Month: March 2015

Are You Being Persecuted?

This past week the governor of Indiana passed legislation that effectively allows gay men and women to be rejected by businesses due to their sexuality in the name of protecting ‘religious freedom’.  No, you’re not reading The Onion and no, you haven’t stumbled in to the Tardis in a drunken stupor and found yourself back in the 1920s – this has actually happened.

Let’s say two women out on a date somewhere in the heart of Gary, Indiana fancy some ice cream on their way home, they stumble in to their local ice cream parlour and order two scoops of mint choc-chip. The vendor spots a romantic glance between the two, confiscates their food and shoves them out of the door. Now, the most decent of people can see a major issue with that behaviour but now it’s perfectly legal in one of America’s fifty states – well, as long as he says it’s in the name of God.

The United States has many more theists than the United Kingdom; devout Christians are much more vocal across the pond than they are here. But why is the autonomy to choose a religion more important than the freedom to simply be? I’m not a religious person but I acknowledge and advocate the right for each individual to pick their own faith and spirituality. If you want to be a Christian, be a Christian. If you want to be a Sikh, be a Sikh.

Homophobic…A courthouse in Tipton, Indiana

The problem forms when people exploit this unassailable freedom for a sinister motive like we’ve seen stateside this week. There is no requirement in Christianity, the predominant religion of Indiana, to reject, banish or scorn homosexuals. The Bible is pretty clear in its condemnation of homosexual activity but it doesn’t call for gay men and women to be outcast.

Again, we arrive back at this question; why is religious freedom considered more imperative than sexual freedom? It’s widely and correctly believed that a person’s sexuality is not a choice – but a person’s religion is. Why are we giving legal clout to the need of some to discriminate against those with an inoffensive innate characteristic in the name of their chosen beliefs? Would I, as a gay man be allowed to turn away a theist who I felt was immoral? No, I wouldn’t and that shouldn’t be the case either. This is not a motion to protect religious freedom, its legislative homophobia and nothing else.

Just a few weeks ago, Antony Sher, a rich gay actor, said “life is good for gay people in this country now”. That is simply not true, gay people still face discrimination every single day both socially and lawfully. If this case in Indiana isn’t enough to attest to this then we only have to look to the Republic of Ireland where gay men and women are facing a referendum to determine whether or not they’re allowed to get married. That to me is simply absurd, millions of people who will be entirely unaffected by the legal union of two people of the same gender can spitefully vote to keep it illegal. That’s similar to me surveying my entire street on my preferred choice of dinner every night to see if my eating habits suit them – of course, it doesn’t affect them or the enjoyment of their own meal in any way, but they deserve to have their say on my life, right?

Unjust… “Religious freedom” campaigners

You would think that in 2015, we would have moved past this thinly veiled odium. It’s high time we stopped trying to lawfully isolate people as social lepers in the name of religion. I imagine there are countless theists in Indiana and elsewhere that have found the passing of this new law as abhorrent as the LGBT community has. I for one am not sorry for being romantically and sexually attracted to the same-sex, I’m just not and I shouldn’t have to be every time I fancy a cupcake.

The people of Indiana are being short-changed by a discriminative movement guised in the name of faith. There is no requirement in any religion that necessitates refusal of service to gay men or women. Homophobia is alive and well and unfortunately is rearing its head in pseudo-clever yet imaginative ways. This law should be overturned immediately – imagine the stain on the so-called “Land of the Free” when this bill goes in to the history books. Finally, as for those Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists or atheists for that matter, who feel they cannot serve people of a certain disposition – get your arses out of public service, you’re doing it wrong.

 

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Isolation Through Stereotypes

Stereotyping any type of person is problematic. The LGBT+ community, like many others, is rife with preconceived false notions of what ‘should’ constitute an LGBT man or woman. A prevalent stereotype of gay men is that we love pop divas and their music, think Cher, Madonna, Kylie – and while that is true of plenty of gay men around the world, the sheer scope of exposure afforded to this cross-section of gay culture is somewhat isolating to the rest of us.

Obviously gay periodicals and news channels like HuffPostGay, Gay Times and Attitude will commercially benefit from covering news stories pertaining to the aforementioned artists, and I’m sure many gay men have a vested interest in these people but that doesn’t mean that their excursions constitute ‘gay news’.

Irrelevant… Dannii Minogue’s return to music made headlines among gay publications

There are many gay men who are interested in sport, politics and other types of music, to name just a few examples. Shouldn’t gay news outlets publish gay features on a plethora of interests or more simply just cover gay and LGBT issues, rather than paying disproportionate attention to stereotypical music tastes? Printed versions may have to restrict the range of news covered due to lack of space but online, where many of these outlets operate, there is no such excuse.

Of course, these celebrities can largely attribute their popularity among the gay community to their do-gooding, and it remains imperative for rights activists in the media to be reported on when they are active in that process. However, it isn’t factual to suggest that Kylie and Madonna, to stick with earlier examples, are only reported on for equality campaigning. In contrast, Maroon 5 front-man Adam Levine and pop band Fun get nowhere near the same level of coverage despite similar if not excelling levels of activism themselves. Well, Adam Levine does get coverage, but a different kind. In recent years Levine has persistently and vocally championed equal rights and Fun have co-founded the Ally Coalition that encourages the idea of straight allies.

The point I’m trying to make is that the release of Madonna’s album is not ‘gay news’. Liza Minnelli going back to rehab, though sad and upsetting for some, is not ‘gay news’. In fact, just yesterday Attitude published an article listing all the instances of self-reference on Madonna’s latest release, Rebel Heart. I mean really? For the record, I think Attitude is an excellent publication but why are certain gay men’s interests more important than others? I’m sure many consider these stories important or interesting but it isn’t gay-specific news and the sole focus on trivial topics like these only propagates stereotypes of gay men and isolates those who don’t fit in to these conventional interests.

Overlooked… LGBT+ issues in sports are often not given the same importance as pop music

There are a couple of ways that gay news carriers could correct this, and to be honest, it’s surprising it hasn’t already happened. They could either stick to LGBT specific news or feature a wide variety of interests remarked on from a gay angle. Let’s be fair, a certain genre of pop music is not under the ownership of all in the gay community. In modern times, we are told repeatedly that gay men are a diverse group with a wide range of interests, views and beliefs – and rightly so. But why is it that in 2015, we still assume that disco pop is the only thing that gay men are interested in outside of being gay? Obviously, I don’t expect a horse racing pull-out and a motorsports section but why are, for example, potential features on homosexuality in football or even the LGBT policy proposals of political parties being displaced by Britney Spears’ latest robotic effort?

While I concede that it makes financial sense to include these stories in gay magazines, it doesn’t make much sense to exclude other interests held by gay people that may transcend other spheres. This, remember is a community that added a ‘+’ on to the LGBT acronym to be wholly inclusive – it’s time to walk the walk. LGBT men and women should be able to purchase, follow and read gay news and have their other interests covered if the stereotypically common interests of other LGBT people are. Let’s not isolate gay people via the media because they don’t conform to traditional typecasts. It may seem like an over-the-top reaction to a seemingly minor issue but pigeon-holing people is never a good idea, particularly when these outlets are supposed to be representative. Let’s not give others the chance to stereotype those in the LGBT community and embrace the wide variety of interests we share – that’s the right attitude.

Dear, Football

Dear players and staff of *club name*,

My name is Chris Whiting; I’m a 19 year old lifelong football fan. Ever since, I was very young, I have loved football. I’m a passionate, dedicated, loyal and hopefully knowledgeable Leicester City fan. And I am gay.

I have been gay for as long as I have been a football fan and personally, my sexuality has never caused me any internal anguish. But, for many fans it does, and still in 2015 they are unable to marry these two qualities.  Football has always been viewed as fair game for banter, or what could be better termed as vitriol. Racism, sexism and homophobia have always been rife in the stands but the latter two are fading gradually with higher visibility of ethnic minorities and women in the sport.

We haven’t even begun to go down that road with homosexuality.  Of course, being gay is something you can hide in football and until that changes it will always be viewed as a weakness.

Every Saturday, I get angry when the linesman misses a blatant offside, I taunt the opposing fans when their star striker blasts wide from six yards, and I flail my limbs like a lunatic when we grab a vital goal. I do these things just like every other football fan in the country. So, why is the thought of homosexuals being involved in football still such a stigma?

Like I’ve already said, I’m a normal football fan and I’m gay. Statistically, at least one of your squad is too. I don’t wish to force anybody ‘out of the closet’, but in honour of LGBT+ history month, I wanted to try and encourage somebody to take that brave step on their own.  Or at least, encourage anyone to whom this doesn’t personally apply to be allies. ‘Coming out’ is a personal journey but the inability of football to address this affects everyone.

Society has made massive strides in terms of accepting gay people. I’m pretty much considered normal in every other part of my life. One day, I hope to feel the same at 3pm every Saturday.

Football isn’t ready, and it never will be until we make it get ready. It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Whiting