Archive for the ‘ Gender and Sexuality ’ Category

The Russia problem

What kind of backward-ass place would have laws prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality”? What kind of bigoted society would allow that? (Aside from Britain ten years ago, I mean)

Well, America.

Ok, not ALL of America. Just Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah (yup, all of those states have “no promo homo” laws that are functionally identical to Russia’s). Section 28 in the UK was before my time, but still far too recent for us to be climbing onto our little high-horses. Especially when less than three weeks ago a political figure in the UK made headlines for claiming that God was flooding the UK because of David Cameron’s (comparatively) tolerant attitude towards homosexuality.

The Winter Olympics is finally upon us, and the world’s gaze is fixed on Sochi, Russia. Things in Russia appear to have gone down the tubes pretty quickly over the past couple of years, for LGBT people in particular. Political campaigns like All Out have done an excellent job of raising awareness, and recently the Channel 4 documentary Hunted has received a huge amount of attention for its terrifying depiction of life for LGBT Russians. Local organisations like Bristol Pride and international businesses like Google have added their voices to an increasingly strong chorus, and I personally am thankful for every one. It says beautiful things about our society that people care this deeply about LGBT rights (or, at the very least, it shows that we’re making progress).

I don’t want to discourage anyone from condemning Putin’s homophobia and anti-gay attitudes in Russia. I hope we can add a little nuance to the debate without doing so.

There is some important context that has been left largely unaddressed – America really wants to discredit Russia. You may have seen comments underneath articles about Russia claiming that it is “US propaganda”, which is problematic because it implies that the accusations of Russian homophobia are either inaccurate (which they’re not) or unimportant. I don’t have the best understanding the situation, so the following is based on a bit of research I did specifically for this blog post (DO YOU FEEL SPECIAL).

Apparently it’s complicated. Like, way more complicated than I can properly explain. But (and I’m aware that I’m completely butchering this explanation – politics/history buffs may wish to look away now) the claim is that Russia has links with countries like Syria, Iran, and China that complicate America’s plans for world domination or whatever. I don’t fucking know. And don’t ask me how anti-Russian propaganda will help America, because it’s always seemed to me that governments pretty much do whatever they want regardless of the popular opinion of their citizens. But I digress. My point is that there are other factors. Feel free to clarify them for me in the comments.

There’s also the substantial issue of homophobia everywhere else in the fucking world. I’m not saying that people in bigoted houses shouldn’t be accusing others of homophobia, because that’s not true. Bigotry can and should be challenged by anybody. I would just like it if we could use this movement that’s arisen in response to the situation in Russia to make things better everywhere.

Generally, I’ve been very impressed by the world’s response. Channel 4 produced this amazing advert, which I think is pretty perfect, and the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion produced another, which would be funnier it wasn’t using gay sex as a punchline, but hey-ho.

OMG HAHA PUTIN IS GAY AND WEARING MAKEUP WHAT AN INSULT HOW EMBARRASSING FOR HIM BEING GAY IS A BAD THING HAHAHA PUTIN IS GAY

OMG HAHA PUTIN IS GAY AND WEARING MAKEUP WHAT AN INSULT HOW EMBARRASSING FOR HIM BEING GAY IS A BAD THING HAHAHA PUTIN IS GAY

It makes sense, in a way, that people would want to mock Russia and Putin. Stephen Colbert, who I’m assured is a very funny man, seems to find the situation hilarious. Journalists in Sochi have been using the hashtag #SochiProblems to draw attention to the various shortcomings in their accommodations. But as amusing as missing doorknobs and too-many-lightbulbs are, hardly a mention has been made of the living conditions of the actual residents of the city itself. And after the Olympic spotlight has been turned off, it’s likely that things are going to get worse for the residents of Sochi – the gay and straight alike. This is a problem because shitty times beget shitty attitudes – history has shown us that when times get harder, bigotry flourishes. Not so funny now, huh?

So laugh if you want. Cry if you need to. Boycott and campaign and I’ll be standing right beside you. But don’t be deluded into believing that an anti-Russian attitude absolves you of the need to challenge homophobia at home.

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Why being “sexuality blind” does not make you an ally

*** Just to be clear – I’m not bashing anyone. This is just an explanation of my feels ***

Hooray! Tom Daley is one of us!

One of who?

Well, one of the gays, right?

Nope, he was pretty clear that he likes girls.

Bisexual, then?

Let’s just leave that for him to decide, mmkay? All he’s done is tell us he’s going out with another guy. There’s already been plenty written about the media’s unnecessary and incorrect mislabelling, all of it far more sensible and coherent than I could have managed. Go check it out.

I’m here for another reason.

Let me just start by saying that I’m so happy for Tom, and that I’m really grateful to him for having the courage to share that part of himself with us. For those of you who haven’t experienced it personally – telling the world you like guys is pretty fucking hard, and for someone with a profile as high as Tom’s he is literally telling the world. Fair play.

Now, onto the meat of the subject. Over the past few hours I’ve seen a great deal of “who cares? It’s his business/sexuality shouldn’t be a big deal”, which is perfect in theory but falls spectacularly short in practice. It’s a problem because “why is this news?” is only a half-step away from “the media are shoving homosexuality down our throats”.

I agree with you 100%, sexuality SHOULDN’T be important; but the undeniable fact of the matter is that it IS. You might think you’re being enlightened by looking over your glasses at people excited by the news and telling them that it doesn’t matter to you, but you’re actually being kind of a jerk. Here’s why:

Sexuality matters. Yeah, it shouldn’t – you’re preaching to the fucking choir. Telling gays that sexuality isn’t important is like telling starving kids that you don’t want to hear about it because everyone should have enough to eat. It’s kind of insulting. See here for a better explanation.

Us gays, we need this. 99% of school children have heard the word “gay” used as an insult. Statistics vary, but young gay people are between three and ten times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. The world still hates us, and it still fucks us up.

Having idols like Tom helps. I can’t even begin to put into words how glad I am that teenagers will have in him a role model who is successful, athletic, and loved. It makes a difference, even if just to let you know that you’re not alone. On this, I’m speaking from experience.

So all you open-minded hetero types, thank you for not judging people by their orientation. Thank you, really, and I wish everyone was like you. For future reference, though, when someone does something as brave as come out (on YouTube, no less) the correct response isn’t “who cares?”, it’s “good for you”.

Good for you, Tom.

Fuck you, Jeremy Irons

I’ll be honest: up until earlier today I didn’t actually know who Jeremy Irons was. I knew he was an actor, but I wouldn’t have been able to pick his face out of a crowd. So yay, I learned something today.

Here’s the video, by the way, of Mr Irons explaining his personal take on the problems associated with marriage equality:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/04/04/jeremy-irons-would-gay-marriage-fathers-marrying-sons-avoid-inheritance-tax-video_n_3012356.html?1365068494

Apparently, while he has “no strong feelings” about the subject, he opposes marriage equality on the basis that it would allow fathers to marry their sons in order to dodge inheritance tax.

Holy. Fucking. Fuck. How can I…? I don’t even…

Here are his top five mistakes (for a two minute clip, five mistakes is not bad going). In no particular order:

  1. Gay or straight, you can’t marry your immediate family. I don’t know how to start finding a reference to back that up, because (just going out on a limb here) I don’t think the issue comes up very often. You know, because most people aren’t idiots.
  2. There’s a bunch of issues with his characterisation of wealth passing down between the men in a family – antifeminist much? Fuck you.
  3. If the whole intergenerational-marriage-for-inheritance thing actually was an issue, it would have come up already in civil partnerships. You know, the civil partnerships that are exactly the same as marriages apart from the name? Methinks you haven’t really thought this through, Jeremy.
  4. The scenario you describe would proscribe both father and son from marrying anyone else until the father dies. I know that some people really love money, but that seems like an unreasonable sacrifice.
  5. Current marriage laws can be abused. Two situations that seem to occur fairly frequently (on TV) are the “marriage for money” and the “marriage for citizenship”. Neither of these are an indictment of hetero-marriage as a whole.

Also I’m pretty sure he just said that if gay marriage is legalised then he personally would consider marrying his own son in order to avoid paying inheritance tax. Re-watch the clip and then take a minute to think about whether or not this man is worth listening to at all.

There are a bunch of other things in that video I’d like to pick apart, but I’m not quite on my A-game today. I didn’t blog at all in March (BAD Jack!), so I might have fallen out of the swing of things. I’ll be back soon, though, and hopefully with something more interesting to say! Thanks for reading 🙂

I chose to be gay

Ok, no I didn’t. It was a stroke. A stroke turned me gay.

(I know this is a bit late, but I was too busy to write this when the various stories I wanted to discuss were popular.)

Where to begin, where to begin…

After a stroke in 2011, 27 year old Chris Birch woke up gay. A documentary about him was aired on BBC3 in April this year, and the reaction was… mixed. Once reasonable homos were stirred into a fit of pique by this rugby-player-turned-hairdresser’s story.

“He was always gay!” they cried, “He was just in the closet! In denial! Sexuality is rigid and immutable!”

Which is complete and utter bullshit. A few people made the claim that this guy’s story, and any story that implies that sexuality isn’t as black and white as Lady Gaga tells us*, leaves us open to attacks by religious “gay-cure” therapy types. They have a point, albeit a weak one. Any story that shows people transitioning between orientations could potentially fuel the claims of those who believe that gay people can be “converted” into breeders through prayer or electroshock therapy or whateverthefuck it is they do.

The fact of the matter, however, is that sexuality is not that simple – and of all communities, the LGBT community should be supportive of that fact. Many of us have been asked (by parents and friends) if what we’re experiencing could be “just a phase”. Normally it’s not. We are who we are, and all that. But sometimes it is. People experiment. Teenage girls get girlcrushes. Their existence doesn’t threaten ours, but our insistence on denying theirs is both ignorant and disrespectful.

The situation was complicated, of course, by another story that gained publicity around the same time. In early April, the “Core Issues Trust” booked advertising space on London buses for their “reparative therapy” for gay people. Fortunately the ads were considered to be too controversial, and were pulled. People were angered by these adverts, and rightly so. To quote my favourite line from the X-Men films: “They can’t cure us. You want to know why? Because there’s nothin’ to cure. Nothing’s wrong with you. Or any of us, for that matter.”

But why complicate things by saying that change is impossible? Yes, there are heaps of evidence showing that “reparative therapy” doesn’t work. But still, surely, what we should be aiming for is not a denial that people can change but an acceptance of who they are. Saddeningly, the only place I’ve seen this opinion voiced is in (of all places) the Daily Mail. Really, guys? When the Daily Heil’s opinion is more tolerant than yours, you might be doing something wrong.

It’s not a one way street. Sure, we have the “ex-gay” jerks recruiting our most vulnerable members, but there are straighties making the transition to our side too.

Much earlier this year, around the end of January, actor Cynthia Nixon caused controversy when she said in an interview that she’d chosen to be gay. She was widely criticised (by people that I think should know better – read: gay people) for encouraging the bigots who believe that homosexuality is (always?) a choice. This blog post by John Aravosis is a perfect example of how people got it wrong. It’s titled “Actress Cynthia Nixon says it’s a choice to be gay. And she’s wrong.”, and that title itself is so wilfully ignorant it makes me want to cry. NO, Mr Aravosis, she did NOT say that being gay is a choice. She said that SHE CHOSE to be gay. Can you see how those are different?

In an incredibly patronising first paragraph, he explains that “What she means is that she’s bisexual”. And that makes me so fucking angry. If she was bisexual, why wouldn’t she just say “I’m bisexual”? Hey, maybe she’d never heard the word bisexual before. Maybe she just didn’t know what bisexual meant. Or maybe (just maybe) IF SHE WAS BISEXUAL SHE WOULD HAVE SAID THAT SHE WAS FUCKING BISEXUAL.

Here’s my crazy idea. Maybe, juuust maybe, some people do choose to be gay. Or straight, for that matter. Think about it. You know how those right-wingers keep telling us that homosexuality is a choice? Maybe, juuuuuuust maaaaaaybe, for some of them it WAS a choice. Wouldn’t that help to explain why they’re so sure it is? What about political lesbianism? Sure, a lot of people badmouth it, but it must have worked for some people at some point.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would like it if we could start respecting the way other people identify their orientation.

Chris Birch, you were a straighty and now you’re a gayer. I believe you. I’m sorry that so many homos have demeaned your past relationships by telling you that you were just closeted (because they knew how? I don’t even), but welcome to the winning team.

If a girl tells me she chose to be a lesbian, I’m not going to tell her that ACTUALLY she’s “just bisexual” (because that would be patronising and rude and… factually incorrect!), I’m going to give her a cheer, a beer, and all the support she needs.

Whateverrr… leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

*no offence meant. Little Monster and proud.

My Gay Agenda

Some of my favourite anti-gay claims are those that reference a “gay agenda”. Even though they are often amongst the most unpleasant claims, they have an unintentional humour that goes a certain way towards redeeming them.

In December last year, for example, an American politician claimed that airport security pat downs are part of a “wide-scale homosexual agenda”, saying that “the next TSA official who gives you an ‘enhanced pat down’ could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission.”

See what I mean? Unpleasant, but strangely amusing. Moving straight past the fact that this guy clearly has issues (I’m guessing closeted homo with some kind of BDSM fetish?), have you seen him? Eugene Delgaudio. I’m not saying anything.

  • Sidenote: I’ve never been a fan of the term “practicing homosexual”. Yes, yes, yes, I know it means “one who engages in the practice of homosexuality” rather than “one who is attempting to improve their homosexuality through repetition”, but it still makes me feel like some kind of beginner. Can we not be “practiced homosexuals”?

Unfortunately, the “gay agenda” rhetoric is fairly common amongst right wing politicians and campaigners. You can read a fairly unpleasant example here, although I’ve seen worse.

The most annoying thing about it is that, as far as I’m aware, there is no universal “gay agenda” (or, if there is, no one’s told me about it). I’ve scoured teh interwebs and found one pretty funny article, annoy.com’s “The Gay Agenda“. However, I can’t help but feel that it’s not entirely serious…

So if there’s no “gay agenda”, what are all though homophobes getting riled up about? It pains me to think that they might be wasting their time, so as a favour to homophobia I have decided to craft my own “gay agenda”. And I fully intend to preach it to all those who’ll listen, and act on it at every opportunity.

Without further ado, here is my five point Gay Agenda:

  1. Find a cure for homophobia (ideally non-lethal). Homophobia is infinitely more detrimental (both to the individual and to society) than homosexuality is. But even if you are inflicted with this sickness, please don’t fret: there’s still hope.
  2. Free education. If rational, intelligent, arguments against homosexuality exist then they should be addressed. However, I’d be prepared to wager that the majority of arguments against homosexuality are neither rational nor intelligent. It would follow that rational, intelligent people are at a lower risk of contracting homophobia. As such, I believe a supportive education system is the gay community’s best friend.
  3. Oppose heterosexual proselytisation in all its forms. Make no mistake, they are recruiting. Suggestible LGBT youth are being subjected to a two-pronged attack (and not in the good way): homophobic abuse from their peers and the more insidious “Gay = Not OK” teachings of homophobic elders in positions of power. Whether they are teachers, priests, or politicians, we cannot allow these people to paint their hate on the most vulnerable in our community.
  4. Open more gyms… because a healthy heart is a happy heart?
  5. More funding for the arts! Gays have a reputation for excellence in artistic fields, both as critics and creators. Why not play to our strengths?
What do y’all reckon? And what would be on your Gay Agenda?

What I want from a gender neutral pronoun

Well, first things first: I would like a gender neutral pronoun. There are perhaps only two or three people I’ve ever spoken about this with, so it could well be new information for most of you.

I have nothing against the masculine pronouns usually used to describe/refer to me, but I feel no strong attachment to them. I would assume that this is because I do not strongly identify as “male”. Don’t get me wrong, I love my y-chromosomey body. I’m just confident that I wouldn’t be any happier or less happy with two x-chromosomes.

For all I know, the majority of people feel this way. However, few people explicitly state it (and people who act or present themselves in ways that are contrary to their perceived gender often face ridicule and harassment from their peers). I must, therefore, assume that the majority of people are comfortable both with their biological sex and the corresponding gender role they are assigned based on it.

There are multiple arguments in favour of gender neutral pronouns. There is the issue that since some people do not identify as male or female (and some people are not biologically male or female) referring to them as male or female is inaccurate and/or inappropriate.

There are feminist concerns as well. It is unarguable that women have been treated as second class citizens for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, and it is theorised that this is reflected in our language. In addition to this, it is proposed that unnecessarily revealing a third party’s gender in conversation may influence the participant’s opinion of that person (see the old joke “How to tell a businessman from a businesswoman“).

The more I think about it, the less necessary gendered pronouns seem. We don’t have separate pronouns for people based on any other characteristic – can you imagine if we did? Imagine, for example, that we had separate pronouns for people of different hair colours. The entire concept is actually fairly ridiculous.

And in my opinion any argument against the use of gender neutral pronouns can easily be countered by the simple fact that there are dozens of languages that exclusively use GNPs.

Sadly, English is not one of them. It is occasionally argued that the masculine pronouns “he/him/his” can be used to refer to any party whose gender is not known, but there are a million problems with this. It can easily cause confusion amongst those who only know “he” as a masculine pronoun, and is often (unsurprisingly, and perhaps justly) claimed to be sexist. Another solution is to use the third person plural pronoun “they”. “They” is ungendered, and already often used as an gender neutral third person singular pronoun. For example:

“What time does the plumber get here? Will there be anyone at home to let them in?”

I think this works quite well, and it’s widely accepted, but it is very impersonal.

I think that if I am to find a gender neutral pronoun I must look to those that have recently been created or found favour on the internet. However, some are more well crafted than others. The three main things I want from a gender neutral pronoun are:

  1. A rational, logical construction (rather than being a new, arbitrarily constructed word set).
  2. Elegance, and ease of use. No one will want to use a clumsy preposition. This is my main problem with the whole “hir” thing. Like, seriously, what is that? Hear? Her? Hrrr?
  3. Common acceptance and acknowledgement. This could be a problem… I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that the majority of people don’t spend time considering alternative pronouns. Those that do have a variety of GNPs to choose from, and once someone has chosen pronouns that they feel comfortable with they may be reluctant to convert to a more “popular” alternative.

The most pleasing set I have found are the Spivak pronouns (ey, em, eir, eirs). It is constructed from the third person plural (they, them, their, theirs) by the removal of the “th”. It doesn’t stand out too much in regular speech, and isn’t difficult to say. I may well start using these both o/l and irl :p

Don’t worry, I’m not expecting people to start using these pronouns when referring to me. Call me cynical, but I can’t help feeling that it might cause more problems than it’s worth. However, if you feel you are in open-minded company then go for it.

If you want to do any more research there are a lot of amazing sites out there. There’s an amazing FAQ here, and a very clear video done by TheMetallicSharpie (http://www.youtube.com/user/TheMetallicSharpie) here.

Thanks for reading : ) x