Friday, 30 July 2010

Spark of Wisdom: Flaunting My Sexuality

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

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard it or versions of the same thing said. “Do you have to flaunt your sexuality?” It’s amazing how many times I go around ramming my sexuality down people’s throats (insert innuendo here).

And I’ve always been a little surprised by this, because I always thought heterosexuals were champion flaunters. Indeed, for every time I’ve been accused of flaunting my sexuality, straight people have been doing exactly the same thing and more. As far as I can see, heterosexuals are the masters at flaunting their sexuality.

Do heterosexuals really have to flaunt their sexuality with pictures of their loved ones on their desk? In their wallets? In lockets round their neck? Oh gods that man has his wife and kid’s names tattooed – he just has to wave his sexuality around for everyone to see!

Do they have to talk about their partners? Do they have to talk about their kids? We’re talking about our weekend plans, did they really have to bring up their family? It’s like we can hardly have a conversation without some part of their heterosexuality coming up!

Her husband has a new job and she just has to tell everyone about it. His wife is having a baby and we all have to hear about it. His wife’s ill and her husband took her out for her birthday. They just take any excuse to insert their sexuality into every conversation don’t they?

There’s a woman down the hall, she’s getting married in a few weeks and she won’t shut up about it. It’s like every topic is about her heterosexuality – you think she’d stop ramming it down our throats, right?

And him! He’s all about plans for his anniversary. Man, not everyone wants to hear about your straightness. And he wants special allowances, time off because his wife is ill, time off for his kids – why do they always want special considerations?

There were literally dozens of couples walking down the street today – standing so close together, touching each other, even holding hands. Those 2 even have their arms round each other! Right there in front of everyone! Kids could see! Do they have to do that in the street? Can’t they keep it to themselves?

And in the park, a lovely place to relax and eat lunch (hah, lunch breaks, I remember them) but it’s completely ruined by all these heterosexual couples messing with each other, even kissing! Do they have to do that in public? Get a room guys, stop ramming it down my throat.

It’s all over the place. I don’t mind straight people – but can’t they keep it to themselves, right?

What? Is this not flaunting? It’s not unreasonable? It’s not out of line?

Then is it when I do it?

ETA And sadly, this is the point. None of these things are bad. The planning about the anniversary, the excitment over marriage, talking about families, the kissing, the handholding - the love, the families, the joy, the children, the pregnancy. This is not flaunting, this is not a bad thing to see - these are part of the wonderful patchwork of our lives, the wonderful joyous things so many of us share and they should not be hidden or concealed or restrained.

It is sad that I have heard this language, all of this language in one form or other, used when it is patently and obviously unreasonable, unfair and a downright odd objection. I look forward to a world, albeit not likely in my lifetime, when all of these things can be celebrated for all of us

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Speech: the hateful, foolish, ignorant and homophobic kind.

NOM, the National Organisation for Marriage that is totally NOT HATEFUL you guys (remember, don’t call them bigots, it upsets them. Poor lickle bigots) has finally found a way to stop us nasty gays destroying precious straight marriages. Lynching.

Yes, lynching.

But they’re totally not bigots, ‘kay? Shouldn’t come as a surprise though

And do you know what Argentina’s gay marriage law has done?! It’s KILLED THE PENGUINS! See, gay marriage in Argentina causes the death of penguins in Brazil. Isn’t it OBVIOUS? It’s because we’re spreading homosexuality and… uh, what? *re-reads* really? Paganism apparently.

And in San Diego, allowing a gay event leads to SWARMS OF BEEEEEEEEEEEES! But no paganism, alas. If you want paganism (and dead sea birds) California, you need to get that gay marriage sorted.

President Mugabe, after a series of disgustingly bigoted remarks comparing gays to dogs and pigs has apologised. To the dogs and pigs. And no, I’m not making that up. I didn’t believe it either. Needless to say gay rights are not going to be included in Zimbabwe’s constitution

Gay Florida congressional candidate has signs up advertising his candidacy. Guess what word homophobic vandals have sprayed across them?

Bill Donahue has compared homosexuality and paedophilia, again. Bill, seriously, get some new material already. It’s getting old.

The Lighthouse Church in Michigan is outing, publicly shaming, shunning and excommunicating a gay man who was one of their congregants. Feel that Christian love. Do we even have to say how many ways this is utterly wrong?

And the Dove World Outreach Centre – a church in Floriday is deciding to protest their new mayor. Because he’s gay. And you can’t possibly have a gay mayor! Oh no! And they seem to have gone through the dictionary and underlined every negative adjective to describe those nasty gay people. So, remember a dove is the symbol of.. uh… bigotry it seems.

Kai Hahner a German Politician from the CDU has had a right old homophobic rant at the organisers of Leipzig’s Christopher Street festival (an event similar to Pride it seems). Apparently they’re leading children from the ‘right path’. Again with the corruption of children – always the same old slurs, always the same hatred, always the same demand to hide and die and disappear.

And then we have The View, which doesn’t exactly have a good track record. The View had Elizabeth Hasselbank explaining to us why more women are coming out as esbians later in life. It’s because they can’t find a MAN of course! Don’t you see? All the men are after young women so when a woman becomes too old for the menfolk, she becomes a lesbian! SIMPLES!

Yeah, at this point the View just really needs to stay the hell away from GBLT issues. Or at least someone nearby with a big stick to advise them. A very big stick.

And all this keeps on coming. Time and again, over and over and over. And it has a cost. You cannot divorce all this hideous, ignorant, foolish and ridiculous speech from the damage it does. You cannot have this echoing from every corner then turn round and say it isn’t connected to the discrimination or the hate crimes, the violence and the loss and the pain.

This speech has cost. And it’s a cost we have to pay. The constant chorus of haters dehumanise us, reduce us, belittle us. They encourage all the hatred against us. They cheerlead for the attacks – and they work to justify every wrong that is committed against us.

It cannot be said enough – these people’s hatred and ignorant foolishness hurts us – literally works to try and destroy us. It cannot be dismissed, it cannot be ignored.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Some legal victories

Argentina has signed and enacted their gay marriage law Another step forwards, another victory :) Nations that don’t recognise our marriages are looking increasingly more pathetic with every victory won. And another reason for me to do my happy dance.

Following up from the disgraceful way that Sonoma County, California, treated Clay Greene, the surviving partner of Harold Schull we finally see some degree of justice. The country will pay $600,000 in compensation, the home $53,000. There is no way that anyone could adequately compensate Clay Greene for what they did to him – but it’s something and some confirmation that what was done to him was wrong. Perhaps best of all, the county is retraining their workers – hopefully they’ll have a clue, an ounce of compassion and some basic human decency next time.

In Maine a gay man has won a discrimination suit against his employer, Express Jet Airlines that passed over him for promotion because he was gay. Congratulations to him, I know from experience these cases are damned hard to prove (at least if your employer tries to be at least a little subtle about it)

Similarly, in New Zealand a school has been forced to pay compensation to a gay sports coach they fired… for being gay. In addition the board members of the school will attend courses that will hopefully give them a clue.

In France, a gay man who was forced to pay inheritance tax on the home he inherited from his deceased partner has been reimbursed. This is the problem with half measures and patchwork laws about marriage – because people are so desperately concerned about us terrible gays sullying their precious precious hetero marriage.

Arizona, as I previously mentioned, decided to revoke the benefits it had given to same-sex partners working for the state – along with the protections and anti-discrimination provisions they had won as well. While it still remains bvery very wrong, a judge has ruled that deciding to address a budget shortfall by specifically targetting partners of gay employees but not straight ones is wrong (who’d have thought)

There’s a lot of bad out there – but there are victories. Victories we need to hold on to and remember – because we will win this, damn it.

Spark of Wisdom: The art of rainbow-washing

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

There is a delightful habit I’ve seen all over the place, that I call rainbow washing.

I took the term from some very cynical and very accurate environmentalists who spoke of companies “greenwashing” themselves. It was a very clever marketing ploy – you have a company that has all the environmental record of a cartoon villain and then they’ll slap on a green sign, maybe add a few flowers and awwwww they’re so good for the environment. Or maybe they’d announce that they’ve installed energy saving lightbulbs in their head office and started recycling memos while dumping defoliant in any nearby woodland.

I’m sure we’ve all seen something similar. A company with a terrible environmental record decides to make some minor gestures so we believe they’re green and shiny.

And so it is with Rainbow-washing. It’s an easy process of making some very easy speeches , some nice PR moves. Do something quick and easy and relatively costless (and, sadly, often relatively meaningless) without any real commitment and effort. When the time or opportunity arises to make similar gestures – or actual real commitments and actions – in favour of GBLT equality they’re suddenly very very absent.

An almost text book example of this? The latest McDonald’s ad kafuffle. McDonalds makes a, on the face of it relatively gay friendly advert (I don’t think it’s unproblematic. I do think that the slogan “come as you are” with someone who is closeted and hiding what they are is an unmixed message, but that’s another topic, and added to my to do list) to film in France, which it views as relatively gay-friendly (or, to be more accurate, relatively less anti-gay).

Of course, they’d never run that advert in the US, or anywhere that is seen as more anti-gay than France. They’re not going to take any risk or actually invest anything in reaching out to us – but they want our money. They’re quite willing to pander to bigots, and throw us out when it suits them. And it’s not surprising that the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (note, I don’t know enough about this org to endorse them or not) has severed its ties with McDonalds since it seems the company has been willing to use the NGLCC to get its logo out there in GBLT spaces but has been as awkward as they come when actually working with them.

We’ve seen it in politics. Anyone subjected to my journal has seen me rant and rave about the Tory party’s Rainbow-washing. The Tories having an almost universal anti-gay stance for not only the majority of MPs but also the majority of the cabinet. (And It’s almost funny that, when Chris Grayling came forward in favour of hoteliers denying service to gay people, you replaced him Theresa May as Home Secretary who has an even worse voting record than he does – and made her Equalities Minister to boot! Oh yes, I laughed. Once I‘d finished swearing). But send a few MPs to Pride Parades, some gay clubs and have a GBLT reception at No. 10 and that Rainbow-Washes over it nicely, right? Make a speech, pose for some photo opportunities and behold, the Rainbow flag is draped over all that nasty homophobia.

And, sadly, it does sometimes work. Yes, hands up, it does. When you take people who have been nigh universally demonised for so long, then any gesture of sympathy or solidarity can be praised far beyond its worth. When so many companies, authority figures, politicians and religious leaders are still stuck on the “ewwww, gays, icky!” (and that’s when they’re being polite), when adverts with any gay presence at all are nigh non-existent (and especially for mainstream viewing) then even the slightest gesture is often greeted by much leaping up and down and cheering.

I think it’s vital to recognise when someone is an ally and when they’re hiding behind a Rainbow flag. I think it’s vital to recognise and that’s doubly important now, in Pride season, to recognise who is standing with us -and has stood with us – and who is trying to use some large Rainbows to cover up a lot of stink. Or those who will walk with us so long as they can access our wallets, our votes and some free good-will when they have done little or nothing to earn it. Especially when their actions deserve our enmity not our friendship.

Don’t be bought by pretty words, crumbs and a pat on the head – no matter how starved for anything but scorn we may sometimes feel. Don’t let a draped Rainbow flag hide what is beneath. And no amount of Rainbow-washing will make someone a friend, ally – or even not an enemy,

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Spark of Wisdom: I am not responsible for all GBLT people or all gay men

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

I am a gay man.

Now, I have already commented or plan to comment on every part of that sentence. On the gay part, on the man part even on the ‘am’ part (because it’s ‘am’ not ‘do’, but that’s another topic). About the only thing I haven’t and don’t plan to comment on is the ‘a’ because there’s not a whole lot that can be said about ‘a’ even for someone as long winded as I.

Which is what I am talking about now – ‘I’.

I am a gay man. I am not all gay men. All gay men are not me. And yes, I don’t mind stating the bleeding obvious at times.

This means I am not responsible for the foolish actions or words of any gay man but myself (and possibly Beloved if I can find something sufficiently aerodynamic to throw).

It seems like an obvious concept – but it’s surprising how often people do not get it – and I think it applies to all marginalised people to a degree.

The number of times I’ve been asked (or even had it demanded) that I denounce, criticise or speak about some item of epic fail a gay man has pulled boggles me. I’ve actually been criticised for not denouncing a gay man’s actions and I’ve had to google the man because I’ve had no clue who he was or that he even existed, let alone what he had done. I’ve read posts criticising or commenting on the gay community referencing a man I’ve never even heard of – yet this man apparently speaks for me, says something about me, indicates something about me or otherwise involves me because we are both gay men.

And when I see everything from foolish, ridiculous things said by some gay celebrity to vile crimes committed by a gay criminal – I always know because their sexuality is ALWAYS mentioned. No-one feels the need to identify a clueless columnist who let his mouth run ahead of his brain as straight, but you can guarantee that if he’s gay it will be mentioned somewhere in the report. When we have reports of a straight paedophile the media doesn’t fall over themselves to make their sexuality clear. But a gay paedophile? Oh that’s lapped up and repeated ad nauseum. And the usual suspects come out of the woodwork to make their oh-so-typical sweeping statements about us all (I was going to link to the Daily mail article – but it makes such a direct link between paedophilia and the campaign to allow gay adoption that I refuse to contribute one hit to that vile, bigoted site). When a young straight man dies young, we don’t make insidious, nauseating implications about all straight people and their relationships – but let it be a gay man and it can’t be natural, right? And it must speak volumes about all gay men, right?

One of the pervasive elements of prejudice is removing the personhood of marginalised people. On some level, they are no longer a person, they are a living breathing embodiment of their marginalisation. Every bad deed they do somehow reflects on their group as a whole – just as everything their group does reflects on them. Every one of us becomes just a part of a whole – to be blamed for whatever any other part does. We’re assumed to speak and think and act as one homogenous body – if one of us think something, we all think it. if one of us does something, the rest of us support it. If one of us says something, they’re speaking for all of us.

I literally cringe every time some of the fools in our community speak because I KNOW I will be judged on it. I am afraid when I read of gay criminals or abusers (and you know if they arer gay it will certainly be made clear) because I KNOW I will be found partially guilty of their crimes. I know someone is going to make a statement about all gay men based upon it. I know that, even though I’ve never met the men, don’t know the men, maybe even live in another country from them or even have never heard of them – that I am going to be judged by what they have said or done.

I have said before

It annoys me that I feel the need to display nothing but impeccable behaviour at all times because if I mess up I will be “letting the side down.” Because if I snap tomorrow and go on a mad axe murdering spree of my clients you can just bet at least one of the hate groups is going to present my sexuality as the reason – and that’s assuming the major media itself doesn’t buy into it, or at least emphasise my sexuality unduly in the rampage.

No-one speaks for me but me. I control no-one’s actions but my own (most of the time). I will not be blamed for the actions of other gay men, you do not know me because you know other gay men, you do not know what I think, support or say based on what other gay men have thought, supported or said. My being gay does not reduce me to an avatar of gayness.

I am tired of being expected to be ashamed for the bad actions of every gay man on the planet, to have them reported as if they’re all of our faults. And, worse, I do not like feeling like I have to police my fellows. I do not like feeling that I need to make sure I control my fellow gay men – and all GBLTs – to ensure they conform to a standard straight society feels is acceptable. I do not like feeling like I must suppress my fellows to protect myself.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Yes, we can have dramas over the slightest thing

Our potato masher has finally died.

I got it from my grandmother. It has probably be handed down from generation to generation since the dawn of time when a Neanderthal chipped it out of raw iron because they were tired of boiled spuds. Generations upon generations of chefs have passed this relic down.

And I have broken it. No doubt the entire family will soon condemn me for destroying a historic artefact they have been abusing for generations.

However, this means a new potato masher is in order. Of course I can trust Beloved of the shiny things to answer this need right?

Oh gods no, what kind of fool do you think I am? Beloved cannot buy kitchen utensils. Or, no, he can – but he will buy an automatic sushi roller with attachment for julienning aubergines. So I demanded an instrument exactly like the one we had – something that had successfully mashed potatoes for the last 8,000 years, damn it.

And he actually behaved! *Gasp* except it’s in rather flimsy plastic. Ok, everything seems to be flimsy plastic now, but there seems to be a problem.

Sparky: *brings masher on spuds*

Masher: *bends*

Spuds: Uh… that’s not really working

Sparky: *tries again*

Masher: *bends more*

Sparky: It’s all floppy…

Spuds: Uh… you can try again in 5 minutes

Sparky: This has never happened to me before…

Spuds: It can happen to any masher…

So, having taken Beloved to task for getting us an impotent masher, he tried again and bought something that looks like this but bigger

Hmmm it looks… stylish. Which tells me it’s probably useless. And lo I was right

Sparky *mashes*

Spuds: *looks at the bar of metal to its left* *looks to the bar of metal to its right* Missed?

Sparky: *mash mash mash*

Spud: Look, those bars aren’t very close together, half of me is just sliding between them.


Spud: Still lumpy


Spud: Here’s a lump, there’s a lump and another little lump, fuzzy lump, funny lump, lump, lump, duck.

Sparky: Grrrrrr.

So. 2 tries and Beloved has failed to buy a masher that actually mashes. He is now going to find a potato masher that plugs in and buzzes and makes tea at the same time.

And I am going to use a fork.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

*grumble* Beloved can be trusted to shop for nothing!

I have, irritatingly, chronically dry skin. As in, cracks and peels and flakes off leaving painful red-raw patches dry skin . It’s bad enough than I have been frequently dragged to the doctor to check for eczema and actually getting quadruple strength moisturiser on prescription

It’s particularly bad around my hairline (and eyebrows, behind my ears, edges of the nose and on my jawline for that matter) which has lead to many a merry changing of soaps, shampoos etc (which exacerbate the whole thing every time they‘re used). Because believing the doctor when he says “it’s dry skin” is just too simple.

So Beloved has heard from a friend who probably heard it from a friend who likely heard it from a random hallucination – or possibly a representative of an oil company that this… stuff is great shampoo for my dry skin.

I was dubious. I was right to be dubious.

My hair now smells like tar. Thick, oily tar. I cannot get rid of the smell. The smell will not go away. It’s a bad smell. A very bad smell. And it is in my hair.

I think I washed my hair in crude oil. And it’s all Beloved’s fault.

Worse? He’s bought a freaking huge bottle of the Toxic Oily Stink and has asked “you’re not going to waste the rest are you?”

No, I’m, going to run my CAR on it. I’m going to get a paraffin heater and we will use it as fuel.

So now I still have dry, flaky skin. AND I smell of tar.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Why I’m not a fan of the Big Society

The idea of the “big society” that the Tories are bringing out is the idea that instead of bumbling government controlling local services and instead giving it into the hands of the people – local people, charities, more direct accountability, blah blah blah. Call it responsibility, call it liberalism – actually I call it a bloody bad idea, myself.

The idea is that when we are in need we won’t turn to government to help us. We will be powerful enough to do it ourselves with our own communities. It means using volunteer organisations and community groups to solve problems rather than the state and state services stepping in.

Yeah. This is my not impressed face.

First of all – let’s call this what it is – classic Tory cuts. Because personal accountability, relying on charities et al are wonderful smoke screens for cuts. You cut the services and rely on people and charities to pick up the slack (assuming they do or can). Ranting about government waste is a classic way to remove government services – or privatise them -in the first place. Which brings me to the next part – how many private businesses are going to be involved in this scheme to bring power back to local people?

I see a lot of cuts and privatisation by the back door here. The same old same old for the Tories. It also talks a lot about “volunteerism” which, let’s be honest, means “screw you, help yourself.” That’s just a service cut and relying on unpaid labour to try and fill the gap. It means libraries and parks and after school services and homeless shelters and crime prevention and all the rest being slashed to the bone and if we want them we have to pay for them – privately. It’s a cut. It’s yet another Tory cut to people who can afford it least.

Secondly – when it comes to services I think government is the best choice. Government tends to be more accountable than private business and even charities – ESPECIALLY religious charities. And most certainly more accountable and unbiased than local community

Do I want my local community to take over local services? No. They’re overwhelmingly straight, completely saturated in their straight privilege and casually homophobic in a way that only Tory MPs can manage without any kind of repercussion. And if all these services and local facilities were in their hands I’d have 10 times the hoops to jump to ensure that they are not applied according to prejudice – assuming any kind of hoop jumping would work. I don’t want my local facilities to be in the hands of my homophobic neighbours. I don’t WANT to have to rely on the whims of my local community if I am in need of help. I don’t trust them. And I don’t think I’m the only marginalised person who fears relying on the whims of their neighbourhood.

As I’ve said before when talking about a jury of my peers – I don’t want it. My peers are prejudiced, ignorant, self-absorbed, self-centred, small minded, incompetent and generally horrible people. And the same can be said about the local community. I hear people talking about the close knit communities of the past and I shudder. The very idea horrifies me. Close knit communities, neighbourhood busybodies and the local gossip circles are some of the biggest enforcers of conformity there has ever been. Anyone who is different from the mainstream is not going to come out ahead when the “local community” gains power.

As for charities – I have seen few organisations more bigoted, more prejudiced and generally more inefficient and awful to work for than charities and I’ve suffered under more than a few – and that goes trebly in all cases when the charity is religious in nature. I work for and have worked for many charities – mainly GBLT charities. And every single time we have made an alliance or common ground with a straight charity we have been shafted. They’ve taken our money, our time, our effort and then told us to go screw ourselves. We create and work on homeless shelters for all – but then there are no facilities or help of the gay homeless. We work on domestic violence shelters and networks – then find only lesbians and bisexual women are welcome – and them grudgingly. And when it comes to religious charities, words cannot express how vile it has been. I do not want local facilities and organisations run by organisations that despises my very existence AND are fighting for legal opt outs to the laws that stop them treating me like shit.

Which brings me to thirdly. Why are local communities, charities and businesses supposed to be any more competent or accountable than government? Why are people working part time, in their spare time or through hiring a private management company (oooh would that be privatisation?) supposed to be ANY more competent, cost efficient or capable than people actually employed by the state to do these things?

I don’t buy the idea of state incompetence – not that they’re not incompetent – but that they’re somehow more incompetent than Fred Blogs down the road. He’s incompetent as well. Why do we think he is magically going to spawn abilities? He hasn’t mastered how to lock his garage yet.

And lastly – who is going to do this. I think [personal profile] jslayeruk covered it well here but to reiterate

Who is going to volunteer, reach into their own pockets, take the power back, attend the meetings, do the organising, have the oversight etc?

Who is going to be able to? Who will have the time, the money, the energy?

It won’t be the poor people. It won’t be the marginalised people. It won’t be those who are most dependent on local services and facilities. It won’t be those who need help the most.

It will be those who have the time for a project, who have the free time, who have the spare cash to spend and push it the way they want.

This is not a scheme that’s going to benefit Jane Blogs off the council estate or Fred Jones, working double shifts to try and keep ahead of his debts. They don’t have the time, they don’t have the money, they have so many other things in their life to deal with that they can’t spare a fraction more for this. This is going to benefit Marjorie Pompous-Snobbington. Again, classic Tory policy.

This whole thing stinks like a hot mess – a classic Tory hot mess at that. The usual victims will suffer – the poor, the minorities, the marginalised – and the rich and the prosperous will reap the rewards.

A fashion Question

Tell me, if your Gay Best Friend is blond but dark hair would suit your ensemble better, do you change the GBF or just make him dye his hair?

I mean it’s a compelling question. Teen Vogue has just announced that GBFs are the new MUST HAVE ACCESSORY. Forget hand bags. Forget shoes – GBFs are what you need ladies! And it’s nice to see we’re training teenagers to look at us as items and things used to complete the ensemeble.

But your accessory must match, right? I mean, not every woman has an entire stable of GBFs to pull out to match every outfit – so how much must you co-ordinate your GBF with the rest of your outfit? Maybe you could shave him and have a collection of wigs?

Of course, you COULD treat that GBF as a person rather than as a sidekick or accessory – but that would be quite novel. Would you get points for being original? After all, the GBF as accessory meme is hardly new and you’d think it’d be getting tired by now (And no, the little editors note at the bottom saying don’t objectify GBFs means bugger all after a full damn article of objectification and treating us as accessories.)

You know what? There was a fashion not too long ago to have certain dogs as accessories - little lap dogs. And people got angry because you were treating animals the same way you treated your shoes or handbag. Can we have a little of that respect please? You wouldn't treat your damn Sharpe-chiouaoua-shitzu like this

I am sick to the back teeth of it – and it’s not just in the media and the magazines. It’s real life. Whether it’s objectifying us sexually (trolling pride parades and gay spaces to see gay men kiss) or descending en mass to the local gay bar to play tourist and try to make as many of the potential GBFs pay attention to your straight self as you can. One of my favourite pubs is a no go area now because it is so saturated by straight women trolling gay men that it’s not fun.

I’ve lost count of the number of straight women I have known for 5 minutes – or less – suddenly decide I am their pocket agony uncle. Or assume that I give a damn what they’re wearing. Or believe that a few minutes casual acquaintance means I am now their best friend ever

And have you ever been introduced to someone as “Hey this is Sparky, my gay friend” yes, I am a gay friend. Not just a friend, not just Sparky – no, gay Sparky, it has to be known. It is clear – my sexuality is an essential part of the damn introductions now. Kind of like dropping in that your bag is Gucci and your shoes are Prada – make sure they know your “friend” is gay. Maybe I should write it on my business cards “Sparky – Lawyer and Gay BFF!”

And that’s before we get to the personal questions (which is part of a choice – you alternate between deeply personal questions and conversations where everything said is all about her and we’re supposed to nod at the right moment – maybe occasionally inserting the odd “fabulous” or shocked expression or “gurlfriend!”)

I have friends. I have female friends. I even have female best friends. And they’re friends with me not because I’m fashionable or in or an accessory – they’re not even friends with me because I’m gay. They’re friends because they like me, the person. Not me the accessory. Not me the stereotype. Not me the fashion trope. Me, Sparky – a guy who happens to be gay. Not Sparky the GBF.

Spark of Wisdom: Safe Spaces

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

Having just come back from Pride (and still not slept the clock round which is what I really need to recover from the last 4 days of wonder without sleep) I am going to natter on about the wonder that are safe spaces.

I am a great fan of safe spaces. Because the heteronormative world is not a pleasant place. It just isn’t.

It has constant little pricks always poking you over and over again. You open a book and there’s straight people, you look out the window and there’s lots of straight families, you turn on the television and lo, straight folks abound. Adverts are 99.9% straight, television is awash with straightness, the radio’s playing yet another boy loves girl song. It’s everywhere – and of course, the accompanying little whisper “you’re not normal, not normal, not normal, not normal. You don‘t belong here.” Which is damned irritating at times.

It has a lot of little stabs as well. Those girls there discussing, well, something, which is apparently “so gay.” Those kids over there are having an argument, apparently one of them is a “fag”. We turn on the television to see a loving homosexual couple! Who have died. Again. But don’t worry, straight female lead has a sassy gay friend to make it all better.

Then of course there are the great big hammers. The fear, the running, the hiding, the hospital visits. We know the badness, I don’t need to mention it.

Living in heteronormative society can be a little like constantly having your eyes poked with sporks. It’s irritating, it’s painful and can lead to severe injury.

Then we come to Safe Spaces. In a safe space, the sporks are absent (or at least massively blunted). Safe spaces are places where we do belong, places where we can relax. Places where we don’t need top be on guard or afraid or constantly having our eyes sporked. For me, walking into a place I consider a safe Space is like 10 hours of therapy and a very large Bacardi (mock not my drinking habits). It’s like taking off your tight shoes and tie after a very long day – except it’s a day that has lasted months and the shoes are so tight you can hardly walk and the tie is stopping you breathing properly.

Which is why we need to respect people’s safe spaces. We need to recognise how important they are. We need to recognise when we are tourists in other people’s safe spaces. In short, we need to make sure we don’t take sporks with us into the safe spaces. Those eyes get sporked enough.

Now, so far, I have indulged in saying the bleeding obvious, I rather think. But safe spaces are not just physical. My house is largely a safe space – because I reserve the right to hit people with hammers if they bring sporks into it. But if I turn the television on? Sporks abound.

Safe spaces in media – and certainly on the internet – are just as vital. Browsing through the internet is infinitely more irritating when the screen throw eye-homing sporks at you. There are parts of the net I won’t go near because I know there is a risk of severe eye-sporkage. And many others I enter at my own risk and very carefully.

Safe spaces matter, even on the net. To me, it is vital to know there are places I can go, people I can engage and things I can do where I don’t risk a severe eye-sporking. There is information I wish to consume, conversations I wish to be part of, things I want to learn – but I don’t want the cost of that to be being pummelled by repeated straight privilege and homophobia. So I love many net safe spaces. I love that there’s a huge part of my RSS feed of doom which is nicely labelled “places I can go even when I am feeling vulnerable, hurt, bruised and all kinds of shit, and they won’t make it worse.”

Sadly, my whole RSS feed isn’t in that category. Because we can’t hunker in safe spaces and, alas, the world is not a safe place. Instead, I have several other feeds full of blogs I follow but have an increasing chance of eye-sporking me. one of those feeds should only be entered with protective clothing and a very large axe.

And why do I go to these places? Why do I tolerate even minor sporkage? Because all the information I need, all the things I need to learn, all the conversations I need to witness do not happen in places that are safe for me. I wish they did, but they don’t. So I have to venture out, especially if I want to confront my own privileges.

Which comes to the most awkward point of all. Sometimes I will enter into someone else’s safe space, someone else talking about a marginalisation. I speak little, learn a lot and hope to go through my own issues – but these places also throw sporks at me. They are safe places for some people, but certainly not for me and mine which leaves me in a conundrum. Part of me wants to speak,. part of me wants to comment “do you realise how grossly straight privileged that was?” Part of me certainly wants to yell when I’m confronted by someone throwing vast stinking homophobia

But that is there safe space and their topic and their issue being discussed. Even if reasonably motivated and perfectly valid, my criticism, my comment, would be a derail. It would be damaging their safe space, their focus, their goal even the space’s reason for being. If this is a place that focuses on race, on sexism or ableism then running in with a GBLT derail, even a valid one, is going to hurt their conversation, their goal, their space being about them and, ultimately, their safe space. And I may have damn good reasons for speaking up with my heavily-sporked-eye but will I gain anything but hurt? And do I risk sporking other people?

There is no good answer there – but that’s the crap we’re left with with our messed up prejudiced society.

Do I have a point for this post? probably not, my sleep deprivation levels are high and I’m not thinking as clearly as I could be. But if I were to draw anything out it would be: respect safe spaces. Respect them as powerful, as necessary, as vital. Respect that everyone needs their safe spaces, their spaces where it is about them, their spaces where they are not other. But that also means respecting other people’s spaces – and realising that we can’t, alas, stay in our safety zones.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Another tragic bad news round up

In South Africa, a man has been charged with raping a lesbian – to “correct her” the blight of “corrective rape disgust and enrages me beyond measure

In Iran a gay man who worked for the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees tells us how he was brutally attacked and raped by the Basij. Rape is a common and horrendous tool used in hate crimes and it is too rarely talked about.

In Dubai, a gay student has been convicted and sentenced to prison for 3 years. He is asking to be kept from the general prison population

In Cameroon, 2 men have been imprisoned… for being gay this comes, ironically, after the country protested at the UK allowing a gay asylum seeker from Cameron remain because of persecution – they wish to assure us that gays are not persecuted in Cameroon. They probably also wish us to know that the Pope actually ISN’T Catholic, and bears use urban public facilities and would never dream of defecating in any woods.

In Rwanda, as presidential elections approach, arrests of GBLT people are increasing following a disturbing rise and trend towards homophobia in the country

In Iraq, the government backed persecution of GBLTs continues, with the raid of a beauty parlour and the arrest of 5 gay men. The men were brutally beaten and one had to be removed on a stretcher. The US and the UK reminaly largely indifferent about the persecution of GBLTs in the country we have “liberated”.

In Helsinki, the Pride Parade celebrations there were disrupted when bigots launched a pepper spray attack on the marchers. It is important to remember that even Pride is not safe – but that’s a lesson we have learned so many times before. 3 men have since been arrested

In Bradford, a mob of 15 people attacked a gay couple. 15 people grabbed make-shift weapons to attack a gay couple. There is still so much reason to fear.

In Atlanta a gay couple were attacked by a gang of youths, including one who held a gun to one of their heads. The same park saw a previous anti-gay murder before

In New York a gay couple were attacked by a group of teenagers using anti-gay slurs

Also in New York, Driton Nicaj who attacked 3 gay men last year, causing some of them severe injury. His sentence? 21 days.

In Spain Jacobo PiƱero, a man who stabbed to death a gay couple 4 years ago, stabbing them 57 times and setting fire to their flat is now working free as he cannot be detained without charge any longer. Why was his trial a shambles and a new one planned? Because his “gay panic” defence was accepted.

There is some deeply depressing news about hate crimes statistics in the US on Pam’s site

Massacre in Mexico

There has been a bloodbath at a gay party in Mexico.

A party was organised by a gay group on facebook, though open to all. During the party the exits were blocked and gunmen opened fire on the crowd. 17 are dead, 18 injured

It’s still uncertain whether this is an anti-gay hate crime or another chapter in the country’s tragic war on drugs

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Hate speech, politics and badness

The bigoted governor of Hawaii, the vile excuse for a human being that is Linda Lingle, has decided to veto Hawaii’s civil union law. Even separate, not equal half measures are too much for her. Words cannot express my loathing and contempt for bigots like this woman. But she has gone on to compound her bigotry by deciding to compare gay civil unions to – incest. This woman is beneath contempt and her bigotry inexcusable.

She is joined in hate speech by New Hampshire GOP congressional candidate Bob Giuda. He believes that gay marriage is akin to bestiality. Men and sheep, women and dogs apparently. Why are such vile, bigoted scum given any platform, let alone have any kind of chance to get into office? What truly hateful person would vote for these excuses for humanity?

And yet more – Georgia GOP Gubernatorial candidate Karen Hendal hates gays and our families and certainly wants us away from children. Why? BECAUSE, that’s why!

New Jersey GOP Rep Chris Smith isn’t happy with keeping his bigotry local, oh know. This man is working to block the UN from recognising The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (which has been battling for years against a homophobic UN for recognition and the importance of its work) More hateful bigots working tooth and nail to kill and maim us for the sake of their religion.

The Pentagon is showing more of its dedication to removing (or not) DADT – with a new survey for soldiers about those SCARY GAYS! The survey is a trainwreck. It’s really horrible, I cannot imagine how anyone could have produced this survey and not realised how utterly wrong it is

In response to the wonderful Supreme Court asylum decision in the UK, we have had the usual homophobic suspects opening their mouths and letting the vileness fall out. Queen of homophobic bigots, retired Tory MP Ann Widdecombe chief among them of course. She can always be relied upon for her hateful venom As for the Press? I have no words, I really don’t.

Prison staff in Dartmoor prison are causing concern by being overtly homophobic. GBLT prisoners are among the most vulnerable – and make up a disproportionate amount of the prison system as well. Being victimised in prison is common for GBLTs – further victimisation from the staff is further hell to them

Tories have investigated a homophobic Tory Councillor using slurs against gay people and decided that it wasn’t homophobic. Why am I not surprised? Tories, same old same old. And LGBTory will continue to play excuser and enabler for them. Betrayers the lot of them and shame on them all.

In Canada a landlord is fighting a legal battle against the Human Rights Commission because he doesn’t want to rent to gays I have not the words. He made this couple homeless simply because they were gay.

A pro-family Christian group has leaped merrily into the realm of hateful ridiculousness by not only comparing gay marriage to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill – but also saying that gay marriage is WORSE damn, and I thought the pope was ahead on comparing us to major disasters

South African homophobe Jerry Matjila objects to the protection of gay rights – because acknowledging we’re oppressed somehow makes other oppressions less real or important. But I expect little better from the UN Human Rights Council.

These words cost. They cost lives, they cost rights and they cost me no small number of grey hairs. But it’s best to listen to what they say – so we know what we face

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Spark of Wisdom: Gay Love for Straight Titillation

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

Much of this post deals with how lesbians and bisexual women are represented in the media, though it certainly applies to gay men when it occurs as well, it occurs far less often and certainly much more rarely than in mainstream media. I am not a lesbian nor do I think merely being GBLT makes you any particular authority on the other letters under the umbrella (something I’ve argued before). It gives you an insight, but it’s still an outsider’s view. As such, I give my impressions and how I feel but I cannot speak for Lesbians and bisexual women, do not wish to do so and make no guarantees I am getting it right.

I watch representations of GBLT people in the media with a great deal of cynicism. Most of the time it’s not there at all, when it is there it is often highly problematic and even when well portrayed it often focuses so much on the negative (homophobia, AIDS, family rejection, internalised hatred, etc) that it’s not just depressing but damn near triggering to watch. So when I see GBLTs in media or literature I tend to approach cautiously and not exactly in an open and fluffy mood.

Miley Cyrus has simulated a lesbian kiss in her latest performance on Britain’s Got talent, part of her ongoing campaign to ditch the ‘nice girl‘ image.

Not too long ago Madonna and Brittany had their oh-so-dramatic lip lock on stage.

As far as I’m aware, none of these women are Lesbians or Bisexual or anything but straight (despite much gossip in each case), yet they all engaged in on-stage woman on woman kissing.

t.A.T.u is another rather infamous example. 2 female singers from Russia that became popular across much of Europe – who pretended to be lesbians both in their music and their performances. They’re not, they’re straight.

And I look at these and find them more than a little off. Not because there shouldn’t be portrayals of lesbian and bisexual women being loving, sexual and sensual on television and in music – most certainly we need more – but because I don’t think that’s what we’re seeing here. Is this done to show lesbian sexuality? To celebrate it? To protest that it should be acceptable and wonderful and respected?

Or is it done to titillate? Is it done so straight men can speculate and drool? Is it done to shock? To prove to a heterosexist world how edgy and cool they are? Is it done so people can gawk and chatter and gossip? Is it done to hit the headlines and draw attention because it’s so *gasp* outrageous?

See this is something that preys on my mind when I watch portrayals of gay people in the media and certainly when I read books in the m/m genre and slash fiction (neither of which are particularly my habit any more). I look at the portrayal and ESPECIALLY if there is sexiness going on and I ask – what is this for?

Because owning our own sexuality, being proud of it, wearing it, being open with it and being fierce with it is a whole world of difference from our sexuality being paraded so straight folks can drool or stare.

Because portraying a gay or lesbian person or a gay or lesbian couple to show their lives, their families, them as real people due respect, love and happiness is a world of difference from portraying them so they can be viewed or read with one hand, or for shock value or as a publicity stunt.

Because there’s a difference between Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga on the one side, and t.A.T.u. and Miley Cyrus on the other.

Because there’s a difference between lesbians living as themselves and 2 women getting it on for the joys of straight male viewing.

Because there’s a difference between a book that tells the story of gay men in love, and a book that treats gay men as pose-able mannequins to drool over.

And I’m not saying that from any kind of anti-porn/erotica standpoint – I’m generally pro-porn. But recognise that not all portrayals of us are about us and most certainly are not for us. Some of them are appropriating us with varying degrees of respect – and a fair few of them are downright using us and not holding in to a great deal of respect or concern in the process.

On the Burqa ban, again

I’ve spoken about this before, but it seems to be an issue that, sadly, keep raising up so I’m going to set my words out again. I’m going to try to avoid repeating myself but it’s hard because my opinion hasn’t really changed and I covered most of it then.

I think burqa bans are, frankly, racist, xenophobic and islamaphobic (assuming that’s a word) and the arguments used for them, even the well meaning ones, seem awfully hollow to me.

The classic argument is that the ban liberates women. That these women are oppressed and forced to wear these garments. They should be liberated! They should resist patriarchal forces pushing them into these uncomfortable and constraining clothing types! Now pass the stiletto heels, miniskirts and breast squeezing wonder-bras (sorry, excess snark got in the way).

I can’t help but hearing “Predominantly brown women, you are being controlled and oppressed by your menfolk telling what you can and cannot wear! So we, predominantly white male-lead governments will tell you what you can and cannot wear instead! Embrace the freedom!”

Which strikes me a little like fucking for virginity.

Do I think that burqas are oppressive? Do I think the idea that a woman must hide vast swathes of her body for fear of tempting the naughty naughty men is very wrong? Do I think that and idea of modesty that demands such coverage to be excessive and limiting and shaming? Yes, yes on all counts. But then, I also think that if a woman decides she doesn’t want to show her body/hair/face/whatever then she shouldn’t be required to and it is extremely oppressive to force that exposure. We can argue that NOT wanting to show one’s face is a sign of internalised oppression… but that’s a difficult path to walk.

Can you go to someone who is margianlised and tell them that their actions and choices are contributing to and caused by their marginalisation? Yes, I think you can – but it’s a difficult and wary path and nearly impossible to do well, especially since you are telling someone you know their motives and reasons better than they do. More, do I think white and male people can go to brown women and tell THEM that their choices and decisions are due to marginalisation? Can that be done without it sounding imperialistic and patronising as hell? No. I really don’t think it can. And that goes to beyond impossible to the outright ridiculous when those same men decide to ban the burqa for these women’s own good.

Are there many women wearing the burqa who would probably rather not? Yes. Is there a culture of devaluing and shaming women that the burqa may be a part of? I think a good case can be made. So make it. Campaign, educate, debate, spread the word, have forums, speak to the women, speak to muslims, speak to moderate scholars, speak to female ex-muslims.

But looking upon a group you deem to be oppressed and “fixing” that by ordering them NOT to be oppressed (while being oppressors yourselves) just doesn’t feel like any kind of solution.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Time for some celebrations and good news

Despite considerable opposition from the Catholic church (that think equality for gay people is ‘satanic’) and even the American Mormons trying to intervene, Argentina has become the first country in Latin America to legalise same sex marriage! Congratulations and celebrations :) Another step forward, some more justice realised.

Congratulations to all the people in Argentina who can now get married – may you all be blissfully happy together.

In Atlanta, the police have set up an LGBT advisory board

And in the UK we have a set of instructions of what language the police are supposed to use and not use when dealing with GBLT people

Words cannot express how important these are. I don’t like the police. Part of that is because I am a defence lawyer and have seen far too much shit come from the police to be comfortable.

And part of it is that my interactions with the police have been fraught. The first time I reported being attacked to the police was awful. I was asked if I’d flirted with my attacked, if I’d touched him, if I’d come on to him, I was even asked what I was wearing. I heard them make jokes. I heard the comments. I regretted, strongly, reporting to the police at all – the case quickly went nowhere, in no small part because I didn’t want anything to do with them any more.

It’s not an isolated case. Even when not actively homophobic, cluelessness abounds in heteronormative society in general and certainly in the police force. If we need the protection of law – and we so often do – then we need to law to have a clue. We need to be able to trust the law – we need the law not to make things worse for us and to hurt us more.

We’re a long way from that – but steps in the right direction matter

Facebook is planning on adding a button for UK teens on their site to allow reporting and help with cyberbullying. It’s not much but it’s something especially since bullying – and anti-gay bullying – is so toxic and destructive.

Not amused face – No history of oppression, NOM?

NOM, the National Organisation for Marriage, is an American hate group that runs on homophobia and denying of rights to gay people. Hate groups rarely amuse me and NOM is no exception (though NOM is slightly amusing because the ex-head of NOM can be relied upon to hyperventilate whenever she is accused of hating gay people).

But this is not something I can smile at. When we see this on their facebook page:

(Gays and lesbians) are not being repressed, discriminated against. There is no and never has ever been a homosexual man hunt for them. Jews, Christians, and Blacks were hunted down and murdered. Homosexuals have nothing in common with the three.

Now, the ignorance here abounds. And it’s not much more than I expect from an org like this who never let the truth get in the way of hatred.

But this is not only ridiculous, it’s also not unique. I have lost count of the amount of times people have said to me “gays haven’t faced X!” (where X is the bad thing) or that gay rights are so new and why are we so damned impatient, after “all-anti-gay oppression is such a new thing and it’s not like you’ve had hundreds of years of badness!”

Or, in short, GBLTs have never REALLY being oppressed and any oppression we have faced is all recent and not so bad.

Right. How much is wrong with this idea? Do we even have to mention that gay people were targeted in the Holocaust? It’s depressing how often – and repeatedly – that is completely forgotten. (Be warned, link does not make for safe reading) And after the Holocaust? After the gay survivors were rescued, what happened? No-one wanted to hear their story, they couldn’t speak of it, none of them received compensation – because they were still considered criminals by all the liberating powers. Some of them were thrown back into prison. The Allies rescued gays from the concentration camps to re-imprison them afterwards. Gays were being imprisoned in Germany until 1969.

In fact, for that matter, a current debate in the UK is striking the criminal records of men who were convicted of having sex with other men. Yes, people alive today – people who aren’t that old – have criminal records for being gay.

Historically the penalty for “buggery” was death – even for privileged clergy who couldn’t even be hanged for murder. We were executing gays right through to the 19th century. but we changed that to imprisonment with hard labour and later to mere custodial sentences – or, if you could take the choice of taking massive doses of female hormones to chemically castrate you as was forced on Alan Turing.

While we did use the electrode method of “curing” gays (showing gay people images of the same sex then electrocuting them) a more preferred method was the use of emetics. Restrain your victim to a bed, show them a picture of someone of the same sex then inject them with something that made them violently sick (it often caused explosive diarrhoea as well). Then leave them in their own vomit and come back in an hour – and repeat the process. Keep going for several days.

Being gay was illegal in the UK until 1969, along with Canada. The first Australian state to repeal their criminalisation of being gay was South Australia in 1976. Tasmania was the last Australian territory to do so – and was forced to in 1997. New Zealand repealed their buggery law in 1986. Being gay was illegal in parts of the US until 2003 – 2003! – and the only reason that was repealed was because Texas tried to keep enforcing this bigotry into the 21st century. India had their law challenged in 2009

70 nations today still criminalise being gay. Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, parts of Nigeria and Somalia will execute gay people. And this doesn’t include nations like Iraq, Uganda, Egypt, Zimbabwe and so many others where being gay faces extreme persecution, torture and murder with the state’s negligence, ignorance or active complicity.

But there has never been a manhunt for us. We’re not really oppressed. We have no history of oppression. Despite the fact that throughout most of the last 500 years our very existence was punishable by death. Despite it being illegal for us to exist in nearly every nation in the world WITHIN LIVING MEMORY. Despite the Holocaust, despite the state backed genocide of GBLTs in nations where our lives are worth nothing, despite the hate crimes. Apparently there has been no manhunt. Apparently we have no history of oppression. Apparently we’re just Johnny-come-lately selfish whiners.

H/T Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

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.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Sparky’s absence and the Chinese of dooooooom

So, Sparky has been invisible for a little while, most irritatingly. I dislike it when the absences fall together, I get withdrawl I does.

Of course, absence for Pride was far more fun than trhe Chinese of Dooooooom. Which was not fun. Not fun at all.

Coming in from work, it’s late, I am tired so is Beloved but he has ordered chinese because neither of us can be bothered to cook. It’s a new place and we like to try new places – after all, as I said, I’ve never actually had a bad chinese meal, just different levels of good.

Famous. Last. Words.

Sparky: *pokes spring roll* you ordered vegetable spring rolls?

Beloved: Nope, meat. *pokes* Uh, allegedly? *dissects* hey, there’s some

Sparky: I’ve seen more meat stuck between a vegetarian’s teeth.

Beloved: These won tons have meat… sausage meat

Sparky: Nah, it’ll be pork mince

Beloved: Try

Sparky: *tastes* sausage meat won tons… well that’s a new on

And it gets worse

The chicken tasted like they took the oldest, most mangy broiler chicken, boiled the meat to transparency then left it under a hot plate for a month before adding the sauce – which SAID it was ginger and garlic but tasted like cornflower (in fact, this was a theme of the night. Now I use a lot of cornflower in chinese cooking – but you’re not supposed to use it as a FLAVOURING!), it was thick and gloopy and lacking in any flavour. The vegetables were raw – not au dente, utterly raw, even the broccoli.

The sweet and sour sauce was neither sweet nor sour and was a shade of neon orange that may have dazzled any planes flying overhead. But despite that, the beef it covered was utter identifiable not just as beef but even as meat. We had to take their word for it because there was no way to tell by taste

And nastiest of all was… the rice. Seriously how, in the name of all that is tasty, do you screw up RICE? You expect chinese rice to clump – it should or you can’t use chopsticks. This didn’t clump so much as gloop. It was claggy, thick, powdery, and really really vile. It tastes like it has been boiled for days before frying and then they added a rue of cornflower to the mess afterwardss – it had the same floury taste and the same thick, mushy consistency. I never knew anyone could make rice vile. They almost deserve a prize for that. That’s right – this chinese take away failed at cooking rice.

I finally gave up in disgust at trying to find anything remotely edible in the meal, remarked that they had proven me wrong and at least it didn’t make me sick.

Y’know – I should know better than to say things like that. That’s just tempting fate, that is.

There follows a couple of days of me vehemently wishing death on… well, just about everyone an everything, including myself. AND being less than impressed with the ultra-hot weather without airconditioning that didn’t help my suffering self.

I am now tired, manky, and generally all round BLARGLE. I hate feeling manky.

But hell hath no fury like a manky poisoned lawyer. At least, when I have the energy to actually get up and do the whole fury thing. I think I can manage some nasty looks until then. Really mean ones.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Foody suggestions?

Today is our foody night, where we make a foody feast of goodness.

Part of this involves finding a way to use the NINE cabbages. And there are 6 more in the garden. All white cabbages and all impresive. Seriously, these things are freaking huge and perfect and unblighted and no fertiliser, pesticide, random radiation or whatever other crap they put on our food. Beloved is most proud of himself and right so.

Except – WHAT can you do with this much cabbage except make everything smell truly awful. I have cooked it with dinner as just a plain veg (well with lemon juice and once with nuts), I have made coleslaw, cabbage gratin, saurkraut and even something with apples that wasn’t very nice. What other options are there?! Do I have to freeze the whole lot and just resign myself that we have enough cabbage to last us until doomsday?

Also, does white cabbage pickle? I mean pickled red cabbage is commonplace (and I loves it. And he has grown none. Why is this?) but we don’t see pickled white cabbage – whyfor?

In other news Beloved has expressed criticism of my stuffed mushrooms! (Well, he didn’t. He asked if we should add a herb to it. But in homage to my mother I have decided to take that suggestion to be a fierce indictment of my skills, my honour, my family and indeed all aspects of my life to date. So there :P ) so I am looking at adjusting their scrumminess. Currently they are:

Huge portabellow mushroom, inside scooped out and finely chopped with a stronger mushroom (shiitake or oyster). Mix with grated cheese (red leicester for preference but wensleydale, cheddar and emmenthal work well. So can brie but it’s a bit overpowering.) finely chopped crispy bacon (Note Renee and other Canadians suffering from dellusion – this is real bacon, not ham) finely sliced onion and a glug of soy OR worcestershire sauce.

Now, miscellenaious herb to add. Beloved has declared garlic boring (because I add it to everything. And rightly so). I am leaning towards cumin or paprika – but tbh, I raher think it should be left alone. Maybe something mild like parseley.

So, suggestions?

(It is also ridiculously hot, every window in the house is open and the cat has taken to sleeping in Beloved’s carrot patch – the feathery tops make a good bed and the ones she doesn’t squish shade her. Beloved is not amused. Cat does not care if he is not amused. A small war has begun)

Random randomness

Beloved said it was body paint. I think he lied. I think it may have actually been that tar based stuff they use to pain road markings. I am glad that I didn’t let him anywhere near me with it. Now I can help with the scrubbing *scrub scrub scrub scrub*

I think I am resigned to having a multicoloured lover. Especially since he wants to dye his hair blue again (the man will be bald before he is 30 at this rate). Which I suppose is an improvement over his current colour – blond. And yes, he is a natural blond. And yes he dyed his hair blond. No I don’t know why either.

In garden news everything is green and growing and quite impressive. Especially the lettuce. All the lettuce. Why do we have this much lettuce? We don’t like lettuce. Lettuce is boring. And why, in the name of all that is holy, did he have to pick all of it at once?! I could feed an army. Well, a very very healthy vegetarian army that was watching its weight.

In fact, he does this with all the plants. I am having to set an armed guard on the potatoes to prevent us sinking beneath a tsunami of spuddy goodness. It’s even worse when he does it with the strawberries. look if you wait a week the rest will be ripe – now I have 1 strawberry. What can we do with one single strawberry?

Also, the beans are doing well. I don’t like broad beans. Nor does he. But they’re doing well and look like it’s going to be a heavy crop. Uh, yay?

And my right arm is killing me. No idea why, but it’s a mass of stiff pain from hand to elbow, it feels like I have a beaver gnawing on it – and twisting or turning it is absolute agony. And brain is not listening to me and keeps trying to use it. I demand much sympathy for this. It is preventing me scrubbing properly.

Summer is ordered to be less hot or Senior Partners are ordered to invest in some air conditioning. And this suit is not summer weight no matter what it says on the label. I predict provocative use of ice cubes may follow.

Work has been abandoned for the day – it’s too damn hot to breathe let alone think.

Legal celebrations! :)

Well, unexpected and well worth celebrating. After celebrating what the UK Supreme Court did for gay asylum seekers, we see another court in the US give a wonderful surprise by declaring DOMA unconstitutional. Not once, but twice..

Both judges came to their decision through summary judgment (which is legal speak for the judge picking up the case and saying “this is such utter bullshit I don’t even have to listen to you to make my decision!”)

This judgments AREN’T saying that all states have to allow same sex marriage (sadly).

But they are saying that the Federal government can’t refuse to accept couples that have been married under state law. So, for example, if a gay couple has been married in Massachusetts, the federal government has no business turning round and saying “no, they’re not really married.” I understand this is a 10th Amendment issue (don’t ask me, American law is not my thing but I understand this is the Amendment that says “unless it‘s expressly states to be the Federal government‘s decision, it‘s the state‘s decision.”). So the federal government cannot treat a legal same-sex marriage from a state that legalises same-sex marriage as anything less than a marriage and cannot force the state itself to treat same-sex marriages as less than opposite-sex marriage. It cannot force the state to discriminate.

Of interest as well in the fuller details of the case is the many other things the judges didn’t accept such as refusing to accept that banning same-sex marriage benefits children, that allowing same-sex marriage serves as a disincentive to marry, etc.

‘Tis a step in the right direction, yes yes it is :)

In other legal victory news, the island of Sark (that is one of the semi-autonomous British dependent islands around the British Isles) has finally bought a clue and equalised the age of consent for gay and bisexual men to 16 to bring it in line with heterosexuals, lesbians and bisexual women. This follows Guernsey doing the same in March and the Isle of Mann catching up in 2006 (but then, the Isle of Mann still had sodomy laws in place in 1992). Well, islands, welcome to the 21st century. Took you long enough.

Sadly other British dependencies – Bermuda, Alderney and Gibraltar – still seem to be maintaining separate age of consent for gay and bisexual men.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Spark of Wisdom: The Closet is Not An Asset

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

The closet, one of the most enduring and unpleasant aspects of being GBLT and a source and consequence of so much GBLT oppression. It is also a subject of no shortage of privileged, clueless and purely homophobic commentary from straight people.

I honestly have lost count to the number of times – perhaps especially in progressive circles – where I have seen homophobia and transphobia dismissed or diminished because of the closet. The idea that GBLTs can hide (and, let‘s be clear straight off, not all of us can. And all it takes is us being PERCEIVED to be GBLT to face hatred) – so prejudice against GBLTs isn’t all that bad, right? It’s not as bad as “real” oppressions – because all we have to do is hide, right?

It is used to diminish homophobia and transphobia – and it actually makes the closet, which to so many of us is an utterly toxic place that brought us no small amount of misery – seem like some kind of ASSET.

The closet has it’s cost. Being able to hide (in as much as we can) comes with a terrible price.

The closet, being able to hide, comes with the demand TO hide. If we actually presume to be us then we are “flaunting ourselves” or “ramming it down people’s throats.” We can hide, they say, so why don’t we? Why don’t we wear the mask to spare the straight people the sight of us? Why do we parade ourselves, our vileness so? It is seen as being RUDE to simply be.

The closet comes with a denial of our existence, a doubt that we‘re even what we say we are. Hiding what we are comes with a disbelief that what we are even exists. Being trans is still considered and listed a mental illness far too often. Being gay was considered as mental illness by the WHO as recently as 20 years ago.

How many times do people talk about the “gay lifestyle?” How many times do bigots prate about “homosexual behaviour” that it’s not about people, it’s about actions? How many times do they doubt our identity? how many times do they treat what and who we are as a kink or a fetish? An inclination? A hobby? A vague preference?

How many times is our very being diminished and demeaned as some kind of act of rebellion? Our identity reduced to the actions of a teenager acting out? How often is it presented as deliberate sin? As a deliberate attempt to shock, appal or insult the world? Because it’s all our actions and it’s all about them and how it upsets the straight world – never about us and who and what we are. Our identities, our beings are lost in the closet and they only see deeds not people.

How many times has the closet lead to GBLTness being treated as learned behaviour?

How many times do we treat GBLT people as being almost diseased? Don’t stand near them, you’ll catch it. Don’t talk to them. Don’t mix with them. You can’t be associated with them.

How many times are we portrayed as preying on children? As recruiting children? How many people see us as a threat to kids? As paedophiles? As abusers?

How many times has viewing being GBLT as a behaviour lead to horrific and horrendous laws that continue today? It is through an ignorant view of the closet, of a diminishment of being GBLT to actions rather than identity, that allows respected media outlets to ask “should gays be executed?” as some kind of reasonable question. It is an ignorant idea of the closet that makes it still acceptable, in law, in so many supposedly modern places to discriminate against someone, deny their rights, fire them, evict them – just because they are GBLT. And this is LEGAL and acceptable.

It is this ignorant view of the closet confusing people with actions that allows laws that criminalised – and criminalise - being GBLT, to imprison GBLT people and even execute us – and raise no more than vague disapproval at best – let alone being decried as the acts of genocide they are.

The closet has lead to ex-gay therapy, to exorcisms and aversion treatment (the latter of which involves inflicting pain repeatedly whenever the patient succumbs to their “deviance“). Even the least violent of these are grossly destructive to us – and the worst of them are the stuff of nightmares. To “cure” us, the authorities have subjected GBLTs to being injected with powerful emetics, have suffered electroshock treatment, to horrendous abuse and deprivation.

GBLTs have been attacked to “cure” them, they have been beaten, they have been tortured and they have been raped. To change us. To “cure” us.

The closet has lead to vast numbers of therapists, doctors, counsellors and any number of people who are supposed to help us instead blaming all of our problems on being gay or trans. When we’re at our most vulnerable, at our greatest need for help, those who are supposed to help us can turn on us and kick us down still further. The closet has lead to endless misguided, cruel and downright evil attempts to change us, to “cure us” to “fix us”.

The closet means even our own families doubt and revile us. It makes one of the hardest moments of many GBLT’s lives the moment when they turn to their parents to tell them who and what we are. It makes speaking to our parents – our parents! – a moment of pure dread and terror for so many. And so many of those parents respond with shame and guilt and pain and abuse. The closet means our own families can be our most unsafe spaces. Our own flesh and blood can be our fiercest enemies.

How many times do parents feel shame? How many parents ask themselves what they did wrong? How did they make their kids GBLT? How did they fail? How many parents worry – did they mother him too much? Should they have let her play with that GI-Jo? Should they have made her wear dresses? Did they breast feed too much/not enough? Did he hug him too much/not enough? I’ve heard all these and so many more – the laments of parents who think they damaged their children – who view GBLT children as damaged – because the closet will not let them see us as people.

The closet causes us to hate ourselves. It causes us to grow up in shame and hate and self-loathing, wanting to be other than we are, wanting to be free from an “affliction.” Wanting to be “fixed” wanting not to be a “deviant” or “sick” or “sinful.” It drivers us from our homes, it drives us to self-harm, to substance abuse – and to suicide.

The closet causes us to live fake lives. To wear a mask so long and so tightly that we cannot take it off. It leads us to create false families, to constantly wear a disguise to never ever be ourselves. It makes us create fake marriages, fake families and entire life built on a faced. An entire life where you have to spend every waking moment being something you‘re not and pretending and acting to everyone around you. An entire life where for some the truest they can ever be to your own being is seeking hook ups in a public toilet!

They can’t confide in their nearest and dearest, they can’t even stop the act in their own homes. And they have to maintain this every waking moment for decades – decades of never ever being yourself. I’ve said it before, but it is honestly something that horrifies me beyond description. But this is the hell the closet forces them into, the hell they then feel they have no choice but to live until it breaks them, they fall out of it (or are found out) or they die.

And the closet is used to blame us for being a victim.

It is our fault when we’re attacked. Because we should have hidden. We shouldn’t have been there. We shouldn’t have been wearing that. We shouldn’t have touched each other. We shouldn’t have kissed each other. We shouldn’t have walked like that. We shouldn’t have talked about that. We should have realised who was hearing us. We should have realised being outside a gay bar was dangerous. We shouldn’t have made eye contact. We shouldn’t have done anything that may be seen as flirty. Did we wink? Did we smile at them? Did we look a little too long? Did we brush past them? Did we touch them?

It’s our fault when we’re discriminated against. If you hadn’t told the boss you were gay you wouldn’t be fired. The office wouldn’t be bullying you, excluding you, making your life a living hell if you’d kept your gayness to yourself. The landlord wouldn’t have refused you if you’d just said you were friends or room-mates. The hotel or shop or pub wouldn’t have closed it’s doors to you if you had just hidden better. Why did you have to put that photograph out? Why did you let your partner pick you up from work? Why didn’t you keep your mouth shut when they made that joke? Why didn’t you make up a fictional partner? Why didn’t you lie? Why didn’t you avoid that discussion? Why didn’t you just keep your whole life secret?

LGBTs seeking asylum in the UK, coming from countries like Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and so many others are being SENT HOME because, as far as the Home Office is concerned – all they have to do to avoid being tortured to death is HIDE.

Because people think we can hide, it is our fault when we don’t and we get grief because of it. Or when the act slips and we are revealed – and attacked in that new scrutiny. We are blamed for our own oppression because we don’t hide who we are. Even alleged progressives reveal a shocking amount of straight privilege and outright homophobia over and over “anti-gay attacks aren’t as bad as “X” because GAYS CAN HIDE!”

Do you know how HARD it is to hide?

To go through every minute of every second of every damn day constantly checking everything you do, everything you say. To judge every action in case it conforms to a stereotype? To check every word to see who may overhear?

To stand near your partner but be afraid to kiss them, to touch them, to stand too close, to make too much eye contact, to make sure you watch your body language. Make sure you don’t give any indication, make sure you don’t give yourselves away.

To never be part of a community or workplace or social event or ANYTHING because you have to conceal such a major part of your life? To check every conversation to make sure you don’t mention your loved one, your family, your home. To make sure your cover story is tight, to even make up some kind of straight fantasy life and hope like hell it passes muster and isn’t found out – because if it cracks it’s YOUR FAULT for not hiding enough.

To wear clothes, arrange your hair, dress your body, present yourself in a way that feels like a disguise. To make sure you don’t do anything that could be perceived as GBLT. To not be you ever. To constantly suppress who you are. To constantly deny it. To constantly pretend this isn’t you.

And you have to do this all the time. All the damn time

The closet is not an assert. The closet is not a bonus. The closet does not diminish or reduce prejudice, oppression or persecution. The closet is the reason for so much of the crap we face. The closet is a toxic blight on so much of our lives. It is not to be treasured – it is to be mourned

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

I is BACK!

I have returned from London Pride. Actually got back late last night.. then went out with a bunch of friends who also went down to Pride (instead of sleeping. Which I kinda needed to do).

It was awesome. Everything was awesome. Friday through Monday has been one long solid awesome. I didn’t fight with anyone (no, really. I even left the Tories and the protestors alone – not that I caught more than a glimpse of the latter) I partied hard and enjoyed every damn SECOND of it.

This was like the weekend of pure gay awesomeness with extra awesome sprinklesd and more awesome pured on top with a side order of extra awesome. Only with more awesome. Damn it has been faaaar too long

I am now dead. this is dead Sparky. Sparky is getting too old for this. I am literally fighting to think and can’t keep my eyes open. I need some serious recharge

Friday, 2 July 2010

Away for a couple of days

I’m preparing for and heading to Pride for the next few days so I may be a little non-contact. I also want to make some links with some more national orgs and make some connections, busy busy busy.

Not least of which involves the necessary time picking out what to wear.

Sparky: Damn it, I’ve gained weight!

Beloved: No you haven’t… don’t you even think about dieting

Sparky: Then my favourite pride trousers have shrunk

Beloved: *looks* uh, no they haven’t. They were always that tight.

Sparky: I can hardly move in them

Beloved: Yeah I always wondered how you managed to move in them things.

Sparky: I’m going to have an imprint of my underwear for weeks.

Beloved: I think that’s why you never wore any.

Sparky: Gah, maybe I’m getting too old for this.

Beloved: So, should I go for the body paint or the body glitter?

Sparky: Suncream – high spf. Pocket Aryans go shirtless at their own peril

Beloved: Suncream… you are getting too old for this.

Sparky: Pfft, I will bring suncream to Pride. And then I will be the helpful, forward thinking, caring one going around all the hot half nekked dancing guys offering to rub some cream in.

Isn’t forward planning valuable?