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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

On Pride

One of the cornerstones of the GBLT movement has been the concept of Pride. And I applaud it with all my heart, because it is exactly what I feel was and is so needed.

The world denies GBLT Pride. The world suppresses it. And for such a long time – and still today – GBLT Shame has been the standard, not pride. We should be ashamed for what we are. We should change. Whole organisations have been built and funded around forcing us to change our shameful beings. Vast international churches fiercely press that our presence, our existence is shameful and should be repressed and changed and repented of. We should feel guilty, we should be ashamed.

We are told we should hide. We should pretend. We should act lest our terrible weirdness infect, upset or hurt other people. Being GBLT is outrageous, shameful. We cannot speak of it openly. We must not speak of it in front of the children, because it will damage them. We cannot speak of it in front of other people, that’s forcing our nastiness on them, forcing them to endure it, forcing it down their throats, making a display of it. Isn’t it inappropriate? Can’t we just keep it to ourselves? Don’t we have any decency, don’t we have any shame? We should feel guilty, we should be ashamed.

We are attacked and punished for being who we are, beaten down, driven into hiding and killed. We are kicked out of houses, even our parents’ homes, because of the shame and vileness of our presence under their roof. We are turned away from businesses and employers. Laws are enacted to keep us out, to silence any mention of us, to protect vaunted professions from us, to protect children from us, to deny us and push us back. Laws that exist to enforce our shame. We should feel guilty. We should be ashamed.

I grew up with Gay Shame. I grew up with the idea that my sexuality was a bad thing, that I was a flawed and broken, that I had some terrible affliction that I should spare other people. I grew up knowing I deserved less, that I was less, that I was embarrassing, shameful, something to hide. I was taught to be guilty. I was taught to be ashamed.

I was taught that, society taught me that, family taught me that, certain “friends” definitely taught me that.

This is what GBLT Pride means. In a world that tells us we should change, we say we’re good as we are. In a world that tells us we should hide, we say we’re here and open. In a world that tells us we’re sick and broken, we say we’re whole and well. In a world that tells us children should be protected from us, we say we have kids and are kids and that’s pure and good and right. In a world that attacks us, beats us and kills us for daring to exist, we say that’s wrong and we fight back. In a world where laws are expressly created to repress us, we scream that we are equal. In a world that tells us we should not be, we yell that this is who we are and this is fine and wonderful.

In a world that tells us we should be ashamed, we declare that we are Proud.

And this is not a message that is easily announced. So far this year a Pride Parade in Lithuania was met with violence, a Pride Parade in Minsk broken up by riot police, the first Pride Parade in Slovakia was cancelled after being attacked by skinheads, and Moscow Pride Parade has been cancelled (Moscow has a bad history with Pride Parades, to say the least especially as Mayor Yuri Luzhkov refers to gay and lesbians as “satanic“).

So looking at that, at the power and meaning and declaration of Pride, as well as the violent and virulent opposition to it, we get this and this and this and this Straight Pride. Hey you can google it, there’s no shortage of links, alas.

Has the world ever been about anything BUT straight pride? Has there ever been an institution of straight shame? Have your families, your love, your children, your life ever been demeaned and attacked and criminalised because you are straight?

Have straight people ever had to declare their sexuality? No, because the world will always assume it and honour it and raise it up and pure and proper and right. There has never been a need for straight pride because the world is steeped in it, saturated with it and pumps it out every second of every day. They flaunt their privilege like a flag and think it’s oh-so-witty to do so.

They have taken the symbolism of Pride and are using it to attack us and demean what they know so little about.

And today on Twitter, “Geek Pride” was trending. It is, apparently, Geek Pride day.

And I saw people celebrating. Including words like “Hiding in the locker is over.” And “I’m coming out as a Geek!“ and “it’s geek pride day! I can go out in geek drag.” “Is there a colourful flag we should be waving?”

Why, I think I see some subtle comparisons there. Yes yes I do.

I am a Geek. I play WoW, I am a fantasy and sci-fi lover, most of my TV and book choices either have lazers or fireballs or at least vampire fangs. I’ve played D&D, I’ve played GURPS and I have a shelf full of White Wolf books. I had a childhood crush on Nightcrawler for gods’ sake (don’t ask. Really) I am as geeky and nerdy as they come and merrily happy with it.

But this? This is appropriating something vital and powerful. Celebrate geekiness, revel in it, dance with it, wave those towels! It’s a wonderful wonderful thing, but Geek Pride? No, really, no.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

On Jason Akermanis

It would seem that Australian Jason Akermanis has opened his mouth and let a whole load of foolishness fall out

Basically, he is concerned about gay men outing themselves in sport. That the media attention and hype would be bad for the sport, the player and the team. And particularly that teams aren’t ready for it – certainly not since teams have to change and shower together – think how uncomfortable the straight people will be being naked around the gays?

Oooookayyyy…

I need to break something to you – the chances are a gay person has seen you nekked

If you ever changed for PE at school, if you’ve ever been to the swimming baths, if you’ve ever been to a sports centre, health spa, joined a sports team, if you‘ve been in a communal barracks or tent etc. In short, if you have ever been in any situation where you are naked around members of your own gender, chances are that you have been seen nekked by a gay person.

We r hiding and looking at your nekked bodies! ZOMG AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! RUN straight people, RUN!!!!

And you know what? There are several things we need to address here.

1) Nudity =/= sex. And y’know what? Chances are GBLT people know this better than most people. Why? Because we’ve been here before! Every time we go to the gym or a join a sports team and most certainly at school – gay men have been around naked straight guys, lesbians have been around naked straight women. We‘ve been there, we know and we know it‘s not sexual. We know the difference between sexual nudity and non-sexual nudity

2) Get over yourselves already. Seriously, to all the straight folks out there – gay people do not spend our lives lusting after your hetness. No, really. Enough with this silly idea that because we’re attracted to our own gender, we’re attracted to ALL of our own gender.

3) Y’know what? Maybe you are hot. Maybe you’re drool-worthy hot. Maybe you are so damn sexy that your mere presence in the changing room will make all of our days. Maybe you are sex on legs. Congratulations, have a cookie. Guess what? You being a pure avatar of solid sex does not mean that we’re going to leap on you and have our wicked way with you. It doesn’t even mean we’re going to stare at you and make you uncomfortable (and, hey, if someone DOES the skeevy leering thing then say something because that’s rude regardless), our libidos aren’t going to overrule our good sense of the appropriate. Which brings me to…

4) The gay panic defence. Y’know, it has been raised in court over here yet again not that long ago. There are a substantial number of straight people who feel it’s ok to attack gay people because they are seen to be making a come on. A touch, a glance, even how we are dressed can be seen as a reason for a violent attack. You think we’re going to stare at your naked straight arse? You think getting an eyeful is worth that kind of risk?

But, of course, the actual argument presented is NOT that gay people are going to rush at the irresistible straight folks and have our wicked wicked way. No, it’s that our open presence will make the straight folks… uncomfortable.

Ok, seriously? So GBLT people are supposed to closet themselves for their entire lives – because this is what that means – for the sake of straight people’s comfort in the dressing room? So straight people can keep the delusion that there are no gays around? Keep their partners undercover, never mention their families, make sure their families are never noticed? Maybe make up a few lies, a fake girlfriend, a fake history? Edit their entire lives for the sake of straight people’s DISCOMFORT? I would gape at the entitlement in this if it weren’t so damn common.

GBLT people don’t have a duty to censor themselves so straight people can pretend we don’t exist. To say that “coming out is unnecessary” is so beyond grossly privileged I can’t even begin to address it
Now is it going to be hard on a personal level to be the first gay man in the AFL? Yes – but if they choose to take that step then they should – and part of the reasons it will be so damn hard is because of people like

It’s not being gay that is the problem. It’s homophobia. Gay people shouldn’t have to change, adapt or accommodate that. It’s not our fault, it’s not our duty to make allowances. The fact that straight people are discomforted by our presence does not mean we should pretend not to exist.

And, to add, it’s not ‘more acceptable’ to be a lesbian in woman’s sports. Stereotyping just tends to assume sportswomen are lesbians – that’s a WHOLE different thing altogether and certainly isn’t a sign of ACCEPTANCE. It’s a sign that any woman seen doing the “manly” pursuits of sports is instantly stereotyped as a lesbian – especially if she doesn’t conform to our narrow definitions of what constitutes femininity and what a woman should look like or aspire to look like.

And if it WERE the case that women were more accepting of lesbian sportswomen, isn’t that an indictment on sportsmen?

Y’know what? You could have made a point with this article, Mr. Akermanis. You could have criticised – and rightly in my opinion – people trying to bribe, persuade or bullying people into outing themselves for the sake of publicity or to be the first gay man in the AFL. I’d agree with that sentiment, it’s not fair and it’s not right to press people into outing themselves. But instead you decided to throw in a whole lot of straight privilege that shows exactly why so many GBLT people live in the closet.

You even mentioned the appallingly high suicide rate among our youth – but perpetuate the othering, the hiding, the need to hide and the idea that heterosexuals are not only uncomfortable around gays – but that it is a gay person’s duty to accommodate that. These are the ideas – that gay people are icky and it’s right for straight people to be squicked by us, that gay people shouldn’t inflict or nastiness on the straights – that lead to that suicide rate.

I don’t know Mr. Akermanis’ intent. I hope it was much much better than what he wrote – but his delivery failed on a truly epic level, and no amount of good intent changes the harmful message.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

SLASH BINGO!!!!

Via

has written an extremely good Slash Bingo Card

Methinks it is going to be very very very useful

Chances of me getting the HTML right? Nil

*EDITS EDITS EDITS*

*cries* WHY WHY won't you work?!

*EDITS EDITS*

MUAHAHA I have WON you damn HTML, see, see?!

Monday, 17 May 2010

My coming out, and a pretty damn awful party

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

I wasn’t sure whether to post this, either there or here, certainly not both. Despite fighting campaigning and working against homophobia every day, I am reluctant in the extreme to confront my own experiences. I have the nagging feeling I am failing or losing by allowing remembered incidents bother me, I feel like a failure when I am triggered and I feel weak and angry that these events carried – and carry – so much pain for me. There are some events in my life I don’t think I will ever be ready to confront, especially given how hard it was to do this one.

I was stuck in a truly dull party the other day. It was one of those awkward events where no-one actually knows anyone else, but everyone pretends they do – all at the instigation of one of a friend who seems obsessed with resurrecting old school acquaintances. If I haven‘t spoken to someone in 10 years or more? There‘s usually a reason for it.

So here I am, bad drink in hands, checking the clock for the earliest polite opportunity to leave and vaguely considering whether jumping out of a third storey window to freedom would hurt all that much, when an old schoolmate approached. And I had a deer-in-headlights moment

“Do you remember me?”

Yes. I remembered him.

He was the best friend of my oldest friend, a boy I’d known since we were both in nappies He was the first person I came out to, when I had just turned 14.

I remember my oldest friend hitting me then kicking while I lay on the floor until things cracked.

I remember being taken to hospital by my horrified parents. I remember lying to them about what had happened, saying I’d been mugged (like that was believable). I remember lying to the police.

I remember them not believing me. I remember the months – years – afterwards of them not trusting me, of their worry about what I was involved in, of the constant questions, whether I was using drugs, what I was going, where I was going. I remember lying to it all. I remember them not believing a word.

I remember my oldest friend telling him.

I remember him and his group ostracising me. I remember him calling me “faggot” and “queer” and “arsebandit” and “fudgepacker”

I remember them throwing things at me. I remember trying not to leave school unless I was in a group. I remember him and his friends waiting for me as I walked to school and walked home.

I remember coming home bruised and bloody and my parents asking why. I remember lying to them, again. I remember the trust I lost, the rift it created. I remember them worrying, I remember my mother crying about it – and still not telling her, still lying to her. I remember lying to them in hospital and the doctor’s office.

I remember him telling my friends, gods I remember him telling half the damn year. I remember people avoiding me, I remember the whispers. I remember lying to them too. I remember telling them I wasn’t gay. I remember constantly insisting on being straight when i wasn’t. I remember feeling like I had to deny what I was.

I remember lying to my teachers, pretending there was nothing wrong, refusing to talk to them. I remember being angry and snarling at them when they pressed. I remember them wondering if there was something wrong at home.

I remember I stopped going out, becoming something of a hermit because I didn’t know if I would meet him and his friends. I remember driving many of my friends away because I didn’t trust them any more, because I was scared of them.

I remember being afraid pretty much all the time, I remember being ashamed. I remember hating myself. I remember trying to change. I remember fear of hurting my family being the only real thing holding me back from despair.

I remember this lasting until I left school. I remember picking a college based not on what was best for me – but because I was sure he and his friends weren’t going.

I remember it being years before I had the courage to come out to someone again. I remember it being years before I convinced myself they were wrong, not me. I remember it was years before I realised I deserved to be happy, to love, to be.

I remember this, though I’ve tried REALLY hard not to over the years. I still have the scars – physical and mental. I was damaged by these memories, badly. Not the only damage or perhaps even the most severe, but damaged nevertheless. Damage that took a long time to repair, damage that still isn’t entirely fixed.

But he didn’t remember, or wanted to pretend it didn’t happen. And he was stood there and smiling and carrying on the great pretence that we were friends. That we had good times to talk about. That we had happy memories and pleasant reminiscences.

And I played by the script. I pasted a plastic smile on my face. I laughed, I told pathetic jokes and helped slop whitewash over the mess of history. I joined in the pretence, I kept up the act. I let the lie stand that it didn’t matter, that it was bygones, that time had healed all wounds. All the while not sure whether I want to run away or go for the throat. But I played nice. I did the acceptable thing, the mature thing.

After all, I’m 28 now. Isn’t it petty to hold grudges over things that ended when I was 16? Doesn’t it mean I am weak and pathetic to still be hurt by that? Shouldn’t an adult be able to put that behind them? Surely there’s something wrong with me for this still to matter? Surely I’m being ridiculous treating incidents as a teenager as important?

But it feels important. It took me 4 days to write this. 4 days when normally I tear off a post in a few hours (hence the typos). 4 days where I kept coming back, deleting, stopping, considering scrapping the whole thing. Beloved and friends have kept me from a funk of depression, I’ve been trying to raise some anger, to force humour – anything to not feel so… small and weak over this. I still don’t know if I’ll finish it or how to finish it.

I spend a lot of my time running and hiding from the various incidents of homophobia in my life. It has long been my way of (not) dealing with them. It’s ironic that I devote so much time to fighting, confronting and combating homophobia but still do my level best to deny and avoid my own experiences. It is hard to have those walls torn down, to be forced to look at the thinsg I‘ve been so studiously ignoring. And I can’t help but feel ashamed that those walls coming down still hurts, that I have somehow failed

So, yes, it was 12-14 years ago, but I am still vulnerable to it. And, though I’m having a problem accepting this, I have a right to be vulnerable to this, to be hurt by this. I have no reason to be ashamed that I am not strong enough to brush this off nor should I feel like I’ve failed because it still leaves its mark on me.

Easy words to type… much harder to believe.

It has to be said, as far as parties went it wasn’t the best. Next time, I’m totally bringing a cheaper bottle. And maybe an axe.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

First look at the new government – Theresa May is Equalities Minister

With several coffees and a morning’s work under my belt, I look with trepidation at the new government – and already I’m very very worried.

Theresa May has been appointed as the new Home Secretary and Minister for Equality. A nice combination that means a lot of equality and justice in this country rests on her shoulders.

This is the woman in charge of protecting women and minorities. She is our champion, our shield, she is the one who ensures that equality laws and policies are applied – and how that application takes effect. She is, in short, a vital person for GBLT rights. In no small way, our rights and justice are very very dependent on this woman.

Shall we take a look at her voting record?

Voted against equalising the age of consent

Voted against the repeal of Section 28

Voted against gay couples adopting children. Twice.

Voted against IVF rights for lesbians

Stayed away from Parliament for all the Gender Recognition Acts

Was ABSENT when the Equality Act was voted on in relation to Sexual Orientation

She was absent for many of the Civil Partnership votes

I keep reading through her record and well… Well… damn. Well done Cameron you actually make Grayling look like the better bloody choice.

I suppose this is technically very clever. The Tories don’t actually have to pass homophobic legislation – they just make sure that the minister that is supposed to enforce, apply and otherwise implement anti-homophobia protections is a homophobe. And this way Clegg gets to keep on smiling and playing good guy while continuing to enable a government that screws us over.

This is not a good sign of things to come.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Asylum – a GBLT issue.

Asylum seekers – or, as I much refer to say, refugees. I know it’s not strictly accurate, but the British press has so demonised “Asylum Seekers” that it has become a convenient avoidant term. We use asylum seekers to imply fakers and slackers coming here to steals our monies and our jobz while being too lazy to work. Yeah, whatever. Call them refugees – call them what they are – people desperately fleeing from persecution. People fleeing from oppression, persecution, torture and death. People who have lost everything and are running for their lives. At least be HONEST about the hell you want to throw these people to!

Refugees and their rights are very much something GBLT people need to be interested and involved in. Because they are often our brothers and sisters. We know that, in much of the world, persecution of GBLT people is extreme to the point of genocide. The only reason it isn’t named as such is because the powers that be are often rather content with our destruction and are afraid of offending the religious lobby by acknowledging our persecution to such a degree. In fact, the UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity, asserting that GBLT people should have human rights and not be persecuted, had to be reduced to a “gesture” declaration with numerous voices speaking against it (including the Holy See, no surprises there, and considerable initial opposition from the US) and a 57 nation bloc supporting a counter-declaration declaring the opposite – that we don’t have and aren’t worthy of human rights.

Homosexuality is illegal in about 70 countries in the world. In 77 nations we can be prosecuted for having sex, for not being virgins, for not living a lie. Most of these prosecutions come with a prison sentence (and GBLT people in prison are amongst the most vulnerable there are). At least 27 of these can be sentences of 10 years or more. At least a further 8 nations will execute gay people. And that number is, shockingly, growing.

And this tells not even half the story. On paper, Iraq legalises homosexuality, yet it is one of the worst places in the world to be GBLT as a result of the occupation and rising religious control. South Africa not only legalises homosexuality but also outlaws all anti-gay discrimination AND recognises same-sex marriage. Yet persecution, including “corrective rape” is a horrendous problem and is rarely addressed by the authorities. On paper Egypt outlaws homosexuality with a prison sentence up to 3 years – but that doesn’t cover the repeated instances of torture inflicted on GBLT people.

In fact, one of the recurring problems of GBLT persecution is not only legal persecution by the state, but state indifference to persecution, state refusal to protect GBLT people from attacks, violence, rape, torture and killing. Often large organisations, communities and especially churches are ready and eager to encourage the persecution

This makes Asylum vital to these GBLT people. While we fight for the rights to be treated as full and equal citizens and to cling to what rights we have managed to obtain (vitally important) our GBLT siblings across the globe fight to exist, fight to live, fight just to be. They live in countries where even the most minimal tolerance is too much to ask and is fiercely denied. To these people the only sanctuary available is to flee and to be sheltered in a nation that will not see them dead or imprisoned for the audacious crime of existing.

But, very depressingly but unsurprisingly, we are not welcoming to GBLT people seeking safety. Amnesty international has decried the EU sending refugees back to countries where they will be tortured. Because accepting promises as a reasonable precaution would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic – to expect a torturer to play fair, especially since we hardly check up after wards, is ridiculous to the point of enraging – it is clear indifference on our part to allow this to continue. The torturer’s “promise” gives us sufficient excuse to turn a blind eye.

The UK has been deporting gay asylum seekers for years – under the hollow excuse that if they are “discreet” they will be safe… so long as they stay in hiding they may escape persecution. Never mind the societal pressures to marry and have a family that make such “discretion” impossible. Never mind the self-destruction that being closeted brings. Never mind that even when we are discreet, our sexualities can still be discovered, can still be exposed. Under the cover of “discretion” we have deported gay people to countries like Jamaica, Iraq and even Iran.

Our record with the protection of gay refugees is shameful – with a refusal rate that dwarfs even the shamefully high refusal rate we have with non-gay refugees. The ignorance, denial of GBLT people as being GBLT, the refusal to accept the state of GBLT persecution and the insistence that the closet solves all ills means we offer no sanctuary to even the most brutally oppressed GBLT people around the world. Frankly this whole report is enough to make me sick, despite having seen it up close, bringing it home like this -the ignorance, the homophobia, the privilege, the sheer indifference to the suffering is a matter for pure rage.

It should also come as no surprise that marginalised bodies – women, ethnic minorities and GBLT people are among those most likely to suffer under this negligence. Devalued both by the persecutor and by the country of supposed safety, the suffering of these bodies is too often ignored. This is a true intersectionality moment – a moment when we should come together and recognise that those of us who society devalues are the most at risk here. These are the most at risk of persecution abroad and indifference at home and the most in need of help.

The least we can offer these people is safety. It is so little to ask – and we are failing them.