Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Value of Silence

Today I’m going to talk about the value of silence

Yes, privileged folks, flock around, I be SILENCING YOU, oh how very mean! How very mean indeed! Please clutch your fee-fees and form an orderly queue to tell us how oppressed and persecuted you are.

Except not, of course, because minorities don’t really have the institutional power to actually silence people; so instead I’ll settle praising silence.

Because sometimes silence is, indeed, golden. It’s precious and it’s something we should value. And that’s hard to do – it’s even harder to say or advocate. That spectre of “silencing” will raise it’s ugly head. We live in a time in many places where “freedom of speech” is squealed so often (and so inaccurately) it no longer has meaning; “censorship” is howled whenever anyone refuses to offer a platform or dares to criticise what is said. With the internet, we have even more chances to speak  and be heard - in many ways and in many places we truly do have a thousand voices all speaking at once.

Such a shame that 950 of them are speaking such bullshit.

So eager are people, especially the privileged who are so used to dominating discussions, to protect their right to speak that they often don’t question whether they actually have anything relevant to say – or the standing to speak in a discussion and rarely does this matter more than when we are talking about marginalised people where privileged people truly do need to learn the value of silence.

It should go without saying the most basic of silences – we don’t need you to speak for us and GBLT voices should be the ones raised to speak about GBLT people. That doesn’t mean never speak up, don’t oppose bigotry and don’t support us. But it means you aren’t the spokespeople, you aren’t the experts. You shouldn’t be the ones writing books on what slurs mean, or what it means to be GBLT, what it’s like to live as one of us or what it’s like to face homophobia or transphobia. You shouldn’t be the spokesperson at the conference or the convention, you shouldn’t be the “expert” called upon and straight people shouldn’t be the primary source when trying to learn about GBLT people. You certainly shouldn’t be posing as us and passing yourself off as “authentic”.

Some discussions do not need your opinions. If a group of GBLT people are discussing something – maybe their priorities, or focus of their attention, maybe their opinion on the actions of another GBLT person and their activism, maybe the use of various terminology or any number of discussions or arguments we could be having – then we don’t need your opinion or input. Really. You do not have the insight to enter the conversation, the lived experience to have and knowledgeable contribution. It would be like me running up to Steven Hawking and giving him my not-even-remotely-learned opinion on quantum physics (or, for that matter, any physics). Why should he listen to my ignorant drivel? Most sensible people would say he shouldn’t. So why should we listen to yours? Especially if you’re entering our ongoing discussion.

This is especially true of in-house discussions, every marginalised group has issues that they’re hashing out and debating, where there are strong differences of opinion and even internal strife. Why are you stepping into that? Why are you inserting yourself into a family discussion? What do you honestly think you can add here? It is the height of arrogance to insert yourself here! Some things don’t involve you, some things are too complex for an outsider’s opinion to have relevance .

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Meningitis is not an STD

I’m far from a doctor or any kind of health expert, but there’s something I think we can all do with having confirmed now – meningitis is not an STD. This seems to be confusing some people.

Yes, several gay men have caught meningitis in New York. That doesn’t make it an STD. Bacteria that cause Meningitis can be spread through coughing, sneezing etc – amazingly enough, gay men can actually catch diseases doing things other than fucking. Amazingly enough, gay men do actually meet other gay men for reasons other than having sex. We have social spots, networks, sports teams, even games nights – yes the gaymers are out there.

Of course any community that meets together has a chance of spreading an illness that spreads through close proximity. This is one of the reasons why meningitis scares – in the UK at least – tend to arise in sixth forms and colleges and schools. But no-one instantly breaks out the safe sex messages then.

For that matter, no-one decides that a meningitis outbreak in a school in New York is connected to one in Los Angeles either. But through gay men in the mix and it must be connected. What, do all gay men in the US gather for a grand convention or something?

Let’s be clear – whether you are sexually active or not has NOTHING to do with whether you are going to catch the bacteria that cause meningitis. Whether you use Grindr or other hookup sites is irrelevant. You can potentially catch the bacteria that could lead to meningitis by being close to someone else with those bacteria. All those headlines about being careful if you’re “sexually active” or that anonymous sex is causing the disease are outright lying.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Under Siege!

Trying to get an even keel and settle I spend the whole day with Beloved trying to find some kind of balance in my brain. When there’s a knock at my door.

Now, controversial it may be, but I have absolutely no compunction about call screening or not answering my door when I’m not up to it. And after some Unfortunate Incidents, people don’t get keys to my house any more, no no they do not.

So I was quite content in ignoring this banging when we heard yelled:

“I know you’re in there.”

There was a pause while we both considered who this could be and how irritating the visit could be. When we heard:

“If you don’t answer I will lay siege to this place! I shall tumble the walls and salt the earth to the sound of gnashing teeth and the lamentations of your women!”

Ah F. Yes it could only be F. You can’t ignore F. F won’t be ignored. Ever.

Beloved:  F, I don’t think we have any women to do any lamenting.

F: What, Sparky wouldn’t be able to cook for me. That would make me lament!

Beloved: Does that make you our women?

F: I tend to think of myself more as a wench. Don’t you think I’m an excellent wench?

(someone outside answers)

Beloved: F… are you asking out neighbours to rate your wenchiness?

F: Your next door neighbour thinks I’m a Grade A wench I’ll have you know!

Sparky: ye gods, let her in before we have to move.

Alas, even the Awesome Wenchiness (her words) can't work miracle cures, but at least extreme emotions are not without basis with her around.

Random Brain Chemistry is Random

I’ve had a couple of days of pure bad-brain based emotional roller coaster. Incredible highs of glee for no damn good reason, followed by epic crashes of the darkest, bleakest depression imaginable – again, for no damn good reason. Random laughter, random tears, random rages – it’s exhausting and ridiculous and so damn embarrassing.  I need to poke my doc because this is unliveable, I’m not fit for public. Or private.

The worse thing is that even while the emotional brain is swopping around like a humming bird on crack, my logic brain is sat there screaming at me that none of it makes sense, the emotions don’t make sense, just ignore them, ignore them – WHY CAN’T YOU IGNORE THEM YOU SILLY CRAZY PERSON!?!

And it’s beyond humiliating not being able to because I feel like someone sent down to central casting for a crazed Malkavian and I showed up as a perfect match. That’s just embarrassing. Beloved has been in full mad person management mode which must be exhausting.

I used to be much better at handling the epic mood swings, I’m pretty sure (actually, Beloved tells me I really really wasn’t – but self-delusion is all). I think a combination of the truly irritated logic brain and sheer embarrassment is helping ride the waves a little more.

At least one advantage is that Beloved knows his way around my bad brain chemistry and isn’t trying to calm down the hypers or cheer up the sads and we have our old pattern of “oh look you appear to be having a bugnuts moment, let’s pretend it isn’t happening until it passes, or ruefully acknowledge it in a vaguely embarrassed way” kind of like if someone’s flies were undone or they had spinach in their teeth.

I’m quite sure therapy blokey won’t endorse that as a coping mechanism.

Put this down as reason #90796 that I need my pills, I guess. It is pretty cheap entertainment though - after all, how can you be bored like this?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Thatcher's Funeral

With her now being buried I hope we can leave behind the endlessly revolting Thatcher praise.

People think it’s respectful or honourable to praise this woman? To talk about her “accomplishments”? I say all of you spit on the graves of her victims, there’s some disrespect for the dead for you

Under brutal, tyrannical regimes across the planet people suffered and died – Pol Pot, Pinochet, Apartheid South Africa, Saddam Hussein, Suherto – these are Thatcher’s friends and allies, these are the people she propped up. These are the people you praise and fawn over. The graves of their victims are the ones you spit on

Under her, industries were sold off, British manufacturing was gutted and private owners become obscenely rich as they were given away for a fraction of their real value. Vast amounts of the property of the commons entered private hands and they paid peppercorns for these freebies. But it’s those on welfare we demonise, not these rich people and their hand outs

The right to unionise, the right to collective bargaining was gutted under her regime as she devastated communities – especially the poorest and the most vulnerable in the country. Communities today are still in ruins, poverty has become accepted and stuck for generations and with each year they continue to take the worst of the cuts and “austerity.” Rarely has the North/South divide yawned wider – or have Wales, Scotland and Ireland had greater reason to loathe Westminster then when Maggie Iron Fist was in command.

Her blatantly racist policies and policing lead to riots in Brixton, Toxteth and Handsworth; inflamed by anti-immigration scapegoating that continues to this day, and Thatcher’s racist sus laws POC took to the streets in fury.

Her gross homophobia was enshrined not just in policy that made the police an enemy of GBLT people to this day, but was firmly ensconced in law. Section 28, perhaps the most reviled legislation for GBLT people ever produced in the UK, prevented any school or public body from saying anything positive about GBLT people. We were banned from the public sphere unless it was to insult and denigrate us, driven instead to the knife, the noose and the medicine cabinet to end our isolation and despair. While you cry over Thatcher’s coffin, picture the gay kids hanging over it.

Her culture of privatisation and deregulation set the stage for all the crises to come – including our current recession that has Thatcher’s bloody hand print all over it. It wasn’t just her rule that left us scarred and hurting, but her cultural shift ensured that the pain would continue to this day

And today the government continues in the same path. Privatisation of schools, gutting of the NHS, gutting of legal aid, removing any pretence of having any kind of help or safety net for the most vulnerable. Cutting taxes for the richest in society while raising regressive taxes like VAT. Slashing money to councils then complaining because essential services collapse throwing the poorest to the wolves. Introducing the bedroom tax while fighting to reduce capital gains tax from their mansions. Introducing benefit caps but never looking at the stagnating minimum wage or the skyrocketing prices of rent. Demonising the unemployed while never considering that the majority of those on benefit are EMPLOYED by we don’t expect the rich employers to pay a liveable wage. Disabled people made to crawl for every penny they need to survive while the rich are given free reign in tax havens

So watch the funeral, the massive funeral that we’re paying £10,000,000 and more for while the poorest in society are mocked for having to live on £50 a week. Watch this expensive boondoggle for a woman who hated every penny the public purse spent on people actually deserving, organised by Cameron and Osbourne who want children to starve and the disabled to find miracle cures. Watch the Bishop of London chide that this isn’t the day for politics – while praising her political legacy that buried so many from a pulpit where he tries to influence our laws for the continue disenfranchisement of vulnerable people in society. Watch Osbourne cry his tears when days ago he was callously exploiting the brutal murders for small children in an attempt to grind his boot further into the necks of the poorest in the country. Watch Cameron speak about how great Thatcher was while he continues her work of ensuring everything Great about Britain is destroyed.

This is Thatcher’s legacy. This is the woman we bury today. So bury her, salt the earth and install the floor for us to dance on her grave – or, if you must, hold silent. But your demands for “respect” and “silence” spits on the graves of those she killed. Your glowing praise paints over the blood spattered. And for every crocodile tear you squeeze out for this woman, an ocean of grief was already sobbed by her victims.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Memes that get on my last nerve

So, being on twitter and generally avoiding facebook, I generally get to see a lot of memes that have lots of pithy information in a short phrase. Some of them really work, are really witty and really clever.

And some of them set my teeth on edge. These are some that get on my last nerve

Everyone is Born/Inherently Bisexual
I get it, the idea that there are a lot of people with minor or even major attractions to the same sex but also have attraction to the opposite and so ignore the former is definitely a possible.

But while there is certainly a lot of question as to exactly how many people there are out there who are various degrees of bi or pansexual, everyone is not bisexual and doing so creates an erasure that is every bit as unacceptable and annoying as prevalent bi-erasure. Aside from anything else, combatting bi-erasure with the idea that actually everyone is secretly a member of their identity doesn’t strike me as ideal either since it’s another backward form of erasure (after all, if everyone is bi, then why use a word to define anyone as bi?)

As a gay man, I am attracted to men. I am emphatically NOT attracted to women and it’s one of the many many many annoying things that give me headaches when, for some bemusing reason, straight people try to find the one woman somewhere, somehow, in whatever situation that I would willingly have sex with. There isn’t one because I’m gay, not bi.

I’m not Gay as in Happy, I’m Queer as in fuck you
I’m all for us ditching some of the happy. I think we, as a community, have been so desperate for acceptance for so long that we have more than a little problem with fawning over any straight person who is willing to say even remotely nice things about us. Time and again we give headpats and cookies and praise to people who have done sod all and we really need to stop that shit.

I saw over the weekend someone describe the situation as this: Someone breaks into your house, beats you up and steals your shit – then they begin to give you your stuff back slowly, item by item. Do you say thank you and praise them?

This is the situation of GBLTQ rights and it’s something I’ve said before. We are not being given or awarded our rights. Our rights are being wrongly denied, not generously given.

So I’m all for some anger. We definitely need some more anger, some more of that fuck you, which I certainly have. I am angry, I am furious – and I am gay.

Friday, 12 April 2013

GBLT Characters on Supernatural

Supernatural is one of the longest running shows we follow; the Winchester brothers have been fighting against demons, vampires, werewolves, angry spirits, angels and anything else you can imagine for an incredible 9 years, 8 seasons (and a 9th season has already been planned) and a massive 168 episodes and counting.

That’s a long time and in that time we’ve had an amazing number of people hang around with the Winchesters. We’ve had monsters galore, victims in spades, people to protect and shelter, the occasional love interest, allies occasionally and, pretty rarely, the odd friend who has joined them in their struggle.

But such a lengthy presence on our screens makes it easy to see patterns of representation - and erasure. Any show that lasts this long and, because of that, has a great many characters is going to be more heavily criticised for it’s erasure than a shorter lived on. After all, a single season show with a small cast of 3 characters and less than a dozen extras is going to have less scope for inclusion or developing numerous minority characters - not that it makes the erasure tolerable by any stretch - but when you have 168 episodes and a gazillion people with which to present some decent diversity and you still fail? That’s almost willful.

Supernatural is not diverse on any real front - throughout its run the majority of the regularly recurring characters have, by far, been cis, straight, white men: Sam, Dean, Bobby, Castiel, Crowley - even Garth. We have a few women, but most of them are dead. Kevin has tried to shift some POC into the line-up by reading feverishly in a boat and Bobby was, briefly, disabled before he was magically cured when it became too awkward, but you can hardly say the show has made more than a token attempt at inclusion.

When it comes to GBLT characters, the pickings have been slim; we have a very very few gay characters and no trans characters. The very first was a lesbian who appeared in Season 2, Episode 21
All Hell Breaks Loose, she was one of the demon children, along with Sam and she accidentally used her power to kill her girlfriend (behold, the dangers of gay sexuality!) After that, she is brutally murdered; the first to die to get her out of the way (no, that doesn’t count as a spoiler. It’s Supernatural and, frankly, a gay person dying is hardly a spoiler in fiction anyway). 

Monday, 8 April 2013

Thatcher is Dead

I couldn't stand the woman, I still can't. I'm not even going to pretend to be sad that she's dead, being Northern, Working Class, Gay and a child of the 80s, my loathing is the stuff of legends.

I'm not going to say nice things about her because she's finally kicked the bucket. There are no nice things to say about her. And it's an insult to her victims to pretend she was even close to a decent human being .

We cannot allow her legacy to be whitewashed, we cannot let the pain she caused be forgotten in a wave nostalgia and Tory rewriting of history, we cannot let her legacy be cast as anything other than the evil it was. We cannot let a wave of pretend grief backed by an unwillingness to speak ill of the dead to become some kind of endorsement of her policies and her politics.

Margaret Thatcher is dead and she was a person who left this world poorer for her time in it, who brought more pain than joy, who caused more suffering than healing and who left scars that will be generations in the healing. In the future I may pull on my dancing shoes and boogie on top of her grave.

But, for now, I can't put on my dancing shoes because Margaret Thatcher isn't my focus and cannot be. She hasn't been a force in politics for years, despite her evil legacy. I have more rage and fury towards the evil of the present - and Cameron and little Cleggy - than the vileness of the past, even if it still hurts us. Dancing shoes later folks, we need to keep our work boots on because we've got a lot more to do - and a lot more to kick - before we have the time and space to dance on the grave.

Now here's hoping she rises from the crypt and takes out Cameron and Cleggy. Then I'll hold a street party. Failing that, let's hope she was buried at crossroads or her ashes scattered over several bodies of water

(Anyone wringing their hands and worrying about the disrespect for the poor old monster, you might want to save it, because we will mock you. Yes yes we will)

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Took a Peaceful Holiday

I’ve been absent over Easter, that’s pretty much been intentional on my part. Not just because I like to do my own ceremonies in private, but also because this is not a holiday I enjoy and certainly not a holiday I feel comfortable sticking my head over the trenches for.

Like many religious holidays, this is one where you can guarantee that the media is going to stick some microphones in front of a priest/vicar/bishop/other holy bloke and then repeat/reprint his words for the entire nation

The holy words of holy blokes are generally pretty hateful. The organised churches of this country (and the vast majority of the world) have made no secret of the fact they’d rather I drop dead tomorrow and never miss a chance to launch another attack against us whenever more publicity comes their way. Whatever messages apply to whatever holidays, the one that is repeated on all of them is that their god loathes GBLT people.

After years of hateful holy rhetoric that has only intensified as we fight for legal equality, I’m running on empty. Faced with a holiday of trying to play dodge-the-Christian on TV, the internet and more I decided to opt out of all of them as much as I am able and had a few days of silence, not answering the phone and not speaking to people. I particularly clung to Saturday where I went all day seeing and speaking to only GBLT people – I had knots untense in my muscles I never even knew I had.

The problem I’ve found is, especially in the people around me and in my family, that Easter is one of those holidays where nominal Christians suddenly remember Christianity and put on 8 new layers of temporary religious gestures – and end up saying, supporting and doing shit that offends, angers, worries or scares me.

And, the sad thing is, overt displays of Abrahamic religions already worry and frighten me; I often regard them the same way I would bright colourful markings on a snake or hornet – be warned, here lies something that wants to fuck you up most royally. It’s become a reflexive flinch and doesn’t make for a quiet or easy time of life when there are religious holidays about and someone’s dug Lord Carey from the pit, AGAIN. C’mon isn’t there a limit to how many times you can raise the same zombie? Someone check the Monster Manual.

So, I stayed in, I battened down the hatches and I relaxxxxxxxxxxxxxed. It reminds me how many months it’s been since I last had peace, I may have to do this more often.