Coming out? Nearly every day…

So, yesterday was National Coming Out Day.

I had intended to write something about it on the day itself, but found myself collapsed in a heap due to workload and tiredness, crawling into my bed for some respite from the world.

I exaggerate, but you get the picture.

So, one day late, I’m here to share some thoughts on this relevant (to me, anyway) topic.

I know this has been said again and again, but really…coming out isn’t an event. It’s more like a process, or a series of coming out conversations, repeated over and over again. I’m 40 and even now I find myself explaining to people that the ring on my left hand signifies I have a husband, not a wife.

I used to let references to my “wife” slide by, feeling it was inappropriate to correct someone on this. But you know what? No. I got bored of that a long time ago. You’d surely correct me if I assumed you were gay and you weren’t, right? So the roles are reversed. Why should I let you go on with such a misconception about who I am?

Why would I correct someone? What would I want to potentially lead to more awkwardness in a conversation, embarrass someone or just run the risk of over-sharing? Or even being shunned.

Well, I’m damned proud of my relationship with @FrankDJS, so why would I want to hide it. It’s not 1950 and we live in one of the world’s great cosmopolitan cities. I have nothing to be ashamed of, so I have no intention of hiding it.

On another level, I’m sure most people would appreciate knowing the truth – especially British people, for whom ‘putting their foot in it’ is a lifelong worry. So clarifying the situation – if it’s raised – is something I now do to get it out of the way and move on.

(And if you don’t appreciate finding out? Well, I don’t think we have a lot more to talk about then. Toodles…)

Another reason is visibility and recognition. I don’t want to hide behind a falsehood and I want to let people know that others all around them are gay, getting on with their lives and contributing to society. It’s not about leaping out of a closet and waving some pom-poms (tempting though that image is), but more about putting it on the same level as “Oh, my mum is from France too” or “I’m a twin” or any of the other multitude of factors that both make us individual and make us part of a collective.

I do this because I can. I do it because so many people can’t because of where they were born, the religion forced upon them by their parents or the bigotry that surrounds them in their community.

In the last year, I’ve had two very different reactions to my clarifying that I have a husband, not a wife. One person (actually a client) simple said “Oh I’m sorry, I simply assumed you had a wife when I saw the ring”. We then moved on with the conversation and it wasn’t mentioned again. Simply because it wasn’t relevant to our discussion and, in my estimation, he processed this like just another piece of information about me.

Another person overreacted to an embarrassing level, telling me all about their gay friends, how they have “terrible gaydar” and how they’d “never have guessed” as if it was a compliment.

Sigh.

Did you expect me to walk through the room like Mr. Humphries from ‘Are you being served’? Do you somehow think it’s a compliment that you “couldn’t tell” my sexual orientation simply by looking at me?

🙄

Again, more sighs. It was quite an effort to keep smiling through it all, yet I was also annoyed at myself for feeling so apologetic. Nothing to apologise for here, now move along.

Anyway, when it comes to coming out, brace yourself.

Because it’s not over in  flash of fabulousness, it happens every time someone makes an assumption about you that you’d like to clarify.

Sometimes it lands with about as much impact as “I like to drink coffee of a morning”, but sometimes it lands like a fart during a funeral. Not everyone will welcome you with open arms, because simply put, a certain percentage of every population on the planet are arseholes.

Ignore them.

Be yourself. Tell who you want. Get better at telling them. Get more comfortable over time. Keep coming out. It definitely gets easier.

On Orlando and homophobia

Today’s carnage in a gay club in Orlando has left me shaken. Obviously, I was safe and sound here in London, nowhere near to the scene of the massacre. It’s just served to remind me of the prevalence of homophobia and it’s roots in deeply illogical thought.

Let me put it another way: your hatred of gay people makes no sense.

If I’m gay (which I am) and you’re not, I represent no kind of threat to you. Indeed, as we’ve seen time and time again, the inverse is true. My ‘gayness’ is not contagious, I won’t ‘turn’ you or your family gay and I certainly won’t try to change laws to make my sexual orientation mandatory. As if.

Homophobia is often couched in pseudo-logical arguments about the ‘natural order’ or ‘morals’. More often than not, the homophobia I see and hear is based on religious beliefs. The key word there is beliefs. A choice. A choice to believe that someone, somewhere is responsible for the creation of the entire universe, but also has the time to both create and despise gay people.

People aren’t born Christian. They’re not born Muslim. They’re brought into these belief systems by their families. And they can leave them – though I acknowledge that departure from religions can have terrible consequences and often even fatal ones. But still, it is possible.

I can’t flick a switch to change my sexual orientation (and it would be more like turning a dial anyway, based on what we know about human sexuality) no more than I can decide to grow another four inches in height.

Your beliefs will never trump my human right to exist and be who I am. Your beliefs, no matter how complex, ancient and ritualised, cannot be respected more than a human being. I frankly don’t care what you believe – what origin story you adhere to, what you think is acceptable and unacceptable. Just don’t expect me to agree. Don’t expect me to change my life to fit in with your deeply illogical, contradictory and flawed belief system.

And I won’t expect you to be gay.

I won’t come into your place of worship and disrupt your ceremonies. Then again, I’ll expect you to stay away from places where I feel safe, where I feel I can be the person I am. Protest, campaign, tell me I’m wrong. Debate. Argue. I have answers to your questions and responses to all of your stale arguments.

Don’t resort to violence – it demonstrates the futility and weakness of your beliefs if you have to kill to be heard.

Don’t bring your bigotry with you

An appalling story reported by Attitude – refugees from the Middle East who have ended up in Amsterdam have been threatened and attacked… by other refugees.

Just because they’re gay.

After being spat on, threatened and attacked by others in their refugee centre, Dutch News reports five gay men – three from Syria, one from Iran and one from Iraq have been moved to a property owned by housing corporation Rochdale.

A spokesperson from the Salvation Army, which manages refugee accommodation across the Dutch capital, said the safety of the five men could not be guaranteed if they were to remain in their former lodgings.

This weekend sees another four refugees moved to separate housing in Rotterdam under the supervision of Safe Haven, an organisation that offers guidance to gay people with a multicultural background.

Back in October, two asylum seekers were relocated following issues at a refugee centre in the Zuidoost district.

From next year, gay refugees are to have their own wing in the Groenhof Refugee Centre in a former care home close to the city centre.

Having to separate refugees to continue to protect them from the bigotry they’re fleeing – even when they reach a ‘safe’ country – is terribly depressing. Obviously the people that attacked them feel it’s appropriate to bring their own special brand of hatred and intolerance with them. I’d argue it’s not.

I hope the Dutch authorities take this seriously. Housing gay refugees separately is a depressing step, but sounds necessary in the short-term.

What’s to stop the people who attacked them attacking non-refugee locals (no worse a crime) once they’re walking the streets? The Netherlands has taken them in – it’s time they acted like guests and not ambassadors for the hatred they feel entitled to act on.

This comes just over a week after the Telegraph reported new Dutch Government processes for the integration of refugees into Dutch society:

All non-EU newcomers to the Netherlands will now be forced to sign a declaration saying they will uphold Dutch values, or pay a fine of up to €1250 and have their residency revoked.
These values include upholding people’s freedoms, being a good neighbour and participating in society – for example, speaking Dutch. The measures are part of a harder line on immigration in the Netherlands, which Lodewijk Asscher, social affairs minister, described as the “warm heart and cool head” approach.
He wrote in a letter to Dutch MPs on Friday that the government was “committed to reducing the number of refugees” and acknowledged concerns about threats to jobs and houses, and about “which culture they bring along with them”.
How awful must it be to escape these countries, only to find yourself surrounded and attacked by the same kind of people who made your life a misery in the first place.

London Pride 2015 – sunshine, drag and uniforms!

Yesterday was London Pride 2015 and the weather gods smiled upon us all – sunshine and warm weather al day long. It couldn’t have been any better! (So much for the gays causing floods and other natural disasters…)

We watched the parade on Regent Street and it was great to see such a diversity of marchers. From voluntary groups, the armed forces, police and fire-fighters, through to civil servants, LGBT family groups and various drags acts. I’m still impressed at how they managed to walk that distance in those insanely high heels…

It was all very good natured and upbeat. The marchers from the emergency services and armed forces got a lot of applause and support from where I was watching, along with marchers from countries where it’s still illegal (and possibly fatal) to be openly gay. A reminder that events like Pride are still relevant and necessary in 2015.

We then wandered down to Trafalgar Square where the main rally was taking place. Various musical acts and speeches reminded us how lucky we were compared to other parts of the world, while also recognising the recent fantastic news from both Ireland and the US. Big cheers from the crowd each time these countries got a mention – made me feel (once again) really proud to be Irish!

The back up to Soho to meet some friends for a few drinks in the sunshine. The people-watching was excellent, with every shade, size and type of person represented. The atmosphere was hugely positive and fun, though the streets were jammed with people and it seemed to take several weeks to get served at any of the bars.

I didn’t make it a late one, as I’d flown home from Singapore overnight on Friday, arriving 5am Saturday. So I was flagging by the time 7pm came around. There was a time when Pride would’ve ended for me some time on the Sunday morning…I fear those days are over! But from where I was standing, it looked like everyone else was going to party for some time to come.

No big deal

So Ireland’s Minister for Health came out on the radio this morning.

The government didn’t collapse. The country didn’t sink into the Atlantic and the people didn’t take to the streets with pitchforks. Leo Varadkar is gay, end of story.

While I occasionally comment on the sexual orientation of people in the public eye, I don’t dwell on it. But in this case, I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that even a few years ago, this would spell the end of an Irish Government Minister’s career.

But it’s 2015 and, hopefully, things have moved on. Many people will see this as interesting, some will see it as a positive move and some others will inevitably see it as “intrinsically disordered“. The latter are hopefully an ever-decreasing minority, though.

I think Minister Varadkar’s move signals that there are gay people in all walks of life in Ireland, that it’s possible to survive – and thrive – in the challenging arena of Irish politics and that he’s not in any way apologetic for who he is.

His approach to this was refreshing and positive:

“I am a gay man, it’s not a secret, but not something that everyone would necessarily know but isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before,” he told Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio.

“It’s not something that defines me,” he said. “I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me, it is part of my character I suppose”.

Given last year’s furore over Panti Bliss and RTE’s pathetic response to the right wing, I hope this can signal a more positive step towards a more equal society.

Onwards, to this year’s marriage equality referendum.

Review: The Imitation Game

I was looking forward to seeing this for quite some time – and it didn’t disappoint. The Imitation Game was utterly fantastic.

It was engaging, moving, engrossing and thrilling all in one beautifully-filmed package. Yes, there was a lot of detail skipped over – but to be fair, they were taking in Turing’s life from his childhood right through to his post-WWII arrest and prosecution.

Benedict Cumberbatch was stellar as Alan Turing, inventor of the modern computer and decoder of Nazi cyphers. The actor who played him as a child (Alex Lawther) deserves an award, particularly for the heart-wrenching scene in the headmaster’s office. I think I held my breath for the entire time.

Both actors shone in their portrayal of a man who simply doesn’t understand the niceties of social discourse and feels out of the loop both at work and in his personal life.

The highs and lows of the film ultimately end on a bitter note – I’ll leave you to experience that for yourselves. Turing’s contribution to the war effort and to computer science are immeasurable. But all the same, it’s estimated that he shortened the duration of the Second World War by two years and obviously saved millions of lives.

It’s so sad that he had to wait until last year for him to receive a posthumous pardon from the Queen for his “crime” of being gay.

5/5

One in the Eye for the Haters

Austria’s win at last night’s Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen was basically assured as soon as their act walked off the stage. Conchita Wurst delivered a confident, assured and spectacular performance of “Rise like a Phoenix” and votes came pouring in from across Europe as a result.

Conchita won due to a great song and a professional performance. A stunning performance. Conchita didn’t win because there’s a crazy liberal conspiracy to “undermine society” and “promote alternative lifestyles” as the right wing would have it.

Eurovision has always been – and will always be – immensely camp. Conchita is just one more example of this tradition. But rather than being some sort of gimmick, what we had was a talented artist with a beard delivering a powerful song with gusto – while just happening to wear a dress and heels.

What struck me most about Conchita’s performance was how effortless it seemed. This is not someone who is all about the wigs and dresses. This is a talented singer (who also looks great in wigs and dresses!).

I’d hate for people to be left with the impression that Conchita got “sympathy” or “joke” votes last night. All three of the top songs last night were great – and I’d have happily seen the Netherlands of Sweden win. Each were lovely songs in their own way.

But Conchita’s “Rise Like a Phoenix” was head and shoulders above them, both in content and delivery. She truly deserved to win. And did so with votes from across Europe, not just relying on the “West”.

Russian and Belarussian appeals to have Conchita barred from the contest due to her “unnatural” status fell on deaf ears. The rest of Europe has moved on, while Russia seems determined to move backwards and wallow in aggressive dictatorship. This spectacular win is one in the eye for the haters that tried to prevent this success.

 

Well done Conchita, well done Europe. And here’s to next year in Vienna!

A very noble call

I just watched this video. And you should too.

Yes, there’s a very local Dublin story that sits behind this speech. But it’s also a universal story. A story about every gay man and woman who has wondered what it is – what precisely it is – about them that bigots hate.

I could be flippant and make jokes about style, music, taste… but I worry that would be falling prey to the same bigotry that you don’t have to look very far to find.

Recent speeches in the House of Lords here in London about equal marriage were prime examples. Gays being lumped together and viewed as some sort of worryingly negative influence on pure, straight society. Described as being “good with antiques” by people who influence the path of legislation in this country.

Sorry to point this out, but every gay man and woman is also a member of society. We work, learn, sleep, eat, commute and pay taxes just like the rest of you. And we deserve the same level of respect and protection you would afford anyone else. No more, no less.

As someone who left Dublin to move to London – for no other reason than postgraduate training – I can only imagine what kind of anger I’d feel if I’d been in this guy’s place.

And for straight, bigoted people from well-funded organisations to try and stifle his justifiable anger?

Disgusting.

For RTE, the state broadcaster funded by Irish taxpayers, to hand over piles of cash to said organisations? Doubly so. Like Panti says – if you are actively trying to prevent equal status for gay men and women in the eyes of the law, then you are nothing but a homophobe.

Don’t act the injured party when you’re trying – hopefully in vain – to slow down the development of equal rights. Ireland is holding a referendum on same-sex marriage next year. Civil partnerships were introduced in 2010.

Yes, I’ve experienced my own fair share of homophobic nonsense. The vast majority from otherwise sensible people telling homophobic jokes when they didn’t know there was “a gay” in the room. I’ve never lost my job. I’ve never been physically threatened or attacked.

But having to ask…sometimes plead…for equal status under the law. Yes, that’s demeaning and it’s oppressive.

Please… watch this impassioned speech and think twice before you think it’s okay to deny someone their rights based on who they love.

I don’t know where to start

I really don’t know where to start with this story  I said many months ago that the best thing about the UKIP party getting more press exposure would be their inevitable public implosion once more of their members got to be heard.

Here (after the ridiculous buffoon Godfrey Bloom) is another example: A UKIP Councillor blaming the recent atrocious weather on the government’s decision to pass a bill permitting equal marriage.

A UKIP councillor has blamed the recent storms and heavy floods across Britain on the Government’s decision to legalise gay marriage. David Silvester said the Prime Minister had acted “arrogantly against the Gospel”.

In a letter to his local paper he said he had warned David Cameron the legislation would result in “disaster”. UKIP said Mr Silvester’s views were “not the party’s belief” but defended his right to state his opinions.
Mr Silvester, from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, defected from the Tories in protest at David Cameron’s support for same-sex unions.
In the letter to the Henley Standard he wrote: “The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.”
He added: “I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill. But he went ahead despite a 600,000-signature petition by concerned Christians and more than half of his own parliamentary party saying that he should not do so.”
He then went to on blame the Prime Minister for the bad weather: “It is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods.” He went on to say that no man, however powerful “can mess with Almighty God with impunity and get away with it”.

So, in summary, the gays did it.

It would appear that no country has a monopoly on religious nut jobs getting into politics and mixing the two to unfortunate effect.

I don’t think it’ll be long before the next UKIP car crash. Excellent sport, if nothing else.