Tag Archives: sexuality

Prove your sexuality – the impossible ask of asylum seekers in the UK

Today’s Independent reported on the case of Aderonke Apata, a Nigerian in the UK who is claiming asylum on the grounds of her sexuality. It reports:

‘The Home Secretary’s barrister, Andrew Bird, argued that Ms Apata was “not part of the social group known as lesbians” but had “indulged in same-sex activity”. He continued: “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.”’

2015 in case you are wondering.

Yep, it is 2015 and we still have a government department putting on record statements like this.

As if this wasn’t enough Mr Brid is quoted referencing her well documented mental health issues (including post-traumatic stress and an attempted suicide) as saying:

if she is suicidal and depressed she is making a jolly good show of it’.

By jolly good god.

This was so ludicrously absurd that I had to double check that this wasn’t a liberal baiting spoof! As far as I can tell it isn’t. These are the actual words of a man paid to represent the Home Office.

Mr Bird’s argument is based on a legal idea that goes something like this…just because an asylum seeker self-identifies as a lesbian, and indeed sleeps with other women, she is not actually a lesbian.

Want to know the logic? Read on…

In short, Mr Bird’s argument is based on the idea that because she has not always self-identified as a lesbian, she has, by ‘coming out’, shown her sexuality is changeable. Which conveniently fits her into some mad legal category which is outside of the ‘particular social group’ definition in the Refugee Convention.

Ever feel like law sits outside of common sense?

Well don’t be so quick to judge. A counter argument sitting much more closely within the humanitarian bounds of sanity was presented in this case (and many before). Our blogging friends over at the Justice Gap summarizes it well:

‘What Mr Bird’s case fails to take into account… is the stream of case law which shows that the real test is whether a characteristic is in the control of the individual to change (and so ‘mutable’) or whether it is a part of themselves that they cannot at this time be expected or able to change (and so ‘immutable’). So for example a child seeking asylum cannot force themselves to be older so they are not at risk on return and likewise a lesbian asylum seeker cannot simply choose to change their sexuality. This is notwithstanding that a child will eventually grow up and that there may have been a time in her past where a lesbian woman had not identified herself as a lesbian.’

The stakes in this game of pedantic legal back and forth are high however. Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison in Nigeria (thanks to recent laws) and there has been a spike in violence against gay people within the country (related to international pressure?).

There are very real human consequences to this decision.

The judge is yet to make a final call – Hynd’s Blog waits with a virtual weight in its stomach for the verdict.

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Filed under Human rights, sexuality

Olympic diver Tom Daley is bisexual – so what?

“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


Filed under sexuality, Sport

Power not sexuality is behind the Cardinal’s resignation

You have to understand, the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him. He’s more than your boss, more than the CEO of your company. He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold … he controls every aspect of your life

These are the words of the ex-Priest whose accusations have partly caused Cardinal Keith O’Brien to resign.

None of the accusations against O’Brien have yet to be proved. His resignation stokes speculation but proves nothing.

Cardinal Keith O'BrienThe liberal press has been quick to jump on these revelations and to highlight O’Brien’s long and vocal opposition to LGBT rights. The Guardian writes:

O’Brien…has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights, condemning homosexuality as immoral, opposing gay adoption, and most recently arguing that same-sex marriages would be “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved”. Last year he was named “bigot of the year” by the gay rights charity Stonewall

With “inappropriate acts” in speech marks the whole affair has been reported with a wink wink approach to sexuality. The whiff of hypocrisy from a deeply conservative institution proved just too strong to resist for many on the left.

It goes without saying that his attitudes towards sexuality are archaic at best. The Cardinal didn’t win the award of ‘Bigot of the year’ for nothing.

This emphasis however misses the pertinent point regarding sexual abuse – it’s about power.

Sexual abuse often occurs because of an abuse of a power dynamic.  The sexuality of the victim or the perpetrator is more often than not inconsequential.

By highlighting O’Brien’s staunch opposition to same sex marriage, the liberal media is playing into an idea that is used by the establishment that the problem is with the gays – not the unaccountable power structures.

He controls every aspect of your life

These words, more than anything else strikes me as hitting on the crux of the problem the Catholic Church faces.

The problem of course, is that by tackling these accountability issues, you also have to tackle vested interests.

This is just one of many challenges for the new Pope will face to bring the Catholic Church back from crisis point.

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Filed under Religion

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.


Filed under Politics, sexuality

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

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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Filed under sexuality, Sport