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.

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.


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?


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.

On Turing and double standards…

Alan_Turing_photoI woke this morning to the news that Alan Turing has received a Royal Pardon.

Never heard of him? Read on to learn about his contribution to the Allied effort in World War II. Despite this key contribution, his sexual orientation resulted in prosecution, public humiliation, private anguish and ultimately his suicide.

Because what you do with your genitals is obviously more important than any assistance you’ve provided in beating the Nazis and ending world war.

Anyway, the government has relented and Turing has his pardon. But I can’t help wondering about how helpful this is.

What the government are essentially saying is that Turing – for all his good works and fame – was a “good gay” and can now be rehabilitated in the public mind. He did good things, so let’s forget his public humiliation, experience of chemical castration and untimely death.

However this leaves the status of many, many thousands of gay men just like Turing unchanged. Their convictions for “gross indecency” still stand, their chemical castrations viewed as a “cure”.

Turing had impact – he made a difference. But so did everyone of the gay men who car before him. Doctors, milkmen, train drivers, teachers, policemen…all in their way contributed positively to society, yet I suspect it’ll be a long time before the government – any government – apologies for how they were treated and how inane moralistic laws contributed to their misery and prosecution.

Let’s remember Alan Turing for what he was – a brilliant mathematician, who happened to be gay. Let’s not forget all of this fellow gays who won’t receive a royal pardon and ensure nothing like this happens again, either in the UK or elsewhere.

Think also of how many contemporary Turings are facing misery and potentially death right now in places like Russia, India and Uganda.

I have no words…

…to adequately describe the level of madness this story relates:

Staff of the University of Lagos have lauded the work of one of their postgraduate students, Chibuihem Amalaha, for an experiment in which he claimed observations of magnets provided proof that homosexuality is unnatural.

Mr Amalaha claimed that as the poles of magnets repel those of the same type, this “means that man cannot attract another man because they are the same, and a woman should not attract a woman because they are the same. That is how I used physics to prove gay marriage wrong”.

I’m assuming scientists at universities all over the world are stunned at this latest addition to our scientific understanding of human sexuality. And at the liberal interpretation of the term “experiment”.

Or perhaps, they see it for the thinly-veiled piece of homophobic trash it is.

I’m still undecided, obviously.

“In recent time I found that gay marriage, which is homosexuality and lesbianism, is eating deep into the fabric of our human nature all over the world and this was why nations of Sodom and Gomora were destroyed by God because they were into gay practice,” he said.

Mr Amalaha added that his tutors have praised his research: “Recently my lecturer at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Profesor D S Aribuike, pointedly told me that I will win Nobel prize one day, because he found that my works are real and nobody has done it in any part of the world.”

He said his next goal is to get his research published in international journals.

And good luck to him. I’m confident frequent and accurate citing of ancient religious texts will facilitate such acceptance by the wider scientific community. Bonus point of bible-thimping, if you will.

Hat tip to Pink News for sharing this amazing piece of scientific journalism with the rest of the world. If you’d like to read the remainder of the hilarious (yet sadly, in Nigerian terms, “serious” journalism) article, you can do so here.

*washes hands thoroughly*

Anyone else surprised by this?

770px-Eurovision_Song_Contest_logo.svgObviously a slow news day* over at The Independent (I’ve already spotted two other non-stories this morning, about Jeremy Clarkson standing for parliament and Rudolph Hess’ secret war files):

It is renowned for having one of the most tortuous electoral systems known to voters. Now the Eurovision song contest is itself in danger of receiving nul points after allegations of vote-fixing and bribery.

Officials from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises the annual event, confirmed yesterday that it was investigating claims that jury members were offered bribes to vote.

The accusations were made in Swedish press reports, which cited an anonymous delegation member involved in this year’s contest held in Malmo, Sweden. According to the source, attempts were made by several delegates to fix votes. Azerbaijan, the source claims, tried to buy high scores from jury members with “enough money to live off for a year”.

The last few years have shown an increase in what can only be described as random voting. Sure, neighbours are still voting for each other (hello, Greece and Cyprus!), but some of the newer entrants have done surprisingly well, despite having rubbish acts. Paying Lithuanian students to vote for Azerbaijan? Nothing would shock me at this stage.

And all over a song contest… *shakes head wearily and tuts*

Mind you, on a slightly more serious note: just like the Olympics and World Cup, the Eurovision counts disgusting dictatorships among its participants.

Doesn’t anyone else find it ironic that countries like Russia and Belarus desperately want to win what is to gays a combination of Christmas and all our birthdays come at once? Azerbaijan itself isn’t exactly a beacon of tolerance.

Denmark won in 2013, but one of these less salubrious members could take the crown in 2014. And then where would we be? Don’t think I’d be hot-footing it to Russia to celebrate Eurovision 2015.

On the other hand, I suppose that hosting it is dependant on winning it.

Unlike the Olympics and World Cup, where recent events have shown it’s money and more money every time.

*cough* Russia *cough*

*cough* Quatar *cough*

Which behoves democracies to actually enter songs with a chance of winning.

*cough* Bonnie Tyler *cough*

Or…we hope one of these homophobic countries wins and we collectively shame them into doing something about their homophobia and use the Eurovision Song Contest to effect societal change.

Which is a sentence I never thought I’d either read or type.

Oof. Time for more coffee, I think.


(*Obviously a relative term, as I was all over this story as soon as I saw the word “Eurovision”)