Monday, 26 April 2010

We apologised to the freaking POPE?!

Now some fool in the foreign office who probably needs someone to send him a big stack of dictionaries with the word “diplomacy” marked pretty heavily (actually, may not be a bad idea for the foreign office in general) has written a memo that offended the Pope ahead of his visit.

The memo suggested that while he was here we would commemorate it with Benedict condoms, have him open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage. Yes, very tasteless (*snerk* I laughed. But the Foreign Office isn’t there to provide me with comedy, I guess)

I have 2 criticisms of the Foreign Office actions, neither of which have anything to do with offending the old monster or his hateful organisation:

1) Well done, this is just what he needed to distract from the child abuse scandal. He now gets to play the outraged card (amazing that he’s outraged about a freaking MEMO but not about the abuse of children around the world. Shows the Vatican’s moral priorities, doesn’t it?)

2) You’re MOCKING him for these things? The Pope – and the Catholic Church’s – stance on these issues isn’t funny. Really. The condom policy of the Catholic church is responsible for nothing short of genocide in Africa and other AIDS ravaged nations. The Catholic stance on a woman’s right to choose causes untold numbers of women to die in dangerous back alley abortions to say nothing of their misogyny risking young girl’s lives. Catholic homophobia is both toxsic and devastatingly destructive world wide.

These great evils of the church are not to be mocked. They’re not funny. They’re not amusing. They callous, heartless, toxic and cruel acts of evil that the church perpetuates worldwide. He shouldn’t be mocked for them, he should be condemned.

And y’know how you made it worse? The grovelling apology. Gah, when will people wake up and finally call out organised religion on their evil? We constantly perpetuate the idea that these organisations are good, are moral, are constructive forces despite the vileness they encourage, despite the people they kill, despite the suffering they cause.

ENOUGH. It is long past enough. Enough giving the churches their free passes as they espouse bigotry and cruelty. Enough as they discard children and push policies that kill millions. Enough turning a blind eye, pretending it doesn’t exist, pretending it’s ok – ENOUGH APOLOGISING to them and for them.

The Pope announced that he may cancel his £20,000,000 visit to the UK in response to this outrage.

Well, for this segment of the British people, your ‘Holiness,’ I would like to announce a hearty Get The Fuck Out. You will be a blight on these shores, a pollution on our land.

And next time, Foreign Office, don’t produce a mocking memo. Produce a report condemning the Vatican’s evils and abuses – like you would any other rogue state.

Restraint and Tolerance?

In the UK the Pope is coming to town. Yes, the old evil bigot who spreads hatred, protects child rapists and is generally one of the most unpleasant, evil people you would ever have the displeasure to meet. It’s also going to cost us over £12,000.000 to have our soil defiled by his Hatefulness. People are, unsurprisingly, protesting that we’re spending money on a visit from someone who should be shunned by all decent people.

Chris Patten, the special representative for his Hatefulness, is concerned and urges protestors to show “restraint” and “tolerance”

Mr. Patten – are you on crack? Because I think the whole damn world has been MORE than restrained when dealing with this man and beyond tolerant when you consider the words and actions we have overlooked.

As a gay man, I am aghast at the tolerance shown towards this being that has compared my existence to a threat on par with major natural disasters. A man who has tried to influence our Equality laws that protect us. You expect me to show RESTRAINT towards a man that tries to blame me and mine for the raping of children? How much restraint do you think is called for? Should we only throw small rocks, perhaps?

Or, for that matter, are you concerned that we won’t show enough tolerance for the defender of and major player in the child rape cover up? Do you think we may be unduly harsh towards the man who protects paedophiles? Do you think we may be a trifle mean to the man who moves heaven and earth to hide the vilest of crimes? Do you think we’re being unfair to the leader of an organisation that blamed everything from the gays to the Jews to the VICTIMS to try and derail any kind of exposure of the victimisation of children?

Or, maybe you think we may be tempted to be a little “unrestrained” in response to the Church’s REPEATED claims that the condom does not stop HIV – and that promoting condom use in Africa will exacerbate the AIDS epidemic an act that is frankly tantamount to genocide. An act that has likely cost or will cost millions of lives. A lie that elevates dogma over truth and doctrine over lives.

Or, perhaps we would be somewhat perturbed by the church’s neolithic attitude to abortion – an attitude so divorced from treating women as even close to humans deserving of life? A church that excommunicated a nun that allowed an abortion that saved a woman who had an almost 100% chance of dying without one? And even excommunicated the mother and doctors who performed an abortion on a 9 year old girl who had been raped by her stepfather. The stepfather? Was not excommunicated

Tell me, Mr. Pattern, what WOULD be a restrained response to these evils? How much do you want us to TOLERATE these things?

I am not tolerating this shit. I will not tolerate this evil. And restraint? A restrained response would be to ban him from these shores and call him the evil malignant force he is. That would be “restrained” in fact, it would be damned weak and pathetic response to monumental wrongness.

Or perhaps we should show him the same amount of tolerance and respect as he shows others – but I don’t think I can throw a rock that large.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Anal sex, HIV and ignorance costing lives

It appears there has been survey regarding sexual habits.

One of the things it has found is that a greater number of straight women who have anal sex bareback than gay men – i.e. most women who have anal sex do not have their partner wear a condom during. Further, it showed that the women who didn’t use condoms were also not getting any kind of regular STD check. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that young women are less likely to use condoms than older women.

Now, there are many things wrong and many things unsaid about this survey, aside from the problems of self-reporting. There’s the problem that many people in a monogamous relationship won’t feel the need to use condoms – gay, bi and straight – and that’s understandable. There’s the problem that its highlighting anal sex when it is hardly the only sex act that can spread STDs in general and HIV in particular.

However, there is one thing that screams out to me from this survey that makes me furious and has made me rage before – again it is an indication that AIDS = gay disease is still believed, at least on some level, at least to some degree.

Frankly I don’t know whether to be angry about that or deeply sad. Probably both.

I have said before that AIDS is one of the greatest failures of mankind. AIDS is a tribute to mankind’s ignorance, mankind’s prejudice and mankind’s indifference to the vulnerable. AIDS is a pandemic that could easily have been reduced to a fraction of its current levels if the ignorance surrounding it hadn’t been encouraged, if the victims of the disease hadn’t been met with such indifference by the powers that be because it was only some irrelevant minorities who were dying. If the various religious and right wing groups with their toxic agendas hadn’t hijacked the whole damn thing to push forward their anti-sex, anti-contraception, anti-gays spiel.

And the sad thing is that this ignorance is not only continuing, but seems to be growing. People still believe the foolishness that AIDS is a gay disease. In fact, even MORE people believe that now than believed it in 2000. People still believe they are safe because they are not gay. (And it’s ironic that a study highlighting this partially perpetuates that by focusing on anal sex). Even now whenever a survey comes out that says, for example, that infection rates among black women are soaring, they go looking for black men on the down-low. Because there simply HAS TO BE A GAY MAN INVOLVED! Has to has to has to has to. It is a rule.

This needs to be ultimately, unequivocally clear here. It is possible to be straight and catch HIV. It is possible to catch HIV from straight sex. It is possible to catch HIV from vaginal sex. It is even possible to catch HIV from oral sex. It is possible to catch HIV without a single gay man being involved in the process anywhere. Being straight does not make you safe, being straight does not mean you can’t catch it. Only having sex with straight people who themselves only have sex with straight people does not make you immune.

And above all, for gays, bis and straights alike – the condom bloody WORKS people.

This ignorance is literally killing people.

Monday, 19 April 2010

On Coming Out - and Celebrity Coming Out

I’ve been debating this for a while and with both Ricky Martin and Sean Hayes coming out and reporting on both – perhaps especially from the GBLT community.

The Glass Closet

For whatever reason, sometimes there is a general consensus that someone is gay before they have come out. And generally I disapprove – it’s not our place to decide that someone should be out or not. It’s not our place to decide whether they are ready to be out – no matter how sure we are that they are gay, no matter how sure we are that their sexuality is obvious. Even if they are gay. For that matter, too often our assumptions that someone is gay are based on ridiculous stereotyping which, frankly, is beneath us. We should know BETTER than to decide that someone’s demeanour/taste/hobbies/mannerisms make them gay or not. Seriously, guys, don’t we get enough of that from the damn homophobes without us doing it ourselves?!

But even if we do know they’re gay? Still – their choice when they decide to make that a formal, open statement.

I had a friend who came out to me about 18 months ago. He was gay. I was surprised – at him coming out. He spent more time in gay bars than I did. He was grossly unsubtle at checking other guys out. Oh and before Beloved and I were together, we had had a couple of intense make out sessions. Yet, he felt the need to come out to the man he had reached second base with. Are we clear that rational thought and the closet do not necessarily go together?

He was scared. He was afraid of what his family would say. He was afraid of what his friends would say. He was terrified of his life ending if he admitted he was gay. It was vital to him for his own mental well being to be able pretend he could control who knew and who didn’t – he needed this.

And no matter how “obvious” it may seem, that doesn’t mean that they are ready to come out. It doesn’t mean that their parents, siblings, aged grandmother and father confessor aren’t all being held at bay only by their denials (and, believe me, to a homophobic parent desperately hoping their child isn’t gay, even the most hollow denial will maintain that fantasy).

They have a DUTY to come out

The idea being that the more out celebs are out there the more normal being gay seems and the more accepted we are. And this is very very true – I can’t argue with it. More prominent out gay people will further push that we are normal people, just like everyone else. It is powerful, it does help us – and every out gay person can’t help but be an activist by sheer virtue of existing. Not because they have to march or campaign – but simply because in a society that denies we exist and fights our right to exist and merely existing in those circumstances, let alone being prominent, is an activist action. It's not a magic bullet that will end all evil - far from it, but the persistent erasure of our existence is much harder to do when there are so many of us out in the open

But we have no right to force people to sacrifice their lives for a gesture – no matter how important that gesture is. Let’s be honest here, as many actors and sportsmen have said, coming out can end a career. It’s sad, it’s wrong – but it’s true. This is likely (and I say likely because I have no right to speak for them) WHY many sportsmen like Gareth Thomas and Daniel Kowalski as well as musicians like Ricky Martin waited until after they retired or after their career peaked/was well established before coming out. And even aside from their careers, we don’t know what their personal life is like. We don’t know what personal daemons they wrestle with (and we know that no small number of us has to wrestle with self-loathing, low self-esteem and general internalised homophobic badness) we don’t know how their family and friends will react. We don’t know what the cost will be for them – and we have no right to ask that for them.

I love it when they come out. I’d love if they did it when still at the height of their careers. I celebrate every single person who comes out as a person who has achieved freedom. as someone who has transcended the closet – and yes, overly grandiose word fully intended. But we have no right – not now, not ever, to demand they come out, to criticise how long it took them to come out or, gods forbid, to out them****

Is coming out news?

The argument here is that being gay is so normal and acceptable now that some prominent celebrity coming out as gay shouldn’t really be treated as news – because it’s nothing special or amazing

But, frankly, we all live in the Straight Republic of Hetlandia. We turn on the television and there are straight people everywhere. We walk around and we’re surrounded by straight people. Open a book, play a computer game, watch and advert, straightness is everywhere. Part of that is simple demographics – straight folks outnumber us many times over, after all – and part of it is the fact that homophobia has driven us to hide while heterosexism has erased us (or stereotyped us etc etc, see earlier rants).

And in the Straight Republic of Hetlandia, it is still heartening to see that real gay people exist – and they can be anything and anywhere. It is still heartening to see that we can be sportsmen (including hot beefy rugby players and Olympic gold medallists), it is heartening to see that gay people coming from all groups and all places (I am told that Ricky Martin is a great role model for hispanic gays, though can‘t comment, obviously). It is a reinforcement for all the gay kids that we exist and are successful and a part of society and this is a good thing.

Now the caveat to that. WHILE I think people coming out as gay IS newsworthy, that doesn’t mean the way the news reports it is necessarily ideal. I’ve spoken above about the problems of demanding people come out or saying “We all knew anyway” but there’s also a problem with being so terribly shocked by the news. Yes, it’s newsworthy – but it’s not shocking, surprising or horrifying. It’s not worthy of the kind of reporting that would normally be reserved for “David Cameron has grown another head and it eats BABIES!” or “Sarah Palin completed a coherent sentence!” It’s news worthy, but it’s not shocking. It’s not earth shattering. It’s the not biggest and most stunning thing in the history of mankind.

Reporting a celebrity coming out is a positive and reinforcing thing for us. Reporting it as earth-shattering and freaky really really isn’t.

****For many years I have wrestled over the idea of outing homophobes, and the full reasoning would take another post – but I have largely come down on the side of believing homophobic closet cases working against us are fair game.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Extremist homophobes are NOT experts

One of the more prevailing fails of the media of recent years has been the mistaken idea of “fair and balanced.” In theory, this means the media shouldn’t take a partisan view on controversial issues (HAH! Oh how I laugh!) In practice, this seems to mean having to have a flat-earther on tap every time you talk about geography. Or a creationist when you discuss evolution. Or a birther every time you discuss Obama. You get the picture.

So let’s get some things clear:

1) There aren’t 2 sides to facts. No, really, it’s either a fact, or it isn’t. Not everything is a controversy.

2) There are fools out there who will dispute ANYTHING (see the birthers and the flat-earthers) just because they exist does not mean an issue has 2 legitimate sides.

3) When you have an ‘expert’ to discuss an issue, it’s kind of expected for them to actually BE an expert or have an expert opinion, preferably one that hasn‘t been grossly discredited. If you can’t find one then maybe, just maybe, that tells you something about their side. Being loud does not make someone an expert.

Now, let us look at CNN. CNN was looking at a law in California that required healthcare officials to find a ‘cure’ for homosexuality. Thankfully it’s an archaic, foolish thing that is being repealed (though the abstentions on that? Yeaaaah, what the hell?)

In looking at this, CNN’s Kyra Phillips decided to ask the question - “Homosexuality – is it a problem in need of a cure?”

Oh wait, save your rage – it gets BETTER. Because their guest “expert” to speak about this? Richard Cohen. Of the ex-gay movement.

CNN protests that they just “brought the story to the fore” and they’re “exploring other views and positions”

What is this supreme example of whatthefuckery?!

This isn’t a story to be brought to the fore – being gay is NOT a disease and NOT a problem. You CANNOT cure homosexuality. And any ACTUAL expert will tell you that – as well as telling you about the severe and crippling harm that people like Richard Cohen – the man you just legitimised to all your viewers – do to gay people.

She responds to criticism - with tone arguments and explaining that her fee-fees are hurt by all the nasty gay people who wrote in emails angry that she just presented the idea of us being diseased as a LEGITIMATE standpoint. Oh dear, let me find my violin. It may take a while because it’s pretty damn small. Amazing how it became about her – and amazing how GLAAD LET it become about her and her poor hurt feelings. Note the complete lack of apology, noter the complete lack of ANY acknowledgement that gays have a right to be pissed here. Seriously, this is it? This weak ‘pity me’ response and that’s it, gay lobbiests back off and sing her praises?

She completely glosses over inviting a completely discredited, struck off, hateful quack onto her show, AGAIN repeats that they’re showing differing viewpoints. Differing viewpoints? Hey, when discussing the Catholic paedophile scandal do you get in someone from NAMBLA, Kyra? Wouldn’t that be a “fair” way to discuss it, right?

She dares cry about hate? Her little segment legitimised hate against all gay people – it reinfirced prejudice, it justified bigotry. It presented us as a disease and one of our greatest enemies as a legitimate expert with a reasoned position.

What’s next, following in the BBC’s footsteps and asking whether we should be executed or not? Maybe she could invite someone from the Westboro Baptist church to speak with her? After all, best to show all sides of the issue, right?

We are not diseased. We are not a problem. These are NOT LEGITIMATE ISSUES FOR DEBATE! We cannot be cured. It is evil to try to “cure” us. These are not sensible, reasonable, legitimate positions

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Some of the closet's tragic victims

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

One of the perennial scandals among the forces of homophobia is when the virulent, hateful, bigoted homophobe is caught in a gay bar. Or visiting a gay prostitute. Or having a “wide stance” in a public toilette, or otherwise seeking sex with those nasty nasty gay men they revile so much.

And there are many feelings when they are revealed. There’s a certain amount of cruel satisfaction in seeing such a vicious enemy brought low in such ironic perfection. I admit, there is a certain justified crowing and now small amount of glee at such revelations. That is understandable – afterall, such vehement haters being brought low can only be a way forward for GBLT people – it is reasonable to be happy at such a victory.

There’s also a certain amount of anger – and that’s pretty understandable as well. These people fight against every right we have, every protection we have. They fight against equality, basic justice and so many of the things that we need to make our lives work. They fight against our basic rights, against the basic protections we need and contribute towards the hatred and even the violence out there. We have damn good reason to be angry with them – all the more for their hypocrisy.

But there is another feeling I have here that eclipses both – pity. Deep and abiding pity.

Because these men are victims. They are one of the many victims of the closet that damages and destroys so many of us. In many ways they are victims as damaged and broken by heteronormative society and the demand that we hide and repress ourselves as much as all of our fellows who are driven to take their own lives.

We grow up in societies that tell us we are wrong, flawed, diseased. We are bombarded with messages that our expression is unacceptable – or fetishistic, weird, perverse. We are invisible or the freak show, non-existent or the stereotype, or people whose love needs to be punished. Kissing or holding hands in public is an act of courage for us and too many are subject to violence of any public expression of our sexuality.

We are taught to hide. Hide for safety. Hide so we don’t disappoint our parents, our family. Hide because we should be ashamed. Hide because our presence offends straight people. Hide because we’re an affront. Hide because we’re disgusting. Hide because we should be trying to change, to reform, to redeem ourselves. Hide, ultimately, because what we are is wrong and unnacceptable.

So we hide. So very few of us have removed the closet from every single facet of our lives. We hide and we act and we pretend. We wear the mask. We lie. We act. We ask ourselves the question over and over – is it safe to be me here? Is it OK to be me here? Am I allowed to be me here? Because it can’t be assumed and we cannot relax, there is too much risk in being ourselves in too many places.

I remember playing that game – still do play the game far too many times. It’s exhausting, to always be on guard, to be constantly censoring yourself, checking yourself, making sure the mask hasn‘t slipped. It’s soul destroying, to constantly deny yourself, hide yourself, pretend to be something you’re not. And it’s shaming – shaming to know that by hiding you’re agreeing and supporting the idea you are wrong, flawed, broken. Shaming that I bowed – and bow – to the idea that I’m not ok. That I should hide. That I should spare straight people my gayness.

Slowly but surely, the closet destroys a part of you.

And then I look at people like these homophobic politicians and my heart bleeds for them. Because they are some of the closet‘s most damaged victims. They’re so far in the closet, so far in self repression that they have lived decades of denial and self-hatred – decades where the only true expression of their sexuality they have is a hook-up in a toilette? Lives without any expectation of as true connection, without any expectation of living as themselves. Lives where they can never ever take the mask off – not even in their own homes?

They hate us? I’m not surprised. Can you imagine being so repressed, hating yourself that much, hating what you are that much then looking out and seeing people like you who are FREE? Who have escaped the closet, the self-loathing, the acting, the lies, the shame?

I pity them. From the bottom of my heart I pity them. And I’m sorry, I’m so sorry that we have societies that have done this to them. That have raised them with such self-loathing, such self-repression, such shame and hatred that it has blighted their lives to such a cruel degree. I’m so sorry this was done to them.

And I promise that I will continue to work and fight to stop any more kids walking down your painful, self-destructive road.