast changes. Sorry, ‘car accidents’.
Perhaps that’s why the stalker storyline (of course it was Bea’s husband – why didn’t I see that coming?) and Lexy’s shift to fancying Tess seemed a bit rushed: the writers need to get all the loose ends tied up next week. Loose ends that now include broken-hearted Sam’s faintly ridiculous drug addiction.
Sorry, but what on Earth is that all about? Is she going to end up gradually selling all of Cat’s bland Ikea furniture to finance her next hit, while hallucinating badly CGI-animated babies crawling across the ceiling?
With the Cat and Frankie storyline consigned to Unsatisfying Plotline Hell (along with Shane and Jenny’s L Word liaison and every single lesbian film ever made apart from But I’m A Cheerleader), this whole Sam-turns-into-Super-Hans thing is looking increasingly like a clunky relic of the past.
The rest of the programme has moved on. It’s having sex in jam, stealing lunch, hiding in dog kennels and being genuinely amusing. But the minute we start to enjoy ourselves it cuts back to DC Murray sitting in an empty flat with a face like thunder snorting stolen cocaine and having the most horribly awkward sex we’ve seen since Cat and Frankie sealed the deal at the end of series one.
The other problem is, Sam really can’t do the whole ‘cop on the edge’ thing. Her interrogation of the junkie suspect was more Police Squad than The Wire, although it’s possible that the scene stood out so awkwardly because the rest of the programme is increasingly turning into a comedy.
Take Sadie, for example – everyone’s favourite love child of Holly from Red Dwarf and a Cockney barrow boy. Her first day as an art gallery attendant was pure farce, right down to her spilling coffee on a £20,000 canvas but then managing to sell it anyway. I’m pretty sure that sort of thing was an Only Fools and Horses plot at least twice. And if not then it certainly happened on BBC1′s hit comedy series The Apprentice.
Then there was Hugh’s attempt to break into his ex-wife’s house to deliver a hand-knitted sweater to his estranged dog. That’s not even Only Fools and Horses – even that had a bit of drama at times. Nope, ‘dog-gate’ was pure Fawlty Towers. You half expected to see John Cleese emerge from the designer kennel and start beating up garden ornaments with a tree branch.
But that’s what you want on a Friday night: a bit of humour, a bit of sex and plenty of shots of Lexy going for long runs (seriously, did the budget really not stretch to a sports bra? Not that we’re complaining).
It’s by no means perfect, but we can see the wood for the trees now: the potential is beginning to shine through. It must have been tough to write out two main characters, deal with the emotional aftermath and turn the programme around in the space of six weeks, but it’s starting to pay off.
However, a rushed series is no excuse for creating a character as utterly two dimensional as Nora (Sinead Keegan). Yes, we get it: actresses can be a bit self-absorbed, but the majority of people convicted of genocide are more likeable than her. You wouldn’t be surprised to see her get a phone call from Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic halfway through the episode to ask her for help with his UN war crimes tribunal.
She became a tiny bit more human after hooking up with Ed, but now he’s broken up with her – and let slip that Tess thinks she’s a horror – the next episode will probably see her turn into an evil super villain who threatens to destroy Glasgow with a stolen nuclear device. Or possibly a genetically engineered virus that turns victims into moon-faced blondes with no sense of irony.
It makes sense. Lip Service has borrowed from Casualty, The Bill and pretty much every comedy plot ever written this series, why not 24 as well?
Conundrum of the Week: Why does Sam have a photo of all of Cat’s friends – including the one she was sleeping with – prominently on display in her house? Perhaps she predicted that she’d one day need a handy, emotionally wrenching flat surface to snort cocaine from.
Ok, US President Barack Obama is neither gay nor a heavenly being with white wings, but if you caught the cover of Newsweek magazine, it appears that some people may disagree with me. Last week’s touching and monumental interview where President Obama affirmed that he believed same sex couples should be able to get married spurred a plethora of responses, many supportive, many insulting, some humorous, and others tearful. Apparently, Andrew Sullivan of Newsweek was so moved by the President’s bold statement that he opted to honor Obama with a rainbow halo (a “gaylo”) and dub him the “first gay president” on the cover of the magazine. The article itself is thoughtful, informative, and even endearing as the author relates his own personal experiences as a gay male and what this endorsement means to him and the rest of the LGBT community. Unfortunately, some of that integrity is lost when read alongside the awkward cover of the President beneath the “gaylo”.
And so it goes, for every positive move made, there is a negative waiting in line, whether it’s intentionally detrimental or not. After the US President’s announcement, Twitter was inundated with posts praising his move. Or was it flooded with posts criticizing his politically motivated calculations? Fox Nation immediately posted the heading, “President flip-flops, declares war on marriage”. After much deserved backlash over such a ridiculous headline, the site edited it to simply say “President flip-flops”, though of course the original title made its electronic rounds. And does this endorsement count as flip-flopping? It is not like there has been a complete reversal of opinion here, as insinuated, but rather an evolution, as stated by Obama himself.
Members of the American LGBT community have traditionally supported Obama, though of course many wish this declaration would have come sooner. This administration’s work on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was critical and obviously very affirming to all members of the LGBT community, not just the ones in the military, but some felt like it was not enough. Obama has always stated he believes that every American deserves equal rights, but initially his stance was in support of civil unions, while not committing to the institute of marriage. Many gay Americans, such as the Newsweek author mentioned above, believed that Obama refrained from a full commitment to marriage rights for fear of losing his religious supporters. The fact that he is risking voter support to take a stand that affirms our rights is powerful. But is it too risky? Many gay Americans are criticizing the President for his actions, wishing he would have waited until after the next election for making such a concrete statement that could potentially prevent him from obtaining the next presidency.
When you put the toiling juxtapositions aside and look at the bottom line, it was a good day for gay. When you take into consideration that North Carolina had just passed Amendment One, which pushed the state from simply banning gay marriage into a state that banned any and all rights for gay couples, the President’s announcement was a redeeming and much needed boost for all gay Americans. Put aside the hypothetical assessments of why he did what he did, and whether or not it will be detrimental to the next election, and what kind of politics are involved, and simply revel in the fact that it was and is the right thing. It feels good.
Last Saturday (12 May 2012), around fifty queers and allies from around the south-east crowded into a small London bookshop-cafe to listen to trans and trans-friendly artists read poetry, sing songs and tell stories, and to take part in an auction to help London’s queer institution Roz Kaveney promote her new book in the States.
Organiser and compere CN Lester seemed on top form, with the experience behind them of last year’s two successful Transpose events. Knowing many of the attendees by name, they gave the evening the atmosphere of a cheerful house party full of good friends, while also balancing a demeanour of organised, efficient professionalism. Performers sat all around the room when not onstage and chatted with the audience while up there, breaking down performer-audience barriers and contributing to the intimacy of the event. This was very much something collaborative, created by and for our community.
Performances varied from slam poetry to epic piano pieces. I especially enjoyed Maki Yamazaki’s acoustic filk on wheelchair accessibility, while Hel Gurney’s fairytale exploring identity, relationships and the tension between pleasing one’s partner while staying true to oneself set off knowing, empathetic nods all around the room. Lyman Gamberton and Elaine O’Neill offered up evocative, beautifully spoken poetry, and Roz Kaveney finished the set by reading an extract from the fantasy novel that sparked the event.
After a break to explore the shop’s collection of books and their excellent coffee, an auction to fund raise for the book tour ensued. It was wonderful to see the unusual and creative things on offer – items included hand-made bow ties and collars, cross-stitch themed on request and a screen print by Fox of My Trans Summer. Two of the poets who had performed earlier offered up personalised poems, and there were chances to experience an afternoon learning make-up techniques, to take singing lessons, or simply to enjoy a coffee date with Kaveney herself. After running the fast-paced and noisy auction, and occasionally calling up attendees as auctioneers so that they could bid, Lester took to the stage to finish the evening with some of their soaring, now-familiar songs.
It was wonderful to attend a queer event with such a strong focus on performances by trans and trans-friendly people, and to be reminded that art created by and for our community is varied and valuable. With hints from Lester of more Transpose coming later this year, I’ll very much look forward to the next installment.
Does the LGBT community have a role model? The likes of Heather Peace, Jill Jackson and Jessie J seem to have recently become emblems to the LB community but do we actually need someone we can relate to, someone that embodies the values we hold dear?
Close your eyes for one minute and picture someone that you aspire to…
Does this person meet the following criteria?
- conventionally good looking
- single (or married to Portia De Rossi)
- famous for being LGBT
Now close your eyes again and picture a role model within your own profession.
Not quite as easy is it.
Opening your eyes again you begin to see that the LB community is just as driven by the media as the heterosexual world. In fact it seems to me we are more exposed to the few that are ‘out’ that we tend to put them on a pedestal without necessarily knowing anything about them or their values.
So what is a role model? I suppose it depends very much on your personal views. I prefer to think about it as someone we aspire to, someone who personifies the characteristics we hold of most value.
Recently I attended a Stonewall seminar where the topic of role models was discussed in order to identify the characteristics of a role model and whether there are enough openly LGBT business people in our relevant professions.
The first speaker at the session was Jeane Freeman, chair of the NHS National Waiting Times Board at the Golden Jubilee, who is what I can only describe as an inspiration. She acknowledged that she is a role model and the implications which that has on her own behaviour; the need to mention her wife even when it was not always comfortable and to consider the needs of LB families in her hospital. It was all spoken in such a cool and down-to-earth way. One could listen to her and be genuinely inspired. She is a successful woman who just happens to also be a lesbian. Something that instead of hiding she has used to the benefit of others and incorporated into her work.
What I found interesting and a common theme with all the speakers present was that they all admitted to experiencing work situations in which they still hesitated to be open about their sexuality. The same hesitation that I have felt on occasion despite being out for more than 10 years, where the gremlin in your head is saying ‘is coming out here going to jeopardize my career progression?’ or worst still ‘will they judge me?’.
The real ‘Lip Service’
When we look to society normalising a situation we tend to look to the media. The difficultly is the ‘authenticity’ in which the media portrays the lesbian world. Let us take the example of Lip Service, which provides a glamorised view on lesbian life in Glasgow. Should this artificial portrayal simply be accepted and admired? As a lesbian in Glasgow I have a slightly different take on it. Come walk with me through the real Lip Service.
Cat and Frankie walk into ‘Ruby’s’ only to discover that it is actually a high priced straight bar some twenty minutes from the gay scene. As they walk down Bath Street they are confronted Buckfast swilling teenagers who shout either an indistinguishable compliment or insult. Before reaching the stylish Merchant City they abruptly take a sharp right into a dark, urine drenched alleyway, the end of which is home to a popular gay bar. But alas, here there is none of the classy decor depicted in Lip Service; in fact, it is more like a scene from Hitchcock’s film ‘The Birds’. Feeling a little hot under the collar they move to the club next door. After been scrutinized by the butch bouncer who is reluctant to let them in for ‘not being regulars’, they are eventually let past to pay the overinflated entry charge only to discover a bar queue that reaches half way across the floor as the barman chats up the pretty boy next to him. After purchasing two egg cup sized Gin and Tonics they feel a little romance is in order. Unfortunately instead of picking a darkened booth downstairs in the ‘lesbian corner’ (where many a Glasgow relationship has begun) they head to the bathrooms where they find a two hour queue to use the only cubicle that is not either flooded or had the door kicked in by a jealous thwarted lover. With the romance officially dead, Cat decides that Heather Peace really is the better option.
The point I make here is not that Glasgow is a bad place to be. In fact programmes like Lip Service, where strong lesbian characters are at the focus, can only be a good thing. This issue is that the world they depict is glamorised and sexualised against a straight backdrop in order to placate the mass media. Perhaps that is the point of television – to escape to a sensationalised world. But what sort of distorted message are we selling and being sold in return? Should we still look to these characters as role models?
So who are the real role models?
Are they the singers and comedians that we see on television? Or could it be that person at work that you think really looks out for the development of their staff? Or the brutally honest colleague that always sticks up for the rest of the team? Or the cleaner that always makes an effort to talk to everyone? Role models do not need to be lesbian or bisexual, the characteristics that we can aspire are not limited by sexuality or gender, just as the message of diversity and equality is just as strong when spoke by a straight leader. Are you able to look around your life and see examples of unsung role models?
So here’s the thing, whether you are out or not, someone may be looking to you as their role model. Without getting sentimental we all have a responsibility to look outwards, to see how people perceive us and to check whether our behaviours match up to those characteristics that we aspire to in others. We need to look around ourselves and realise that others could be looking up to us; it’s time to not only look to the stars but consider the stars among us.
It seems there could be a breakthrough in the stigma against homosexuality, as the state of California may be the first to ban the therapy which aims to “convert” non heterosexual teens. The therapy, which is sometimes known as reparative, or reorientation therapy, looks about changing the sexual orientation from homosexual, to what is deemed as normal: heterosexual.
California State Senate, Ted Lieu, is heading the bill and if it is passed, it would be illegal for Californian psychologists and therapists to use the “conversion” therapy on teens. However, this bill does not eradicate the therapy from California altogether. It still allows therapists to provide therapy for consenting adults, who are willing to sign a document stating they understand the nature of the treatment.
Supporters of the bill claim adverse effects of the therapy including: guilt, depression, and in some severe cases even suicide.
Sen. Lieu stated, before the vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee, that “these non-scientific efforts have led, in some cases, to patients later committing suicide, as well as severe mental and physical anguish,” and whilst for some, therapy is good, “some therapists are taking advantage of vulnerable people by pushing dangerous sexual orientation-change efforts.”
He added that: ”being lesbian or gay or bisexual is not a disease or mental disorder.” The “therapy can be dangerous,” and It comes down to whether homosexuality is intrinsic (we’re born with it) or developed through our environment. Whilst the American Psychological Association (APA), in 2009 stated that the conversion therapy is “unlikely to be successful and involves some risk of harm, “they did not take a stance in regards the California bill.
Clinton Anderson, director of the APA’s LGBT concerns office stated that: “Because APA doesn’t see same-sex sexual orientation as being in any essential way different from other sexual orientations, we do not believe there is any psychological reason why people should change, and we believe those individuals and organizations that still promote such therapy or other methods of change are contributing to a negative social climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, especially young people.”
The problem with this “conversion” therapy is that it leads to an unethical world where people feel that homosexuality is an illness or mental disorder, viewed with a degree of disdain, which needs to be ‘healed’. Whilst, the CEO of Bink Behavioural Therapy, Martin Binks, understands that sometimes people “need therapy to better understand their sexuality and to assist them in considering issues of sexuality in the context of their lives” he refuted the idea of “conversion therapy” as he believed it would instil an image that “being gay or lesbian” is a disorder. Previous APA president, Dr. Bernstein, also followed this line of thought disagreeing with conversion theory stating -to ABCNews.com- that conversion therapy has “no scientific basis whatsoever.”
Ilan Meyer, A researcher at UCLA, claimed that this sort of therapy can cause more harm than good to the children who, in most cases, are forced into the therapy. He said that “The only thing it is possibly for is convincing a person that to be gay is a bad thing, and to tell them that they are bad internally”. the end result of this type “of ‘therapy’ is to enhance self-rejection, it is damaging because we know therapy should not be doing that to people.”
However ‘Exodus international’, who are pro conversion therapy, rejected claims that it has adverse effects on people and stated that said they offer: “grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality.”
I had a short interview with a young adolescent, Katie, who also went through the “conversion” therapy.
How did you feel when you first went to the conversion therapy?
I actually felt it to be a help, at the time, I was pretty confused in myself. Some of the techniques used to deter my “habits” or “tendencies” made me step back and see the situation I was in and the feelings I had in a whole new way.
Did you feel that because of your age you were influenced more so by the therapy?
Part of the therapy included going back in my past to find “why” I’m “this way” in a hope to undo it, or deal with it. In my mind, though, that’s just the way it is. Who knows, I may or may not have turned out this way regardless to my past.
What sort of effect on your life did the therapy have?
I think it completely depends on the sort of person you are, and the mindset you go into it with. I’m a Christian, from a Christian family and at times I’ve wanted to be straight, to make life easier. There were moments where I wanted it to work. Some parts of the therapy have shown me how to be more respectful of others views. Some people don’t agree with being homosexual. I learnt that you shouldn’t flaunt your sexuality around.
Do you, after your experience of conversion therapy, feel California is right to propose a ban on teens?
If a person genuinely hates being gay, then by all means conversion therapy may be the way for them. In some cases it may confuse a person even more and cause a permanent instability in who they are for the rest of their life. At the end of the day you need to be happy with who you are and love who that is.
Katie K, England.
Photo courtesy of:http://californiaschildren.typepad.com
One week we’re watching Casualty, the next we’re in a sitcom. At least that’s what last night’s episode of Lip Service felt like, with Sadie’s comedy cheese theft, Tess’s bad date and Sam’s tearful discovery that Cat had been sleeping with Frankie.
Ok, well maybe not that last part.
Hopefully this new, light-hearted tone is here to stay, although it’s equally possible they decided to have a fairly jolly episode to make up for the fact the last three have been bleaker than a harrowing documentary about war atrocities presented by a weeping child.
However, if Lip Service really is going down a more tongue in cheek route (ahem), it’d be very welcome as one of the main problems of series one was that it took itself rather seriously: not an ideal decision if your programme contains ultra-unrealistic morgue sex scenes and unsubtle Jeremy Kyle-style story arcs (“My Dad Is Really My Uncle!”)
Having said that, it seems Lexy’s ‘stalker’ storyline is heading down the same sort of road. Last night, she found a note in her locker that simply said- ‘I know’. If you’re wondering where that rates on the cliché scale, it’s an 8: just above a villain deciding to lock the hero in a room with a slow moving laser beam instead of killing them outright, but below a police officer in a crime drama dying a day before retirement.
It’s a bit of a lazy way to create intrigue and interest in a new character, although I suppose there’s a chance Lexy does have some sort of shadowy past: perhaps a previous career as a barbeque thief, crocodile smuggler or sheep botherer back home in sunny Oz.
Lexy also got a phone call from the ‘Highland Bank’, conning her into revealing her address. Given there’s no such thing as the Highland Bank, it seems the stalker set up their own financial institution in order to trap her. If so, she’s clearly dealing with a criminal mastermind.
There’s no Partick Daily Post either. It might not seem much, but that sort of thing is pretty jarring to a Scottish viewers’ suspension of disbelief- a bit like having someone in Eastenders announce they were off for a go on the London Wheel followed by a tour of Buckingham Castle.
However, these were the only dodgy parts of what was one of the best episodes of Lip Service to date. The cast revamp – and solid performances from the new actors – has really transformed the series, like a dowdy pal who’s been botoxed, glycolic-peeled, waxed and forced to wear M&S tummy control pants.
The wonderful Sadie in particular is going from strength to strength. Even losing her weird cheese cafe job and ending up in a borderline hooker/client relationship with magazine editor Lauren didn’t ruffle her perfectly coiffed Cleopatra hair. Instead, she just turned the situation back to her advantage by accepting a job with Lauren’s wife.
Never mind helping at an art gallery – she really should go into politics, perhaps fronting the Monster Raving Lesbian Party (free cheese and herbal tea for voters).
Tess’s crush on Lexy also continued to entertain this week. Her idea of a borderline romantic night out? A roller disco. She’s like a 15 year old. It’s not clear what she’d arrange to mark a major event, like a significant anniversary or proposal: probably a bag of chips round the back of the multiplex after a midnight showing of Jumanji.
Instead of roller discoing with her ladycrush, she ended up on a terrible date. This was one of the best bits of the programme so far as, let’s be honest, we’ve all been there – right down to the two or three bottles of wine and the resigned shrug when you decide to agree to a fumble at the end of the night.
More of this sort of thing please, People Who Make Lip Service. In the next episode, you could have a character join Gaydar, then have them delete their account after receiving 30 identical messages from identical women with a photo of a whippet or cat instead of a profile picture and whose bio says they like going out, but equally enjoy having a cuddly night in.
Conundrum of the Week: Sorry, but what kind of posh restaurant becomes famous due to their selection of cheese? “Where are you off to tonight, 80s style obnoxious city trader guys? A strip club? A champagne bar?” “No, we’re like, off to eat cheese, yeah? We heard this cafe in town just bought in a new sort of Danish brie.”
Have you been wondering exactly why LadyRock and GoGo were cancelled this year? Do you want find out the reasons behind such drastic decisions made? We do too! We recently caught up with Jackie Crozier, LadyRock’s very own festival director to talk about what issues they faced, the history of Pride and ultimately, why they had to cancel.
2012 has seen the quick rise and the even quicker demise of the lesbian festivals. 3 became 1 in quick succession, after GoGo in the south and LadyRock in the north succumbed, L Fest was the only one left standing, right in the heart of England. After hearing about the saddening news that LadyRock was forced to cancel due to the economic climate, then hearing about GoGo falling at the same hurdle, it made me think… what makes lesbian festivals such a fickle mistress to tame whilst gay pride events stand the test of time?
One of the main reasons that come to mind is the history behind Pride. After the Stonewall riot in 1969, we’ve celebrated our community and what makes us special with such ferocity and love, it’s relatively easier to set up an event with this at its core.
Festivals always hang in the balance due to schedule clashes. It’s safe to say we’ve got a lot going on here in the UK with that little sporting event happening in the summer. Olympics is it? I actually can’t wait to see the drama unfold on the smurf turf, yet I was ready to make my way down to a lady fest or two as well. Read on to find out why we’ve been stripped from our selection mere weeks before the events were set to take place this year.
LadyRock was in its first year, yet had to cancel… what issues did you face?
In general, as featured throughout mass national media this year, 2012 has been an unfortunate time for festivals. In terms of issues specific to us, there really were not that many (at least that were apparent). We were thrilled with our line-up and had fantastic feedback for it. As a new brand we felt strong as an organisation, our team worked hard and we were receiving good press, both locally and nationally. Ultimately festivals are cancelled because of ticket sales and, in relation to ours, I would perhaps say that we had not made ourselves public early enough.
Whilst we had made an impact in the festival, LGBT and north west press sectors, you have to remember that we only announced the event and its full line-up around twelve weeks or so ago. In hindsight, we should have had more time so that people could get hold of their tickets and tell their friends about the event. Unfortunately we were stuck as to which months we could hold the festival in.
What was the ultimate issue that forced you guys to cancel the festival?
Aside from planning – and I hate to sound like a stereotypical Brit – but the weather we have had for the past two or three months has been horrendous, particularly in Manchester. The image most have of festivals is heat, Ray Bans and cans of Strongbow, whilst all we’ve seen since February has been rain, hooded jackets and hot chocolates. Had we been in sun bathing weather for two months, who knows what could have happened…
In general, as I said before, many UK festivals have been cancelled this year. National events such as the Queen’s Jubilee and The Olympics have meant many individuals re-think their ‘big weekends’ and celebrations around patriotism (which I fully support). I know the word is batted about so much but, in addition to this, the recession is constantly worrying people into where they spend their pennies. This has obviously affected us in the same way it has done other festivals.
Do you think the cancellation of LadyRock and GoGo was related or two separate issues?
I think related in the general ideas I just mentioned, as we are both smaller festivals, but not in respect of us being ‘women’s events’. Whilst we are most definitely a ‘niche’ event, there is an obvious need for our kind of festival on the market. This is visible from media types that relate to women and moreover, lesbian issues, as well as a clear market audience.
Whilst it has been a tough year both for us and our friends at GO.GO, 2012 wasn’t unsuccessful because of lack of want, but for all the aforementioned reasons.
Why do you think Prides have stood the test of time and grown over the past few years?
Pride events are pivotal to our society, both nationally and further afield, but in major UK cities their message and meaning has most definitely progressed over the years.
Manchester Pride began as a small event well over twenty years ago. It was a ‘bring and buy’ sale to raise money for HIV/AIDS organisations. In addition to that, Pride Marches took place to try and make a statement: regardless of homophobia and hate, which surrounded the gay community, it would not back down. It was a message of strength and, for other gay people, it was about hope.
Fast forward to 2012, and you can see and understand the journey even if you were not there to witness it first-hand. There is still money being raised for HIV and AIDS groups, but it goes towards helping people live and sustain a comfortable life. Other funds are raised looking for a cure, which we would hope is not so distant. In addition to this, Pride money is going towards LGBT community groups – sports teams, arts groups, help centres and radio stations – which we just could never have imagined all of those years ago.
Similarly, our Pride Marches are a cause for celebration. They still voice an aggressive strength and a deep-invested passion for equality, a fight against hatred and the feeling of alienation, but there is such a positivity around them. In Manchester, hundreds of thousands of straight men and women come to watch the parade and support our community. Major brands, celebrities and institutions take part to show their support for us – it is astounding, really.
Pride events will always be relevant, whether we are pushing further towards equal rights or celebrating the long journey we have come.
As well as that, the LGBT community is notorious for loving a good party… And, for that reason, the entertainment elements of Prides (fringe events, singing, comedy etc) make for a fantastic show.
So yes, the events have grown in size and capacity, but the passion and need for them has always been just as integral. I am so proud of our community and all of those who support it – we are doing a fantastic job and setting a wonderful example for the world. We really do show that ‘It Gets Better’, as they say…
Are you heading off to any this year?
As a huge supporter of Pride events around the world, I would love the chance to see LGBT communities celebrating in as many places as possible. Things are understandably extremely busy for me at the moment but, if I am able to, then you will definitely see me pop up at a few Pride events in 2012…
You and the team had a lot of stuff organised, such as merchandise etc… What’s going to happen to that stuff now?
As true ladies and rockers, we have always been particularly prepared as a team. When organising a festival – which I’ve now become quite used to – there is no other way to be. In terms of merchandise, we purchased by order, and so have not been left with too many excess items. For what has been sold – hold onto it – because I have no doubt you may be needing it in the not so distant future…
Will LadyRock return with a vengeance in 2013?
‘Onwards and upwards’ is our motto. The LadyRock brand is far from gone, and it will just come down to time control and more planning to ensure the event comes together as it should next time around. We are still extremely visible via social media; our Twitter account will remain very much active, keeping followers up-to-speed with all things music, Manchester, female, LGBT and festival related. In and amongst that, there will certainly be teasers in terms of where the brand is headed and when you will next hear from us… So watch this space, and make sure to follow us for the ride, as it’s set to be a good one…
François Hollande was elected new President of the French Republic last Sunday, the 6th of May 2012, with 51.67% of the votes, defeating Nicolas Sarkozy. Hollande is the second socialist elected President of the 5th Republic, 31 years after François Mitterrand. Nicknamed ‘François II’ right after his victory, Hollande is bringing new propositions and hopes for French LGBT people.
France has just put an end to 17 years of rightist government, fairly conservative and sometimes openly homophobic. Deputy Christian Vanneste, for example, was excluded from the UMP party – Sarkozy’s party – this year for repetitive homophobic declarations.
On the other hand, socialism has been working closely for homosexual rights over the last thirty years. In 1981, Mitterrand was the President who decriminalized homosexual relationships between same-sex adults above 15 years-old. A project of law was proposed in December 1981, only a few months after Mitterrand arrived at the Elysée. Hollande is now about to pursue Mitterrand’s work to give LGBT people the exact same rights as any French citizens.
François Hollande’s commitments to LGBT people
Gay marriage to be legalized this year
In Hollande’s ’60 propositions for France’ released during the presidential campaign, proposition #31 was clear and simple: “I will extend the right to marriage and adoption to homosexual couples”.
The organization Homosexualités et Socialisme (HES) launched thereafter a website named after proposition 31, MonEngagement31, to follow the actions of Hollande towards LGBT people. LGBT people can post testimonials stating how Hollande’s politics will change their life: ‘What it will change for me? I won’t be a sub-human in a country which motto is ‘Liberty, Equity, Fraternity’. I will have the same rights as my fellow-citizens: the freedom not to get married because the values of marriage are not the ones I want for myself. But I will have the freedom to choose at last’ says one of them.
Supporting gay parenthood from 2012
The questions of LGBT parenthood will be the next step. Hollande intends to give same-sex couples the right to adopt, as well as IVF possibilities and procreation assistance for female couples. Mr Hollande remains though opposed to surrogacy which he sees like ‘merchandizing of the human body’.
Fighting homophobia and discrimination in France and worldwide
From this year, blood donation will finally be authorized for homosexuals. Hollande is planning to set up educational campaigns from primary school. Discrimination at work, within the family sphere and at every level of society will be other focuses.
The new President will pursue AIDS prevention, which he still sees as a priority. At the international level, Mr Hollande wants to develop initiatives in order to fight all types of LGBT-phobia in developing countries and facilitate access to AIDS treatments worldwide. Hollande is also willing to provide political asylum to LGBT people prosecuted in their countries because of their sexual orientation.
Hollande and the Trans people
Finally, a President wants to take Transgender people into consideration. Hollande intends to launch a new policy of medical and psychological caring after discussing with Transgender organizations. He is also willing to create a law allowing Transgender people to legally change their identity whether they physically transitioned or not.
Read the Q&A between François Hollande and the representatives of the organization Homosexualités et Socialisme (HES) (.pdf). Unfortunately, only a French version is available.
Video of Hollande’s commitments to LGBT people (in French):
A new law passed this week means thousands of British gay men will have historic homophobic convictions removed from their records.
Passed on Monday, The Protection of Freedoms Act allows an estimated 16,000 gay and bisexual men, convicted of ‘loitering with intent’ under Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824, to have their convictions erased.
Stonewall, who was pushing for the action, said that many men in the UK had been prevented from working and volunteering because of their convictions, but now they will be free to offer their services.
The organisation had campaigned for changes to the Protection of Freedoms Act. And, in March 2011, received Parliamentary backing. Stonewall also lobbied the Home Secretary to stretch the act to include the removal of future malicious convictions.
Many would see this a step in the right direction.
‘The future for British children’
Britain First, however, has a very different perspective. According to an article on their website, the new law makes for a pedophile’s charter, where people could perform illegal sexual acts in the hope that some day they will be made legal and their convictions would be erased.
Describing themselves as ‘a responsible patriotic political movement’, the organisation marks the new legislation as a danger to children.
Throughout recent history, the age of consent for gay sex has been dropping. From 21 in 1969, to 18 in 1994, the legal age of consent for gays in the UK now stands equal to straight consent at 16.
The folks over at Britain First take this to another level (on another planet), arguing that with this ideology, the age of consent could be brought even lower. Under their reasoning, people previously seen as pedophiles, could have their criminal records removed as part of the new law.
Playing the victim
The concept of equality seems to be absent from their reasoning. The age of consent was lowered to 16 so as to provide an equality between gay and straight consent.
How could I forget, all gay people are pedophiles.
Reading the comments below the article, I got a quick sharp snapshot at their readership.
Chris; “I understand the motorway speed limit is to be raised to 80mph later this year. Presumably not just homosexuals, but all of us, will have our points retrospectively deleted from our licenses and our insurance premiums reduced accordingly. As for being deported to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread, imagine all the compensation claims being lined up!”
Of course, the increase of the speed limit couldn’t be anything to do with the increase in road and car safety. Who’d want to do 80mph in an Audi 5000?
Or another comment; “Yes, they are undermining everything this nation was built upon, causing confusion, so no one knows what’s what anymore, so the nation collapses.”
Please, before 1928, women weren’t allowed to vote unless they were over 30 and met certain property requirements, and even those women weren’t allowed to vote until 1918. Should this law not have been repealed?
When it comes to gay rights there’s a strong pidgeon-holing of the gays as ‘playing the victim’. This is very evident in the article and its comments.
It really shouldn’t be a big deal for the LGBTQ community to achieve equality without all of this petty backstabbing.
But there we are, 2012.
Image courtesy of www.holland.com
Another day, another headline about a failed asylum bid. This time, it’s Angeline Pirara Mwafulirwa and her three children who are currently in a family detention centre in Scotland and will be forcibly removed from the UK this weekend.
Angeline is claiming asylum on the grounds of her sexuality, like many other lesbian and bisexual women who flee their homes in hope of refuge in the UK from a myriad of discrimation and danger they may encounter at home. And yet our government send them home, time and time again, with the message: Be Discreet.
Be discreet? Seriously? I don’t know about you, but my sexuality is much more than just the sex of the person I am attracted to. It influences everything I do. My politics, the television I watch, the newspapers I read, even the shoes on my feet. Discretion does not mean do not hold your girlfriend’s hand in public, it means do not be yourself.
I remember those few years between realising I was gay and telling my family and friends as incredibly isolating and lonely. I was slamming doors and crying myself to sleep, and no one knew why. I was in love with my best friend and I was confused. I couldn’t quite admit it to myself, let alone anyone else. I can’t even comprehend a situation where I wouldn’t be allowed to tell anyone else, for fear of imprisonment, violence or even death. An all too familiar situation for lesbian and bisexual women like Angeline who have been refused asylum in this country and others like it.
Lord Hope said in a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that: “to compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress his behavior by which to manifest himself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is” and still, we don’t talk about protecting the rights of asylum seekers. We don’t talk about immigration at all, as if it’s a dirty word, infecting our mouths with some kind of liberal disease. The mainstream political parties cower to the will of public opinion, refusing to speak positively about immigration issues incase it loses them votes. Incase it alienates their core support. Well you know what? If your core support refuse a safe haven for a woman and her children who are danger because she is attracted to other women, then that’s a core support I don’t want.
Oh yes, that’s right. They come over here, they steal our women, our jobs and our flat screen televisions. I forgot. Instead of talking about the danger that these ‘criminals’ pose to us, why don’t we talk about the danger that these people are fleeing from? With the summer and Pride season almost upon us, whilst you’re dusting off your rainbow flags or planning your Civil Partnership, the sobering reality is this: homosexuality remains illegal in over 80 countries worldwide and is punishable by death in countries like Sudan, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia. Not to mention all the places where the law might have changed, but social attitudes haven’t. Discrimination goes well beyond prosecution. We’re talking humiliation, violence and inequality not only by state officials, but in communities. In families. So many people who have no one to stand up for them or laws to protect them. We don’t know how lucky we are.
The Home Secretary promised two years ago to stop the removal of people whose sexual orientation or gender identity put them at ‘proven’ risk of imprisonment, torture or execution. There have been several high profile cases that have highlighted the problems that people like Angeline face in Malawi, including imprisonment, police violence and exclusion from housing and health services. Angeline fears her children will be taken away by her ex-husband and says she’s scared they are in danger of female genital mutilation at the hands of his family. That’s clearly not enough proof for Teresa May and the Home Office.
Of course, there will be people like May who don’t believe Angeline’s story. A comment under one article said: “’LGBT” – she’s having a laugh – three kids and she’s now claiming LGBT (lol)’” and others who think that she and Waverley Care—an HIV charity that she volunteers for—are lying in a bid to defame Malawi.
For me, it’s not about whether or not Angeline is telling the truth. What is far more important, in my eyes, is our unwillingness to help. All she wants is a safe place to raise her children and the freedom to be who she is without fear of persecution. I feel so lucky to live in a place where my rights are protected, where I can have my relationship recognised by law, where I could serve in the army and adopt a child, if I wanted to. And I want those things for Angeline and her family, and all of those women who are in the same situation but aren’t fortunate enough to have their stories believed. Of the 19,804 applications made for asylum in 2011, more than half were refused. I don’t think even the most hardened cynic could believe they were all lying.
I’ve no doubt that Malawi and countries like it will soon realise that, as Hilary Clinton put it, gay rights are human rights, but until then, we have a responsibility to take care of people like Angeline and her family. It’s not long now until London plays host to World Pride 2012, an event that aims to draw attention to countries where being gay is still illegal and give those who can’t march safely at home an opportunity to do that on our streets. Let’s hope that sentiment lasts a little longer than the British Summer.
Frankie hit the road in last night’s episode. She’s off to New York, although she packed at such speed she’s likely to find herself in the Big Apple with one shoe, no trousers and approximately 300 blurry close up shots of Cat’s naked bum. Not really ideal given the fact she doesn’t have any money. Maybe she can trade the photos for food… wait, no, it’s ok. She doesn’t eat.
With her departure, we’re left with the strangest flat share since Bert and Ernie decided to shack up with Lady Gaga.
On the left, we have Lexy. Attractive, a little dull (probably because she seems normal compared to the others) and Australian, although she’s somehow wangled a job as a doctor instead of traditional bar work. Fair dinkum to her.
On the right, there’s recently bereaved Tess, who only stops crying long enough to do something hilariously dizzy, then remembers she’s sad again and starts weeping into her herbal tea selection.
And then there’s Cleopatra-haired Sadie, who seems to have stepped out of a 1970s sitcom set in the East End of London where she played a sarcastic spinster, or possibly a pub landlady. Louche, sturdy and resilient, she’s got a lot of depth but an accent that means it’s virtually impossible to take her seriously.
Welcome to Big Brother 2012: Lesbian edition.
But this odd line up could be good. Great, even. It clears the playing field for some new interactions and while it’ll be hard on fans to see the back of Frankie – even temporarily – it immediately allowed the series to get back to what it does best: sex. Lovely, lovely sex.
Come on, let’s all admit it – we don’t watch Lip Service for the plot: it’s thinner than Ruta Gedmintas. We want to see a 70s landlady taking an Italian tourist from behind in a mess of preserves, cream and assorted condiments.
The boob prints were a particularly nice touch.
However, we’re not out of the woods yet: there’s still the looming spectre of Cat. No, not literally – this isn’t Most Haunted – although ghostliness is probably coming naturally to her given she was paler and more miserable looking than Casper the Friendly Ghost’s emo cousin while she was alive. Despite everyone’s keenness to get back to normal, we still have to pay lip service (see what I did there?) to her death.
Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy as the reactions of the characters can be summed up as follows:
- Frankie: Self indulgent, whiny and miserable. She’ll fit in well in New York.
- Lexy: Quite happy, as Cat’s death means she might have a shot with Sam.
- Sadie: Not bothered.
- Lexy’s Gay Male Doctor Friend: Not bothered.
- Ed: Incredibly, deeply bothered, apart from when horrible women hit on him. Then not bothered.
- Tess: Incredibly, deeply bothered, apart from where the plot demands she do something amusing, like vandalising a theatrical poster. Then not bothered.
- Sam: Largely fine, until she suddenly starts having an impromptu panic attack/orgasm when smelling Cat’s pillow or going for a run.
This mixed bag of opinions and varying levels of bereavement meant the episode felt a bit unbalanced at times. Focussing on Sadie’s sexploits with tourists and magazine editors helped, but the contrast between the merry japes of the less affected characters and the traumatised reactions of the others meant the whole thing was a bit confusing:
“Hey, that’s hot! I feel quite turned on… oh no, they’ve cut to a close up of someone weeping.”
It’s like gay aversion therapy. Maybe this series was paid for by religious fundamentalists.
However, Tess’s mood seems to be brightening thanks to her fantastic new friend Hugh, played by the excellent Stuart McQuarrie. And surly, sad faced Frankie has taken a hike for a while, which means the series might perk up a bit and we won’t feel like we’re sitting though a training video for LGBT grief counsellors.
So long, Frankie: you’re fired. Can’t wait to watch your exit interview on BBC2 with Dara o’Briain.
Conundrum of the Week: Don’t you need a green card to work in the US, or do they waive their notoriously strict residential visa requirements for depressed lesbians? If so, I’m moving to Florida right now.
We’ve all had them. A well-meaning straight person finds out you’re a lesbian, and feels it necessary to offer ‘advice’ or ‘compliments’. And to make it worse, they always think they’re the first person to ever think to say it. So here are the top 5 things no lesbian ever wants to hear:
Most of us, at one stage in our lives, have been told that our liking of girls is nothing more than a “Phase we will grow out of”. No, no generally it’s not a phase. In a world still filled with taboo and stigma surrounding the LGBT community, the fact people even come out suggests it’s a bit more than a phase.
Dying your hair bright red can be considered a phase. Or choosing, at the grand old age of 60, to shave your head, change your name to bobbyboo and join an all-girl rock group… that can be a phase. Yes, a poorly chosen one, but a phase all the same.
4) “Have you ever been with a man?”
Girls, have you ever been with a woman? And boys, have you ever been with a man? This one speaks for itself in that you don’t have to have tried everything to know what you want.
Granted, if you’ve never tried a banana, how do you know it doesn’t taste nice? But then, is it really all about the taste? Sometimes you’re just so happy with your orange that you really have no interest in delving into other areas of the fruit bowl. Have you ever been with a parrot to find out whether you may or may not have a fetish for an odd type of bestiality?
3) “You just haven’t found the right man”
Yes, yes you got us this time. We haven’t found the right man. And until men start to have the correct genitals and the same genetic makeup as women; I think we’ll be spending the majority of our lives having never “found the right man”.
2) “Can I watch?”
Hmmm, correct me if I’m wrong, but last time I checked, a lesbian was someone who liked women. Correct me, again, if I’m wrong, but a man definitely isn’t a woman. Just because we, like heterosexual men, share the common ground that we’re both into women, doesn’t mean we should club together and enjoy it together.
Don’t ask if you can join in. Don’t ask if you can watch. We’re lesbians, not porn stars. Shall we ask you if we can sit and watch your wife in bed? No, because it’s weird and creepy; and for the record, it’s still weird and creepy when you men do it.
1) “You don’t look like a lesbian, you’re so pretty.”
There’s not a definitive guide for “how to be a lesbian”, no catalogue of clothing attire one should wear as a lesbian. Yes, there are archetypal items that seem to be generic for lesbians to have. But one doesn’t need to “look like a lesbian” in order to be one. They come in all shapes and sizes.
Secondly, “you’re so pretty?” What does this have to do with whether one is a lesbian or not? It’s similar to saying “you do medicine at university? But you’re so pretty”. Our beauty isn’t reserved for the men of this world. That is definitely not a compliment. Being a lesbian is all about having a love for women, not an aversion to men.
There are many things one can say to annoy a lesbian, but these five have got to be amongst the worst. Unless anyone can think of any I’ve missed?
Sarah and I have been engaged for almost a year and a half, and it’s been much the same as any other engagement. We’ve had disagreements about ribbon in John Lewis and fretted over seating plans. The same as any heterosexual relationship.
Except, it’s not the same. Legally, the differences are minimal, but in the eyes of society when we enter into a Civil Partnership next month, we won’t be married.
Even if the Scottish Government decide, after a lengthy, costly and sometimes bitter consultation process, that same-sex couples should have their relationships recognised in the same way as their heterosexual brother or sister or friend or parent, I won’t be dissolving my Civil Partnership, because to me, that’s what I choose.
The problem is right now, there is not a choice.The Government received over 50,000 responses — the largest response to a consultation ever. But I don’t understand why my neighbour is entitled to an opinion about my relationship. After all, I’m not writing to my MP to pass comment on his life.
This never should have been a consultation. It gave people a platform from which to spout the same old homophobic tripe.
The Scottish Parliament should have lead by example rather than turning our newspapers into a daily war of words.
Scotland for Marriage are an umbrella group of bigots and Daily Mail readers who have campaigned hard against same-sex marriage. They argue that they are not attacking gay people but protecting religious freedom and the institution of marriage.
But as we all know, there is nothing in the Scottish or UK Government plans to force anyone to conduct a same-sex marriage if they do not want to.
And besides, the threat to marriage does not come from two people who love each other and want to celebrate that in their local church or synagogue, but from the Kim Kardashians and Britney Spears of this world who take their vows so lightly that hours or days later, they call the whole thing off.
But you know what? This isn’t even about religion or the sanctity of marriage. This is about equality, which means so, so much more than my Civil Partnership, or what the church thinks a healthy relationship is, or Alex Salmond or David Cameron.
This is about the future of every single lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young person, who are currently being told in a not-so-subtle way that they are not good enough.It’s time for parents, teachers and governments to stop wringing their hands wondering how to tackle homophobic bullying.
Can they really be that short sighted? Do they not see that government policy directly impacts the lives of our children in the playground? That if you tell a lesbian couple in the registry office that they’re not allowed to get married in a church or, god forbid, play a piece of religious music during their ceremony, that that message trickles down into our local communities, our schools, into the minds of vulnerable young people?
How can we re-assure them that we are all the same when we’re not treated like it? How can we sit there and tell them that it gets better when time ticks by and equality is still frustratingly out of reach?
It’s getting better — of course it is. My sixteen year old self, spotty and self-conscious would have listened wide mouthed and disbelieving if you’d told me then that in ten years time I would be marrying my girlfriend. Back then, I was GAY with a capital G and dodging homophobic insults left, right and centre. I was lucky enough to have a supportive family who made me feel loved and that gave me the strength to face those taunts head on.
But it’s not just the job of a family to protect a child. We all have to take responsibility.For too long, we’ve cowered away from challenging the churches on gay rights, and discrimination has been hidden behind a veil of religious freedom. But this is our chance. Now is our time.
The Scottish Government must stand up and face the bullies head on. In the consultation, they spelled out their position and that was one in favour of extending marriage rights to gay couples. There is cross-party support, and in a recent survey 61% of the Scottish public said they support same-sex couples.
Last year, First Minister Alex Salmond said in his YouTube video that it does get better. Come on, Alex. Time to prove it.
With civil partnerships becoming increasingly common and fully fledged gay marriage close on the horizon, new precedents are being set for lesbians tying the knot. Will coupled lesbians choose the straight-sounding ‘Mrs’ as their title or opt for the more ambiguous ‘Ms’?
Mademoiselle banned in France
The French are currently leading the way, abolishing the word ‘Mademoiselle’ altogether so that women do not have to reveal their marital status in their title. Males are ‘Monsieur’ and women are ‘Madame’. It is neat, fair and simple. Is it not time that Britain followed suit?
The history of Ms
Since the 1960s, feminists have fought for the right to be referred to as ‘Ms’ rather than ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’. Both of these honorifics are derived from the word ‘Mistress’, not a word feminists are happy with, and rightly so.
The only problem lies in the fact that many married women, both gay and straight, enjoy being referred to a ‘Mrs’. For some women, the title ‘Ms’ even suggests a negative connotation.
What does Facebook think?
I put the ‘Mrs versus Ms’ debate out there on Facebook and asked all my female friends who are married or planning to marry if they choose to be called ‘Mrs’ or ‘Ms’. Within seconds, the notifications came pouring in.
Overwhelmingly, the straight women have opted for ‘Mrs’ while the lesbians lean towards ‘Ms’. Interestingly, or perhaps completely irrelevantly, the bisexuals declined to comment.
Madeleine, 29, has been married to her male partner for just over a year. She said, “I am a Mrs, I feel Ms is trying to make some kind if statement”.
Similarly, Louise, 28, who is planning to marry her boyfriend this June said, “I thought Ms was for old dears that never married. I will be Mrs”.
The other predominant reason for straight women becoming a ‘Mrs’ was to be romantic and to please their husbands.
Allison, 40, said that one of the main reasons for marrying her husband was to take his surname and Sharon, 34, said that she became a ‘Mrs’ because it meant a great deal to her husband.
Tom, 29, backed up their claims stating, “Married women, whether gay or straight, should be Mrs, as this is the title that tells people you’re married, and if you are married why hide it? To me traditionally Ms is an older woman who wants to be vague about their relationship status, usually because they are divorced or a spinster”.
Karen, 40, has been with her female partner for five years and they plan to have a civil partnership. She said, “I will be Ms all the way, I’m nobodies Mrs! Even when my girlfriend and I get the civil partnership I will definitely be Ms. It’s a political thing for me”.
Donna, Cathy, Jane and Jacquee are all lesbians in serious relationships and will all unquestionably refer to themselves as ‘Ms’ even if they do have a civil partnership or marriage. They all stated it was for feminist reasons.
A couple of straight women also supported ‘Ms’ for the feminist cause. Rosie, 32, chooses to refer to herself as ‘Dr’ or ‘Ms’ for feminist reasons.
Similarly, Anna, 31, said, ‘Although I’m not married, getting married or a lesbian, I am a feminist. It drives me mad that I can’t do a simple thing like order something online without having to make a statement about myself as married, unmarried, or making a point of not letting people know by using a horrible title that people make judgements about anyway”.
The ‘Mrs versus Ms’ debate does not affect gay or straight men and most straight, married women simply haven’t considered it.
It is a battle to be fought by single, lesbian and bisexual women and the negative connotation surrounding ‘Ms’ does not make it the obvious choice for coupled lesbians.
Unfortunately ‘Mrs’ is not ideal either as many lesbians consider it to sound straight and rather smug.
My girlfriend and I are having a civil partnership in July and I am still undecided. She is insistent on ‘Ms’ but I am a little tempted by ‘Mrs’, for equality reasons and because I will consider myself married. What do other Lesbilicious readers use?
Of course, an alternative could be to purchase the title ‘Lady’ (see http://www.lordtitles.co.uk/). It’s a snip at £18.95 and ensures form-filling is fun forever more.
Monthly Archives: May 2012
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008