Monday, 3 October 2016

Queer Conservatives Confuse Me

The introduction of gay marriage in 2014 was the death knell of the gay rights movement, and rightly so; now that we can finally get married, just like our SBFs (straight best friends) what is there left to fight for? We can all settle down in our little right-to-buy, with our cat familial, debating the pros and cons of adopting a Korean vs Hungarian orphan, while sipping premium brand artisan gin & Fever Tree tonic.

Antipathy to our cause has naturally been on the rise after the activism of the late 20th century waned – as social attitudes towards homosexuality changed, there was less need to be so vocal, or radical; in short, we no longer needed to be so angry. Pride parades today are less about the struggle, and more about the party; angry marches demanding rights replaced by gyrating hot pants and dancing all night. We can’t be sacked for being gay, and now we can marry – but two thirds of of us are likely to experience mental health problems, LGBT youth are still more likely to find themselves homeless compared to straight counterparts, with 77% believing the family rejection and violence was because of their orientation or gender identity.

There have always been gays in the Tory party, some secret, some out, but through the ages they’ve been there – they had their hypocritical hands on levers of power, and they worked against their own because they themselves were protected. Brian Coleman writes in the New Statesman that droves of gay men flocked to Thatcher, which I find hard to believe given Section 28. But then, the gays do have a tendency to idolise strong women, and as we internalise a lot of homophobia, we’re not above acting against our own interests – so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he’s right. Is it once again another strong woman in power and pearls which attracts our kind to the nasty party?

I’m not old enough to have seen the introduction of Section 28, and neither are the young gays flocking towards the Tories, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored – it is apart of our history. An Act introduced by then PM Margaret Thatcher, prohibiting local councils from ‘promoting’ homosexuality or ‘pretended family relationships’ cited by many to be responsible for high level of homophobia. Of course Section 28 was repealed in 2003 (but only after Baroness Young [Tory Peer] died, leaving no one to lead the opposition). In fact, Tory-led Kent Council has its own version of Section 28 still on the books.

When it comes to the 80's AIDS epidemic the Toy government were slow to start in offering their help with the epidemic, some even going so far as to say they were indifferent to the scores of men dying from the disease. Mrs Thatcher even denied a ministerial broadcast on the matter, despite the idea having cross-party support. By this point, ‘quite enough’ had already been done because of a few PSAs. Tell that to the dead.

Maybe it’s a side effect of the vapid and vacuous narcissistic era we find ourselves in, the notion that if it doesn’t effect me, it doesn’t matter. Let history be resigned to the books, they say, the world’s no longer like that, they say, after all, we can marry now.

Maybe history is irrelevant for these young new Tories, perhaps it was the great moderniser, David Cameron that brought them to fold - he managed to more than double the their youth vote (10% to 20.5%). Because of this great and glowing Tory, we have same-sex marriage, hooray! Of course, it would be unfair to give the PR PM all the credit for gay marriage, after all, more than half his party opposed the move, with the motion passing only because of Labour votes, but still, with just one of many policies picked from the Labour manifesto, he will be remembered as the PM who introduced gay marriage, or he would be, if it wasn’t for that other thing...no, not that one, the other thing.

It seems that for every bit of equality we get, we become more homogeneous. We will get married, we’ll emulate the whole straight thing. We’re going to be gay, but we’ll do it on your terms, because you were nice enough to let us get married it would be a shame if we all didn’t settle down, get a dog that can fit in a carrier bag, and resign ourselves to the same dreary existence as our straight brothers and sisters.

It seems strange that after what is usually a torturous adolescence, there would members of our own ranks that would seek out the opposition (at worst) or apathetic (at best). Is it a weird manifestation of Stockholm Syndrome, or is it an extension of this modern need for constant validation and approval? We always want what we can’t have and always crave that which kills us.

Perhaps, dear reader, I am simply bitter and holding firmly to a grudge I should let die. But I can’t easily reconcile recent history and a reluctant reception to the party. A fiscal outlook, it isn’t enough for me to betray the years or hardship caused by a nasty party.


Years or hardship still caused, only now they're directed at someone else.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Defending *that* Homophobe

In defence of the homophobic gay guy.

If you’re gay you’ve probably seen that article from Gay Times- or at least the headline in all it’s baited glory. You’ll also no doubt have seen the comments, or the quoted retweets. Scum! Get into the sea. Shut the fuck up! Umm, no! Etcetera etcetera etcetera. (If you haven’t already read it,click here and give it 5 minutes of your time.)

The headline itself does what its supposed to do; evoke a response, in this case anything ranging from disbelief to rage. Perhaps it made you feel a bit too much, commenting or retweeting your disdain without having read past the byline, but read on and you’ll find things aren’t quite as they appear…

The article starts as you would expect, the questions one faces when coming out, nothing shocking there. We’ve already been prompted by the headline to expect homophobic themes throughout – they’re blatant, but you don’t need two thirds of a psychology degree to spot the confusion staggering from start to finish. This confusion, or cognitive dissonance, gives us context and an insight in the mind of a gay guy with some internalised homophobia.

It’s important to note that when we talk of homophobia regarding this GT article, we’re talking about casual homophobia as opposed to outright homophobia. The latter is your bog standard ‘kick the queer’s head in!’ kind, while the former is more ‘I don’t have a problem with gay people, I just don’t want them rubbing it in my face’. (Rubbing it one’s face usually means ‘please don’t kiss in front of me, two men kissing is gross’ - more on that later)

Cereal Killer (CK) lets us in on the fact he was a victim of homophobia during school – just as many of us were. He freely admits it left its mark, and yet towards the close of the article he reveals that in a recent interview he claimed homophobia never had much of an impact. How does he explain this cognitive dissonance? He doesn’t. He probably isn’t even aware he said the two conflicting statements, but he has admitted this homophobia confuses him. The mental disorientation doesn’t end there - after telling us he accepted being gay when he was sixteen, CK then confides that eighteen years later he still hasn’t accepted it 100%. Again, the disparity is addressed by neither CK nor interviewer – again probably slipping under the gaydar.

There is another telling bit where he refers to his sexuality as forced – what this means I do not know. Is it an act? Can one feel pressured into being gay? I’m at a loss.

And as if this isn’t enough, the home run comes at the end -

“Am I happy in my sexuality? Yes. If I could shake a magic wand and make myself straight tomorrow would I? Yes. Am I happy about that? NO.”

Stop. Look. Read. In one sentence the man tells us he’s happy in his sexuality, then in the very next breath he tells us he would alter his sexuality if he could. Are these really the words of a man happy and comfortable in his sexuality? One could argue that he couldn’t really be in love with his ‘amazing boyfriend’ if he truly thinks this, but people in love (gay or straight) do stupid things all the time, and shocker, they also do things that are selfish and to the detriment of their partners.

This isn’t the interview of someone who deserves to be branded scum, or told they’re harming the gay community, this is the outlook of someone who is realising that Dale Winton and Julian Clarey, tank tops and Kylie, are not the four corners of the gay community. This is someone who needs a cup of coffee and a weekend with The Velvet Rage.

Internalised homophobia is a thing – it has reared its ugly head in all of us at some point – some still have it – from the masc4masc guys who hate queens to the closet cases who can’t understand why we even need Pride. Some of us get over it, some of us don’t – but it does take time, and an understanding of others and ourselves.
I’m tempted to paraphrase Mean Girls and I’ve yet to resist temptation, so I shan’t start now – We have got to stop calling each other names, it only tells straight people that it’s okay to call us names. This is the interview of a clearly confused individual, one who has yet to become comfortable in their own skin. Accepting who and what we are is never easy, and the problem is only compounded when you’ve got a world telling you you’re not quite right – we should be helping and supporting others, not raining down righteous condemnation.

Let’s put this in perspective, CK never called for the stoning of fags, nor banning the mention of us in school, his biggest crime was saying he’s still not comfortable with other gay guys showing affection in public – just as he is not comfortable showing gay affection in public. Yes, gay affection, because I have no doubt he’d have no issue kissing a girl in public.

There’s enough hate directed at us from the outside, let’s not start attacking from the inside too.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Coming Out(?)

Coming Out.

For as long as your parents have told you they love you, society has told you it hates you – you’re not quite right; you look like a regular human, but you’re not really deserving of the same rights, perks or privileges, or the same easy life granted to your straight friends and family. Instead, you go through school carrying your school bag, PE bag, art folder, and what seems like something you'll never tell anyone...

When the word gay appears in an English text, you pray no one looks your way, that no one’s going to pass comment or make a joke. Every jib, joke and verbal salvo avoided is a personal victory. You watch as the effeminate guys, and the boys whose voice has taken a little longer to break, get called faggot or queer – you say nothing. You know they’re not gay, they’re just unfortunate to be late bloomers, have little interest in football, or have a naturally higher-pitched voice. Either way it doesn’t matter, the attention isn’t focused on you. The changing room after P.E. is a minefield, get in, get out, don’t make eye-contact, don’t let your gaze linger on anything, foot, towel or football boot, it doesn’t matter. If you aren’t facing the wall, boring holes, they’ll know. Accidental eye-contact? You’ve just outed yourself. They’ll know there’s a faggot in the changing room; letters will be sent home to parents, you’ll have to get changed somewhere else, for their own safety of course.

You navigate your way through the day, mostly with ease, until you need to take a particular corridor or stairwell, and at a time you’d rather not. You missed any bother on your own lunch period, but now you need the toilet and you’re stuck in a geography classroom at the back of the school, and unlike the girls, you’ve gotta go alone – that’s when you get the names, and the smugness – don’t bother coming this way, we’ve got our backs firmly to the wall, so mince on. It’s unpleasant, you think to yourself, but at least it’s not physical, And at least you’re alone – there are too many red faces when you’re with friends, they're flush with embarrassment, you're scarlet with shame.

Despite the odd name calling, you hide it well enough, you think. You’ve had girlfriends for the early part of secondary school, but you only hold hands and kiss, and go to the cinema, and debate buying one of them a ring from the Argos catalogue. Eventually that stops as you come to realise you can’t keep stringing girls along, it’s not fair, and to be honest, you just can’t be bothered. You know eventually it’s going to have to come out.

You dance around the issue for a while- until you build up the courage to tell your friends. I’ve got something to tell you – and they reply, as they wave invisible placards - “Are you gay? We support you.”. They laugh and smile and they say it like they’re joking, but you know they mean it – they already know. (They’ve probably known a lot longer than you give them credit for – but they’re your friends, and they’ve let you come round in your own time.)

It’s out, and suddenly you feel lighter, it's a different sort of smile, a happiness that you can’t feign. And for what it's worth, it's one that belongs only to us. You don't get to smile with that sort of relief if you're straight.  You’ve made the first steps towards coming out and the world still turns. Gradually you tell your other friends, of course some try and make it about themselves, “He went out with me/It’s my fault/I turned him gay” but none have a problem with it – in fact, quite the opposite. You’re the hottest new accessory, thanks for Will & Grace. You’re the gay best friend, and bonus points for being the socially acceptable Will. (Also great, because being offended when someone says you’re more like Jack...who needs that?)

It becomes something of an open secret at school, until one night you meet your first ever real-life, fellow gay. This isn’t chat over Faceparty, or email, or MSN, this is real, in-the-flesh, friend-of-a-friend gay. Of course you kiss - you’re gay, he’s gay, it’s taken you 16 years to meet one, who knows when the next one will come along. For the first time you feel what it’s like to have teenage stubble rub against your face and bring to your face the red flush of excitement and rawness of stubble rash. This of course all happens outside, behind a wall, near school, on an Irish autumn night – which is very much like a harsh English winter’s night; it’s dark, and it’s very windy, and you’re both wearing awful denim jackets that provide no insulation at all. But you can feel the heat of a guy’s torso against your own for the very first time.

While it’s taken you 16 years to get your first real kiss, you can only savour the intimacy for an evening, because the next day in school, everyone will know. How? Who told them? Was it not only friends there that night? Well, the genie’s out of the closet now and suddenly what used to be your favourite thing in the world – suddenly becomes the worst. The history teacher wheels the tiny 24” CRT TV to the front of the room and makes a hasty retreat to the staff room for a fag of his own. Suddenly, something that never happens in fourth period history - there’s an engaged and inquisitive class, unfortunately the topic this week is Contemporary Homosexual History, very contemporary in fact.
You try to avoid the questions, pretend you haven’t heard them, but the colour of your face tells everyone you have. Your eyes dart around the room, looking for an ally. There are none. You don’t know how to respond until suddenly from across the room, like late the entry of the USA into WWII, someone comes to your aid. It’s the girl who sits beside you in Spanish class, o-fucking-le, indeed. And she’s right, it’s none of their fucking business, and so what if you did kiss a boy? I wasn’t doing anyone any harm. And why are you so interested anyway? Are you jealous? At least I was getting some. Now turn round and shut the fuck up before she makes you. The class goes wild, there is laughter, there are cheers, but most importantly, there is relief.  

Gradually you come to realise the whole world isn’t against you, it just looks and feels that. You have friends that support you, classmates who defend you, and parents of friends who accept you.

You slowly start to come around to the idea of telling your own parents, you painstakingly start to build up the courage, to find a way to bring it up in conversation, but you’re ambushed! They ask you – well, your mum does, dad doesn’t want to know the answer, or rather, he doesn’t want it confirmed.

And so you tell her, you tell your mother. And you know what? You were right all those years ago, and still continue to be right today. They’re your parents, and they love you unconditionally. That’s not to say coming out didn’t have awkward conversations or hurtful, ignorant comments, you may not have been allowed to work with children (!!) but at least you weren’t disowned.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Whether you agree with the outcome or not, whether you think it’s fair or not, we are now in a position wherein the majority of those who voted in England, have decided the United Kingdom should no longer be apart of the EU.

As the Prime Minister falls on his sword, the people fight amongst themselves; all the while the markets drop faster than a decent pill, the Tories continue their battle royale for supreme leader, and the Labour party decide to up the infighting and go for all out mutiny. (And never forgetting to mention the other half of this arrangement...the EU) Like one of those old couples that threaten to leave each other until they day they die, they’re both shocked when the divorce papers actually arrive.

Yes, the referendum itself may not be legally binding, and Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty needs to be invoked in order to start proceedings, but we can’t go on thinking there’s a prolonged timetable on the matter. The heads of the EU want our heads gone as quickly as possible. It isn’t likely to be a mercy killing – it’s not in the best interests of the key players to make it painless – we must serve as an example to other nation states: our estranged partner may not want us to talk about where we went wrong, as we slowly pack up our things and decides who gets what. They may just prefer to dump our shit on the street and be done with it.

What’s even more sinister about the entire thing is David Cameron never wanted a referendum – despite his claims of being Eurosceptic a public vote on membership was not something he wanted. Just as he never wished to go down as the Prime Minister who destroyed the Union, he similarly did not want to go down as the Prime Minister who took us from the EU. Claiming to campaign for a Brexit if renegotiations over membership had failed, to claiming that a Brexit would trigger WWIII, we see either Duplicitous Dave, or a myopic statesman.

Euroscepticism has long been a thorn in the side of the Conservative Party, and often used as either a way to score political points, or used as a plastic carrot and wooden stick. So while the leader of the Tories pads out his premiership by using Europe as a bargaining chip, he fashions his own noose, while Bungling Boris plays along – again another politician using a situation of huge importance to further their own political gain. By playing up to the Eurosceptics of the party, he carves himself a well of political capital – support the Leave campaigners, and the leave campaigners will support you.

Strange, that a former Mayor of London, who is by no means ignorant to the importance of the City, should choose lead a campaign that could cause so much damage and disruption – and yet, when the verdict is announced, he says there is no reason to hurry into anything, except the resignation of his dear friend, Dave. (Because it’s not hugely guarded secret that Boris has always had his eyes on a seat in Downing Street)

Of course, if Boris were to ascend to supreme leader, there is little doubt he could win a general election- personality politics would naturally kick in, and right now there isn’t anyone on the left that comes close a match. But that’s irrelevant, if he were to be elected as Prime Minister, there’s always the very real possibility that he couldn’t lead a government. Will pro-European Tories support him? How many little Swiss army knives has he stuck over the years? Could a leading figure of the Brexit campaign, whose political machinations are no state secret, unite the divided party and command enough loyalty to govern with stability? 

Bombing for Peace : Manchester & The Middle East

It’s sad that I need to open this with a disclaimer, but unfortunately we seem to have lost the art of nuance in discourse; that being said...