Friday 31 January 2014

2010 Winter Olympics Vancouver XXI Olympiad

Wednesday 29 January 2014

So if Homophohia can't be a word...

So the former UKIP donor Demetri Marchessini took out a full page ad in The Telegraph which included the argument:

Firstly, it has already been repeatedly explained to her [Libby Purvis], that there is no such word as "homophobic". It cannot be found in any dictionary, nor does it have any meaning. One can tell that it is a phoney word, (invented by the homosexual lobby) because the first half of the word "homo" has a Latin root, while the second half "phobia" has a Greek root. It is like having a word that is half Spanish and half Croation. Anyone who uses it is uneducated.
Homophobia was first used in 1971 by George Weinberg in Society and the Healthy Homosexual. For the record as to education Weinberg has a Masters in English before doing advanced training in Mathematical statistics. So hardly an uneducated man.

Mr Marchessini is also ignoring the fact that while "homo"actually has a Greek root, as does "phobia". However, "sexus" the root of sexuality is actually Latin. So therefore homophobia is a combination of two Greek roots and homosexuality is actually a hybrid. Homosexual was actually first used in English in 1892, in  C.G. Chaddock's translation of Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis from  the German useage of homosexual, homosexuale by 1880, in Gustav Jäger. 

So clearly the word automobile derived in French in 1895 from the Greek "autos" and the Latin "mobilis" is a made up word by the French car industry. So clearly the is a dysfunction in language that goes far beyong Mr Marchessini uneducated comments.

Dysfunction itself comes from the Greek "dys" and the Latin "functio"first used in 1916.

But before Mr Marchessini gets too het up about the bigamous use of language to come up with new words he should be aware that bigamy is another hybrid from a late Latin mix of "bi" being their own word for double and "gamous" the Greek word "gamos" meaning married. The Greeks themselves used the word digamos for twice married.

And before he goes unto television to show his stupidity he should be aware that by his logic that doesn't exist. Yes you guessed it the word first used in 1907 comes from the Greek "tele" far and the Latin "visio" seeing. Just as long as he doesn't have to rely on the Chinese to provide his satellites to watch it as their people in space are Taikonauts from the Chinese "taikong" for space and the Greek "nautes" for sailor.

However, he will be glad to know that he cannot be a Europhobe as that comes from the Latin "Europa" and the Greek "phobos". Nor for that matter can UKIP truly believe in creating a monoculture, yeah you guessed it "monos" Greek and "cultura" Latin.

These are just a few examples but he can go to the back of the class for now, as this argument is false for a start and based on an incorrect premise and language has always borrowed words and put them together as those that speak see fit.

Monday 27 January 2014

Principle 6 #Sochi2014

We are only 10 days away from the first qualification events in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The following day, Friday 7th February as we lead up to the opening ceremony I will be wearing a Principle 6 T-shirt as a mark that although I support the individual athletes I do not think it is right that a nation that fails to uphold Olympic Principle 6 in the day to day live of its citizens in a fitting situation in which to hold the Games.

So what does Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter state?

6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race,religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

Yet we are heading to Sochi, in Russia that does discriminate in the otherwise category. There is a law on the books against the promotion on non-traditional family values. In other words the LGBT community do not fit into that "ideal". Today the Mayor of Sochi, while saying he is happy to welcome gay people to his city believes they will be the first gay people ever there.

Seeing as Sochi is also a Russian resort town the odds are that this is not the case.

Seeing as Sochi has a population of ⅓ million people the probability is that there are some currently living there or who have done in the past (possibly even the near recent past). That would be a city the size of Belfast, in a nation that has only had homosexual activity legalised for  about a decade less than here in Northern Ireland. So you would have to put it at about a decade ago Northern Ireland visibility, although maybe a bit further back when you consider the way that homophobia there has existed for a number of years.

Also seeing as there are gay and gay friendly clubs in Sochi, who is going there.

I'm just waiting for the first LGBT residents in Sochi to go up to the Mayor's office to introduce themselves.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Sharia Law: DUP Style

The DUP have a narrow view of the arts, I fully expect them to be up in arms about the play that I am writing.Currently we have the issue over The reduced Shakespeare Company.

They are due to bring The Bible: The Complete Word of God Abridged to Newtownabbey's Theatre at the Mill next week for a two day run. Now if anyone who has ever seen any of The Reduced Shakespeare Company productions know whether the bard himself, the history of America, all the books you need to read whatever will know that all these works are abridged dramatisations of the subject matter done in a light hearted way. However, they are also rather scholarly pieces of satire in that the writers have researched their source material and picked up on some of the obscure while at the same time presenting the familiar in a different way in order to cover everything in the 90 minutes that most of their shows last.

This show has been doing the rounds since 1995, I saw it in London. As someone who has been involved in Christian drama (where probably in the eyes of the DUP I have mocked the bible) who has dramatised some of the biblical stories in an accessible way I see no harm in what they did. When watching any of their shows (I believe I have seen five of them) the inquiring mind, such as mine, does ask more questions about parts of the production that they do highlight.

So if the DUP want to ban this production where was the outrage when a teenage me played a Welsh* vandal about to graffiti the walls of Jericho before they came down? Oh, hand on they were present when one of the church elders at the time, a DUP councillor objected to all drama in the church. Thankfully the church saw sense and used it as a tool.

However, if as the Free Presbyterian Minister Brian McClurg says it is unacceptably hurtful to some Christians in the area then they shouldn't go, just as what is preached maybe from their pulpits might be unacceptably hurtful to some members of society from time to time. However, as has been pointed out the show has been advertised for some time and only now with a week to go are the DUP looking at banning it from the stage, so there will be costs incurred both by the theatre and the touring company, so who is going to foot their bills and cancellation fees etc.

Update: The tweet from the Theatre at the Mill says that the show has been cancelled. In a year in which touring productions had failed to come to Northern Ireland due to economic reasons, cancelling shows due to other reasons cannot be great for Northern Irish theatres long term future.

* Yes during one week I played six roles in six different accents.

Friday 17 January 2014

When does seeking equality equal special pleading? - When you ask the TUV

Today Fermanagh's Impartial Reporter was holding a Q&A session with the TUV's Jim Allister via twitter. I threw my hat into the ring to see if my question would get used, it was. See below:

It was a straightforward but at the same time loaded question. Neither the DUP, UUP or TUV have voted for any advance in LGBT equality in Northern Ireland. The LGBT community in Northern Ireland is not split along traditional lines but crosses them.

You will notice that I am asking for equality. First equality with other citizens and second equality within the UK with other LGBT citizens.

So somehow from the fact that we do not have equality within Northern Ireland, nor with the rest of the UK Allister considers that somehow we have greater protections under the law than anyone else. Yet we are still awaiting a Sexual Orientation Strategy to be published, still have Departments appealing progress that has been awarded through the courts not the Assembly. 

So when has asking to be treated equally even been considered special pleading?

Thursday 16 January 2014

Dating with scissors

I suspect that Susan Gaszczak's scissors are the only ones playing that dangerous dance around her membership card right about now. Nor do I suspect that it is merely female Liberal Democrats who find their membership cards dating scissors just now.

For the last year there has been a sense of unease within the party. There have been some who no matter what think that nobody in power within in our party, or maybe just no Lord Rennard, could have possibly done anything that the accuses were saying went on. There were others who had the knives drawn from the first mention. But by in large the vast majority of the party were waiting to see what the findings of the investigation was before making a statement.

By quirk of the nature of the job I was in when the news broke I had to be in that silent set. When all the paid party staff who were down in Eastleigh were called into a meeting I was one of only two not in that meeting. After all the by election head quarters was still open and those of who who were the front of house team had to still be there so that most of the activists didn't know that something was about to break. There was shock within our HQ that night, but everybody picked themselves up knowing we had a job to do to retain the seat and got back to that pretty quickly. We after all were not going to get any answers of conclusion about this until well after the votes had been counted, but we had to get our message out there despite Channel 4's Cathy Newman doing her best to get out a different message.

It was of course Cathy who interviewed Susan Gaszczak tonight, Susan who had waived the anonymity that most victims in such cases are guaranteed and indeed the Alistair Webster QC said that he would not be releasing all the evidence he had to look at to protect those "credible" statements. So part of the reason that many in the party are seeing those scissors entertaining membericide is that those complainants are having to go public about the sexual advances they say they suffered.

But when the Whip in the Lords dismisses such advances as something that happens in any workplace there is shock amongst the membership that those in authority don't get it. But the "it" that they have not got is something that most members look at as a fundamental of who we are. In the preamble to our constitution it states:

We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.

But when that breaks down and one of our peers Lord Carlile states on Channel 4 last night that his friend Lord Rennard has no need to apologise, we are gobsmacked. When he goes further to say that there were 100 bits of evidence in support of Rennard and only 4 from complainants he is ignoring the well-being of individuals.

Now those of us who have accepted that we have to be in coalition, know that we have to compromise on policy here and there. But when the leaders fundamentally don't get the principles protecting individuals, equality and freedom that our policies are based upon and that is writing through most of the activists like Blackpool rock.

We are trying to tell the nation that we want a fairer society yet the man who taught most of us, directly or indirectly, how to get out message across is currently damaging the brand with his lack of apology. Indeed if you read Lord Rennard's statement from last night (which for the sake of political completeness appears to be printed and promoted by a high charging lawyers firm) you would almost expect that he was triumphant. Instead of course Alistair Webster said he would have to consider his behaviour in future and apologise to the women concerned, hardly triumphant, hardly without there being something, just not enough to assume beyond a reasonable doubt there was intent on Lord Rennard's part.

But whether there was evidence of intent or not, which is a very high benchmark which sadly does little to protect an individual against a powerful figure for acts that most often are carried out in private. There comes the crux of the matter.

There are sycophants who do not see the fact that Lord Rennard has been told to consider his behaviour and to apologise. People like that further make the party feel unsafe to those who already felt that way.

But then we come to issue that Lord Rennard wants to return to his positions in the party, but of course he isn't the only one with positions in the party. So those of us, including Susan as Chair of Conference Committee or myself on LGBT+ Exec, who are facing those scissors but also have positions within the party cover a lot more ground that one individual.

Nick Clegg may be facing a revolt in the Lords if he orders the whip is not restored to Lord Rennard, but I suspect that he faces an even bigger revolt within the membership, candidates and activists if he doesn't. The first group need the party to justify their jobs for life (or until we reform the Lords), the latter however the party needs.

Monday 13 January 2014

Stonewall try and fail to be inclusive

Today Stonewall launch their campaign to tackle homophobia in work. There are four poster designs, though by looking at their website you would think that there are only three. Two are all male with the headline "One is Gay". There is a lesbian version but this morning it took many LGBT activists some time to locate it.

There is one woman that Stonewall are happy to promote on their posters about this campaign. She is a police officer who appears with a male colleague under the title "One is bisexual". So the women may actually be the straight one on that poster, after all we are assuming that the other one is, unless she is a lesbian and her male colleague is the bisexual.

However, what many campaigners including myself picked up on the bisexual poster is that apart from the title you would not know that Britain's "self-proclaimed" leader in the LGB rights

The text underneath all four designs is the same.

At Stonewall we've campaigned for 25 years for equality. We've had major successes with legaslising same-sex marriage, repealing section 28 and lifting the ban on gay people serving in the military. But 99% of young gay people still regularly hear homophobic language in school, 100 homophobic hate crimes are reported to the police every week and 2.4 million people have witnessed homophobic bullying at work in the past 5 years.
Lots done. Lots to do.
Yes even when  Stonewall try and be inclusive in their poster campaign they fail within the text. They focus only on the G, hide away the L, fail to recognise the different problems faced by the B, and as for the T as usual with Stonewall they don't get a look in.

They are also taking credit for same-sex marriage, which they were opposed to in 2010 even as the Liberal Democrats passed as Federal Policy in support of it.

There are many harping away about how fantastic this campaign is. Sadly it is more fan'as'ic and fails from its outset to be a diversity inclusive at it appears on a quick scan of the posters.

While we do need to end homophobic bullying, and biphobic, we also need to address transphobic. The Stonewall riots saw the transexuals stand alongside the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals in countering the police brutality. But Stonewall UK (itself a misnomer due its lack of action on Northern Ireland) fail to live up to the name it bears by constantly getting the full range of those who made at stand at the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village.

Looks like those of us who get the full spectrum of sexuality and identity will once again had to pick up the pieces that the UK most high profile organisation that many few as standing for LGBT rights fails to pick up and run with.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

After Thomas Hitzlsperger is it time to see openly gay players?

So I should have seen this coming, the first football player who has graced the Premier League comes out on one day when I am busy with work and then have bowls in the evening.

So I guess that everyone has said their piece about how great it is that Thomas Hitzlsperger has come out as gay.

It is indeed a momentous moment, but one part of me wonders if he hadn't suffered a career ending injury that forced him to retire from the game at the relatively young age of 31 if we have heard this news today, or if we might have had to wait another four years until he retires.

However, the fact that a former international with 52 caps for Germany and a player in one of the top leagues in Europe has come out so soon after retiring is a good sign. People cite the example of John Amaechi, but he took 4 years from his retirement from the NBA to come out. He was the start of major league stars to come out in the USA, but it took until last year for Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards to come out while still playing. It was the following that Robbie Rogers who had come out after quitting Leeds United signed for LA Galaxy.

Rogers said that a major part of the reason for him returning to professional football came when he addressed a group of 500 LGBT teenagers. He said:

"These kids are standing up for themselves and changing the world, and I'm 25, I have a platform and a voice to be a role model. How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?" 

So he stepped up to the plate, got back into the game to await the natural end of his playing days rather than one imposed by the sense that he felt in football he had to stay in the closet.

In 2010 Rudi Assauer, who was boss of Schalke in Germany, said about gay players:

"Perhaps they are OK in other sports but not in football.

"If a player came to me and said he was gay I would say to him: 'You have shown courage.'  But then I would tell him to find something else to do.

"That's because those who out themselves always end up busted by it, ridiculed by their fellow players and by people in the stands. We should spare them these witch-hunts."

Strangely although he had been part of the build up for that year's World Cup, indeed scoring the last of his six international goals in the qualifying game, but didn't make his second world cup at the age of 28 that summer. Bizzarely at that World Cup the captain Michael Ballack's agent Michael Becker said there were a "bunch of gays" in the squad, but the German press instead of pricking up their ears at the revelation seemed to take it placidly as if they either already knew the allegations or knew about some of the players.

Interesting to look back over recent comments and interviews given by Hitzlsperger about the issue of coming out in Football he has always been positive yet realistic about the effects this would have. Saying in 2012 that a pro might come out within a year. He was slightly longer than that and Rogers fitted right into that time scale. But he also said that in doing so it would depend on who and how they came out, but that it could lead to an end of a career. This is what Rogers initially did before that change of heart, but Hitzlsperger himself also waited until the end of his career.

Looking at the support from footballers, Federations, commentators, teams and fans it looks like the overwhelming  majority don't care one way or the other. Is it possible that other players seeing today's response might take the even bolder step of coming out while still playing?

In the mean time if I am supporting my team and some fans start the chant at a set play "Put your hand up if you're gay" I will continue to do what I have done in the past and put my hand up, and hope that maybe one of the players with their hand up also is answering the question rather than looking for the ball.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

The Grouchy Gove: A Horrible History Special

So Michael Gove has decided to attack Blackadder, for not being a true reflection of history. Guess what? It is a sitcom and not a documentary?

But as a result of it being set in four historical times (more when you include Blackadder's Christmas Carol and Blackadder Back and Forth) it can lead to quizzical young minds to look into those periods of history more thoroughly. Indeed you may find some do just that as they do with the Horrible Histories series of books now turned into an award winning TV series.

Nobody can say that Horrible Histories give a full and complete account of the history of the period of that time. Indeed if Gove were to read The Frightful First World War [1999] he would probably have similar palpitations it doesn't give a full a thorough account of the First World War. However, checking on the bookshelves of any bookshop at the moment no one volume, and no doubt no one television series is going to encapsulate all of the history of the war which started 100 years ago later this year.

But when Gove then goes off saying:

"The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles - a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite. Even to this day there are left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths."

The alternative is to see it solely through the official histories written by the officer classes that do not admit to failings or mistakes. Things that only in later histories when under the 30 or 50 year rules Government papers revealed that things didn't always go as planned. But isn't that spreading a more right-wing view of things, that is where the majority of the officer classes came from, but not the majority of those who served and certainly not proportionately those that fell. Or then there is the fact that while we did not have TV or Radio in 1914-18 there were the war poets, satire through The Wiper Times and the letters that millions of tommies sent back home describing conditions at the front.

As this year and the four thereafter go on I'm sure that others will be doing what I have already done and find out about those of their family who served and/or fell in the Great War. As someone who has relatives who fell at The Somme, Gallipoli and Ypres amongst others I am a left-ish person who does not take their sacrifices lightly, nor do I accept everything that the officers tell us about such events is fully the truth.

That is what education should be doing for us giving us enquiring minds. Whether those enquiries are sparked from familial interest, Blackadder, Horrible Histories, text books in school/university or some other source of inspiration that is to be nurtured not mock by the Secretary of State for Education.

Friday 3 January 2014

Ping Pong between Westminster and Stormont over decision on NI MSM Blood Ban

You will have seen me blog in the past how sick I am of Northern Ireland Assembly ministers using tax payers money to fight equality measures (especially LGBT equality) here in Northern Ireland. So you can imagine my shock to learn that the Westminster Department of Health has decided to launch its own appeal against the High Court ruling in Belfast that said that the UK minister should decide the policy in Northern Ireland as Edwin Poots is challenging the whole ruling.

While the Department of Health in Westminster is saying it will fund it's appeal from its own funds, yet more Northern Irish funds are going to be wasted as yet again Edwin Poots is launching another appeal against the courts ruling.

Are people in England happy that the Department of Health is spending money preventing their minister being handed a decision that his Northern Ireland counterpart has been unable to make under any measure of equality as defined in the Belfast Agreement?

Because that is probably part of the reason that Justice Tracey had passed the decision back into Jeremy Hunt's lap in the first place. The judge had ruled it "irrational" that Northern Ireland Mr Poots would retain the lifetime ban on MSM blood donations in Northern Ireland while accepting GB blood which had the 12 month deferral whenever there were shortages.

This means that MSM in Northern Ireland are clearly less equal when it comes to being able to donate than elsewhere in the UK. In fact I know of some from Northern Ireland who after a 12 month period of refraining from sex with other men are travelling to the UK to donate blood. So there is actually the possibility that Northern Ireland may be importing blood from men who've had sex with men greater than 12 months ago who reside here while denying them the right to donate here!

In November the Department of Health said, "“in England, we have made a different decision on the actual issue. In considering any health policy issue that affects all countries in the UK, we will focus on the implications for devolution." Part of the implications of devolution here in Northern Ireland was Section 75 which recognised various minorities, including the LGBT community. The implications of devolution failing to meet those requirements of equality is something that Jeremy Hunt needs to look at as well, although it seems that he has decided to appeal being given the decision to help enact part of the DHSSPS remit on equality when they themselves fail.

So now we have two health Departments playing ping pong over taking a decision which the LGBT community here in Northern Ireland see as an example of the institutionalised homophobia of the largest party. A party by the way that has Ministerial responsibility over the areas of blood donation, adoption and marriage, three major equality pushes that LGBT people in England, Wales and Scotland are taking for granted or see coming.