Tag Archives: gay

Olympic diver Tom Daley is bisexual – so what?

Tom_Daley_2752191b
“So fucking what” is the chime of millions of people around the UK responding to news that Tom Daley is ‘in a relationship with a man’.

Within this ‘so fucking what’ camp of thinkers are the casual homophobes, those who see sex and love as private affairs and those who just don’t care very much about someone who can be involved with a programme as bad as Splash.

But of course it does matter. It shouldn’t, but it does.

On the fickle surface of it all you could argue that it matters because millions of people will watch his youtube video, because tomorrow’s papers will be filled with this story or because it will somehow help to break down lingering prejudice against a huge minority of people that don’t fit into the UK’s institutionalised heteronormative culture.

This is of course true, but more importantly than any of this is something probability suggests is currently taking place…

Somewhere in UK there is a young girl or boy that has been struggling with their own sexuality. What they feel comes from inside them, their heart, and they’re increasingly coming to realise that this is part of them for better or for worse. It both excites them but also strikes a note of fear through them.

At the same time, they live their lives surrounded by systematic tacit vitriol. Every day they go to school and hear homophobic banter that teachers fail to pick up on let alone punish. A few mates, who were brave enough to come out still experience bullying and harassment. Although it has died down in recent months, they still overhear comments about the “batty boy” and “stupid dyke”.

In the church they are told this feeling resting in their hearts is a sin, at the football ground they’re told it’s disgusting and in the papers it is at best, gossip.

The reality of their own internal feelings seem to be at odds to their surroundings.

But, in the midst of this, a widely loved sports personality manages to be open and honest about his sexuality. Despite the torrent of abuse that flows on twitter as inevitably as the coming of the seasons, Tom Daley has the love and support of his family, friends and literally millions of people all around the world.

The prospect of a life that allows for honesty, happiness and passion is illustrated before their eyes. If Tom’s loving father responded with the words, “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy” then the possibility of their own father responding with such warmth somehow feels more real.

A positive future, despite everything, is painted in front of them. For the first time in their lives they have, not so much a role model, as an illustration that it’s possible…to love someone of the same gender and be happy.

The simple fact is this, when you are raised surrounded by such vitriol, the faintest glimpses of such happiness can make the world of difference. Today Tom Daley has offered a gigantic wave of hope to millions.

And that is, at least in part, why it matters. Because in the words of Graeme Archer writing in the Telegraph, Tom “just did a beautiful thing

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Filed under sexuality, Sport

Richard Howitt MEP “Whatever Cameron claims, Tory views on LGBT issues are neanderthal and we saw that in yesterday’s vote”

Spot the contentious comment:

The European Parliament “welcomes the reintroduction by the UN General Assembly of sexual orientation as grounds for protection from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, and welcomes the EU’s efforts to this end

Or

The European Parliament “calls on the Commission to advocate the withdrawal of gender identity from the list of mental and behavioural disorders in the negotiations on the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases and to seek a non-pathologising reclassification

Or

The European Parliament “reiterates its request that the Commission produce a comprehensive roadmap against homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, also addressing human rights violations

Spotted anything contentious?

Apparently the 266 MEPs who voted against this amendment to the EU’s human rights report did. This included many UK Conservative, UKIP and BNP MEPs.

Richard Howitt MEP

As a result, the Labour MEP who tabled the amendment, Richard Howitt, commented, “Whatever Cameron claims, Tory views on LGBT issues are neanderthal and we saw that in yesterday’s vote”.

Daniel Hannan, one of the Tory MEPs who voted against the amendment however had another view. He succinctly responded to Howitt’s comments saying, “sexual orientation is none of the EU’s bloody business”.

I have strong reason to believe that some MEPs, such as the inglorious Roger Helmer, who voted against this amendment could be described as homophobic, or at best, ignorant.

Hannan however who represents a slightly more complex consideration which is worth quickly looking at.

Hannan (in his own words) was “virtually the only Conservative, not just to back the scrapping of Section 28 in 2000, but to oppose its introduction in 1988. I supported the equalisation of the age of consent in 1994. I backed civil unions in 2004, and am quite relaxed about upgrading them to marriages”.

A gay rights campaigner? Not quite.

At best you could describe Hannan as indifferent towards issues of sexuality. Hannan in the past has said, “On balance, I suppose I mildly favour the idea [of gay marriage]”. Not excactly a Peter Tatchell.

So why did Hannan vote against this amendment?

He responded to Howitt commenting, “sexual orientation is none of the EU’s bloody business…[I] can be in favour of gay equality while none the less believing that moral questions ought to be decided by each nation through its own democratic mechanisms and procedures”.

Daniel Hannan MEP

The conclusion here is telling. I don’t believe he voted down this motion because he is a homophobe, but simply because he has an alarming placement of priorities.

Hannan believes these sorts of ‘moral issues’ “ought to be decided by each nation”. I disagree with this statement but that’s fine. The problem comes when he decides to vote against an amendment aimed at (among other things) offering protection to LGBT asylum seekers, a life and death issue for many, because of this belief about doing things at a nation state level.

The EU might not be perfect Mr Hannan but you have an obligation as an MEP to use it the best you can. On this occasion you have put politics above people’s safety. That is not OK.

It is important however to not lose sight of the 265 other MEPs (including Mr Farage, Griffin amongst others) who voted against this motion. I cannot, for all that I have tried, find one good reason why any MEP opposed this amendment.

The full text of the amendment reads:

“108a. Commends the Council, the EEAS, the VP/HR, the Commission and the Member States on the reengagement in favour of LGBT people’s human rights in bilateral relations with third countries, in multilateral forums, and through the EIDHR; welcomes there introduction by the UN General Assembly of sexual orientation as grounds for protection from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, and welcomes the EU’s efforts to this end; calls on the Commission to advocate the withdrawal of gender identity from the list of mental and behavioural disorders in the negotiations on the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and to seek a non-pathologising reclassification; reasserts that the principle of non-discrimination, also embracing grounds of sex and sexual orientation, must not be compromised in the ACP-EU partnership; reiterates its request that the Commission produce a comprehensive road map against homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, also addressing human rights violations on these grounds in the world; calls on the Member States to grant asylum to people fleeing persecution in countries where LGBT people are criminalised, taking into consideration applicants’ well founded fears of persecution, and relying on their self-identification as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender;”

Did your MEP vote against the amendment? Maybe you would like to write to him/her and ask why? I would love to hear their response!

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Filed under EU politics, Far-right politics, Human rights, Politics, sexuality

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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Filed under Human rights, Politics, sexuality

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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Filed under Religion, sexuality

The only gay in the premiership

Gareth Thomas, the Rugby Union legend, has possibly taken the bravest step of his career.  He has “come out” that he is gay.  So what I hear people sigh!

This is a big issue for a number of reasons.

Gareth Thomas (Munster Vs Cardiff Blues) - Thanks to Clare Courier (flickr)

Firstly, Gareth is Wales most capped player, and perhaps more importantly he is still playing professional Rugby (for the Cardiff Blues). It is unprecedented for a Rugby Union star to come out whilst still a playing professional.  For a player of Gareth’s stature to come out it is incredible.  Players often shy away from this issue for fear of fans reactions, loss of sponsorship and lack of support from their clubs! For Gareth to face all this down and come out should be supported and acknowledged to be a truly brave act.  How the public reacts is incredibly important as it will set a precedent for all other gay sport stars who are thinking about coming out (at the moment in Rugby Union there is an openly gay referee but no player that I am aware of). 

Secondly, this is not just important for Rugby but sets a precedent for all other major sports.  At the moment, out of the 500 professional footballers in the UK, there are no openly gay footballers.  It is highly unlikely that this reflects the reality of footballer’s actual sexuality.  Footballers are role models for millions of people around the world.  To show that sexuality has nothing to do with your professional capabilities (or your ability to lead an ordinary life) would be incredibly positive.  Whether we like it or not, footballers are elevated onto pedestals by fans.  The only problem is they know more than anyone how easy it is to fall off that pedestal. Footballing history has not been kind to those who have not followed the script.

Justin Fashanu, the first million pound black footballer, came out and was hounded by fans and the public to such an extent that the coroner said it contributed to him committing suicide. We all remember the taunts that Grahame Le Saux received …all these chants seemed to be based on nothing other than the fact he read the Guardian and has a university education.  Le Saux was married…but he did collect Antiques!  Sadly, it was not just fans who taunted Le Saux, do you remember Robbie Fowlers taunts? http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/premier_league/article2419068.ece

Then there was the whole incident that involved heterosexual left back Ashley Cole.  The News of the World, wrongly, accused a premiership footballer of taking part in a Gay orgy.  This was not the interesting bit of the story.  What was interesting for me was despite not being named in the story; Cole went to extraordinary lengths to dispute the accusations even taking the paper to court.  Check out – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-378786/Cole-sue-gay-footballer-orgy-claims.html

I have said before and I will say again.  There is no social force in this world more powerful than football.  If you want to change anything in this world, start with football.  Sadly, for improving the lives of millions of people around the world affected by homophobia this looks like a slow process.  The Football Association (FA) has introduced a ruling that puts homophobic chanting on a similar scale to racist chanting.  There has been scattered reinforcement of this ruling (especially at the Seagulls ground who suffer disproportionate abuse).  To say that the FA is a slow moving conservative body would be an understatement.  This ruling however, at least sets a target to aim. 

Hopefully, footballers will follow in Gareth’s brave example.  Having openly gay footballers will be one of the biggest steps towards a more equal society that we could take.  All secretly gay sports stars though will be looking on with great interest to see how fans, sponsors and club treat Gareth.  Let’s hope it is with respect.

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Filed under Football, sexuality