Tuesday, April 25, 2006

On "The Trouble With Gay Men"

I had an opportunity to catch part of the broadcast of Stonewall co-founder Simon Fanshawe's documentary "The Trouble With Gay Men" earlier this week. While I did not see the entire show (and plan to tape and view the Saturday morning re-broadcast), it did seem that the documentary was a bit disjointed in parts and lacked a consistent central message.

However, Fanshawe did bring up two issues which are persistent bugbears in the gay community -- the near-epidemic use of drugs in the urban club and bar scenes, as well as the "promiscuity/monogamy divide." While I am not going to comment on the virtue of his presentation of the content in this post, I do note that the debate he's attempting to participate within is an old one -- and the same old retorts of years past are emerging from the more libertine corners of gay culture.

Let's face it, gay culture is not very friendly -- and is very Darwinian. Most gay men in the urban scene "know what they want," and more often than not, it's not a coffee with an interesting fellow they've met over a discussion about the latest exhibition at the Tate. This sex-oriented urban culture, when mixed with drug use, results in a deadly cocktail, as the soaring rate of HIV infections amongst gay men in Britain indicates quite starkly.

Common sense, and the experience of many gay men, suggests that perhaps monogamous relationships aren't such a bad idea, especially amongst seronegative persons. They effectively halt the spread of HIV, they're lower risk (when truly monogamous), they help individuals achieve greater stability in life (when healthier relationships), and studies have even indicated that people of all genders in long-term relationships are both happier in life (on average) and earn slightly greater sums of money.

So why is this idea so relentlessly attacked by the usual suspects in the urban scene? I have no idea. It's not as though gays are being forced into long term relationships, they're simply being invited by many other gays to consider the possibility. However, there's often so little a place for monogamous gay couples within much of gay culture (and most certainly the gay media) that unsurprisingly, many (if not most) simply choose to "drop out" of gay life after establishing long-term bonds. Hence, the stereotype of the "boring suburban gay homemakers." I suspect many of those folks simply don't find gay venues to be very welcoming once they're coupled and it's clear they're just after socialising rather than eros. This is "tolerance and diversity?" We can do much, much better, I think.

I do know that such virulent rejection of coupled gays, and rejection of new ideas about stable and self-affirming gay relationships in the age of HIV and other debilitating STDs is a tragedy. As is the situation of the man who buys into the high-fashion, high-drama, low-commitment mythology and discovers that, 20 years or two stone later, he's now one of the "undesirable trolls" cast out into the outer darkness of urban gay life -- devoid of mainstream participation because he's no longer "hot" or "in style."

An introduction

Greetings! I am lucky enough to be the first guest blogger on Lock and Load, and this is a quick post introducing myself.

I'm an almost thirty-something gay man and US citizen residing in the UK, a "small-l" and "Big L" Libertarian who has been active in gay politics in the USA (and now the United Kingdom) for almost a decade. Hopefully, my contributions to the blog will serve as interesting and thought-provoking, and stimulate discussion around the issues. It's an honour to be invited by one of Britain's foremost gay activists to post here, and I hope all readers find my contribution to be useful reading.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Amnesty skews execution statistics

I was shocked, to say the least. I’ve been doing a lot of work recently campaigning around the issues of executions in Iran and Saudi Arabia of gays, women, secularists and others. The BBC reports that according to Amnesty International, 180 people have been executed in these two countries in the last year. Shocking, right?

Well, not as shocking as this: 80% of executions worldwide were carried out by one country: China. That’s right, folks. Over 1700 people were executed in China alone last year. Naturally, the moral relativists among us – like a certain Mr Livingstone, who compared the Tiananmen Square massacre to the Trafalgar Square poll tax riot – might want to point out that Britain hanged thirteen 17-19 year olds for murder between 1868 and 1899.

The USA also figures in there – responsible for 60 executions. Indeed, Amnesty dramatically – and I’d venture dishonestly – declares in the executive summary of their report:

- at least 2,148 people were executed in 22 countries
- 94% of them were killed in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the USA

What this type of reporting does, is ‘spread the load’ in the casual reader’s mind. But let’s break this down sensibly.

Firstly, as is noted, China was responsible for 80% of this figure. That leaves Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US responsible for the remaining 14%.

But dig deeper, and you discover that even of this 14%, the US contributed the least, 60 people compared to Iran’s 94 and Saudi Arabia’s 86.

Quibbling over nothing, you might be thinking… but what does this mean in per-capita terms?

The US population is almost 300 000 000.

In contrast, Iran’s population is 69 500 000 and Saudi Arabia’s a mere, 24 500 000.

That’s right. Their combined population is less than a third of the United States, but their execution rate is THREE TIMES HIGHER!

Now, China, of course (apparently the worst offender) is 4 times bigger than the US. So at the US rate, they would have executed about 250 people – not almost 1800!!

So, let’s level the playing field here and compare the PER CAPITA execution statistics.

According to my spreadsheet, the executions per capita are:
China: 0.000134514
Iran: 0.000135223
Saudi: 0.000349978
USA: “E” - Too infinitesimal for MS Excel to calculate.

So, let’s give Excel some help. Let’s remove the last “000” from the population figures so we can get a result:

China: 0.13
Iran: 0.13
Saudi: 0.35
USA: 0.02

This gives a different picture doesn’t it? In per capita terms, not only does the US figure remain comparatively insignificant, it shows that Iran and China are about the same and Saudi Arabia is actually the worst offender by a factor of three!

For every person executed in the US, Saudi Arabia is executing 18, and Iran and China are executing 7 each.

But there’s another note-worthy point. In the US, only first-degree murderers are executed, and only then after appeals and judicial reviews sometimes lasting over a decade. Unlike the other countries, people are not executed for political or ‘moral’ crimes. People are not executed in the US for disagreeing with the government or for being “unchaste” or renouncing their religion.

Also, a quarter of US states have dropped the death penalty, and there is a vocal and well-resourced anti-death penalty lobby in the US which goes about its business, with access to the media and celebrity endorsements, but most importantly, without the fear of death itself!

So why, one has to ask, is Amnesty dishonestly including the US in their headline-grabbing statistic at all? Could it be there is growing cachet in this dubious moral relativism? We can’t be seen to be condemning gross human rights violations anywhere without having a dig at the US too?

Indeed, the dishonesty is such that on a per-capita basis they don’t mention that with a population of only 22 million, North Korea outstrips the US by far… as does Jordan and Libya, and even the tiny Palestinian Authority (pop: 3.7m) has a higher execution rate than the US. But they’re not included in the statistic. And these are just a few examples. It is likely - though Amnesty doesn’t give the data - that many of the other 18 countries mentioned in the Amnesty report that make up the remaining 6% of executions also have a higher per capita rate of executions than the US.

It would be more statistically honest to say that 92% of the world’s executions come from THREE countries (removing the US barely changes the stats!). It would be honest because on a per capita basis, Iran and Saudi Arabia are comparable with China (the Saudis in fact are far worse in these terms).

I must make it perfectly clear that my gripe is NOT with Amnesty International’s opposition to the death penalty. I myself am opposed to capital punishment. I condemn all executions, including the 60 that took place in the USA.

BUT… I loathe the knee-jerk moral relativism. Yes, Amnesty must campaign against the death penalty in the US, but lumping the US with China, Iran and Saudi Arabia is simply wrong, and transparently plays down the crimes of the other three countries. Why are they so afraid to condemn unequivocally without the de rigueur America-bashing to soften the blow?

Now I’m sure that Amnesty’s strategists are thinking that the US, being essentially a liberal democracy, might be embarrassed into doing something about the death penalty in those states that still retain it.

They are quite rightly concerned that 1 or 2 people on average is executed every year in the US states that retain the death penalty – even if it is only for first-degree murder. It should be zero. They are particularly right to be concerned when some of those executed might not have been mentally competent to stand trial or understand their sentence.

Perhaps Amnesty feels that the US Government will be shocked into action when it sees its name alongside China, Saudi Arabia and Iran on the list of worst offenders. But if this is the strategy, it isn’t a very effective one. As I have shown, the fallacy is so easily exposed and demolished by anyone with a rudimentary understanding of arithmetic.

The other thing that risks being demolished as a consequence – tragically – is Amnesty International’s own moral authority and credibility. The average American – and indeed the average person that has visited America or has American friends – knows very well that the US is neither Iran nor North Korea. Political dissidents aren’t put before a firing squad, and adulterers are not stoned in the streets.

Amnesty might be making a valiant rhetorical point. The US should know better. It should be more humane – even if those it executes are exclusively violent murderers. But this point can’t be made effectively by ‘cooking the books’. The ends are laudable, but the means are counter-productive. Moral relativism, whether misguided or deliberately manipulative, helps no one – least of all the suffering and the oppressed.

Ask yourself, how many asylum seekers have been sent back to their countries to face torture and death because the adjudicators in their cases have bought into the rhetoric “Iran is no worse than America… Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Jordan, China… they’re really not much worse than America.”

It reminds me of the time I was told by a speaker at an LGBT student conference I also spoke at, that the hangings of gay Iranians were bad, but we should not forget Matthew Shepard. Yes, Matthew Shepard, whose murder outraged the nation, whose killers were swiftly brought to justice, whose parent’s own intervention spared his murderers the death penalty… in America. But it’s the same as teens hanged the street by Revolutionary Guards in Iran. Yes…. I can see it…. no… no, actually I can’t… because I’m NOT INSANE! But I digress…

The good news, of course is:
The European Union – population: 450 000 000; Executions: 0.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It's a sin

Ah, more correspondence from ‘Let’s get it on’ Don. He reveals himself as a bit of a scholar, with his eloquent critique of my article on lawat and zina. So, he’s up for a good flogging for his pre-marital sex apparently, but maybe he likes a bit of spanking. In any event, he apparently believes that Muslim men can have as many “white chicks” as they like (as long as they’re “unbelievers”, he hastens to add). Tad racist, Don.

Well, Don may not be an unbeliever, but he sure is unbelievable!

So over to you Don….

-- -- -- -- -- --

Dear Bastard Scum,

May I congratulate you on your internet research pertaining to my adverts, bet you feel well chuffed and think you have "outed" me as some kind of degenerate on a par with you.

You couldn't be further from the truth.  You made some fundamental errors in your article on zina, the proscribed punishment for pre-marital (I'm not married - adultery is a huge sin that condemns one to eternal damnation) sex is flogging and not death, like it is for the filthy homosexual lifestyle you espouse.

You completely missed the point of my previous email, what gays do in the privacy of their germ ridden homes is entirely up to them.  What I am opposed to is the attempt by reprobates like you and Tatchell to legitimise this vile lifestyle and market it as an alternative to heterosexuality, which of course it can never be, cos poofs like you can't procreate can you?

Any sins I have commited are superior to the sin you commit every day by having another man as a bedfellow.  I would never contemplate gay sex ever, you repulsive creature.

I love white chicks and we muslim males can have as many of your non-believing women as we want as handmaidens to do what we want with ok.

Although I think the holocaust was one of history's darkest chapters, Hitler demonstrated remarkable foresight in gassing gays, and I would love to do the same.  I wish you pain and anguish my dear dirty gay bastard of a scumbag - don't ever try to equate my "sins" with yours, piece of shit!

Don

Monday, April 10, 2006

Tanks kill hundreds in Trafalgar Square

Ken Livingstone never fails to amaze me. Some say he speaks without thinking (or that he is sometime ‘tired and emotional’) but I think that the reason he doesn’t need to think before speaking is because his politics are rigidly imprinted. What people mean when they say he speaks before thinking, is that he speaks before his brain has necessarily had the chance to put a savoury spin on his politics. His politics, however, remain so deeply unsavoury that they assault the senses and leave a bad taste in the mouth.

I understand and accept that he takes his job promoting London and ensuring the smooth running of the city seriously. But is everything fair-game in the pursuit of this?

The signal that he’d become a bureaucratic utilitarian came early. When the RMT union called a strike, he encouraged scabbing to ensure that Christmas shoppers were not inconvenienced.

And now, in an effort to court Chinese investment in London, he’s downplayed and dismissed the Tiananmen Square Massacre – calling it “a riot” comparable to Poll Tax protests in Trafalgar Square, according to The Telegraph.

When challenged about the crassness of this comparison – since no one died in Trafalgar Square, he started equivocating.

"If you go back to some of the early instances you will find many cases where innocent protesters were hacked to pieces with sabres - the Peterloo massacre, for example. There is no such thing as one country with a perfect record," spake our Ken.

Of course, the Peterloo Massacre was almost 200 years ago, and only about a dozen people died compared to the more than 600 (or perhaps as many as 3000, according to the Chinese Red Cross) that perished in Tiananmen Square. But then of course, an antique local militia armed with swords is nothing compared to a mechanised army tank brigade, is it?

But when Ken says “There is no such thing as one country with a perfect record.” It sets off little alarm bells in my head. Of course it is true. But it is also the stock-in-trade of sections of the post-modernist Left - moral equivalence and neo-racism.

It says that “we” cannot criticise human rights abuses in other countries or cultures because “we” don’t have an unblemished historical record.

But we were nothing 200 years ago. We were not even alive. I simply do not buy into this ‘sins of the father’ nonsense. We did not support the Crusades, the Inquision or Slavery, nor did we (apart from a few surviving veterans) defeat Hitler and Nazism. We only make moral judgements and take actions based on our world in our lifetimes. The notion that there is a collective race-responsibility is dangerous. It denies that the present generation can ever be better than the preceding.

If you think about it. It is just as preposterous to say that we were responsible for slavery as it is to say that we were responsible for abolishing it. In the neo-racist collectivist sense, both statements would be true. But is it not sufficient that today “we” share an abhorrence of slavery – regardless of what our forebears did – and because of the efforts of another generation of our forebears, are prepared to speak out against slavery wherever it manifests itself? The idea that because one group of our forebears traded in slaves (ignoring for a moment our other forebears who fought to abolish it) that we cannot speak out against slavery today leads only to one thing – moral paralysis!

So, the dismissal of the massacre as part of Tiananmen Square’s “interesting history” rather than denouncing it for the outrage it was is disgusting. The idea that this outrage should not be unequivocally condemned because of a (a fraction of the scale) massacre on British soil almost 200 years ago, is pathetic.

It is this neo-racist outlook that is responsible for the sorry state of human rights in the world today. It is neo-racist because its proponents are just as willing to box and isolate by race as David Duke and Eugene Terre’Blanche are. When I denounce a human righst outrage, I do so not as a white, western male, but as an Earthling. And when Livingstone and his friends spout this bull-crap, someone needs to say “Hey! Earth to Ken!”

That Ken Livingstone wasn't around in 1819 to condemn the Peterloo massacre is regrettable. Bit it is no reason why he should hesitate to condemn a massacre in vivid, full-colour, living memory, while people still weep for the dead and the scarred and mutilated still walk among us.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Lawat and Zina

Dear Don

I thought I should do a post especially for you, since you’ve taken the trouble to write to me.

Now, dear boy, at the risk of sticking my nose in where it isn’t wanted, I thought I’d point you towards some lectures on ‘zina’ (or ‘fornication’ – not the warrior princess) from some eminent Muslim scholars of the Sharia.

Indeed, Dr Qaradawi himself says:

“What Islam prohibits in the sphere of sex includes looking at a member of the opposite sex with desire; for the eye is the key to the feelings, and the look is a messenger of desire, carrying the message of fornication or adultery.”

Now, Don, you may wonder why I’m telling you all this. Well, let me rephrase that – other readers may wonder why I’m telling you this, because I’m sure you know perfectly well that you’ve been a very naughty boy.

What smutty thoughts were going through your brain when you posted this here:

Hi Girls Im a 25 year old asian male seeking no strings fun with chicks of any age/race but must be goodlooking lol so photo a must, mine available on request. Im pretty openminded and funloving so email me direct and see what happens! DON5383@HOTMAIL.COM

Well girls, don’t delay, because Don is quite anxious to have a few sexy romps for fun. So much so, that he’s spread his virtual wild oats here too:

I'm a 25 year old asian male from Birmingham, while not really interested in witchcraft, I do think witches are seriously sexy! Anyway if there are any witches out there looking for a hot young guy, then I'm your man! I'm very openminded and discrete, so get in contact, nothing shocks me! I have a photo so you have nothing to lose. Email me direct on: DON5383@HOTMAIL.COM

Witches, eh, Don? Kinky! Come on girls – pleasure him with your broomsticks! But wait, ooh! Don’s been spilling his cyber seed on some more rocky ground

Hi Ladies, Im a 25 year old asian male living in bham, uk. Im really fascinated by k9 and want to meet a likeminded female. I have a photo, im openminded and discrete, and overall a nice guy! So ladies dont be shy email me direct at: DON5383@HOTMAIL.COMWoof Woof!

Woof, woof, indeed Don! And that website – ‘Pet Lovers’ – what’s that about, you fox!

And what’s ‘K9’ (can anyone enlighten me?)

Ah, but it’s not all fun and games. Do you know what the penalty for ‘zina’ is, Don? This is scary shit! It’s not fun at all. It’s death.

Now, here’s the thing, Don. While you’re flashing your cock around the Internet, I’m at home enjoying a monogamous and loving relationship with my partner of 8 years. But, I understand, you’re a young guy, you have raging hormones, big tits excite you, yada, yada, yada., wink-wink, nudge-nudge…. And I wish you well in your sexual escapades. Hey, have fun, get your rocks off. I would urge you, of course, both to use proper protection and to respect your sexual partners. But the one thing I won’t do, is wish you harm.

More importantly, I hope no one takes such personal umbrage to your sex life – as you have to mine – and threatens you with torture and death. (and I hope you don’t kiss the witches with that potty-mouth!)

By the way, in for a penny, in for a pound (as they say)… did you know that many Muslim scholars hold that the penalty of lawat (sodomy) and zina (fornication) is the same. So if you’re going to be done for the one, you may as well go the whole hog. (I use hog figuratively here, Don – not like on the ‘Pet Lovers Personals’ site you hang out on).

Yes, the whole hog… since you are so sexually, “open-minded” and “nothing shocks you” (as you put it), why not try a little anal sex? Witches may be magic, but only another hot guy can lend you their wand. (Teehee – now you’ve got me being all naughty too!)

What have you got to lose? You might be surprised. Some may call it sodomy, but we call it fabulous!

Regards

“Scum”

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Love Letter

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: The Last Don <don5383@hotmail.com>
Date: 06-Mar-2006 11:59
Subject: Ref: How Dare You

Dear Scum,

Together with Peter Tatchell, you are one of the more prolific homos in this country, promoting your vile lifestyle, when really you should just join the pits of humanity and take your repugnant filth with you. You make such a noise about your sexuality and your whole identity is based on your sexuality. Why don't you walk around with pink stars, if your so desperate for everyone to know you're gay.

Even worse I hate the way you and Tatchell stick your nose into the business of the Muslim community. We will never accept you, even moderate muslims like me, can't stand the sight of you sick fucks. It's not just your perversion that gets to us, its your insolence, be fucking gay but at least admit it's wrong. You won't ever gain acceptance, we will fight you every inch of the way. Look at you, you complain muslims are so antigay, but not even the secular west has fully accepted you, don't see them using a gaycouple advertising milk tray (and all because the homo loves milk tray), do you?

Sick gay fuck, die and burn in hell, I would gladly torture and torment you, how does that make you feel, boom bye bye batty bwoy!

Don

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pro-Islamist left wants gays on their knees (and not for what you think)

Kirsten Hearn is really good at getting the short end of the stick and then beating around the bush with it. Even better than Messrs Truman & Pitt over at IslamophobiaWatch. In her long diatribe against OutRage! in Tribune, conveniently republished by I-W, she rants that Peter Tatchell is trying “to portray the Muslim and LGBT communities as polarised from each other.

It is not Tatchell who is suggesting gays and Muslims are polar opposites. Remind me who said just shortly before the UAF conference that gays were socially destructive spreaders of disease?

Oh yes, it was Iqbal Sacranie.

In contrast to Sacranie’s bigotry and divisiveness, it Peter Tatchell who said: “Both the Muslim and gay communities suffer prejudice and discrimination. We should stand together to fight Islamophobia and homophobia."

Here’s the crucial question for Kirsten: Where is the equivalent statement of mutual solidarity from Sacranie?

Sacranie condemning homophobia? Don’t be silly. He won’t do it, which is why his apologists have to blame someone else. For example, Pitt (using his nom de guerre, ‘Martin Sullivan’) blames the press for blowing Sacranie's comments out of proportion, but doesn't have a single bad word to say about Sacranie. Sacranie can abuse gays, but let anyone object and it’s because they're 'Islamophobic'.

If Sacranie really wants to unite with gays against fascism, he has a funny way of showing it.

And Mr Sullivan/Pitt obfuscates things further with the lie that Sacranie’s views are religious - but where in any scripture does it say that "gays spread diseases"? It doesn't. Indeed, Sacranie was quoting from a right-wing antigay (pseudo) medical journal - not the Quran - to support his bigoted claims.

And if his homophobia is religiously inspired – so what?Hearn repeats the bald-faced lie that OutRage! targets Islam bit not other religions. What twaddle! What is OutRage! most famous for? Oh yeah, storming Canterbury Cathedral during the Archbishop’s Easter service. And who picketed the Pope’s wake reminding the world about his homophobia and the AIDS catastrophe his lies caused? Oh yeah. OutRage! And at the risk of boring you, who disrupted a live TV broadcast of the General Synod? Right… that was OutRage!

So, here’s another question. Why is it that gays are always asked to sacrifice their dignity in order to form alliances? And why are some like Kirsten Hearn always ready to do so?If some right-wing Zionist group made comments that Muslims were destroying the fabric of society and spread diseases, I can't see Hearn arguing to line up with them to fight the BNP because "the BNP also targets Jews". And I can't see Pitt & Truman cheering her on either!

Hearn then flaps into hyperbole. She claims:

“To suggest we jettison the Muslim community from the anti-fascist movement at a time when the fascists are advancing by attacking Muslims is obscene.”

Who said that? Neither Tatchell nor OutRage! have ever excluding the Muslim community from the fight against fascism. Hearn flagrant dishonesty shows the depth to which the pro-Islamist-left and their hanger-ons will stoop.

All we’re asking for is a little quid pro quo. Is it too much to ask that in the name of unity, Sacranie thinks before he speaks? Is it too much to ask in the name of unity that the MCB stops lobbying against gay rights?Yes, Kirsten, a BNP success in the local elections would be catastrophic, but frankly, given current indicators, the success of an MCB-aligned candidate could be equally disastrous for gay people, especially lesbian and gay Muslims.

I'm all for standing with the MCB against the BNP, so is Peter Tatchell and the rest of OutRage! All it'll take is an apology from Sacranie and a hint that he respects our dignity as gay people a little more than the BNP does. But of course he's silent - because once again it's THE GAYS that must make all the compromises in the name of unity.

-----

As a footnote: The blog run by the bizarre ‘StraightWay Foundation’ (that group of ‘ex-gay’ Muslims who supported Ken Livingstone’s drooling over Qaradawi) put Ms Hearn in her place. They say:

“We have noted the potential problem of Muslims supporting any LGBT activist, from a political angle. Some may say that such concerns are petty. But in the case of a "gay Muslim", the problem is much greater, again for political reasons.”

What political reasons? Oh dear, legitimising the identity of “gay Muslims” of course, and the danger that gay Muslims might achieve prominent positions within the Muslim community and in the wider society and become role models. Can’t have that!

As we all know, the StraightWay foundation and the pro-Islamist Left demand that gay people – especially gay Muslims – should know their place… and that is begging on their knees.