Category Archives: sexuality

It is not banter, it is not just racism, its small minded bigotry

This article was originally published on the football blog ‘In Off the Bar’

This last week saw two allegations of racism come to light. Firstly, John Terry was accused by Anton Ferdinand of calling him a “black cunt”. Terry however claims that this pretty comprehensive video footage is him telling Ferdinand what he didn’t say (obviously)! This incident follows Luis Suárez allegedly ‘using a certain word’ 10 times to describe Patrick Evra.

This is nothing new in English football, but it is a sad reminder that we haven’t perhaps travelled as far as we would like to think from our overtly racist past. Admittedly, gone are the days of Bananas being thrown on the pitch, but it was only a few years ago that we had Ron Atkinson describe (live on air) Marcel Desailly as a ‘lazy fucking thick nigger’. Indeed, even in the last few days Stan Collymore has had to endure a torrent of abuse on twitter with comments such as “at least my mother never slept with a coon” after he raised the issue of racism on his talk sport show.

Perhaps the most telling of tweets Collymore was sent simply said, “Have you heard of banter?”. This is incredibly telling as it is the fallback position of decent people up and down the country for not tackling the small minded bigotry that plagues the modern game. Indeed this was the excuse given by the casually racist Jimmy Hill in defence of Atkinson’s horrific comments. It was just a bit of “fun”.

Many people’s lives are seriously affected by racism and discrimination every day and not just because of verbal or physical abuse. Many people from minority ethnic backgrounds are not getting the same opportunities as others whether it is in jobs, education or access to health services, or affordable housing. Even those who are meant to be working to stop this are not exempt. Police stop and search figures show that black people are at least six times more likely to be stopped and searched as white people. This is shocking.

The complete zero tolerance of racism in football is quite right. Yet there seems to be a gulf between how we treat racists and how we deal with other forms of small minded bigotry. Quite rightly, racist chanting has all but been eliminated from the terraces, but it is still quite acceptable to abuse a player’s, appearance, hair length, family relationship or sexuality.

There is a deep rooted misogynistic culture around football that should not be tolerated. We are in a position where it is common place to chant about abusing a player’s wife. It is common place to call a player a “fucking faggot” if he falls over. Indeed, there are few moral depths that the football fan will not sink to if they think they can get away with it. The deplorable comments that Emmanuel Adebayor was subjected to illustrates this point. At what point did tens of thousands of Arsenal fans think it was OK to sing “It should have been you, it should have been you, who was shot in Angola, it should have been you” in reference to the terrorist attack his team suffered, in which a friend of his died?

So why is there such a gulf between attitudes both within the FA and on the terraces between how we should tackle racism and how we should tackle other forms of discrimination and hatred? Imagine if you and your girlfriend approached a steward on a match day and complained that someone has just commented “I see you let your wife out of the kitchen then…(belly laugh)… that blonde bitch probably had the map upside down and was looking for the shops”. What do you honestly think would happen? Nothing! Change this scenario to any other form of discrimination other than racism, a gay couple being called faggots or a guy with long hair being called ‘gypo’ and the outcome would be the same. No action. Now insert a racist slur and you would witness an eviction, an arrest or if this did not happen a fast moving club to make it look like they were acting on this complaint.

To begin to stamp out the sort of reoccurring prejudice that we see in football we need to break down some basic barriers. We need to proudly say that racism is wrong because it judges a person and their capabilities based on a very limited set of categories, such as religion, nationality or skin colour. Equally however, we have to be able to say that judging a person on what or who they are sexually attracted to is equally as narrow minded.

The suggestion that women don’t have the mental capacity to understand the offside rule is almost as insulting as Jimmy Hill back in the 80’s suggesting that those “black aces” don’t have the mental capacity to understand the game but could be used because boy can they run fast.

Football continues to reflect the most outdated and unacceptable sides of our society. This is deeply frustrating as it has such potential to be a positive catalyst for change. We have understood this in terms of racism. Why can we not see that football has a responsibility to tackle these other forms of bigotry that still blight this beautiful game?

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Filed under Football, Politics, sexuality, Social comment, Sport

Three men arrested for gay sex and Turkey looks further away from the EU than ever before

It is 2011 and there are still people being arrested in Europe for ‘crimes against nature’. Three men were today arrested in their own homes under the criminal offence of ‘conspiring to have sexual intercourse against the order of nature’, an offence that holds a punishment of up to 5 years in prison in Northern Cyprus.

Where did Northern Cyprus dream up such a horrific law? Well on this one, we (the Brits) are a bit to blame. The law that they have been arrested under is a hangover from British colonial law. Opps!

This arrest is an outrageous move from Northern Cyprus (half of the Republic of Cyprus to everyone apart from the Turks) that ignores international law and basic human rights standards. Equally it is going to be (quite rightly) a point of contention for all future negotiations with the EU. Turkey is held by the European Court of Human Rights responsible for all human rights abuses occurring within Northern Cyprus. As such, this is serious backwards step for enlargement negotiations.

Turkey needs to show it is serious not only about the ongoing Cyprus issue but also upholding and promoting basic human rights standards.

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From denying the existence of homophobia to advocating the existence of ghosts – the tricky path of representing the East Midlands as a Tory MEP

Today was a sad day for me. When I heard the news that the long suffering Conservative MEP Roger Helmer was resigning I felt lost, confused and upset. For the last few years, Roger has provided the very bread and butter of Conservative mockery that this blog relies on. He was my ‘go to guy’ when I wanted a cheap shot at the Tories. Whatever the issue was that I was writing about you could guarantee that Roger Helmer had put his slightly old-fashioned Tory foot in it. A man who actually thinks homophobia doesn’t exist. With his departure who would I turn to?

I need not to have worried however. Sat just underneath Roger Helmer on the 2009 Conservative Party candidate list for the East Midlands was Rupert Matthews. Rupert Mathews (now Rupert Mathews MEP) through a quick Google search has presented me a treasure chest of things to mock him for. The front page of his website (with pictures of knights and all) gives us a few clues that something aint quite right. Then we have his two personal blogs – The Ghost Hunter and – The History man. A quick glance at these blogs and alarm bells start to ring.

His published titles include, “‘UFOs: A History of Alien Activity from Sightings to Abductions to Global Threat’, ‘Roswell: Uncovering the Secrets of Area 51 and the Fatal UFO Crash’, ‘Alien Encounters: True-Life Encounters with Aliens and Other Extra-Terrestrial Phenomenon’, ‘Bigfoot and Other Mysterious Creatures”. It would appear, the Conservatives in their never ending quest for comedy have managed to find a man slightly more delusional and odd man than Roger Helmer. An expert on UFOs and alien abductions – wow. You cannot make this stuff up!

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Who is David Cameron? A gay rights activist? Possibly…

Who is David Cameron? In his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference Cameron stated clearly that he backed gay marriage. Does this make him a gay rights activist?

In the past he has been caught short when asked about various gay rights issues. There has been at best, an unclear narrative up to now about where Cameron sits on gay rights. The problem that I and millions of other Brits have is trying to distinguish what or who Mr Cameron is, and how much of what he says he believes and how much of it is just bluff. So who is David Cameron?

In his keynote speech Mr Cameron said,

I stood before a Conservative conference once and I said it shouldn’t matter whether commitment was between a man and a woman, a man and another man or a woman and a woman. You applauded me for that. Five years on, we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage. And to anyone who has reservations, I say this: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.

These are not empty word either, it would appear that this government is acting on lgbt issues. Last month for example ministers announced a consultation that would be held on how to introduce same-sex marriage before 2015.

Yet regardless of this evidence to his credit, he has been repeatedly caught out on gay rights issues. Is this because he is the leader of a group of deeply homophobic MPs/MEPs? Not to mention the company that the Conservatives keep in their European Parliament grouping. Or, is it because his commitment to equality is based on a race to the middle moderate ground to win the popular vote? Gay rights is no longer radical!

On this, I am willing to give him credit. I do honestly believe him when he says he backs gay marriage. I feel that this is something that he is personally committed to. Unfortunately he has the pleasure of being the leader of the likes of Roger Helmer and other notorious homophobes. Maybe some party discipline is in order here?

In answer, who is David Cameron? Foremost he is a politician, someone willing to say, behave and act in a certain manner to win popular support. Is this the polar opposite of being a gay rights activist? No. I might be wrong but I get the feeling that on this issue Cameron is on board – it just also happens to politically useful.

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Rick Perry, would you want him as the next US President?

This article was originally published on Out Bristol Issue 12

I am struggling to think of a politician who ideologically sits further away from my political view point than Rick Perry. Perry has recently entered the race to become the Republican Presidential Candidate. I focus specifically on Perry, opposed to any other candidate as he is riding a wave of support that has tipped him to win the chance to go head to head with Obama in 2012 and possibly become the next President of the United States of America. Perry is a man who not only holds deeply unpleasant political views but someone who justifies them through a contradictory ideology.

Perry is vehemently anti state intervention. He has developed into perhaps the ultimate neo-liberal (in the classical British sense of the word opposed to the American understanding of a [lefty] ‘liberal’). Yet, if we look at some of his key policy areas we can see a Grand Canyon size contradiction. In his 10 years as Governor of Texas he consistently slashed state funding, supported the use of the death penalty, and strongly opposed civil partnerships for same sex couples.

In one light Perry backs the American dream. Your chance to succeed, whoever you are, and the state’s responsibility is simply not to get in your way. He notoriously described a bill to ban texting whilst driving as, “a government effort to micromanage the behaviour of adults”. This ideological drive to avoid state intervention resulted in the state budget in Texas to tumble during his oversight. Yet on the flip side of this apparent obsession with avoiding state intervention he appears to back the State when it takes away someone’s life, stops two people from marrying or denies a child’s access to sufficient sex education. For me, that’s a pretty big infringement of someone’s rights by the State.

The American dreams rests on the concept of a meritocracy – the idea that if you have talent and you work hard you will succeed. As soon you mix a potent dash of discrimination into this formula you end up with entire sections of the population being hampered, either by the state or through individual prejudice. Perry appears to actively support the state in discriminating and is oblivious to the reality of individuals holding discriminatory views.

This level of tacit homophobia is not surprising, in 2010 Rick Perry’s fellow Texas Republicans voted on a party platform about LGBT Americans, saying: “We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases…Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable, alternative lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples.”

Across the pond they are laying the foundations for how the most powerful country in the world is going to be governed for the next 4 years. Be under no illusion that if Perry is at the helm, the fight for LGBT rights, equality and diversity will face an uphill struggle.

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Filed under Far-right politics, Human rights, sexuality, Social comment

Give blood for all those who cannot

Today marked a milestone in the campaign to tackle the discriminatory policy which had banned gay men from donating blood. This ‘modern’ policy however, in full knowledge of the latest medical advice, is still fundamentally discriminatory and stops gay and bi-sexual men from donating when they are safe to do so.

The change in policy basically changes a lifetime ban for a gay or bi-sexual man from giving blood to a one year ban. It is clearly a step in the right direction and will undoubtably enable some gay and bi-sexual men from giving blood. At a time of national shortage however, we need every man and women who safely can to donate blood.

As Ben Summerskill the Chief Executive of Stonewall commented, ‘To retain a blanket ban on any man who has had sex with another man in the last year, even if he has only had oral sex, remains disproportionate on the basis of available evidence”. Significantly I would also add to this comment, “even if the sex was protected and with just one partner”. For me this new policy remains fundamentally unacceptable and discriminatory. Let me explain through an example.

A gay man in a monogamous relationship who has only had oral sex with one partner his entire life will still automatically be unable to give blood. This is in contrast to a heterosexual man who has had multiple partners and not worn a condom with any of his partners who will not be questioned about his behaviour, let alone banned.

I would argue that all those who wish to donate blood should be questioned on their sexual behaviour, regardless of their sexuality, and then assessed appropriately. This currently does not happen.

Therefore this blog post ends with a plea. For anyone who fits into the new arbitrary criteria to give blood, please do. Go and give blood for all of those who cannot. People’s lives depend on it.

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School is far from being out

This article was originally published in OUT Bristol magazine Issue 9

Homophobic bullying is rife in schools across England and Wales.  A study by Stonewall found that almost two-thirds of LGBT pupils suffered from homophobic bullying at school. Of those bullied, the report stated that 41% had been physically attacked while 17% had received death threats.

This problem is not evenly distributed across all schools. The problem is concentrated in schools who fail to actively tackle the problem. There are active positive steps that can be taken to reduce the risk LGBT pupils face.

For example a school could brief teachers to tackle the use of the word gay as a play ground insult.  They could actively advertise confidential spaces for children to go to discuss their sexuality. They could actively train counselling and support staff about the impacts that homophobic bullying can have. They can put greater emphasis within the national curriculum on the diversity of people’s sexuality and gender identities. Sadly, these very basic steps are too often not being taken.

The Stonewall report found that half of teachers fail to respond to homophobic language when they hear it. Just 7 percent of teachers respond every time they hear homophobic language. Seven in ten pupils have never been taught about lesbian and gay people, while 4 out 5 pupils believe they have no access to information regarding sexuality.

These results are deeply worrying and perhaps this can begin to explain why an LGBT pupil is 6 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterpart. Any other issue skewing bullying and academic achievement figures would have been tackled by now, but this issue is continuously being swept under the carpet.

As a parent, or carer of a child, you can tackle this by directly raising with your local school what positive steps they are taking.  Ask them if they have implemented all the recommendations suggested in Stonewall’s “School Report”. Remember that regardless of the sexuality of your child, it is more likely to be happy and doing well in an open and accepting atmosphere.

Equally, you can contact you local authority and ask them what action they have taken. Brighton and Hove Council have recently adopted a suicide and discrimination strategy that directly looks to tackle homophobia in schools. This issue will continue to be ignored unless we all work to keep in on teachers and politician’s agenda.

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Mike Hancock – The Home Office appears to be “institutionally homophobic”

I have blogged before how Government policy is still leaving Gay, Lesbian and Bi-sexual asylum seekers exposed to torture, rape and even death. I am delighted that issue has been taken up by Mike Hancock MP.

Mr Hancock wrote to the Home Office to highlight the case of Robert Segwanyi, 33 who was tortured and jailed in Uganda for being gay. An immigration judge ruled to send him back to Uganda. This decision was eventually deferred but it left Mr Hancok to conclude that “the UKBA and the Home Office are institutionally homophobic”.

This problem urgently needs to be addressed so we can ensure we are not sending back vulnerable people to face the unimaginable.  Just last month the Guardian reported the case of a Lesbian from Uganda where Home Office lawyers argued that there was no persecution there and that she could return home as long as she lived discreetly. This is unacceptable and has to stop.

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A walk of repentance for homophobia

Symon HillSymon Hill embodies the polar opposite of the sort archetypal Christian I address in my blog post “Do not use Christianity to justify your own homophobic prejudices“. In that blog I argued some Christians used their faith as a lazy excuse to perpetuate their own homophobic views.  This is stark contrast to Symon who is actively using his Christian views to question prejudice.

If some Christians are complacent in my previous criticism, then Symon Hill is there to challenge them (I might add from a far superior theological understanding to myself). On this occasion he is doing this by undertaking a walk of repentance for his previously held views on sexuality. He will walk 150-200 miles from Birmingham to London stopping at churches to raise awareness of the issue.

Symon has a powerful back story which adds weight to his walk. Earlier this year he told Pinknews, “I was fine with homosexuality and bisexuality before I became a Christian in my late teens. But after my conversion, I thought that opposition to same-sex relationships was ‘part of the deal’, even though my own sexual feelings had not been exclusively heterosexual (and still aren’t). This was partly out of a desire to fit in at the church I had joined. That church was very good in many ways, and had a very positive effect on me in other areas of my life, but I think they were severely mistaken about sexuality. Having adopted that view, I then campaigned against the ordination of ministers in same-sex relationships and spoke out strongly against Christian acceptance of
homosexuality.”

Symon is now repenting for the hurt he caused during this time. Interestingly for me, he has attracted wide-spread support from across different denominations. Symon suggests that this “is a reminder that there is growing acceptance of same-sex relationships across nearly all wings of Christianity. Church divisions over sexuality are not – as the media sometimes imply – a matter of “liberals” on the one hand and “conservatives” or “evangelicals” on the other”. In his words and actions he is giving reformers within all denominations a focal point and a voice.

I find his boldness and strength of conviction heartening. I have had the pleasure of previously attending a training session that he was running (on a completely different issue), and can vouch for his passion, integrity and enthusiasm. I would encourage anyone who is free to go and listen to him speak. I am sure he would be able to tackle the potential antagonisms between Christianity and homosexuality with more grace, composure and eloquence than I can ever hope to muster.

I wish Symon all the best on his walk. I am sure it will be challenging for him both physically but also emotionally. Let me know your thoughts if you go to hear him speak.

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Tackling the “sexualisation of children” has to be balanced with not crushing natural sexual curiosity

Found on coffee tables up and down the country

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has published guidelines for tackling the “sexualisation of children” as the Government releases a review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of children. David Cameron ordered a review by Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mothers’ Union, following a series of examples of leading retailers using “sexual or inappropriate” branding on children’s products. The report was entitled “Let children be Children” and can be found here.

Whilst I am sympathetic to the report’s findings, and join the flock of moralists who squawk at the idea of Tesco’s selling padded bras and thongs to under 12’s, I also find the underlying moralistic nature of the argument worrying.

It strikes me that we have a responsibility to protect not just children, but also adults from a soft sexualisation and the objectifying of individuals. As such, I strongly welcome some of the recommendations such as:

  • Make public space more family-friendly by “reducing the amount of on-street advertising containing sexualised imagery in locations where children are likely to see it.”
  • Stop the process where companies pay children to publicise and promote products in schools or on social networking sites by banning “the employment of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing.”

Yet, I do not feel that simply trying to hide away the sexual nature of adult life until a child turns of age (12,14,16,18?) is an effective strategy.  For example, one of the recommendations was, “Ensure children are protected when they watch television, are on the internet or use their mobile phones by “making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material” across all media”. The problem in my mind is not children seeking out sexual (and/or political) material. This is a natural process of growing up. The problem rests in the soft, day in day out, objectifying of bodies and relationships.

As cultural dictator of the UK government I would slap restrictions on crass soap opera story lines, ban Rihanna and have a ceremonial burning of all our tabloids. These do great damage to our children’s understanding of identity and relationships.

There is a serious point here, and I do not think the recommendations pick up on it. There is a difference between the slow soft sexualisation of children that leave them with bizarre, unattainable understandings of sex, relationships and (as the review blurred sex and politics so can I) politics and the naturally inquisitive nature of children who are on a path towards adulthood. However you define adulthood, I hope you would agree that it is a process, one that children will start on at a variety of stages.

As such, I am would welcome more liberal access to pornography, but would condemn the “soft core” magazines such as FHM. I know parents who wouldn’t even hesitate at leaving a FHM magazine lying around, but would be horrified at the idea of their child watching porn. As perverse as it seems, I honestly believe the everyday battering of images, sounds and experiences children receive is far more damaging than the over 18 only stuff children purposely seek out.

This report is a big step forward for protecting childhood from the fierce marketing world but it borders dangerously close to ineffective moralistic impositions.

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Tackling homophobic Christians through comedy

I was reading about Christianity and homophobia in Vanessa Baird’s book, “Sex, Love & Homophobia” and I came across a comedy letter.  It highlights what can happen if you chose to read the bible out of context. The letter was written in reaction to Dr Laura Schlesinger (a US broadcaster who quoted Leviticus 18:22 on her show to justify why she thought homosexuality was a sin). Thought you might enjoy.

The letter reads:

Dear Dr Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

     a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

     b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

     c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

     d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

     e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

     f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

     g) Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

     h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?

     i) I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

     j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev.24:10-16)? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

     I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging. Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.

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We need to put equal love on this Government’s agenda

This article was originally published in Issue 7 of OUT Bristol magazine

Lynne Featherstone - The Equalities Minister

It is simple, if you deny homosexual couples the right to marry, or heterosexual couples the right to have civil partnerships on grounds of their sexuality, you are discriminating. This has severe consequences.  Denying couples equal treatment in this sense is counter to the Human Rights Act. In a democracy all people should be equal in the eyes of the law, regardless of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately our Government does not see it in such a clear cut way.

The current Government is taking some very welcome steps forward, even if these are small and tentative steps. There is a move to add a section into the Equalities Act that would allow civil partnerships to be registered on religious premises.  Yet, within this, it clearly states, “For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they do not wish to”.  Essentially, they are saying that no organisation will be forced; but faiths, like the Quakers, who support civil partnerships, could legally host ceremonies.

This clearly does not go far enough. The Government has said that it is consulting with all relevant actors on how to move forward from here.

The Equal Love campaign is highlighting not only the potential illegality of the Governments actions but also the contradictory and highly immoral nature of the Governments actions. We all need to publically back this campaign. With Wedding fever on boiling point we have never had a better chance to highlight this issue. We have a Royal Wedding and a Government consultation on homosexual marriage and civil partnerships! We cannot let this pass us by.

The consultation will run until June 23rd. It is essential that the Government hears a strong and clear voice in response to this consultation. We must all stand up and say, that we should all have equal access to marriage or civil partnerships, regardless of our sexuality.  The consultation can be found at www.equalities.gov.uk/news/civil_partnership.aspx. Equally, write to your MP, your local paper or simply your friends. Whatever you do, do not let this opportunity slip by.

Be under no pretence that those who are opposed to these equality measures are an organized and powerful lobbying force. If we do nothing, I can guarantee that this opportunity will be lost.

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David Cameron has to move beyond words when calling for Christians to be “welcoming” and “accepting” of homosexuals

This article was originally published in OUT Bristol magazine.

Cameron has to move beyond words

David Cameron has moved his party on leaps and bounds from its deeply homophobic past.  Yet, when he calls for Christians to be “tolerant” and “welcoming” in light of a recent adoption ruling, we all know that he is referring to some within his own party.  For Cameron, Christianity will be one of the major battle grounds where his vision of an inclusive form of Conservatism is contested. He has to prove that he has at least thought about how the two can be reconciled otherwise his words are just that – words!

British politics has a very recent and very bleak history in relation to homophobia which still frames the current debate. Throughout the 1987 election campaign, the Conservative party campaigned on a heavily homophobic stance with election posters having slogans such as ‘Young, Gay and Proud…Labour’s idea for good education for your children’.  Outrageous in our eyes – a good election strategy for the late 1980’s Tories! I won’t mention the scandal that broke just before the May 2010 election in relation to Mr Grayling (current Minister for Work and Pensions)!

It was only in 1994 that our enlightened leaders chose to legalize “sodomy”.  The very word “sodomy” holds long rooted biblical significance coming from the wildly misquoted story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Too often, the LGB community roles over and accepts that Christianity and Homosexuality are incompatible. I believe it essential to tackle such ideas.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah was a story that aimed to highlight the morality around hospitality; the sexual undertones are minor, if there at all. The argument goes that Lot was giving hospitality to an unknown stranger, and the men of the city gathered to ‘know’ who this stranger was. The argument that this can be understood in term of homosexual relations is weak; to imply that God destroyed Sodom for this reason is weaker still. This story is also later referred to by Jesus (Matthew 10:14 15) where he implies the story has more to do with hospitality that homosexuality. He said “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town”.  

The status of hospitality over sexual morality is highlighted by the fact that when Jericho was destroyed by the Lord, the one person spared was a prostitute, despite prostitution being prohibited (Leviticus 19:29), because she offered hospitality. It would suggest therefore that the “homosexual” understanding of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has more to do with modern and post-modernist understandings of sexual morality than it does with the story itself, which is based predominantly around hospitality. If we did choose to understand it in relation to sexual morality we have trouble explaining the climax of the story with Lot being seduced by his two daughters.

This does not stop homophobic politicians using Christianity to hide behind to avoid facing up to their own prejudices.

If Cameron really wants to win over the LGB community, I would like to see him engage the Christian community on these difficult issues rather than lazily accepting the out-dated discourse that Christians can be homophobes because the bible tells them so.  At the very least we have to understand these attitudes as a subjective understanding of Christianity.

Should the state be there to lazily force Christians to be “tolerant”? I suggest only as a last resort. Before that it should be the politician’s responsibility to argue and persuade people of these views.  Maybe this is why we have experienced such a harsh backlash from many within the Christian community.

Therefore this piece finishes with a fun challenge.  Write to Mr Cameron asking him how he thinks his “deep rooted Christian beliefs” fit with his open belief in sexual equality. Does he think they are compatible?

I think they are, but it would be good to hear the leader of our country say so.

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Filed under History, Politics, Religion, sexuality

[part of] The Sporting World unites to tackle homophobia

The Lawn Tennis Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Rugby Football League, the Rugby Football Union, the Olympics organising committee and the Football Association have signed a government charter for gay rights.

The charter calls on sport’s governing body to work to stamp out homophobia and transphobia and ensure everyone is welcome at sporting events.

This is yet another positive step forward in tackling homophobia in sport. 

Upon announcing this initiative however, Lynn Featherstone commented that she was urging all other sporting bodies to come aboard and support gay rights.  She commented, “Sport should be about what you can do, not who you are. But too many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people feel that the sports field is not somewhere they can be themselves, and that prejudice and discrimination will mean their sexuality is always talked about more than their ability with a ball, bat or racket.

“Homophobia and transphobia has no place in sport and I’m delighted that so many sporting bodies are backing our campaign to stamp it out at all levels, from local parks to Olympic stadiums.”

With high-profile stars such as Gareth Thomas and Steven Davies publically gay, it does look like the tides are turning for perhaps the last taboo in British sporting discrimination.

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Why Steven Davies sexuality is not a private affair

This article was originally published in Issue 5 of OUT Bristol magazine

Steven Davies

“Steven Davies is gay” bellows out every media outlet under the sun. “So what” chuckles the majority of cricket and sport fans in reply. 

Variations of this scenario are played out on news sites across the web in response to cricketer Steven Davies announcement that he is gay.  Undoubtedly in pubs up and down the country this sentiment will be repeated.  “Why do we (inherently implying the heterosexual majority) need to know about it”? This argument has deep repercussions for the wider LGBTI community and needs to be challenged.

Firstly, the idea that “heterosexuals don’t feel the need to ‘announce’ their sexuality”, is flagrantly not true.  When sport stars (often male dominated team sport stars) decide to grace twitter with their enlightened presence, it is all too often either a PR stunt where they describe their perfect nuclear family, or a lewd playground for grown men to make out of hand innuendo.  Apart from a few sniggers, no one questions the macho chauvinistic tweets that are based on crude metaphors. Equally, no one questions it when sports stars talk about “cuddling up with wife”, nor should they. Can you imagine though mainstream new media responding well to a tweet “just cuddling up with my man”? Sadly not.

Of course, these issues are not isolated to cricket, or indeed, even sport.  When the undercover bigot talks of privacy they are missing a glaring truth.  The heterosexual man can, and does, talk about his sexuality on a regular basis in a myriad of ways.  Subconsciously or not, the modern heterosexual man has plenty of acceptable and unacceptable ways of showing the world his sexuality.  Equally, being heterosexual is the expected “norm” in common discourse.  The argument to suggest that sexuality is a private matter has the logical consequence that all the related problems should be kept out of sight and out of mind.

This is why we, as a collective community need to welcome Steven Davies announcement with pride and enthusiasm.  Not because of the tokenism but because it is the start of moving LGB, as a very idea into common discourse. 

Secondly, his coming out is not the issue in itself.  The fact that he is the first professional cricketer to come out is the problem.  Being a male dominated environment is something that the cricketing world is conscious of; they occasionally have meetings on such issues.  Being a white dominated environment is equally something that the cricketing world is conscience of, they quite often have meetings to discuss this.  Being publically 100% (now with the one exception of Steven Davies) heterosexual does not seem to be something that the cricketing world has registered.  This is one of the greatest benefits of Steven coming out.  He highlights a problem, and without a shadow of doubt, it is clear that the problem now lies on the doorstep of the International Cricketing Council to do something about it. 

There have, to their credit, been powerful voices arguing for measures to tackle sexism and racism within cricket.  As a result, steps have been taken to begin to challenge these problems, although they obviously still exist.  What I am excited about now is that there is a well recognised, respected voice to begin to have the conversation about homophobia in cricket.  There is a long way to go, but at least now we can begin to have the conversation.

You can see Steven’s conversation with the Daily Telegraph about coming out here

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Welcoming Steven Davies announcement

Steven Davies

Once again, I would like to welcome a high profile sports star “coming out” publicly that he is homosexual.  I have a blogged before about how important it is to have role models that are openly gay.

Steven Davies is the only openly gay cricketer.  His decision to announce his sexuality publicly remains an incredibly brave move in an industry that is still hostile to issues of sexuality, especially in relation to sponsors. As Steven commented himself though, “If I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that’s all I care about”. 

I am convinced that his decision will do just that.

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Happy Valentine’s Day – gay marriage and religious civil partnerships to be allowed!

It has been reported by the Sunday Times, and repeated across bloggersphere that the Liberal Democrat equality minister Lynne Featherstone will announce a proposal to end the ban on same-sex marriage at the same time as the Government announces the timetable for civil partnerships to be held in religious buildings.

If these rumours are confirmed (and the home office currently has refused to deny them) on Thursday, then this will be a fantastic step forward towards equality in this country.  This issue has been at the centre of Peter Tatchells “equal love campaign” which has seen heterosexual couples applying for civil partnerships and homosexual couples applying for marriage. 

This is an incredibly important step for men and women of faith who wish to join their homosexual relationships in marriage.  This is as much a step forward for religious equality as it is for sexual equality. 

Commenting on the story Peter Tatchell said, “Gay civil partnerships are not good enough. They are not equality. In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law. All couples – gay and heterosexual – should be able to get married in a civil ceremony in a register office.”

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Lynne is not forced to back down from this position between now and Thursday.  We can help by publically backing these plans.

Happy Valentine’s day!

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Extreme homophobia in modern reggae music

This article was published in Out Bristol issue 13

Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Buju Banton, Capleton, Sizzla, TOK, Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel are all examples of modern reggae artists who have over stepped the mark.  They are overtly homophobic.  They have the right to speak out against “homosexuals”, however unpalatable that it.  They do not however, have the right to incite violence.  There music does exactly that!

Some try and defend lyrics such as  “you know we need no promo to rub out dem homo” from Bounty Killer (aka Rodney Pryce), and “I’m a dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays” by the charming Beenie Man.  I say that these lyrics are indefensible.

It is important to point out that there is little “Jamaican” or “African” about homophobia.  There is plenty of evidence to suggest homophobia was forced onto Jamaican culture by Christian fundamentalist in the 19th century.  Indeed, the opposite can be argued to be true, that “African culture” which so many of these homophobes purport to be representing , actually saw homosexuality as quite a normal act and indeed, at times common place (This is especially true of West Africa where the majority of men were taken from in the slave trade).  These practices maintained a high level of prominence within “slave communities” in Jamaica. See Suzzane LaFont’s paper “Very Straight Sex: The development of sexual mores in Jamaica“.

Essentially, we shouldn’t tolerate this sort of hate filled music. We should certainly not listen to music that incites violence and murder against someone because of their sexuality. And finally, we shouldn’t accept their defence that it is somehow OK because of their “Jamaican” cultural heritage!

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A guide to the different options for homosexual men wishing to become fathers

Elton John and his partner David Furnish have just adopted a 14 month old boy

Many homosexual men wish to play a key role in family life.  The desire to be a father is extremely strong, and yet for many men it seems bewildering and confusing.  I have tried in this blog to simplify the different options for gay men who want to be fathers down so that it is all laid out in front of them.  No one option is right for every one.  It is up to every individual to decide what is best for them.

Adoption

There are currently about 4,000 children waiting to be adopted within the UK.  Gay men, either individually, or in couples are allowed to adopt children in the UK (assuming they meet the incredibly strict standards that the adoption process requires).  Being homosexual is neither a hindrance nor an asset to adopting a child.  A good place to start would be to choose an adoption agency and proceed from there (Look for an agency with supportive or useful information on their web-site).  Remember only 2% of children adopted in the UK are under 1.  You have to think hard if this is the route is for you as it is a tough experience by anyone’s standards.

Fostering

Gay men (again either as individuals or couples) can adopt in England, Scotland or Wales.  Again, you want to choose a foster agency and decide what type of care you feel best suits you (Emergency, Short-term, long-term, permanent, remand, kinship).  If you are interested in fostering LGB children specifically see The Albert Kennedy Trust.

Surrogate:

There are two types of surrogacy available (traditional and gestational).

Traditional surrogacy is when the child is genetically related to the mother. She can become pregnant through self-insemination or through using the sperm of one of the intended parents.

Gestational surrogacy is when the embryo is created in a clinic normally using the sperm of one of the intended parents and is then implanted into the surrogate mother.  Here you have greater control over the child’s genetic material as you can choose the egg that is used.

It is important to remember however it is illegal for any individual or organisation to charge to help you find a surrogate. It is also illegal for you to advertise that you are looking for a surrogate. If you are considering this route it essential that you get specialist legal advice.

Co-Parenting

This is when two people choose to conceive a child together and raise it together.  It is common in this situation for the child to have (and live with) more than two “parents”.  In the UK however, it is legally impossible to have more than 2 legal parents.

If you are considering this route however, the biggest obstacle is the plethora of practical issues such as who has parental responsibility, who is responsible for discipline and how much time will you get to spend with the child etc.

Donating sperm

This is a great way of allowing single women, lesbians and infertile couples the chance to have children.  Every year thousands of women are unable to have children because of a shortage of sperm donors.

Things to remember…when the kid turns 18 they can request your contact details. Unlike in films (normally US based) there is no payment for sperm donation (just expenses).  As a sperm donor, you are not legally recognised as the child’s legal parent.

It can however be a rewarding altruistic act that many gay men will choose to consider.

For more information see:

Most of the above information was taken from the guide for gay dads which can be found here

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Do not use Christianity to justify your own homophobic prejudices

The King James Bible, does it tell us more about Jesus or King James?

The theological argument around Christianity and homosexuality has been a point of contention for generations now (especially in the US but also in Anglicanism). At best, in my opinion, the Bible is unclear about homosexuality. If anything the comments relating to homosexuality in the bible are more a reflection of specific moments in history when scripts have been translated than any original understandings of homosexuality. The gay Christians who interpret the Bible as being pro-homosexuality (other than in a broad equality sense) are as guilty of this as those who wish to exclude homosexuals from the Christian faith altogether.

As the argument claiming homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity is the most prominent, this blog will predominantly focus on these arguments. There are two passages in the Bible as well as the often stated story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) that people commonly quote in relation to homosexuality. Corinthians 6:9 and Timothy 1:10 have both been taken to mean that ‘homosexuals’ have no place in the Kingdom of God. Both stories can be better understood as an issue lost in translation. The words interpreted as ‘homosexual’ are much more likely to translate to something closer to ‘loose’ or ‘wanting self-control’, possibly ‘unrestrained’ than they are as “homosexual”. The modern inclusion of the word “homosexual” is much more likely to be a reflection of sexual norms at different periods of modern history.  To interpret these stories as referring to homosexuals is dubious to say the least. These passages though, have been interpreted by many to deny homosexuals any role within Christianity.

The most over quoted passage in relation to homosexuality remains Genesis 19 which deserves a slightly closer look as it is based less around translation issues and more around interpretive understandings of morality. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah was a story that aimed to highlight the morality around hospitality; the sexual undertones are minor, if there at all. The argument goes that Lot was giving hospitality to an unknown stranger, and the men of the city gathered to ‘know’ who this stranger was. The argument that this can be understood in term of homosexual relations is weak; to imply that God destroyed Sodom for this reason is weaker still. This story is also later referred to by Jesus (Matthew 10:14 15) where he implies the story has more to do with hospitality that homosexuality. He said “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town”.  It is worth thinking thought the cultural legacy hundreds of years on how we still use the term “sodomy”.

The status of hospitality over sexual morality is highlighted by the fact that when Jericho was destroyed by the Lord, the one person spared was a prostitute, despite prostitution being prohibited in Leviticus 19:29, because she offered hospitality. It would suggest therefore that the homosexual understanding of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has more to do with modern and post-modernist understandings of sexual morality than it does with the story itself, which is based predominantly around hospitality. If we did choose to understand it in relation to sexual morality we have trouble explaining the climax of the story with Lot being seduced by his two daughters.

This does not stop homophobic politicians using the “teachings” of Christ to justify prejudice legislation. Indeed, despite the focus on America, it is clear that the UK introduced a series of homophobic measures that were justified in a traditional Christian moral basis. While homophobic legislation spread in pre-Clinton America it gained considerable support through the Thatcher premiership. Throughout the 1987 election campaign the Conservative party campaigned on a heavily homophobic stance with electioneering posters holding titles such as ‘Young, Gay and Proud…labour’s idea for good education for your children’. It was only in the early 1990’s that sodomy was legalised in the UK

Whilst the official discourse in the West is moving towards an acknowledgement of gay rights, the public opinion is struggling to keep up. This is resulting in an official acknowledgment of homosexuality, combined with a common disregard for it being there. It is worth considering when looking to further gay rights that we are moving from a very recent history of extreme homophobia, a lot of which is based in modern Christian moral rationale.

We have to stand up against those who blindly quote the bible to justify their own beliefs.

Do not use Christianity to justify your own homophobic prejudices!

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