Friday, 31 December 2010

BBC, our existence doesn't have to be BALANCED by hatred

Elton John and David Furnish have a baby. In general, this isn’t something that’s top of my “do not care” pile so I noted the news, shrugged and moved on.

Then I saw the reporting…

I think a prize has to go to the BBC for this obscenity

See, the BBC decided that to report on Elton John and David Furnish having a child they needed to interview Stephen Green of Christian Voice.

Stephen Green, for those who don’t know, is a rabid homophobe who despises our very existence and spoke out in favour of the proposed genocidal Ugandan law to have gay people executed. He is one of the most virulent anti-gay bigots in Britain. I will not link to his site, I don’t gave hate groups page views.

Note that the BBC didn’t for one second note what kind of man Stephen Green was, why he was being interviewed or his history. They didn’t mention his virulent history of homophobia, picketing pride parades, comparing a gay singer to Jeffrey Dahmer, referring to battles against anti-gay bullying as “promoting sodomy in school children”

Gods I could go on for hours. The BBC didn’t go on for minutes on this man’s bigoted history. Like Channel 4 before them they treated this bigot as an expert and an authority – while completely glossing over his history and the extremity of his views.

The BBC’s belated excuse for this? It’s necessary to interview a bigot when talking about Elton John and David Furnish’s family in the interest of…. balance

Really? BALANCE? I’m sorry, I didn’t think the existence of gay families had to be balanced by interviewing someone who wants us dead? Shall we apply this to other celebrity couples? Next time a famous straight couple have a child shall we interview someone who thinks those parents should be executed? Will this be “balance?”

Hey didn’t Jamie Oliver have a child in 2010? I seem to recall he did. But I’m pretty certain no-one felt the need to interview people who wanted him and his wife dead. Let me check the BBC… hmmm… no, no need to interview people wanting the death opf Jamie Oliver specifically or straight people in general. Why, it seem that no children of straight people ever required the interviewing of bigots in response. Now, why do we think that is, I wonder?

But with gay couples having children we have to interview an extremist, a bigot, a man who wants us dead, in order to “have a debate”?

I am sick of this. I am sick of such virulent hatred being presented as reasonable. I am sick of people who advocate genocide of us being treated as rational, serious people. I am sick of our lives and our families being shit on by some of the most respected institutions in the country.

But hey, at least they have company in the homophobia front:

We have the New York Post deciding that David Furnish is Elton’s “wife”

And we have this… thing from a Taiwanese news programme… I have not the words

Gods above I hate the straight-lead world sometimes. (Ha, sometimes?)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

White Knights, Concern Trolls and Fierce Allies

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

I have seen a lot of various stripes of allies who fit into all of these groups that I have seen raging here and there and everywhere – and I think that’s good because these need some severe attention – especially when it comes to working through the thorny issues of allies and supposed allies and the various problems that can come from various people wearing/using the label. Which is good, I think there’s a lot of things that have been badly glossed over for a very long time. But I also think in some cases we’re creating confusion and reactions from the first 2 may be causing problems with the last. So, I’m going to ramble! (You know I have to)

Concern Trolls

Concern Trolling annoys a great deal. Sometimes it’s a legitimate, albeit ignorant, and well intentioned but foolish response. And sometimes it’s just prejudice with a flimsy cover.

The problem is that Concern Trolls tell marginalised people how they should think and feel and act – and often comes with paternalistically telling marginalized people what they should do (even acting against marginalized people’s interests for their own sake).

I’ve seen Concern Trolls tell GBLTQ people not to push for rights for fear of backlash. I’ve seen them argue against removing DADT because it will expose gay troops to bullying. I’ve had Concern Trolls tell me where I should go, how I should dress, cut my hair, to be more “butch”, not to babysit my little nieces, a thousand things I should do – all for “my own sake.”

Marginalized people know their own lives best. Marginalized people do not need instructing how to navigate the isms they face. Marginalized people do not need to be patronized and controlled. They do not need shepherding or parenting by privileged people who think they know their lives better.

The White Knight

I will always remember the wonderful straight friend in an online computer game leaping all over someone for their homophobic statements. After all, he knew that I approached the arena with no small amount of trepidation because of the ubiquitous nature of open homophobic slurs – and he strode forwards to strike down the dragon for me.

Except… I didn’t actually see anything wrong with the statements he was fighting. I didn’t see any homophobia and I wasn’t offended. I’m now presented with someone proud of himself for defending me from an attack that wasn’t and someone else who is deeply confused, who has been reamed for non-offensive offensiveness.

And it’s not unique. There have been more than a few occasions when some badness has happened, I’ve moved forwards… only to not get an word in between the straight people rallying to protect me… which, yes, can be nice – but if there’s lots of people discussing how a homophobic comment will hurt gay people and the only gay person there can’t actually get a word in? And there’s lots of people saying how I feel and what hurts and what doesn’t… and they’re not actually getting it right and some of them are blundering around clumsily and throwing in their own sporks.

I’m glad I have such friends, such allies that they want to stand forward when they perceive me under attack and who care enough about issues that touch me that they are passionate about it – but it’s almost amusing to have a crowd of people talking so vehemently about how silenced and rendered invisible gay people are – that the gay person cannot be heard. And the issues I think are important to me are lost in a wave of issues the straight people think I should care about – and what actually hurt me is ignored, while the straight folks address a problem I never even saw and still don’t understand.

It’s great to be an ally – but if you’re overwhelming the people you’re “helping”, leading the charge when you should be supporting and telling the marginalised how to manage their marginalisation – well, this help isn’t very helpful?

The Fierce Ally

The flip side is, of course, that a lot of them time I’ve felt like no-one’s got my back at all. In my current on going family badness, I despair of the fact that most of my totally-not-homophobic-honest straight family are firmly keeping their mouths closed. I would love a show of support from them and it’s not coming.

And it’s not the only situation, there are many times when I’ve spoken and almost heard the echo and there’s a whole load of straight faces looking at me with expressions ranging from irritation, exasperation round to contempt and anger. And I want to slink away, I want to drop it, I want to brush it under, bite my tongue and go hide somewhere. And I have lost count of the times I have felt so extremely alone in trying to be me.

And, yes, I admit the weakness, I don’t always want to take point. I don’t relish in the face confrontation, I largely dislike leading anything, I’m not a leader by nature. There are times when I’d love someone to defend me, to fight for me, to pick up the torch and batter back the barbarian hordes. Yes, it may make me pathetically dependent but when some arsehole has run his mouth off, or some fool has thrown a bottle at my head or even some epitome of clueless has rambled on – I like it when a friend and ally stands up and says “it’s ok Sparky, you finish your drink, I got this one.”

Because sometimes it feels like being on guard all the time. And damn do I feel guilty if I let something slide – because I know that silence in the face of this shit IS consent, is enabling and does perpetuate it. So I feel I have to, I feel obliged even when tired and worn and sporked and even scared. And that’s aside from the fact my anger will rarely allow something go past unchallenged without rupturing something.

The flip side is, sometimes I’ve been a room full of straight folks who either haven’t seen me or haven’t realised I was gay and the homophobia has come out. And I’ve felt very… uncomfortable – sometimes outright unsafe – speaking up and saying “guys, I’m right here, could you not?” I’m much more comfortable knowing that some of the straight people there will back me up, will support me – that if I speak up and object I won’t be doing so to an empty room

And if one of the straight people there speaks up against it, I’m even happier. Because sometimes I’m not there. And that matters.

Why? Because I need to know this. I need to know that the anti-homophobia campaigning isn’t something that only happens when we’re watching. I need to know that when the straight folk are alone, they don’t say “phew, the homos are gone, let us now express how much we think they should all burn in hell, crackle crackle crackle.” Is it desperately insecure? Maybe…

But haven’t we all been there? You’re in a circle with a lot of people who are privileged in one way and they say something you know is 10 kinds of shit – but no-one says anything? The group of white people who relish the sudden freedom from the DREADED PCNESS! The group of men who are merry and joyous with their sexist humour and the gatherings of straight folks who think no-one’s watching so it’s time to let the homophobia fly. We’ve been there, we’ve seen it.

And that’s a problem. I think hate speech and the basic passive acceptance of prejudice in society is a major problem – it is considered acceptable. “PCness” is seen as a burden, not the norm. All the dehumanising language, all the devaluing jokes, all the dismissive and insulting comments are considered normal discourse is all the norm – which you are forced to deviate from when one of those whiny minority folks is around. And this is the foundation on which hatred is built.

And the marginalised? Can’t fix that. Well, I guess we could, we could have stealthy operatives infiltrating various privileged gatherings with hidden cluebats ready to deploy at a moment’s notice – but it’s probably not practical. Cool, but not practical.

Privileged folks need to be the ones that say that marginalising language is not ok. Privileged folks are the only ones who can say “no, this is always wrong. Even when they’re not around, it’s still wrong. Cut that shit out.” When the straight people gather and let the homophobia spill out, it has to be a straight person who calls them out. When the men gather and decide that sexism is a-ok, it has to be one of the men to say “no, it’s not.” When white people congregate and the racism abounds, it has to be a white person who speaks up. Because the marginalised people aren’t there – and so long as the shit continues whenever our back is turned it will always continue.

So yeah lots more rambling (you know I like to ramble) and I’m not sure entirely what the point is – probably somewhere around “we need you, our allies, but we need you on our terms, to be our supporters, our fierce advocates and our staunch defenders – but we don’t need you to be our voices, our decision makers and our instructors”

Yeah, that sounds good, we’ll run with that for a time.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Anita Blake Series - Pro gay?

Ok, now it seems someone has read one of my less-than-flattering posts about Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and has protested, protested most mightily indeed!

In particular, it is protested, I shouldn’t be so hard on a series that is so pro-gay. Should I not be supporting that?

Well, first of all, I have to say that pro-gay drivel would still be pro-gay drivel. And it’s several kinds of desperate that anything positive should be fawned over even if it’s tripe. Tripe is tripe and no amount of rainbows will make it anything other than tripe.

But mainly I have to GAPE at the idea that the Anita Blake series is pro gay. Seriously? I consider it pretty homophobic. Yes there are inordinate number of GBLTQ characters in her books – but simple number of characters does not make it positive by any stretch.

Let’s review some of the badness that leaps out of me (and this is form memory, were I to bring myself to re-read them I’m sure more would come).

I am going to cut this for spoilers in case any of you haven’t read the series and wish to do so. I also pity you, yes yes I do.

First of all, GBL characters ARE OVER-represented in one, maybe 2 fields in the books. Villains and victims. Lots of villains and victims.

The Villains:

Asher, bisexual – was a villain but was redeemed to the good guys by the sweet love and gentleness of Anita (behold the power of a straight woman’s love!) Its bitter, implied sadistic and now confines 99% of his sexing to Anita. Has noted that Anita’s presence even stops him being coupl-y with Jean-Claude

Raina, bisexual. Sadist, rapist, murderer, torturer and generally not a nice woman. Also rapes straight women. Is portrayed as “perverse”.

Gabriel: Bisexual, sadist, rapist, torturer, pimp and generally not a nice man. Rapes straight men. Is also portrayed as “perverse” especially in reference to his extreme masochism

Chimera: gay or bisexual. Sadist, rapist, torturer (are we seeing a pattern yet?)

Belle Morte: Bisexual, rapist, makes straight people have sex with their own gender for her amusement.

Traveller: Gay. Uses his power to possess straight men so he can have sex in their bodies (i.e. rapes them).

Niley: Gay, rapes straight men. And tortures them. Bonus points, deals with daemons and is actually looking for a holy relic to defile it.

The Werehyenas

These need a special mention because there is so much fail here that it’s almost breathtaking.

The leader of the werehyenas is Narcissus. He is constantly referred to by the male pronoun so I’ll use that. He is intersex, seems to present as a gay man and dresses as a woman. He won’t have any women in his clan because a “real woman” would threaten his leadership. He is captured and tortured by a male lover until he is rescued by Her Straightness Anita and His Straightness Richard.

The werehyenas are made up nearly entirely of gay men. About 600 of them. Big muscle bound, sexy gay men as well. Wearing leather (LKH really needs to start typing with both hands). They are taken over. Taken over by a force that seems to number about 100… at most. They are taken over because they’re not “real fighters” or “real muscle” and they just roll over and give in (and can’t fight properly anyway)

They are rescued by the werewolves (read – the real mens). Narcissus learns his lesson and recruits soldier types (apparent heterosexuals since they’re happy to leer at Anita – real mens!) and now, Rafael of the were-rats FEARS the Hyenas (because now they have real mens) when he didn’t fear the pack that outnumbered him 3:1 before.

Other problematic elements

Most Ulfrics are men because they have to win a drag out fight with the previous Ulfric. Ulfrics and Ulfric candidates are men because they’re big and strong. Oh and Sylvie was a contender for Ulfric – is she a man? Nooo, but she’s a lesbian. Well, she was a lesbian. In later books LKH FORGETS. But not before she is raped by a man and a woman and has to be rescued by Anita (saaaave us straightness, saaaave us!)

Nathaniel: repeated implied bisexual. Is a victim and a victim and a victim and a victim and a victim and always a damn victim. He’s a poster child for victimisation

Byron – looks pre-adolescent, vulnerable, weak. He actually comes across as more fragile and weak than Bartolom√© and Valentina. Oh and he lets us know that Jean-Claude, though bisexual, doesn’t REALLY like men, just Asher. Careful, he’s a leading man!

Faust: introduced, a gay master vampire. Then disappears, bye bye. At least he wasn’t tortured/raped

Augustine, oh Augustine. Straight vampire makes a play for Anita. Jean-Claude establishes his power over him by… having sex with him and having him bottom! Dominance is established, the bottom is the “lesser man”. The trope here really can’t be ignored but aie I cringe, I cringe I do.

Y’know this is just what I came up with with a few moments reflection from memory – no re-read or anything and it’s been a while since I re-read these.

So, gay characters? Yes. Positive? No, I would say not, yes yes I would.

And they’re still poorly written porn. With lots of “humpa humpa”

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The World Cup

The World Cup in 2022 is going to be held in Russia and Qatar.

Normally the World Cup is something that hits my radar largely because television, advertising et al becomes consumed by lots of men playing with balls in a way that is not nearly as sexy as it sounds (alas) but I did a double take on this one.

See, when we’re looking at homophobia in sports and how they’re finally pushing to make it slightly less omnipresent (and even acknowledging it’s a problem!) and there’s actually supposed to be some kind of movement here – we have Fifa picking countries to host the world cup that literally risk life and limb for gays to go and support. Qatar in particular still considered being gay a crime punishable by imprisonment or flogging. Flogging, I kid you not.

Really I shouldn’t be surprised, Fifa doesn’t even include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy and with the UN deciding that killing us is all fine and dandy, you can hardly expect Fifa of all organisations to give a damn whether we’re considered human or not.

It’s just depressing as hell to see yet again the straight world giving us a big fuck you. Again, straightness confirms that our lives are worth bugger all.

Unsurprisingly, Gay groups are hella pissed about this. Because it gets tiresome when the straight powers that be yet AGAIN make it clear that stomping on your head is just fun and games and totally ok

The Gay Football Supporters Network is boycotting the games. They very rightly point out that while Fifa wants to bring the game “to the whole world” it apparently doesn’t include gay people. We’re not part of the world it seems, according to straightness. Or maybe they just wish we weren’t.

And, of course, those silly gays objecting to the devaluing contempt and dehumanising hatred of the straight world are over-reacting. Why, as journalist Mehdi Hasan tells us, we’re over-reacting, I mean Qatar only occasionally flogs people, what’s the problem?! Why it’s QATARPHOBIC to object on such piffling grounds. This straight guy just wants us hysterical types just calm down

Of course, it’s hardly alone. I’m amazed at the number of people jumping up and down every where I’ve seen this reported. And losing their ever loving shit that anyone would DARE criticise Qatar for extreme homophobia, including liberal spaces. Well I guess we know where we stand in their eyes – and how much value our lives have

The president of Fifa, Sepp Blatter, hearing complaints, predictably dismissed them by telling gays – “just don’t have sex” I kid you not. Faced with a gay people who are concerned about a nation that flogs, imprisons and deports gay people, this is the response from the straight authorities. Because it’s totally our fault, right? I mean if we’d just not be icky gays then all would be fine, right, Mr. Blatter? It’s all about sex, right? Icky nasty gay sex?

But hey, he’s concerned about prejudice – well, every prejudice but homophobia. And we’re just dealing with another culture! Screw the gays! They don’t want racism. They don’t want prejudice because of politics. They don’t want prejudice because of religion. Prejudice because of sexual orientation? Oh, he doesn’t mention that – and doesn’t give a damn about it, it seems. He’s sure there’ll be no trouble – not that the laws are changing or there are any guarantees. But hey, the straight guy is sure there’ll be no trouble!

He wants to open the game up to everyone of all culture. Just not to gays. Gays don’t count, don’t matter and our lives mean nothing. Not surprising, but infuriatingly typical. The joys of living in this straight world continue.

And you know what? This isn’t just about football or the damn world cup. This is about the world, AGAIN, saying that persecuting gay people is ok. This is about the world, AGAIN, validating and supporting homophobia. This is about the world, AGAIN, telling us that imprisoning and torturing people for being gay is OK. That’s not about football, it’s not even about one country – it’s about the whole straight world saying how irrelevant and unimportant the persecution of gay is even when taken to the utter extremes – in the straight lead world, our lives do not matter.

Monday, 20 December 2010

UK government censoring internet porn

So the Tories and their mini-mes are looking at censoring all the nasty porn from the net for the sake of the children.

They wish to block all “sex sites” for everyone in the UK and rather than opt out of them, force you to opt in to them if you wish access.

First of all, I don’t recall either of these parties campaigning on controlling what media I consume. I’m pretty sure absolutely no-one voted for that. But I expect little else from the Tories and their sidekicks.

I’m going to put aside the whole issue of the fact that if parents are really hair-on-fire terrified of their little 7 year olds surfing the web and looking at the nekked sexing then maybe, just maybe, they would want to take precautions themselves

I’m even going to put aside the idea that kids are so utterly traumatised by the porno because I’m not convinced on that one either, to be honest.

No, I’m going to look at these web filters and what nasty, poisonous things they are.

These filters filter out sex. And STDs. And sexuality. And gays and lesbians and bisexuals and trans people and anyone else who is LGBTQ. Want to find information about testicular cancer or breast examinations? Hmmm could be difficult. These filters are often so grossly wide that even “it gets better” videos are being censored.

In fact, anyone following my constant bad news round ups will see that there has been a repeated theme of net providers, libraries, mobile phone providers, wireless providers and even Amtrack in the US blocking completely non-pornographic websites if they presumed to include anything GBLTQ related – including sites like Pink News. Gods, there’s a current kaffufle now because Google was having a snit about adverts for “Queers in History”A series of completely non-sexually graphic biographies – because they’re not “family friendly.” Yeah, guess how pornographic they are?

I do not trust the UK government or the technological gurus behind the ISPs, even remotely, to implement this in a way that won’t censor huge swathes of the GBLTQ internet to say nothing of the various other sites on everything from health to sex education.

And no, allowing people to “opt in” to porn will not cover this problem. People shouldn’t have to opt in to pornographic content in order to access blogs by gay people, news about gay people or adverts selling books about us. We’re not something obscene to censor, damn it and our lives do not belong in brown paper envelopes.

And, even aside from the principle, the kids who need this info, who need to find the gay community, who need to reach these sites, this information should not have to go to their parents and ask for access to hardcore porn to do it!

I do not for a second think that this law could be brought in without doing severe harm to us – nor do I think bigoted Equalities Minister Theresa May or her Igor, Lyn Featherstone would realise or care about the damage or act upon it.

In short, this law is going to be a trainwreck and, worse, it’s one of those laws that is likely to pass as everyone wails about the children and those nasty nasty pornographers.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

On the “Not Ashamed” Campaign

Christian Concern (BLECK you know with a name like this no good will follow) has launched the “Not Ashamed campaign” (AKA the “let’s totally rip off gay pride to pretend Christians are oppressed)

Lord Carey is the ex-archbishop of Canterbury and very much still a homophobe and general arsehole and he supports this campaign. No surprises, the man’s an arsehole and former head of a very homophobic church.

The premise of this campaign is that Christians are being pushed out of society, are oppressed and persecuted by the oh-so-mean secular state and how Christians are made to be ashamed and need to embrace their pride.

Yes, this is my not amused face. Because this shaky premise is based on this spectre of “persecution.” And what is that persecution, people? Why it’s not being able to tell foster children that if they’re gay they’re going to hell. It’s not being able to rearrange your job so all those icky gays never come anywhere near you. It’s refusing to do your job if there’s a possibility of the icky gays nearby. It’s not being able to proselytise to sick and bed ridden old folks when you’re supposed to be their medical carer.

I’d go on, but tethys89 has already written a wonderful post on how wrong this is.

There’s also the usual whining that ZOMG people are saying Happy Holidays! And there are cards with SEASONS GREETINGS written on them! Seasons Greetings! Do you not know that everyone in the country must worship Jesus at this time of year or the Christians are being oppressed?! How dare 2 non-Christians choose to send a non-denominational greetings card to each other! THE OPPRESSION! THE PERSECUTION! Won’t someone PLEASE think of the Christians!?

It’s almost funny.


Except it’s so revoltingly offensive it’s hard to laugh at it.

You are not oppressed, Lord Cary, by being unable to oppress others. You are not censored when your hatred is questioned. You are not persecuted when we reject your bigotry.

And, really – if the inability to discriminate against a minority hurts you so badly and if the idea of some of us celebrating a winter holiday at the same time as you is SO DAMNED HORRIFIC then you need to get over your selfish, egocentric, small minded self.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

World AIDS day

Today is World AIDS day. Now normally I don’t have much truck with special days for various reasons (which I will get into another time), but like in many things I am driven to talk about this because of anger.

To me, AIDS is very much a thing of anger. It’s a thing to be utterly enraged about beyond all reason.

AIDS is a story of human failing. It’s a story of human prejudice and bigotry and callousness and ignorance and dogma and cruelty. It is a story of how humanity failed.

When AIDS first arrived it appeared in marginalised areas. It spread in Africa which has never managed to hold the west’s attention for any great lengthy of time, it was written off as one trouble among many troubles, not worth any special attention.

And in the west it arose among drug users and gay men. People who, let’s be brutally frank, the powers that be were merrily happy were dying in droves.

And as the infections spread and the death count mounted the powers that be didn’t care. Because they didn’t care about who was dying. Because they were happy they were dying. Because it was something to celebrate, because it was a social cleansing. Because it made the world better that these people were dying. And the ignorance and the fear and the loss continued and the powers that be, in their prejudice – didn’t care.

And, of course, it raged beyond what anyone could have imagined. Encouraged by ignorance, unrestrained by any kind of real intervention, suddenly we had an epidemic, a pandemic, an oh-shit-what-is-this-emic.

But it was too late. We’ve let bigotry and ignorance reign for too long. Now any attempt to combat AIDS was seen as a “gay issue” and was fought by the usual suspects – people who found hatred and prejudice more important than saving lives or stopping an ever increasing plague. It is clear we’re still very stuck on the idea of AIDS as a gay disease. Various blood banks around the world still refuse blood from gay men – regardless of their circumstances, because gay = AIDS while straight = safe. We still have such luminaries as the head of the Catholic church in Belgium calling AIDS “justice”.

The rhetoric of AIDS = gay is so ingrained in our discourse that it’s impossible to see a straight person with AIDS without looking for a gay man to blame – even when we talk about soaring HIV infection rates among black women we’re looking for a gay man who is causing this! Because it’s easier to believe that isn’t it? Easier to blame someone, easier to pretend you’re safe because you’re straight, easier to make it a gay issue and part of the “special rights” easier to shuffle it under the rug

Of course, fighting HIV/AIDS in the gay community is repeatedly hampered by the undying homophobia that is still happening – so long as people feel the need to hide, so long as people feel the need to lead double lives, so long as people are afraid to go to clinics or to doctors for fear of being outed or for fear of people learning, so long as people are driven into the shadows and the corners of the world and so long as people are repeatedly told that their lives have no value, can there ever be any cure?

And around the rest of the world, dogma and ignorance and cruelty still rules. The Catholic church has the blood of untold millions on their hands for their stance on condoms – a stance they are only now, grudgingly, weakly stepping away from (now becoming the poster child for “too little too late”). Again, ignorance and prejudice abounds, in countries with genocidal policies where being gay carries a prison sentence or worse, you inevitably end up with an under-society that is ideal for spreading disease, with no support or education or help. Scam artists are marketing everything from vitamin C as a cure for AIDS, to sex with a virgin (gods there are still no words for how awful that is). The plague has reached such proportions and such panic that there is even actual denial of the causes and realities of it, doubts that it’s linked to HIV, the peddling of fake cures, anything to stick the head in the sand a little longer and pretend this isn’t happening.

How much of this would have been dispelled if, when the disease first became apparent, there had been a very real effort to examine and educate it? How much of this ignorance and foolishness would have lasted if our prejudice and arrogance hadn’t caused us to ignore it?

Just what kind of golden opportunity did we shit all over in the past?

And further, people living with HIV/AIDS have to deal with the fallout – not just of health, but of attitude.

It enrages me that still today HIV/AIDS is seen more as a failing than as a disease. It enrages me that the language of talking about HIV/AIDS is still the language of blame and stigma. It makes me wonder that if the disease in the west have broke out among a privileged group – or, let’s be frank, if it had been straight western people who were seen dying in such numbers – we would be saddled with this language of blame and shame and shunning?

People living with HIV/AIDS are treated like modern day lepers, despite their having every chance of lead long, fulfilled and wonderful lives. The stigma has lead to treating them like walking bombs, weapons just waiting to go off, a threat to everyone around them

I can’t talk about HIV/AIDS in anything like a calm, rational manner, it is just a subject of so much rage. It is one of the grandest stories we have of human failure in the world today

Friday, 26 November 2010

Uncle Fail has called me

And has a new phone number it seems. Grrrr, damn it family when I don’t return your calls there’s a REASON. And the reason is not that I am setting up a new Krypton Factor Challenge and you are not in a time contest to see if you can make me pick up the phone/answer the door when you call whether I want to or not.

Anyway he called me and was nice and polite *shock* because of course he has a problem. A legal problem. And he needs to talk to a lawyer. And, wouldn’t you know, he has a nephew whose a lawyer. Yes, that would be me.


What is the etiquette of telling a relative to go fuck himself when he asks for freebies after, well, years of treating you like shit that has escalated in recent months to a familial war that threatens to cut you off from the majority of your kind?

I have to admit I had a lot of wrestling on this one. My instinct is to help family and it is something that is drilled into us from a very young age in this outlandishly huge clan. When family calls you help. If you hate them, you help. It doesn’t matter what relationship you have, it doesn’t matter what your history is, it doesn’t matter – if it’s family and you can help you help.

But Uncle Fail has not treated me like family. His treatment is dehumanising and his actions and my refusal to tolerate them have lead to a knock on effect that may end up with my being severed from vast branches of my family – if not all of them. Surely, a lot of that is them as much as it is him, and even me in refusing to back down, but a large part of it lies at his door.

Because of him and the downward spiral his actions set off, I have had less contact with my extended family in the last few months than I’ve had in the last 20 years. In fact, I’ve had less contact in this past month than I’ve had in a week usually. That huge great massive ridiculous, amusing, infuriating, fascinating mass of eccentricity that is my family has been cut off from me, because of what he set in motion and my unwillingness to tolerate his shit any more. I can’t just pretend that didn’t happen.

And, besides which, if I work on his legal problem I am going to have to spend more time with him, a lot more time. He has never, in all the years since he was told I was gay, being able to refrain from homophobia. Never. And that has included when I have helped him before. I have no reason to believe he would stop now. I have no reason to believe he could stop now, for that matter. And I certainly have no reason to believe he sees a need to stop now.

I am not healthy. I’m learning ways to deal with the do-not-wantness but it’s avoidance and making space for it and allowing windows for collapsing and putting it off – it’s not actually DEALING with it. And the little dealing I am doing is leaving me more fragile, not less.

To work with him would expose me to more triggers, more fail, more pain and more risk of my irritatingly broken mind shattering rather messily.

I don’t owe him that risk and I don’t owe him help and I don’t owe him having to endure his crap.

I’m not doing it. The man is rich enough to hire his own lawyer – he’s rich enough to hire his own squad of lawyers. He doesn’t need me to waste what little pro-bono time I already have on his worthless self.

And so I told him – though I was polite. I got a snarky comment back about how I refuse to help anyone who won’t “validate” my “lifestyle” and then I hung up. (He NEARLY got through a whole conversation without homophobia, nearly!)

Countdown to family explosion, screaming meemies and general hysteria over my refusal to help in 10… 9…. 8… Ooops, I seem to have turned my phone off.

And I think this calls for an early day. Work owes me, it’s Friday (have I ever mentioned that if you want a quick judgement, arrange it for a Friday? The legal profession does not do Friday afternoons if we can avoid it ;P) and I have a horrible feeling I’m going to have my own screaming meemies and doing that in the office is unprofessional. Especially if you’ve already done it Once… twice… yeah some times this week.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Aaargh, rage beyond words

I can’t watch most “It Gets Better” videos because they put me in a bad bad place. But I like them, I like that they exist – ye gods I love that they exist. Mainly, beyond any kind of logic or thought, I like them because I think back the to 10, 14, 16… gods any age before 18-year old me and know how much this would have meant to me. Just how incredibly wonderful and treasured just one of those videos would have been and what it would have meant for little messed up me.

Of course, those same issues have kept me around the fringes, being unable to make a video or tell my own story or to watch many of those that have been posted without going into a big storm of Do-Not-Wantness. But still I’ve been following from the fringes and seeing some of what was posted.

Politicians making them? Hmmm less impressed. It feels like bandwagon jumping. It feels like election campaigning. It feels like gesture politics – you know the kind “We’re not actually going to do anything substantial to give you equal rights – but here, have a pretty speech. And I’ll walk in the pride parade and, yay, make an It Gets Better Video. But I’m not actually going to do shit.”

If you’re a politician, especially from parties that are in power, why are you making a vid telling us it gets better? YOU should be making it better, NOW.

Which then brings me to an ultimate “oh you did not” and even a “fuck this I’m done!” moment.

Because David Cameron and Theresa freaking May have made It Gets Better videos.

I am not impressed. And not just because both videos contain so much “this government” and “we have done” that they may as well decked it in blue and called it a campaign vid. It was sickening to watch them milk this as much as they could for votes and attention, for rainbow-washing and gesture politics. I was literally hurting I was so furious to see something like this project being used this way.

But, no this is even sicker than that.

If you’re not GBLTQ and British you may not know what “section 28” means. If you are both those things I can almost guarantee you do and that you probably started swearing

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was a Tory law that FORBADE Local Authorities AND schools from saying positive things about homosexuality. You couldn’t even say it was acceptable and certainly not that it was a familial relationship. It was illegal to mention homosexuality in a positive light when I was in school. If I had gone to my teachers about the crap I was going through. Gay Straight Alliances? Hell no, none of that, there was a freaking LAW!

It was repealed in 2003. After numerous attempts – NUMEROUS attempts – to push it through by the Labour government that the Tories fought tooth and nail against.

In 2000 David Cameron said “”fringe agenda… including deeply unpopular moves like repealing Section 28 and allowing the promotion of homosexuality in schools”.

In 2003 David Cameron himself tried to protect the law via amendment of the repeal bill. He was absent for the actual vote to repeal it.

And as for Theresa May – our Equalities minister (HAH!) her voting record is among the worst of all MPs

Like Cameron, she was carefully absent in 2003 when the repeal was passed. She was present and voted AGAINST repeal in 2000.

Here is a quote from her on section 28 before the 2003 repeal

What we’re looking for fundamentally is protection of children and certainly obviously we’re reviewing all our policies and we will look at the issue of section 28. And what we’ll be looking to ensure is that if repeal were proposed what would be put in its place because what we want to ensure at all times is protection of children

She’s concerned about the protection of children – not our bullied children, but no, what will happen to children if repeal the law and allow the gayness into the classroom. She goes on to say that she thinks the law was NECESSARY. Really this picture sums it up

And that’s just these 2 – let alone the cabinet they are working with and Cameron is happy with – with arch-homophobes like Baroness Warsi and Ian Duncan Smith and William Hague (the last two party leaders – which says so much about the bigoted Tories).

And now they post “It Gets Better Videos.”

That is obscene.

THEY are the reason it isn’t better now. They have done so much outright evil shit over the years – not just their party, them PERSONALLY – and now they make It Gets Better videos and try to campaign to us?! Now they use this – a project that tries to repair some of the damage they CHEERED FOR and supported – for propaganda, for rainbow-washing, to whitewash the past?

Cameron and May, you’re beyond out of line. The pair of you physically disgust me.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Because the dead should not be forgotten

Friday, 19 November 2010

Back into the snake pit

Against all better instincts, I am driven to comment again. I keep jumping back into this snake pit though I know it is only making things worse. But, again, once I know about these things and think about them I can’t make them leave my head until I’ve spoken – and not even then. My anger’s driving, not my common sense.

“Not only gay people get bullied”

“Not only gays have a high suicide rate”

“Not only gay…”

“We’re all talking about the gays but…”

Shut up. Seriously. I have had it up to here with all of these supposed “allies” who are so HORRIFIED that the lens is on gay people. I am sick to the back teeth of these people who are so damn eager to declare how supportive they are, but just can’t resist lashing out at us in passing.

If you want to talk about the suicide rate in another community or how bullying hurt you or how bullying is horrendous for another marginalised body or for all kids or anyone – DO IT. By all means – run with it, leap with it – scream it from the mountains and sing it out. But why the hell do you have to lash out at us?

It’s not even remotely necessary, it’s sickening to watch and it makes me violently ill to be reminded that so many self-proclaimed allies have so little tolerance or patience if the topic is not about them for 5 damn minutes. It sickens me that these so-called allies just cannot stand the lens on us for any length of time – that it gets too much for them to stand and they simply have to react and lash out.

Are you seriously screaming that a marginalised body that is so often ignored and demonised in the media is getting too much attention?

Are you seriously saying that an issue that has been so ignored for so long – or did you miss the innumerable rants around that no, there isn’t a suicide epidemic, there’s just people finally freaking notice – is now getting too much attention?

Or how about the other track we’re getting now?

Because yeah, there’s a sequel to the “how dare you spend so much time looking at all these dead gays!” Keep up, denying the homophobia in homophobic bullying is the new attack!

“Just because the kid was beaten and bullied by people screaming homophobic slurs doesn’t mean it was homophobic!!!”

“When kids call their victim a ‘fag’ it’s not homophobic!”

“Anti-gay slurs aren’t anti-gay slurs!”

Thank you again oh straightness for telling us what is and isn’t homophobic. Thank you for yet again revealing how utterly desperate the het-lead world is to bury us as much as humanly possible. Thank you AGAIN for showing how outrageous it is to point out homophobic hate.

Seriously – someone is attacked and driven to suicide by people using homophobic slurs, mocking their sexuality or assumed sexuality et al – but no, it’s not homophobia. Oh no.

Talk about bullying. Talk about other marginalised bodies. Talk about suicide. Raise attention, yell from the roof tops, but stop getting your poor straight focus all ruffled because ZOMG THE GAYS are getting attention.

Because, y’know what? This is necessary

And I say that as someone who is going to have to leave the country or go into the back end of beyond to avoid the internet, the news and all media in a desperate attempt to preserve my own mental health before the attention on it breaks me.

It is NECESSARY. Because it is a vast problem for us that also have issues that are unique to us or more apparently to us or more closely linked to us than other communities – not that they don’t have their own issues and specific issues as well – but that is why when we discuss ANY issue we need to also discuss how it affects marginalised bodies.

Because, y’know what? We’re still considered unclean for consumption. Because when debating gay characters in children’s shows not only highlights there complete absence – but brings out no end of haters yelling about Ernie from Sesame street and some damn Teletubby, for crying out loud. Where we’re actually seeing that eternally annoying song “Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree” censored because it includes the word “gay.”

We actually sang that song in our primary school. I had a an evil demon of a teacher who despised all things childish (gods alone know why she became a teacher) and had a truly ridiculous obsession with making kids sing songs in parts – and we sang that damn Kookaburra song for hours. And whenever the ignorant and silly children – as children are wont to be – giggled because ZOMG it said GAY! – I remember that teacher stopping everything to treat us to a long lecture about how “gay” used to mean “happy and carefree” and that the words has been “debased” and “corrupted” by associating it with other “disgusting” and “unseemly” things. Every damn time we sang that song we’d get the “gay is nasty” lecture along with it. And we’re STILL censoring it today.

Because our presence is so offensive and BEING offended by our presence is so acceptable that the damned Advertising Standards Agency has banned an advert depicting gay men dressed as priests. It’s UPHOLDING Catholic homophobia as moral and good – and SUPPORTING the idea that our depiction is just too awful to be allowed. Because homophobia is again and again raised up as RIGHT and GOOD and moral and if you ever try to combat that you get defenders of religions screaming from all corners, stomping on our corpses to mouth the weakest defences and derails (gods forbid it ever be ADDRESSED! Oh no, that would be so hard to the poor religions while they stomp on us).

Or how about the SCHOOL BOARD member who wants “fags” dead in terms that are so virulent and repellent I simply cannot repeat them, who WANTS us to commit suicide And of course it’s religious based – so of course it’s MORAL and defensible, right? And this is a member of a school board. Gods protect those GBLTQ kids he may have influence and power over – because the schools aren’t going to – and they’ve sent an amazing message as to how much their damn lives are worth. How about reinforcing that by PUNISHING teachers who try to combat homophobia in the classroom

How about the repeated claims now from the hate brigade that the reason we’re dying is because we’re gay! That’s right – it’s only natural that we would kill ourselves because we’re so disgusting – and yet these orgs are funded and powerful and supported and respected!

Or how about the epic shit our kids go through in the foster system At a time when they’re at their most vulnerable, heteronormative society comes in to dish out an extra kicking. But there’s too much attention right? We’re talking too much about it! We’re focusing too much on the gay issues! (Hey, you know what’s extra fun? Most of these complainers are American and in the US it was GBLT history month when much of the attention happened – so they’re outraged that so much attention has been given to anti-gay bullying during the history month).

We need this to be acknowledged. We need this to be watched. We need this to CHANGE. So put away all your damn silencing techniques, stop trying to shame the gays to silence. I’m sorry if your straight patience has been exhausted, but this is needed.

I thought the reports of suicides would be what broke me along with the seemingly endless familial pressure. I skittered around the ever growing numbers. I even avoided the hate attacks, the killings, the arsons (yes there’s been some of all which I have skittered around. I don’t have links to them, I can’t read them at the moment. I can’t risk them, but there have been hate attacks and arsons in Canada, New Jersey, London – and these are just the ones I got from skimming headlines before deleting them) but what may push over the edge it seems are straight “progressives” getting so pissed at the attempts to do something to save out lives.

And yes, I’ve jumped into the snake pit again. And yes I shouldn’t have done. And yes, I’ve had to call Beloved to come rescue me because I can’t trust myself to drive

And yes, I’m a fool. My anger rules my good sense.

Continuing amounts of crap and bigotry

We’ve seen the monumental awfulness of the UN not being able to condemn the random murder of GBLTQ people – we also get to see the World Bank deciding to endorse and fund… Ex Gay Therapy Yes, in a world wide recession the World Bank has time and funds to funnel resources into ex-gay – no, I’m not calling it therapy, I refuse. The systematic destruction of the souls of gay people.

2 female high school students in Oklahoma are being prevented from graduating because they are a couple. You’ve got to give a special prize to this quote “It is the policy of the Mid-Del Public School District not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs, services, and activities,” because all it does is highlight they have not anti-GBLTQ discrimination policy.

Apple seems to be censoring the word “gay”

In the UK we have a Christian homophobic couple who are fighting for their right to foster children – and traumatise them if they happen to be gay can you imagine what it’s like to be a gay foster child – likely already having had some awful experiences – being placed with this couple?

Also in the UK christian doctor has been fighting what she calls is discrimination against her. See, she’s supposed to vote on whether couples can adopt or not – only she demands to sit out or vote against allowing gay couples to adopt – for being gay Doctor, you’re not being discriminated against because of your religion – you’re being fired because you not only refuse to do your job, but your prejudice and refusal to look past it makes you UNABLE to do your job. Oh, she doesn’t feel she’s homophobic. Well she totally can’t be then, right? *eye roll*

She is not the only christian wailing how the big bad gays are oppressing them. Leading Anglican bishops are also upset at those nasty nasty gay rights laws preventing them being persecuting bigots won’t someone PLEASE think of the bigots?!

And the Catholics have to get in on some of that action – Cardinal Biffi believes homosexuals are going to be persecuting christians Let me find my violin. It may take a while, it’s damn damn small.

And on the subject of the Catholic church, well they’re always providing a chapter or 2 in the eternal list of hatred, don’t they? A catholic church in Minnesota deleted pro-gay op-eds in their student newspaper in response to the vile anti-gay dvd the catholic church sent out

The head of the Catholic church in Belgium says AIDS is justice for gay people Because all AIDS victims are gay and all gay men are AIDS victims?

Christian Pastor Joel Osteen goes on The View (gods I am hating that show) to spread some homophobia about the place

Croatian football is under threat! A desperate and horrific threat will tear down the very pillars of the sport! THE GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYS! Croatian football president says there is no place for gays in football see, only “normal people” play football. Football official Zdravko Mamic doesn’t want the gays either – gays do ballet, not football it seems (allow me a moment to giggle uncontrollably at the idea of me ballet dancing)

Football is also under threat in the US, where a teen was banned from playing because he was wearing PINK SHOES I… yeah. I have no words. Especially since they were a gift and linked to breat cancer awareness – not all things pink are gay *eye roll*

I have been painfully relishing the action various forces have been taking to try and give some hope and support for GBLTQ youth. Our hands are often tied and there’s certainly no magic bullet – but doing something to help, some reaching out would have meant so much to me back in the day.

Tory councillor Chris Windows disagrees. in fact, he thinks Sir Ian McKellan visiting schools is “disturbing.” Mr. Windows, if Sir Ian McKellan arrived at schools buck naked riding a horse bareback waving a very large sword, I would not find it remotely as disturbing as you and your ilk.

In another stunning display of compassion for our hurting youth – Focus on the family, the christian hate organisation continues to loathe the Day of Silence decency, they would not even see it with a telescope.

I wish they were alone. Some straight students have decided the best way to respond to “Spirit Day” is to wear ’straight pride’ t-shirts. With bonus Bible quotes that threaten death to GBLTQ people

In Wisconsin a female student was punched and called an anti-gay slur for wearing a “legalise gay” t-shirt

In Colorado a student had to fight to be able to wear her “immoral” pro-gay t-shirt is there any wonder our kids have problems?

A taxi driver in Nova Scotia, Canada, informed his lesbian passenger by announcing that all gays should be shot – including her

In Ontorio, a public Library balks at gay publications on the shelves

A Mexican gay couple are treated like several kinds of shit in a Canadian immigration detention centre where they are claiming asylum

A trans woman in New Jersey has lost her job and her home due to the transphobia of her boss and landlord

And of course there’s always the violence…

Polish gay rights activist Robert BiedroŇĄ was arrested and beaten by police and the arrest was… dubious to say the least

In London 4 men stabbed a man 12 times because they believed he was gay

In DC, a man was beaten by a man screaming anti-gay slurs

In San Diego a man was beaten and his attackers screamed homophobic slurs… not a hate crime apparently if this isn’t a hate crime then… what would count?

In Colorado a man was beaten by a gang yelling anti-gay slurs

And in the “is this supposed to be good news” section?

The Mormon church has declared that gays aren’t inherently bad and evil. We don’t need ex-gay therapy – we just need to be celibate! YAAAAAAAAAAAY, they’ve reached the same level of acceptance as the Catholic church. Excuse me if I don’t jump for joy.

The Gibraltar supreme court is talking about equalising the age of consent. Yay progress? I know yes it’s progress, but srsly? I wish I could say they’re alone but they’re not. Guernsey only equalised the age of consent in March. That’s March this year. The Isle of Mann equalised in 2006, Jersey in 2007. I’m not going to celebrate that it took until halkf way through the first decade of the 21sttcentury before British dependencies decided to do something this amazingly basic

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Livejournal? No. Really, no

Livejournal has noticed one of the topics of debate going round and decided to use their Writer’s Block thingy (which I tend to think of as the source of all the world’s cluelessness) to address the whole TSA issue

By asking which Harry Potter character would you pat down…

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

See, we’re talking about the pat downs as SEXUAL assault. And the writer’s block seems to acknowledge this since there’s a strong implication of “hich character would you want to grope” by the tagline of “what’s under Snape’s cape?”

Sexual assault is not a happy, fun joking topic. It should not be so trivialised

The TSA sexually assaulting passengers is not a happy, fun joking topic.

In fact, let’s go to the root here and say that the idea that if we find a person hawt it’s a reasonable (and FUN!) response to fantasise about groping them without their consent is also pretty messed up.

And it's trebly, quadruply messed up when we use the ACTUAL sexual assault of real people as a launching pad for the fantasies

The right not to be murdered is just too much to ask

The UN General Assembly was voting on a resolution to ban extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Or, to put it another way – the general assembly was voting to condemn killing people for shits and giggles. Note, this isn’t even a condemnation about the death penalty – just the death penalty being applied without even a pretence of justice (it doesn’t even require true or fair or real justice).

It included a non-exhaustive list of groups that currently face such arbitrary, extra-judicial murder on a grand scale. The resolution would have protected all people, this list merely highlights those that are especially vulnerable to such murderous persecution.

This included sexual orientation.

Note the past tense. An amendment has been passed to strip sexual orientation from the resolution. Because a resolution that calls for us not to be arbitrarily murdered is just too much to ask.

79 countries voted in favour of removing sexual orientation from the list. A further 17 abstained. Only 70 opposed the amendement

79 countries object to the ideas that we shouldn’t be murdered. A further 17 don’t give a damn whether we’re murdered or not. 79 countries felt the need to act to prevent the idea that our lives have value.

Life is too much to ask for from these nations. A statement against genocide just too strong for them to make.

The amendment passed because more nations in the world care about killing us for existing than care about even the most token attempt to acknowledge our lives are worth living.

The Tories and Lib Dems want to cut Legal Aid

Legal Aid has already been cut to the bone. Already vast swathes of law have to be entirely privately funded, no matter how vital it is. The pernicious culture of “no win no fee” has already dragged the law into the gutter far too often.

And now it is being cut further The full paper is here

These cuts are deeper than Legal Aid faced even under Thatcher in the 80s. The Tories & Lib Dem are going further than even Thatcher dared.

Let us make no mistake what this means – this is a direct and vast assault at the weakest and most marginalised people in society.

First, dispel the lie of “litigation culture.” That’s typical disinformation from the ConDemnation on par with “we didn’t know what the economy was like!” in terms of empty, facile and pathetic excuses.

Personal Injury law – an essential area of law that is much maligned and has been dragged through the mud back and forth is hardly ever covered by legal aid. This is where all the wrongly named “no win, no fee” agreements come in. So, no, don’t let them spread that lie – this isn’t about people suing you because they hit themselves with a hammer (as if PI has ever been about that).

But hey, while we’re here they’re hitting that as well. See, to pay for the “no win no fee” cases, currently your lawyers will recover their costs from the other side. So, if you’re awarded £5,000 in damages, you win that and the other side pays for your legal fees. After all, what’s the point of winning compensation if you then lose it all paying the lawyer?

Well, the Tories and Lib Dems would much rather that be the case. So if, for example, your employer runs a death trap of an establishment, maims you and leaves you unable to work for several months – well, the EMPLOYER shouldn’t pay for your legal costs – no, you should. Which likely makes your case much less worth pursuing. So the employer is much more likely to get away with running a death trap of a work place – and if they do get caught they won’t have to pay nearly as much.

I’m sure they’re loving their Tory friends for this. Maybe the Lib Dems are trying to make new friends, or they’re too busy trying to find were their principles have disappeared to

But I digress – another time that would be enough for disgust and outrage. But the Tories and Lib Dems have done better – by gutting what legal aid help you can get – and it’s quality.

Legal aid is for family law, it’s for the criminal law, it’s for housing law and debt advice and employment law, education law and welfare advice.

It’s, in short, for the poorest and most vulnerable people in society desperately trying to seek justice in a world that sues them.

And the first thing they’re doing is trying to cut how much legal aid is actually paid – by about 10%

Most of my work is legally aided. Nearly all of it. And, y’know what? My firm gets a fraction for my work than it does for privately funded work. A SMALL fractions. It’s already barely profitable to take legally aided cases already. Now? I don’t even know if my firm will keep me on – or can afford to keep me on – if these cuts go through. I don’t know how many firms will bother with legal aid – many already won’t because it ISN’T PROFITABLE.

Get that? It already DOESN’T PAY. It is ALREADY regarded as something of an albatross by my – and many – firms. It is getting to a point where it is not worth my education to do this work.

What effect do you think this will have for availability of legally aided lawyers? And how good they’ll be? Do we even need to describe what the knock on effect this will have on the justice system? If you can’t afford to pay – you won’t be represented – or won’t be represented properly. Already I have to cut corners, I can’t go above and beyond unless I do pro bono – I often cannot give a case all of the attention it deserves without working for free.

And that’s already. And it’s going to be cut.

As to the specific cuts – including just not covering areas at all (near complete cuts unless literal life limb or homelessness is in the offing)

Landlord jacked the rent? Running a slum? Imposing horrendous conditions, violating your privacy, denying any accommodation for the disabled? So long as they’re not actively evicting you, it’s cut!

  • well you better be able to pay for your own appeal. A nice give away to Tory supporting landlords isn’t it?

The massive welfare cuts have left you and your family on the brink? Perhaps you need to be appeal? Perhaps your disability has been doubted or denied? Perhaps you have been denied or refused welfare through mistake or malice or incompetence

  • well you better be able to pay for your own appeal. Which, of course, you can’t. Another stealth welfare cute right there

Need advice on debt? Has a predatory bank or loan shark screwed you? Need to know what legal options are open to you to get out from under the thumb? Need to find options to avoid bankruptcy? Need to see if “payment protection” or loans are missold and contain lies?

  • well there’s no citizens advice for you! Hope you can pay for that advice – maybe your bank will give you another loan to try and sue it? Ah the banks thought that the corporation tax and even more gutted “bank levy” (oh how laughable that is) would be enough give away to them? Pish posh, the Tories and Lib Dems think they deserve more opportunities to screw their debtors!

Getting a divorce? Can’t take the verbal and emotional abuse? Stuck in a loveless marriage? Just completerely loathe each other?

  • well, unless there’s domestic violence, you better be able to pay for it yourself. Tory and Lib Dem Family values right there. You will stay shackled to your spouse no matter how it destroys your mind. Divorce is a luxury for the rich

Been victimised, need help from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority? Need legal help on discovering what you can claim while traumatised, injured and hurt?

  • better be able to afford that help yourself! And whether even applying for aid will be worthwhile if you have to get legal help to do it

Been assaulted, falsely imprisoned, maliciously prosecuted or harmed by someone’s criminal negligence? Well you could bring a tort against them but…

  • that’s right, you need to be able to pay for it. Or rely on more “No win no fee” – except even those are being gutted.

And, of course – if you are fired, if you are driven out of work, if you have a hostile work environment?

- you better have a deep enough wallet to cover be able to fight it.

Hey and this is just the beginning. There’s proposals for COMPETIVE rates as well – including in criminal law and gods’ alone know what else. The general funding for legal aid is being so hevaiuly cut as to reduce any and all access across the board.

Perhaps this is why Lyn Featherstone was read to dismissively hand wave all the legislative victories we’ve pushed through to try to protect equality – because she knew that soon the very tools of enforcing them were going to be gutted.

If you undermine the justice system then all the laws, all the principles and policies – they don’t mean a THING. All of them are only as good as their enforcement, they’re only as good as the power to put them into effect, they’re own as good as their ability to be used and people’s knowledge of them. It is the justice system, the law, the lawyers that put make these tools, these protections useable.

The Tories & Lib Dems together are working to destroy the very concept of justice.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

On the TSA and the violation of air passengers

Now, it seems that the American TSA has jumped in the deep end over the ever escalating need for “security” (an idea that makes me feel a lot less secure, tbh)

See there’s these backscatter imagining thingummies appearing in airports (and other places – and I’m sure they’ll be making shipped around the world most merrily soon) that dose you with lots of radiation (and big question marks as to how healthy that is, especially for frequent fliers) and produce images of you naked. Pictures that can be saved and transferred no less.

As to quality – well it’s not perfect – but it was apparently sufficient for one employee in an airport to be mocked about his penis sized based on the image – so that’s a fair amount of detail right there.

You can opt out. And you will be patted down. Except this is a special pat down which should be better termed “heavy petting” or “third base” or “damn I don’t go that far on the second date!” without that sexy consent stuff (which is another way of saying “freaking sexual assault, damn it!”) So get irradiated and naked pictures taken of you – or have a complete stranger grope your genitals.

This is not a great choice

Now I have seen people say “what’s the big deal?” and even joke about how big their equipment is and the ribald jokes they’d make to security feeling them up.

Well, lucky you. You are one of the lucky ones who hasn’t had any negative body issues foisted on them by our ever-so-much-fun messed up society. You don’t have triggers from sexual assault that can be brought on by a stranger grabbing you in extremely intimate places. For survivors of sexual abuse or any abuse situation where control of their bodies was taken from them, then being forced to submit to having someone intimately grope them without their consent, to have someone assert control over access to their genitals… even the most insensitive must see how damaging this is.

You’re also not going to face the grief that comes from being outed as trans in a busy airport. Being outed as trans can be literally life threatening – and now they must disclose to fly? For many trans people there will be no way they will be able to keep their trans status private with these measures – that is a grossly unacceptable position to impose on them

See, I don’t particularly have body issues except about my scars – which I’m pretty certain won’t show up on the scans. But that doesn’t mean that someone else’s literal panic attack at the idea of complete strangers taking and saving pictures of them naked aren’t perfectly legitimate. I boggle at people deciding that because they don’t have a problem with it, absolutely no-one should have.

I do have issues with strangers touching me. I don’t like it, I’m not fond of handshakes really hate spontaneous hugs from people I hardly know – and a complete stranger putting his hands on my groin? Awww hell no. I object, I seriously object. I have a right not to be groped, I have a right to keep my genitals to myself and people I choose to share them with (ye gods… I’m arguing that people have a right to control who has access to their genitals. Seriously? This needs arguing?) The very idea of being required to allow my penis and testicles to be groped by a complete stranger against my will makes my hackles rise and gives me goosebumps – and not in a good way.

Nor do I accept the idea that air travel is some kind of frivolous luxury (the implication being that they have absolutely every right to impose any kind of terms and conditions they want on you because, guys, it’s only flying and you can totally skip it if you don’t agree). Some jobs require you to travel. Families are split across vast distances often these days. If you want – or need – to travel long distance then flying is pretty much the main realistic choice unless you have several days to spend on the journey. We’re not talking about a theme park ride here. We’re talking about something that is an essential for many people.

And if we were? If we were talking about a frivolous luxury that could be avoided and make no difference in your lives – would we still accept the idea that you have to be seen naked or groped to take part? Really? I mean, if I arrived at Alton Towers and they said “queue for roller-coaster is long because we have to grope you first” would that be fine and dandy because I could turn around and leave?

What I am also deeply uncomfortable about is this idea of sacrificing liberty for security. Yes it’s an old theme, but it just keeps growing. We’re willing to endure an ever increasing amount of crap under the banner of security. A lot of the really crap stuff we tend to dismiss because we firmly believe it won’t happen to us – the torture, the renditions, the detentions without trial. Most people don’t care because none of them believe it will ever happen to them – very selfish, very shortsighted, very human, alas. I hate that people have this reaction and I wish people would think with more compassion, more deeply and more long-sightedly (I won’t say more humanity – because I don’t have much faith in it) but I can understand it even if I loathe it.

This is somewhat different in my eyes. Because while it’s not even close to the massive vileness that is torture, detention without trial, renditions, etc, it IS a violation that can be expected to happen to anyone who flies (and that’s before these machines creep in elsewhere. I understand they’re already used in some courthouses in the US). This is not some bad thing that the common person in the street can dismiss as happening to someone else who they don’t give a shit about – this is something that they can legitimately see happening to themselves.

And they’re cool with that? Happy with the idea of complete strangers having the right to see them naked and/or intimately grope them for entering a certain building or using a certain form of transport. Happy to simply concede bodily autonomy simply for being in a certain place?

And that worries me – because this is a really intimate violation that people are consenting too – all in the nebulous name of security. What more will they tolerate?

Relatedly – I actually thought that *gasp* the religious right agrees with me on this! But, no, it seems they’re only upset because it may be a GAY TSA agent groping you! Because straight folk violating your body and touching your genitals without your consent would be totally fine

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Sacrifice principles for power

Something I’ve been musing on since I read this here

This idea that you must sacrifice your principles in order to obtain power bemuses me. It makes me wonder why we want the power in the first place?

See, in the last election I voted for the Liberal Democrats. Yes, it is a decision I regret rather bitterly, but let’s set that aside for a moment.

Why did I vote for them?

Did I vote for them because it would further my plans of world domination? Alas, no

Did I vote for them because I really like the colour yellow? Certainly not

Did I vote for them because I was looking forward to all of the endless Clegg/Cameron “civil union/gay marriage” jokes (which, btw, were never funny and were eternally tiresome) ye gods no!

I voted for them because I agreed with their purported principles. I wanted them in power because I wanted their principles in power.

Not because of party loyalty, not because I like the people in the party, not because I was on their payroll, not for any other esoteric reason – but because I liked the principles of the party.

If they drop the principles to get in power then… why do I want them in power?


I mean, the power means nothing to me. I don’t want the power for the power’s sake. I want the power for the way it can advance the principles.

Now, I’m not speaking against tactical voting. Not for a second. By all means – if something is so awful and frightening then, yes, vote to get rid of it. Vote to avoid it. Vote to get rid of THOSE principles. Vote to protect yourself. Vote the lesser of two evils because, yes, sometimes the evil is just that nasty. Sometimes short term survival outweighs everything. Sometimes you have to do it simply because you cannot risk tomorrow being that evil.

(I add that nor am I saying people should vote for the lesser of 2 evils either – because that always has to be a subjective personal choice. I can completely understand why you wouldn’t want to vote the lesser of 2 evils – especially when a party has come to view your votes as a “tithe” that is owed and/or feel they can earn support via gestures. After all, if all one party has to do to win votes is be better than the other guy – who is extremely evil, then when do things actually become good? Or do we always settle for not quite as evil? And yes, I do debate a lot about this)

But if you are calling for us to vote for the lesser of 2 evils, then call it that.

Tell us you want us to vote for them because you need the power to keep out THEIR principles. Tell us we need to sacrifice our principles for survival or to keep them out or to protect ourselves.

But don’t tell us we need to sacrifice our principles for the sake of being in power. Because being in power doesn’t have any value without the principles behind it.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Remembrance Day

I have spoken about Remembrance day before especially on what I see this day meaning. And previously the message has been a direct copy and paste/p>

But this year I feel there is more to add.

I am wearing a poppy today. I did observe the 2 minutes silence. But, increasingly, I understand why some people haven’t, though I am not and do not see myself ever joining them.

It is disturbing to see pro-war and war-supporting politicians “wearing their poppy with pride.”

It is disturbing to see… well, Remembrance day festivals. Parties, almost celebrations.

I’m not against Remembrance day gatherings and organised events – but not celebrations. Not parties. And most certainly not “lookit the shiny guns and tanks and planes”. And I am certainly not going to wish you a “Happy Remembrance day”.

This is not a happy day.

This is a day of grief. Of Remembrance. Of horror and deep, abiding sadness and, yes, anger at the horrendous waste and horror of war

This is not about honour

This is not about glory

This is not about celebrating victory

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of 11th month 1918, the Armistice was signed ending World War 1, this is why we use this date. A war that had killed an unconscionable number of people. It was not the last war and it was not the end to obscene loss of life for human greed and human hate and human failing.

This is not a celebration. It is a Remembrance. A Remembrance of all of the untold millions who have died unnecessarily, wastefully, obscenely – a remembrance because we keep forgetting and we keep doing this shit over and over and over and over again.

I hate to see this day changing – this, of all things, cannot be forgotten.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

I am ashamed

I just read that TV presenter Kristian Digby has died.

And I am ashamed of myself

I am ashamed of myself because my first thought wasn’t “damn, that’s a handsome, talented young man with his whole life ahead of him who has died before his time”

It wasn’t “it’s tragic that someone should die so young”

It wasn’t even “no-one should die unnecessarily and it’s a terrible tragedy when it happens.”

In fact, my first thought wasn’t one of sadness or sorrow at all – it was of dread, anger and irritation.

Because Digby was a gay man. And he died due to an apparent auto-asphyxiation kink gone wrong. And while I don’t particularly care what kinks people enjoy, I could already feel the coming judgment, the sweeping statements, the smug righteousness.

Gay sex kills. Kinky gay man killed by own lust. This is what the gays do, the gays die seeking sex thrills.

Never mind that auto-asphyxiation is a kink common to all sexualities. Never mind that it can be practised safely. Never mind that the death of one man would be a ridiculous way to judge an entire sexuality or an entire kink. But we know it will happen, because it always does. There will be fallout from this, the usual shamers, the usual attackers.

But I am still ashamed. I hate beyond words that I couldn’t spare a thought of sympathy for a tragically dead man before anger and fear kicked in. I’m ashamed that I thought about how Jan Moir would be cackling with glee before I thought about how his family would be grieving.

And that depresses me. It depresses me that I feel I need to prefer a defence from another avenue of attack before I can think of a lost life and a future cut short.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Tories and dubious “unemployment” cures

The Tories have come up with 2 proposed plans that make me give them some serious WTF-face.

One is a proposal to make unemployed benefit claimants do mandatory manual labour in council, charity or other work in 30 hour week placements or risk losing their £60 a week benefit.

And what is wrong with this? Well again it is proposed because the Tories believe benefit claimants are slacking. They are lazy and cheating the system and don’t want a job so they’re going to make it “difficult for them” until they co-operate. Again, the jobless are daemonised. After all, they couldn’t possibly be jobless because the country is in a severe recession, could they? Oh no, it must be laziness and leeching. Which is so standard Tories (and Lib Dems too it seems now – be careful if you’re relying on any Lib Dem pledges, Lynne Featherstone has just declared the NUS pledge invalid – bet the NUS students didn’t think so), trying it dismantle the safety nets and make the poor suffer while they stack up the money.

And a related scheme is to make prisoners work in prison – yes, nothing like a captive work force, right?

So, just to clarify, what we get are two sources of compelled labour that are paid minimum wage – or less (that unemployed placement works out at £2 an hour – less than half of minimum wage) regardless of actual market remuneration of the job. And, of course, it closes job positions that would be open to the general labour market (and therefore cutting unemployment).

So… instead of employing some of the unemployed on fair (HAH!) wages appropriate for the hours and level of the job supplemented by benefits to an actual living wage (because gods forbid we have a minimum wage you can actually live on) instead we “compulsory employ” populations at minimum or sub-minimum wage to fill the posts instead.

Well, that’s one way to reduce labour costs, isn’t it? Manpower costing you too much? Don’t worry, the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition is here to ensure you can get dirt cheap compelled labour! Why employ an actual employee who you have to pay a living wage and who can leave or sue you for wrongful dismissal if you treat them like shit – noo, get yourself a prisoner or the compelled unemployed!

Next week, look for David Cameron opens new work houses, extra points if you see Clegg denying gruel to Oliver.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

And then the second uncle came calling

So uncle Fool, brother of uncle Fail came round to talk at me (yes, word choice is deliberate).

It seems he can’t get through on the phone – it’s almost like I’m call screening, as if I don’t want to speak to him…

…no?! Imagine that!

He wanted to talk about Uncle Fail and I made it clear that no, I did not. And if he wanted to he could leave because I refused. So he kept on talking and I kept on saying “I’ve already said all I need to.” It’s much easier when they’re on the phone, you can hang up on him. I haven’t quite reached the point of manhandling my relatives out of the room yet – but, frankly, I’m beginning to think I should.

After 15 minutes of me sat in silence, refusing to talk, glaring at him and he KEEPS TALKING I went and got a book. Subtle, right? Well, I’m kind of done being polite to people who have zero manners – and since I had (verbally at least) kicked him out of my house and he refused to leave, I think he gets off lightly with me just pretending he isn’t there.

And then he pointed out that cousin G, and I quote “is very happy the way she lives and she’s a lesbian.” And he wishes I could be happy like that.

Oh, sigh.

See, G is married to a man and has 2 wonderful children. She is not a lesbian and has never identified as such. She’s bisexual, with a very strong preference for men. And, yes, she is deliriously happy in the life she leads and has said she’d never have it any other way.

I’m not bisexual. Not even a teeny, tiny, itty bitty bit. Not one astronomically small, infinitesimally minute iota. I’m not even remotely attracted to women, have never been attracted to any woman I have ever seen, have never had sex with a woman, have never wanted to and have never touched a woman in a sexual way. It is so completely and totally not me. So, no, I could not now or ever live like cousin G.

And, besides which, I AM married. I don’t want someone else – male or female (alright, if you can get me David Tenant nekked and on my bed?Well, I’d share with Beloved, I promise). I cannot even begin to imagine how anyone could think it’s ok to say to someone that they’d be happier with someone else other than their spouse (unless, of course, we’re talking an abusive situation).

And I am happy. Ok, no, I’m not at the moment. I’m in several kinds of nasty do-not-want-ness. But in general life, mental wolverines aside? Yes, I’m happy, content and fulfilled – a million more times more than I would be without Beloved. I can’t imagine what I would be like if I hadn’t met him – no, wait, I can – and it’s a frightening frightening thought because I am horrendously aware of how deeply messed up I was. Beloved has kept my body and soul together – and I mean that in a literal sense. To say I’d be happier without him – to say nothing about the fact I’d suddenly have to turn bisexual or straight – is… I actually don’t know what it is. “Insult” is just too damn mild a word for this. It’s outrageous, it’s intolerable.

So… yeah guess what I did? That’s right, I just told another uncle what I thought of him in undiplomatic terms. Ok,not as bad as before as we don’t have the same history of antagonism, but I didn’t tread nicely either.

I’m beginning to think I’m in some kind of ridiculous fairy tale. “The First Uncle came, but he was a Raging Bigot and went home with his ears on fire. And then the Second Uncle came, but he was a clueless fool, and left with his empty head echoing…”

Thankfully, my mother’s remaining sibling is several times better than his older brothers, so maybe we can avoid the third instalment of this tale.

And, oh the family is going to be pissed at this one. I may change my answer-phone message “if you’re a relative calling to defend the homophobic actions of my uncles, please scream several obscenities at a mirror, it will save me time.”

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Spark of Wisdom: Praising people for being a decent person

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

This is something I wrestle back and forth with a fair bit and have often wondered exactly how to put words around it. Sometimes a thought is formed but the words won’t play nice with it :)

There are a number of times – more times than I can count – when I am confronted with the following situation

Someone announces that they support equal rights for GBLTQ people, or they say something affirming or they say homophobia and transphobia are wrong… or people will show me links or transcripts or youtube vids of some straight person saying nice things about us.

And then I mess up my lines. Because I’m supposed to say “thank you” there. Or maybe have a little happy dance. Or at least praise their wonderfulness. Cookies are probably called for.

And I’m not criticising people who do. A lot of people do greatly appreciate and praise such statements. People find affirmation, hope and signs of progress. People find their own silver linings and sparkles :)

But a large part of my mind always goes to that fun-but-not-nice sarcastic place and thinks “wow, you’re not an arsehole. Well done. Would you like a plaque? ‘Fred is totally not an Arsehole’ You could frame it.”

Because treating LGBTQ people as equal isn’t – or shouldn’t be – praiseworthy. It should be normal and expected. It should be base behaviour. Treating us as equal should be as expected and normal as not slapping people in the face. It shouldn’t be praised when it happens, because it isn’t – shouldn’t – be special or above and beyond normal, decent behaviour. If Fred announces that he’s not going to slap you in the face today, we don’t thank him for it. We give him a look and tell him he’d better not! Someone saying a few nice things or refraining from treating me like shit – or refraining from treating other GBLTQ people like shit – really don’t deserve lashings of praise and happy snuggles from me, methinks.

It’s why I also tend not to be especially impressed by “I used to have a real problem with GBLTQ people but then…” It just doesn’t really impress me a whole lot, it’s like someone saying “hey, I used to punt kittens, but have totally stopped now.” I mean, yay? The lack of kitten punting is certainly a good thing – but is it really praiseworthy, even from a habitual kitten punter? Even in a time and place where kitten punting is commonplace?

It bugs me. It bugs me because it suggests that NOT being homophobic or transphobic is an achievement rather than a reasonable expectation. That simply saying nice things or refraining from being an arsehole is some kind of monumental effort or gift to us. It’s unusual, it’s difficult, it’s impressive, it is something extra – or – it’s a gift given, a concession or some kind of award.

And all of that may be true – it may indeed be unusual. It may have even taken a great deal of effort to reach that state. It may be rare and worthy of comment. But it shouldn’t be. Someone isn’t doing something especially good or going above and beyond what is expected of them when they treat us as equals, any more than Fred is going above and beyond expected behaviour when he refrains from punting kittens.

Not treating someone as less is not a gift given, it’s not a prize that has been won or a present you’re bestowing – it’s an injustice avoided. It’s an insult unuttered. It’s a sin uncommitted and a wrong not done. In short (hah, yes I know nothing I say is ‘in short!), it’s something you should be condemned for not doing – not something you should be praised for doing.

And I think it applies across marginalisations. You aren’t owed cookies because you manage not to be a misogynist. Why should there be praise and fuss because you’re not a racist? Should the disabled person say thank you because you’re not an ableist fool?

Why should any of them be grateful for what should be a basic expectation of human decency? Why is basic decency seen to be such an IMPOSITION on a privileged person?

Ultimately, I’m not grateful for being treated as a full human being. Because it shouldn’t be in doubt – it should be a basic expectation. It should be the base line. Now I can be happy that here’s someone who hasn’t succumbed to the poisonous prejudice that seems so omnipresent. I can be happy that here’s someone making the effort to get past their privilege. I can be happy for the progress it represents. I can be happy because it’s a nice word in a world that talks a whole lot of crap.

But I’m not going to be grateful for the basic respect. I’m not going to treat my equality as some kind of present that has been given me. It isn’t something given – it’s something owed.