LGBT+

Cameron’s Telling Porkies

David Cameron must think politics is rather easy. First, he wins a majority in the Commons, subsequently his coalition partners are obliterated, then his right-wing copycats are left virtually unrepresented and now, his main challengers have flown off to the unappealing left. He even managed to brush off any lasting damage made by the swine kind, unlike Ed Milliband before him. The Conservatives seem to think they’re in for a peaceful stroll to another majority in 2020 – provided, of course, that their latest set of falsehoods goes unchallenged.

When politicians are afforded such good fortune, it breeds arrogance, and with it, complacency. The Prime Minister addressed his adoring audience at Conservative Party conference on Wednesday. The party’s leader made an unexpected play for social justice, ending poverty and the case for progressive conservatism –whatever that is. He pledged to make this next government about the ‘proud tradition of conservative social reform’, showing that David Cameron is nowhere near as adept at political history as he is subterfuge. My point is, Mr. Cameron – we’ve heard this lovely chatter all before and seen nothing from you.

The Prime Minister alluded to the introduction of new policy for protecting LGBT+ people from discrimination, citing the coalition’s deliverance of same-sex marriage as a record of deliverance to that end. It’s wonderful to see the leader of a Conservative Party talk about LGBT+ rights, and even more wonderful to hear his comments met with enthusiastic applause from the Tory delegates in attendance. But if history is anything to go by, the Tories seem to be more interested in monopolising the electoral support of social groups than championing their cause.

So whilst it fills my heart with joy to hear support from David Cameron for gender, LGBT+ and BAME equality, forgive me if I remain profusely sceptical of this sudden change of priority. I just cannot overcome the questions that damage the legitimacy of his rhetoric. For instance, where was this concern in the European Parliament in June this year when the party voted against protecting the rights of LGBT+ citizens and a woman’s right to abortion? Where was this concern when David Cameron appointed, not just one, but two opponents of same-sex marriage as Minister for Equalities? Where was this concern when the Prime Minister allowed a free vote on same-sex marriage, leading to the majority of Tory parliamentarians rejecting the bill?

Why did you offer Lynne Featherstone so little support for her ‘blind job application’ proposal and campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation in a generation, and instead wait until the Liberal Democrats were out of government before you could claim the credit for our hard work? Why is it that the Conservatives have one of the worst records in the whole of the European Parliament on defending and advocating for gay rights? Where was your sense of injustice when George Osbourne announced cuts to maintenance grants and tax credits whilst easing the burden on the wealthy by slashing corporation and inheritance tax?

It is clear that Mr. Cameron has become terminally self-righteous. He really wants women, BAME and LGBT+ people in this country to believe that his ‘compassionate conservatism’ has substance – it doesn’t.

LGBT Equality Parties
Why do ethnic minorities and women still report disproportionate amounts of racism and misogyny among the party’s ranks? Why does the Conservative Home Minister think that immigration is an unavoidable affront to social cohesion? Why are the compassionate Tories so anti-immigrant? Why are they so reluctant to accept the same amount of Syrian refugees in five years that the Germans are taking in in a day?

How can David Cameron stand on stage and one minute spout cosy yet vapid egalitarian rhetoric then the next minute maul the poorest by cutting tax credits, lacerate LGBT+ citizens by slicing funding for mental health services which they disproportionately need more than everyone else, ignorantly vetoing progressive plans for age-appropriate sex education for straight and LGBT+ students and generally brutalising these must vulnerable groups with unnecessarily brutal austerity measures?

I’m sure I speak for everyone in the Liberal Democrats when I say that I welcome any Conservative Party support for tackling inequality – the more, the merrier. But, we have seen this all before and I stand by summation that the right of politics only ever want to be seen to help promote equality, they never actually care enough to do it. So now, Mr. Cameron it is time for you to walk the walk, now we’re not there for you to pin all your ills on. If you really do care for equality, put your social liberalism where your mouth is.

Cameron’s a Fraud, Featherstone’s a Hero!

There are plenty of reasons for students of De Montfort University, like myself, to be proud. Up until a couple of years ago, DMU was barely on the higher education map, until mass investment transformed the university in to being the most improved higher education centre in the UK two years running. However, while I am proud of how the university has improved and continues to progress, I cannot sit idly by whilst they give out unjust awards to credit-stealing politicians.

Last week, DMU vice-chancellor Dominic Shellard travelled to Downing Street alongside several undergraduates to present Prime Minister David Cameron with the most prestigious award one can receive from the university. Why? He was the chosen recipient because of ‘his work’ towards introducing same-sex marriage. Now, the cynic in me thinks this award was actually given to Mr. Cameron for publicity and the excuse of same-sex marriage was just a guise to hide the real intentions of a university intent on promoting itself on a national scale. However, for the purpose of this argument we’ll assume they feel he earned it on merit.

I am certain the VC and the university as a whole didn’t set out to offend anybody, but unfortunately they have. As a result of the ill-advised decision to award Mr. Cameron, DMU’s LGBT+ society has launched a campaign to have the award stripped and given elsewhere. In a statement released the day after David Cameron received the award, the society called for a clear rational for giving the Prime Minister the award and in turn discredited the decision.

David Cameron is not the LGBT+ equality champion that deserves recognition. Many in and out of the LGBT+ society have called for Lynne Featherstone of the Liberal Democrats to instead obtain the award for the far larger role she and her party played in making same-sex marriage a reality. In turn, we in the LGBT+ society of DMU have criticised the University for the lack of correspondence with the society over their decision to reward Mr. Cameron on our community’s behalf.  In fact, many think it’s obscene that DMU would choose to award a man who in the past voted against repealing Section 28, who has led a party that has supported economic and immigration measures that disadvantage LGBT+ youths and LGBT+ asylum seekers, and a man who has appointed Equalities ministers who voted against the very legislation for which he has just been rewarded.

If this wasn’t enough, it seems bizarre that the university would choose to honour a Conservative Prime Minister who has just slashed the maintenance grant for the poorest students, who raised tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 during the last parliament, and whose austerity measures have decimated vital youth services up and down the country.

The university has already agreed to discuss the concerns of the LGBT+ society. However, it is important that we as students and LGBT+ people let De Montfort University know that is not okay to award a man for work he didn’t do, and in spite of the negative impact he has had on many LGBT+ people in this country. I think I can speak for most LGBT+ people in Britain when I say that we’re thankful for every Green, Labour, Plaid, SNP, Northern Irish and Tory MP that supported the Lib Dems’ same-sex marriage bill. However, if my university wants to reward people for bringing this policy about, they shouldn’t credit the Prime Minister who happened to be the incumbent at the time of the bill’s passing, and cast one vote like every other MP. Instead they should reward the Liberal Democrat who pushed this bill through parliament armed only with sheer guile, at a time when no politician was even talking about this issue. It’s crystal clear, De Montfort University; this award belongs to Lynne Featherstone.

Freedom To Donate

Today marks the official launch of a campaign I have helped somewhat to build, and one with a cause I’m extremely passionate about. That campaign is Freedom To Donate. The campaign demands a review in to the archaic, discriminatory and nonsensical prohibitions on MSM (men who have sex with men) from donating blood simply due to their sexual activity and not on an individual risk assessment. This out-of-touch ruling is destroying lives – and together we can progress equality and prevent so many unnecessary deaths.

It has been a pleasure to help lobby MPs to support this campaign and an upcoming bill to be debated in parliament. Whilst this has been a harmonious, successful, cross-party movement (yes, even some of the Tories), I am especially thankful to the Lib Dem MPs for all of their support. I have had meaningful conversations with them all and have only seen passionate and positive responses in return. I would especially like to thank leader Tim Farron for being an unwavering voice of justice and righteousness for the campaign and, along with Caroline Lucas of the Greens, placing it at the forefront of their parties’ agendas.

However, politicians aren’t the only ones who can help make this a reality. You can get involved and help save thousands and thousands of lives, and spare thousands and thousands unfair guilt and shame;

Follow Freedom To Donate on Twitter; https://twitter.com/freedomtodonate

Watch the campaign video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA8LPZIcQBU&feature=youtu.be

Join the thousands who have already signed the petition; https://www.change.org/p/uk-uk-government-apply-the-same-regulations-to-all-those-donating-blood-regardless-of-sexuality#petition-letter

Learn more about why this ban should be lifted; http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-whiting/blood-donation_b_7556458.html

The Fight For Equality is Far From Over

And breathe… put those rainbow flags down, roll up those pro-equality banners and get back to your everyday lives, because the quest for LGBT+ equality is done now…right?

It was heartening to see my Facebook and Twitter feeds full to the brim with rainbow adorned profile pictures last week in the wake of the Supreme Court of the United State’s ruling that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. This follows a same-sex marriage legalisation in Ireland a few weeks ago, both of which seemed oddly more celebrated than when the Lib Dems delivered the same ruling for Britain but the point remains, these heart-warming victories for marriage equality don’t end the procession of LGBT+ rights and they certainly shouldn’t serve as a reason for the Tory government to rest on its laurels.

Historic… Same-sex marriage was recently legalised across the USA

There is still so much to do before parity between cisgender heterosexuals and the rest of society will be a reality. Whilst marriage equality has long been the centrefold issue of LGBT+ activism, we must now turn our focus to other areas. For instance, the MSM (men who have sex with men) blood donation ban, which stops those who have had intercourse with another man within the last year from donating blood even if its perfectly healthy – a review of this could not only legislate for greater equality but save thousands and thousands of lives. Whilst we’re at it, let’s actually achieve marriage equality, let’s push same-sex marriage in to Northern Ireland and end the abhorrent spousal veto which requires a spouse’s permission for a person to legally change their gender. We need to put external pressure on nations in the EU and the Commonwealth to raise their game when it comes to LGBT+ rights.

We need to protect mental health services from ideological Tory cuts to help one third of LGBT+ youths that will suffer from anxiety or depression. We need to take a proactive approach to drastically reducing the disproportionate homelessness among LGBT+ youth, which is eight times higher than for young straight people. On top of this, despite protestations from the right that it’s inappropriate, we need to provide age appropriate sex and relationship education in schools for not only gay, lesbian and bisexual students but for asexual students too. During my years at school the concept of any of these types of relationships was never discussed in the classroom, it was treated like an invisible taboo which could cause so much mental damage to a young person.

Transphobic… Calls for greater gender neutrality are overdue

For too long we have been complacent on biphobia, we need to tackle the myth that a person cannot be attracted to people from more than one gender. As well as this, we must stand up for the rights of transgender people too and drag them up to parity with LGB equality. There needs to be a review on how transphobic hate crimes is documented to ensure those callous offences aren’t going undetected, as well as this redrafts of legal documents like passports must be made to include an ‘x-gender’ option to those who fell they’re neither male nor female.

The whole point of this endless ramble of LGBT+ issues is that there’s still a lot of work to be done. Truthfully, I have barely scratched the surface on the social and legislative inequalities still faced by LGBT+ people in Britain and abroad. Unfortunately, whilst there was good work done by the Liberal Democrats over the last five years, we are now left with a Conservative government. A party who voted en masse in opposition to same-sex marriage. As we saw with UKIP and their embarrassingly disrespectful parade invasion at London Pride, the right only ever want to be seen to help LGBT+ people – they never actually do it. That is why it is more crucial than ever for a progressive alliance to topple this Tory government and ensure we don’t lose ground on the race for equality.

Labour are too busy fashioning false cocksure banners and the SNP are still flogging a dead-horse with the defeated one issue they care about. Instead, the rest of Britain’s progressives must align and challenge the Tories when they profess to be LGBT+ rights champions – they’re not. Nicky Morgan may be the Equalities Minister, but she famously voted against same-sex marriage too. The prevailing point of this article is that LGBT+ issues are as important now as ever, maybe even more so, a marriage certificate is a great step forwards but it’s still not enough – we’ve managed to get our foot in the door, let’s work together and push that door wide open.

MSM Don’t Kill People, Stigma Does

Recent reports have revealed that intake of new blood donors in Britain is down by a massive 40%. While news outlets speculate that a year’s deferral for people with new tattoos and piercings is to blame, I’d contest that a bigger reason for the shortfall is the yearly ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men (MSM). There are two reasons why this archaic law is so detrimental; firstly, it can cost people their lives. By snubbing donations by MSM, we are simply sanctioning people to death. Just one single donation can be administered to as many as three people; a quarter of people will need a blood transfusion in their life time, making the demand for blood transfusions around 16 million in the UK alone. However, confronted with that demand, our government still thinks it’s sound policy to rule out an estimated five and a half million donors solely based on their non-heterosexual activity. The rather vapid rationalisation for not taking blood from MSM is that there is a higher risk of them carrying HIV or the Hepatitis B virus, as a matter of fact, the NHS revealed in 2012 that 4.7% of MSM’s are HIV-positive, but does that statistic really matter? There is surely no issue in accepting blood from MSM if they don’t carry HIV or any other harmful virus, meaning a blanket ban is unfair and damaging to all parties. So why is it that we deny up to five and a half million people the right to donate blood and save lives on the 1 in 20 chance that their blood might carry HIV or Hepatitis B virus, especially when it is actively tested for before donation anyway?

Hard-hitting… An ad-campaign against the MSM blood ban

That same NHS report also revealed that 3.7% of British people of Black African descent carried HIV. There would rightly be uproar if there was a blood donation ban on Black Africans on the 1 in 25 chance they too carry HIV or Hepatitis B. It’s stereotyping and it’s immoral. Another recent report on the continent shows that heterosexual women and lesbian women were experiencing the greatest rise in HIV contraction but yet again there is no imposition on either of those demographics. The truth of the matter is that this law is not in place to protect the health of those requiring a blood transfusion, but is in place on the back of an uncorrected stigma from thirty years ago. While it is fact that HIV is harmful, that Hepatitis B is incurable, and both are more likely to be carried by MSM, statistics show that more than 95% of MSM do not carry either virus and could help recover the shortfall in blood donations. This law proves, despite the right’s best protestations that the crusade for LGBT+ equality didn’t end last year when the Tories begrudgingly allowed the Lib Dems to pass marriage equality. It’s not only that this law is an unnecessary hindrance to saving lives; it’s also an infringement on the rights of LGBT+ people to give blood. In fact, perhaps the most confusing part of this legislation is its apparent assumption that men who sleep with women never have sex casually and if they do, always do so safely – yet there are more heterosexuals with HIV in the UK than there are non-heterosexuals. The law correctly reflects that MSM are higher risk than most demographics but also incorrectly assumes that those who partake in heterosexual activity are no risk – so surely it should either be deferral for all or open donations for all?

Ally… Prospective Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has pledged to place the ban at the heart of his tenure in opposition

The pressure needs to be dialled up until we reach a cross-party consensus to lift this ban and start to champion equality and more importantly save lives. The Labour party have finally joined the Liberal Democrats and the Greens in support of scrapping this law and the Tories’ heads are slowly being turned too. Those passionate about equality and health need to start pushing this issue higher in the political agenda, making it clear that lives count for more than stereotypes. We all want an NHS that puts our health at the heart of its decision making but we’re currently abiding by legislation where, for example, a 7-year-old girl would be refused a life-saving blood donation from her uncle because he had sex with his male partner of twenty years a few weeks ago and despite knowing his negative status. Does that seem right to you? It’s fairly clear that the one year deferral on blood donations for MSM is nonsensical; it is rupturing equality and literally killing more people than this law was enforced to protect. This ruling is largely based on an out-of-date stigma that has never been legislatively amended, we cannot, especially in a time of falling rates of blood donation and an under pressure health service, continue to champion this eugenic discrimination – stigma is never a reason to gamble with people’s lives. Apparently, to put a twist on an old adage, blood is thicker than water but it’s not thicker than homophobia.   Join the fight against the MSM blood ban. Join the Liberal Democrats and Freedom to Donate 

There’s No ‘U’ or ‘K’ in Pride: But There is an ‘I’ and a ‘P’

If you follow me on Twitter or keep abreast of my blog posts, and I appreciate how finite a number of people that is, you will know that there aren’t many issues I write about without a strong conviction one way or the other, but UKIP’s banning from marching in the London LGBT+ Pride parade next month really does have my loyalties divided. Again, if you are familiar with me, and yes, I’m aware how increasingly boastful and haughty I’m sounding, you’ll know that I’m gay and I’m a Liberal. UKIP announced their plans to participate in their inaugural pride event and were subsequently overrun with backlash from outraged members of the LGBT+ community. As a gay man planning to attend London Pride this year, which is coincidentally my first Pride event too, I can ardently declare I don’t want to share the occasion with the UK Independence Party. I have long been a vocal critic of UKIP and virtually everything they stand for, and I certainly share no affinity with them on LGBT+ rights or any social policy at all.

Gay UKIP MEP David Coburn

But do I think they should be banned from London Pride? No, I don’t and this is where I put my Liberal hat on. Like I have already said, I abhor UKIP, I often find it difficult to express my disdain for the party and its ideology in operative terms but I also acknowledge that there is, as unfortunate as it may be, a big demand for them currently – and that too has stretched in to the LGBT+ community. I believe in free speech and freedom to voice one’s political views, I don’t think the LGBT+ wing of UKIP is likely to promote hate speech at Pride, although I appreciate their appearance would have antagonised many, including myself. But we must remember there’s a lovely little thing that follows the LGBT acronym and that’s a tiny ‘+’. That ‘+’ in my mind is wonderful; it stands for the inclusion of everyone, even those who don’t identify as LGBT. This is the sort of accepting, all-encompassing attitude that makes Pride events across the globe so efficacious. So not only is it illiberal to restrain UKIP with an outright injunction, it’s also against the spirit of Pride events. Additionally, it does beg the question where do we draw the line? I could contend that the Tories and Labour aren’t exactly friends of the LGBT+ community either but that’s a conversation for another time.

I’m very conscious that I seem to be endorsing the union of the LGBT+ community and UKIP – but I’m not. I’m stood defiantly alongside the noisy cross-section of Pride patrons who simply cannot understand how an LGBT+ person can marry their sexuality with Farage’s punitive, prejudiced, separatist politics – pun definitely intended. This is a party that opposed same-sex marriage because it didn’t ‘animate the daily discourse’ of heterosexuals, contains party members who have among other things blamed homosexuality for mass flooding, intimated that gay men and women are more likely to be paedophiles, called those who support same-sex marriage ‘nazis’ and is a party that contains an LGBT+ wing that referred to those who clash with their inclusion in the Pride parade as the ‘gay mafia’, which is homophobic rhetoric in my book.

History…UKIP’s homophobic comments are not rare

I don’t think we should tell UKIP they can’t take part. I think those LGBT+ people who take the unthinkable choice to back UKIP should attend Pride in London 2015 but do so independently. Whilst, I don’t want to formally bar their party politics from the event I do implore them to see sense. Due to the nature of UKIP’s policies for LGBT+ people, or complete lack of if we’re talking about the 2015 manifesto, their appearance is only going to create a feeling of division and antagonism and that is simply not an atmosphere we need to stoke at Pride. So here is where I come out, another intended pun, UKIP should not be at any LGBT+ Pride event, not by force but because LGBT+ people shouldn’t subscribe to their views in the first place, and if they do so, they should have the good grace to not provoke those who are insulted by the party’s derisory deficiency of support for our community.

It’s Really Not That Difficult, Call Her Caitlyn!

Caitlyn Jenner bravely revealed her true self to the world this week, with a stunning feature in Vanity Fair magazine. Whilst it’s reasonable to say that her public unveiling has been met with deafening support shown by accruing millions of Twitter followers on the back of three tweets. However, it was also depressingly yet predictably met with ludicrous condemnations.

Since her ‘coming out’ this week, Jenner has frequently been misgendered in the news and on social media. Fox News mockingly covered her story, repeatedly referring to Jenner by her previous identity, ‘Bruce’, and as a ‘he’. The BBC’s Radio Four has too come under fire after one presenter labelled her a ‘he/she’ – disgustingly inappropriate language from a bygone era. Even former child star Drake Bell has dissented that he will still be referring to Jenner as ‘Bruce’ in some bizarrely desperate act of defiance. And to be honest, the only real question I can muster to all of these people who take issue with Jenner’s transition is why? Why does this trouble you?

I am a fiercely proud liberal, and wishing to preside over the choices a person makes with their own body and life in general is to me a preposterous injustice. It really makes no difference to anybody else what gender Caitlyn Jenner wishes to lead her life as. It seems that people forget that gender is intangible; it’s a human creation, a concept made by man. While sex exists, gender is an entirely different spectrum that isn’t determined by genitalia. Ultimately, her livelihood is no business of ours, nor should it be. Who on earth are we to tell anyone not to make themselves look on the outside how they have always felt on the inside due to the inconvenience it may cause us by forcing us to switch a few pronouns?

Brave… Caitlyn Jenner in Vanity Fair

 

Then there are those who have accused Jenner of concocting her gender identity struggle for publicity, which is in my mind a cynical and obscene comment that undermines the struggle faced by many transgender people all around the world.

On top of all of this has come the presumably well-intentioned offence caused by cisgender women who have intimated a sense of shock or grief that Jenner looks better than they do. Notably popstar Demi Lovato tweeted that Jenner now has better boobs than her, and, in the same aforementioned Fox News segment, one anchor was met with disapproval from her co-host for praising Jenner’s appearance and then exclaimed “what? He’s hot!” – Not only deliberately misgendering her but also reinforcing the stereotype that transgender people are unattractive or shouldn’t be. I don’t want to be too hard on those girls and guys, who have made similar comments, but undermining her womanhood in such a way is a hindrance to the movement for equal rights and respect for transgender people which is already lagging so desperately far behind.

Transphobic… Drake Bell’s now deleted tweet

 

The only criticism of this story I can get on board with is that Jenner isn’t necessarily a deity of the transgender community for her ‘coming out’, I have no issue with her personally but it’s fair to argue that she isn’t necessarily a ‘hero’. But make no mistake; her story is courageous, enlightening and needed. We won’t see how many young transgender people are touched by this story and inspired to live their lives as their true selves just off the back of this one woman. That is an invaluable legacy her fame will leave behind.

If anything, the lasting example to take from this story is the need for society to reach out to the transgender community and let them know it’s okay for them to be themselves. It’s easy for us cisgender people to judge something we don’t understand – but it’s just as easy to empathise and show compassion to a struggle that causes so much sadness to so many people who haven’t done anything wrong. It’s time we told the transgender people of the world that it’s okay for them to simply be who they are. If you haven’t worked it out yet, gender identity is an internal journey, it’s not something that necessarily reflects physically on the outside and we need to abolish that myth and start to save the lives of those who feel they were born in to the wrong sex.

There really is only one thing to be irritated about Caitlyn Jenner’s story. It’s not the fact she was born with male genitalia, or the fact she might be the latest on a long list of Kardashian publicity stunts. It’s the fact she decided to break the ‘K’ tradition that will irk my OCD for years to come.

Who Should LGBT+ People Vote For?

General Election fever is in full-swing. Different areas of society are being urged, swayed and pleaded with to vote a certain why. With that in mind, who should the LGBT+ citizens of the United Kingdom be voting for next month? Labour? The Lib Dems? The Greens? The major seven UK parties are all very different on their vision for the next steps in LGBT+ equality and here’s why;

The en vogue parties in the LGBT+ community right now are without a doubt the Labour party and the Green party, with the latter soaring in support from gay, bisexual and transgender people. In fact, just this week Peter Tatchell called out for us to vote Green next month to further the agenda of equality. Now, I have looked at the Green party manifesto and everything they want to do for the LGBT+ community is nice, fluffy and genuinely quite lovely, but too typically of them – vapid. There is very little substance to what they specifically would do to help those in the LGBT+ community. Bar misleading claims that Caroline Lucas was the one that drove the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act through the last parliament, the Greens actually have a weak case for the gay vote.

The Labour party are also being touted as champions of LGBT+ rights, despite failing to place Marriage Equality in their 2010 manifesto and even this year their offer is very slim too, only outlining an LGBT Rights Envoy to promote human rights internationally – a good idea but ultimately, it’s not a lot. Plaid Cymru make a positive contribution in their manifesto and are probably the second best choice in this election – with a clear strategy to tackle specific acts of LGBT+ discrimination in many different areas. Their nationalist counterparts the SNP are surprisingly quiet on the subject. In spite of being on the social left; they offer nothing more than an a mirror of Labour’s international ambassador plan. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives, who probably think the work for LGBT+ equality is done with the passing of same-sex marriage under Cameron’s premiership, offer absolutely nothing specific in their manifesto. UKIP are similarly mute, they haven’t even pledged to increase homosexual activity during drought season. Apparently Farage’s “people’s army” is “not driven by the needs of differing special interests groups”. I guess his is a heterosexual people’s army instead.

Hero… Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone (left) was the biggest LGBT+ advocate in the last Parliament

Is this meagre choice really the best LGBT+ citizens can hope for from the next election? In my view, the answer is no. The real party for LGBT+ people is still plugging away and providing sound basis for a progression in equal rights – and they are the Liberal Democrats. We’re told we’re not allowed to trust my party – we’re simply poisonous in the media realms – not to be entertained on the back of one broken pledge, a mistake no other party has ever made. But just hear me out. In the Coalition government, the Lib Dems succeeded in implementing marriage equality, almost solely on the back of the pluck from former MP Lynne Featherstone. And this is just one example in a long, long history of the Lib Dems catering for LGBT+ needs. The preceding Liberal party was the first to introduce a gay rights section for policy, while the Lib Dems have actively supported drives to make the age of consent equivalent, protect LGBT+ asylum seekers from unjust criminal charges abroad and oppose the ban on teachers being allowed to disclose their sexuality.

Thankfully, the Liberal Democrats haven’t stopped there and the party has pledged even more for LGBT+ citizens in their 2015 manifesto. The Lib Dems want to extend the rights of co-habiting heterosexual couples to homosexual ones, include all relationships in qualification for Civil Partnerships, crack down on homophobic bullying in schools, make homophobic football chanting a criminal offence like racist chanting is, permit humanist weddings, seek to end the disgraceful  and unnecessary bans on blood donation for MSM, pardon those convicted of historical homosexual ‘offences’, and they even match the SNP and Labour’s pledge for an appointed international  gay rights advocate – and in greater detail too.  For gender non-confirming people, the party have pledged to introduce “X” gender markers on passports and eliminate the need for a gender dysphoria diagnosis to acquire legal gender recognition.

Equal rights for LGBT+ citizens is one of, if not my biggest passion in politics and the Liberal Democrats are simply streets ahead in this vicinity and have been for a long long time. I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t mean it and I wouldn’t have joined a party that didn’t put the drive for LGBT+ equality at the heart of their policy making. If you really want a conscious, caring, allied voice for non-heterosexuals in government for the next five years then don’t vote Green, don’t vote Labour, vote Liberal Democrat.

Manifesto Check

Where the parties stand on LGBT+ issues in their 2015 manifestos

LGBT2015

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.

 

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.