Monday, January 30, 2006

Neo-Nasties have gays on their radar again

While most political parties – big and small, Tories and all – have expressed the view that it was not revelations of homosexuality per se that is causing a stir in the LibDem leadership race, one party predictably filled the gap left when naked homophobia excused itself from polite company a few years ago. Yes, the BNP has declared the LibDems a “party of perverts” in a press statement (which I won’t bother linking to).

It could be that they just have a kneejerk reaction to the words “liberal” and “democracy”. Almost a decade after the equalisation of the age of consent, they say that this removal of discrimination was “charter to lure overseas perverts to prey on our youngsters and should be strongly opposed by all parents”. They’re still singing from this silly hymn-sheet in 2006. What provoked this latest denunciation of gay equality? News that gay tourism agencies promote the UK as a great destination. One of the selling points being a non-discriminatory age of consent.

Of course, the BNP is obsessed with “children”, disregarding all credible evidence that you can’t teach someone to be gay – but you can teach them to be tolerant. Griffin’s goosesteppers are now targeting LGBT History Month, which they describe as “Labour's gay sex plan for British schoolkids”.

But, we should remember that this type of language from this source – while easily ridiculed – is very dangerous. There are a lot of groups who spout forth varying degrees of homophobic bilge, but only one group has inspired a follower to plant a bomb in a gay bar, killing a pregnant women and her unborn child.

So who’s a greater threat to families and children?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Another tabloid homophobe emerges

Lowri Turner, a writer for The Western Mail – which declares itself rather grandly 'The National Newspaper of Wales' has stated rather bizarrely that “there is indeed a great deal of homophobia in this country”.

No shit!

I’m not going to argue with that. It is not her statement itself that is bizarre – it’s the context. The headline of her article is:

“However much I love my gay friends, I don't want them running the country”

What the hell is this? Tough love? It’s fine to love your gay friends, Lowri, but do you need to patronise them too?

Do you think that because you “love” your “gay friends” you’re not a bigoted homophobe?

Taylor clearly hasn’t worked out the the “B” in “LGBT” stands for bisexual either. Bisexuals apparently don’t exist in Lowri-world:

“Frankly, I don't trust a man who says he swings both ways, unless he is a spotty teenager who hasn't sorted himself out yet. Oaten is 41 and Hughes is 54. If they think they are old enough to run the country then surely they are old enough to work out which gender they fancy?”

Or if they do, they’re not to be trusted!

Indeed, Turner continues:

“Personally, I have to say that I don't think gay men make good party leaders or Prime Ministers. This has nothing to do with what they do in bed but everything to do with their lives in general.”

What? All gay people lead similar lives? Is this not the very basis of prejudice? But before you can get to splutter an objection, Turner counters defensively:

“Before I am accused of prejudice, I should say that not only are some of my best friends gay, but probably most of them are.”

Like we haven’t heard that old chestnut before!

Yes, apparently, we gayers are “different”. Presumably we don’t have the same concerns as “normal” folk. We’re “divorced”, apparently, from the reality of “normal” people’s lives and experiences.

“It is precisely because I know such a lot of gay men that I can say that I don't think many of them are capable of representing the interests of the vast majority of people.
Their lifestyles are too divorced from the norm. They are not better or worse, but they are different.

People, this is raw homophobia. Plain and simple.

It gets worse.

“Gay men face challenges of their own, but they do not face those associated with having children which is the way most of us live. I have gay friends whose biggest headache is whether to have a black sofa or a cream one. If they have a child it is a dog.”

I’m sure the members of Pink Parents, a support group for gay people with children, will be surprised that Turner thinks their kids are dogs.

“Without these experiences at the sharp end of our public services, they do not know how they function. This makes them completely out of their depth in administering them,” she pontificates.

“I think gay men are ill-suited to representing the interests of the population in general. However much I love my gay friends, I don't want them running the country.”

Does Lowri Turner really think that having children gives a person some special insight into running a country? Perhaps this is what people mean by “the nanny state”.

Has she ever stopped to wonder why many gay MPs get re-elected time and again? Does she really think their constituents share her views? Indeed, is there the slightest bit of evidence to suggest that gay town councillors or members of parliament have let their heterosexual constituents down? Have even Simon Hughes’s constituents suffered because he has no children. Has he neglected the schools and clinics in Bermondsey? Where are the facts to back up this claptrap?

I hope that Turner’s gay friends tell her where to put her sanctimonious patronage. Bring back Littlejohn-style antigay rants. I’ll take frothing-at-the-mouth homophobia any day over this pathetic apologia for prejudice.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Simon says…. I’ve had sex with men

Well, that confirms more than two decades of speculation. LibDem leadership candidate Simon Hughes has finally decided to be ‘open’ about his sexuality. I suppose it could be argued that he’s not actually saying he’s gay (neither did Elton John, at first) because he says he’s had sex with men and women in the past. So, if we take him at his word, he’s technically admitting to being bisexual. Whatever the case – welcome to the LGBT community, Simon!

At least Mr Hughes has done it with confidence and dignity – even if it did take 23 years. There was no tearful ‘admission’ and to his credit, no shocked wife and kids to tell.

Now, of course, Simon Hughes presented himself as “the straight choice” in that notorious Bermondsey bi-election in 1983, in what is acknowledged as the most homophobic election campaign in living memory. The Labour candidate – a pre OutRage! – Peter Tatchell was relentlessly smeared and attacked over his sexuality both by his rivals in Labour and by Liberal canvassers. Tatchell documented the whole sorry saga in his book The Battle for Bermondsey.

However, despite a (somewhat unfounded) reputation for ‘outing’ public figures, OutRage! never outed Hughes, despite having the ability to do so. Why? Well, because he wasn’t a hypocrite. It is only acceptable to ‘out’ someone if their public pronouncements are at variance with their private lives. That is to say, if they’re spouting homophobic crap and voting for antigay laws while hiding a secret gay life. Hughes did not do that.

Still, he’s being accused of “lying” by the straight media. I suppose technically that’s true. But I’m not convinced that the straight media either appreciate the difficulties many gay people have in coming out, or – more importantly – the media’s role in creating those difficulties.

The tabloid press are beyond the pale. The Sun used the term “LimpDems” in their story.

Sky News glibly referred to it a “scandal”, though perhaps they meant that it was a controversy because Hughes had denied being gay in the past. The Sky News story also confirms that The Sun were behind the ‘outing’. One has to wonder what the legitimate public interest is. Obviously I’m always glad when more people exit the closet, but I must confess to being ambivalent when the agent of that action is the Tabloid press who have no genuine interest in destroying the closet.

For gay people – even in “the 21st century” – the question of coming out or not is still a difficult one, and it isn’t just politicians, Hollywood actors and others in the public eye worry about. Will I get that promotion if the boss knows I’m gay? Will I be allowed to see my nephews if my sister knows I’m gay? Will I get harassed by the neighbours of they know I’m gay? These are questions that everyday gay people aske themselves… well, everyday. Even those, like myself, who are very ‘out’ – because every new day brings a new situation where one has to decide whether to out oneself or not.

Of course Simon Hughes should have come out. Of course, these days, even the Tories have openly gay MPs. But if there has been any hypocrisy, it’s been from a media that frames the question as if the answer is self-evident. To many, unfortunately, it isn’t. Homophobia and prejudice is still very much with us.

But, the only way we can begin to confront homophobic prejudice is to ‘out’ it. And, the only way to ‘out’ prejudice is to expose ourselves to it by coming out ourselves.

Peter Tatchell has forgiven Hughes for his part in the homophobic Bermondsey bi-election a quarter of a century ago. Tatchell is right to do so. In coming out, Simon Hughes is now one of us, and as such, we should protect and nurture him - as we must do when the estimated 50 other gay MPs who are still deeply in their closets decide to do the right thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Labour's design for Respect

As a graphic designer, I’ve always been as offended by the Respect Party’s logo as I have with their election shenanigans. Let’s face it, it looks like a drunk person designed it ten minutes after the print deadline had passed using some freeware fonts and Printmaster for Dos 3.2.

Let’s face it, it’s UGLY!

So, they must be thrilled that the far better resourced Labour Party have not only had a go at a redesign, but have used it on their own material.

With the slogan “Everyone is part of everyone else” one can only surmise that a Labour copywriter got the short end of the stick and is doing his best to break down inter-party identity recognition.

What next? A Labour's recruitment leaflet with have the slogan"Join Labour - Socialise, Work... and Party!"

Or perhaps they'll do a PowerPoint presentation "'Liberation for Democracy" on why they thought they should invade Iraq and advertise it with posters asking:

"Have you seen The Lib-Dem today?"

Frankly, their ad-agency should be fired. “Coke Gives You Pep?” I don’t think so! I cannot see that getting through QC. SO who dreamt up a Labour campaign named after one of their yapping-at-the-heels opponents?

Nevertheless, the probably won’t be, because the author of the document exhibits simlar symptoms of being divorced from reality.

“I am pleased that an ASBO is now a household expression – synonymous with tackling antisocial behaviour,” says one Mr T Blair, employed to write the forward. Is he mad? Surely he must realise that the image the average person has of ASBOs is of petty neighbours behaving like they’re on a reality TV show and of OAPs prosecuted for a range of activities that OAPs have meldrewed the rest of us with for eons. ASBO’s may very well have had a positive effect, but to trot out this feel-good nonsense certainly isn’t making the case.

But oh, it is not all that feel-good and inclusive. One community is excluded with a stern rebuke. “There is no room for cynicism”, the writer warns. I guess cynicism is anti-social – and we know what anti-social behaviour get slapped with!

But if cynics were worried only by the preachy tone of an otherwise common-sense collection of truisms, the scary part comes later on.

“The causes of disrespectful behaviour are harder to pin down. Many people feel that broad economic and social trends have led to changes in family structures such as the extended family and ‘good neighbourliness’.”

No disagreement there. Of course dysfunctional families and a lack of economic and social opportunity contribute directly to anti-social behaviour. If people don’t feel they have a stake in their community, they’re going to act out accordingly. It’s a no-brainer, really! But wait! That’s not the argument they’re making. Nope!

This is not the cause of anti-social behaviour,apparently. This is the cause... of the cause. The actual cause is, wait for it…

“a decline in the social influence of the Church and other faith communities…”


Is this really what a supposedly secular socialist political party is arguing? Not that socio-economic factors alone can contribute to the failing of social cohesion, but that a lack of faith is the real factor? They seem to be saying that the primary glue of a community is the Church, Synagogue, Mosque or Temple but that the influence of the Church, Synagogue, Mosque or Temple in holding a community together is undermined by socio-economic factors.

Mark my words, this will just provide an excuse and opportunity for religious groups to gouge more government money to fund their proselytising in the name of “community work”.

Why oh why can’t a socialist party not simply argue that a lack of socio-economic opportunity is in and of itself a sufficient cause of community breakdown?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Protest to free jailed Iranian union leader

12-2pm, Saturday
7 January 2006
BBC Persian Section
Bush House
The Strand
London WC2B 4PH(nearest tube: Holborn)

Bus workers in the Iranian capital Tehran have called for a worldwide day of action this Saturday, 7 January, to press for the immediate release of their union leader, Mansoor Ossanlou, who is being held without any charges in Evin Prison.

Labour movement, Iranian exile and solidarity activists will be protesting outside the BBC’s Persian Section in London to raise the issue.Bus drivers in Tehran will put up a poster on their screens with the words “Mansoor Ossanlou must be released” and drive with their lights on all day.Ossanlou, the head of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat e Vahed), has been held without any charges since 22 December.

So far negotiations with Tehran’s Mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, for his release and over a series of other demands have produced no results.

Activists are gravely concerned that the regime is buying time and is planning to frame Ossanlou and other activists on trumped up charges. Following a successful strike on Sunday 25 December in protest at the arrests, a number of their imprisoned colleagues were released. The workers have appealed to labour movement organisations around the world for support.

Galloway on Big Brother – an elaborate hoax?

A man of George Galloway's stature would never lower himself to appear on a trashy TV show for c-list celebrities.I believe it will be revealed soon that the person on the show is an impostor: a jobbing Scottish actor, possible hired by the Channel4 bosses and MI5 to discredit Mr Galloway.

CLICK HERE to reveal the true identity of the man on Celebrity Big Brother.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The new Littlejohn?

Entertainment columnist Adam Yusef’s ‘desert island disc’ must be “I’ll follow The Sun” – because he’s clearly showing signs of wanting to be the new Richard Littlejohn or Gary Bushell.

In a column in the Birmingham-based weekly entertainment magazine, Desi Xpress (Issue 42, December 2005), Mr Yusef writes:

" weddings... Gay people and committment? I don't think so... They'll be shagg*ng the neighbours before they even cut the cake. Bad idea I'm afraid. Great way of evading tax though..."

I wonder if he’s the same Adam Yusef described in Socialist Worker as “a leading Respect supporter in Birmingham”? If so, perhaps he needs to learn the meaning of the word.