LGBT

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International Trans Day of Visibility (TDoV)

Published April 1, 2014 by Katy J Went

Yesterday was the International Trans Day of Visibility (ITDoV/TDoV), as such I shrugged off my Harry Potter cloak of invisibility and ‘outed’ myself – oh no I did that 7 years ago, or rather my partner did that for me!

Ironically, as transgender people we are often all too visible to society if we do not “pass” well – something that many trans aspire to and many find psychologically and socially distressing if not achieved. What is true, however, is that for every trans you notice another 9 or 99 are invisible, because they’ve either disappeared into the general hubbub of society and are accepted as people first, and gendered persons of trans history second, or, they may be part of the invisible iceberg of trans not yet out.

KJ in hat Industry Networking NightThis latter group, for whom gender identity becomes a self-aware issue typically by the age of 7 may on average stay hidden till coming out in their 40s. If families, partners, media and society were more accepting, less judgemental and ridiculing, then I am quite sure more would be out and visible. Perhaps, like International Coming Out Day, today is a day we can celebrate increasing safety for more trans to come out, not to be ‘outed’ as I was initially. People call me brave for being ‘out’, but I had no choice, being ‘outed’ to friends and family by my then partner. By then it was “in for a penny in for a pound”, a “sink or swim” choice.

Transgender Day of Visibility was started in 2009 by trans activist Rachel Crandall-Crocker, of Michigan, USA. It began as a Facebook event but grew to encompass all kinds of awareness and visibility raising events.

Events on the day have included protests, actions, sit-ins, poetry, educational and social events, anything to show that the transgender community is a valuable part of society to be accepted and respected.

These positive publicity events are in contrast to the annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) held each 20 November where the tone is remembrance and commemoration of all those who’ve lost their lives, often violently, for being out or outed as trans. A Transgender Awareness Week has now formed in the week leading up to TDoR.

The prevalence of transgender people in our communities is a hotly debated subject and one which is subject to several studies that are each seen as underestimates by the next one to be carried out. Numbers are made all the more likely to be on the low side by the difficulty of polling people who are not out or maybe trying to live discreet post-surgical lives. Surgery figures may only reflect those via recordable national health clinics and not those going privately or abroad for surgery. Similarly being trans covers everyone from transsexuals at various stages of hormonal and/or surgical transition, occasional and full-time crossdressers/transvestites, and some trans who identify as a third or non-gender outside the binary of male and female. Whilst transsexuals may represent just 0.1% of the population, non-surgical trans may be 1% or higher as only a fraction pursue surgery and many are not ‘out’ to everyone. Figures as high as 1.5% have been quoted and the numbers coming out each year are excalating as exponential rates as it becomes more safe to do so. I live in a city of 200,000 adults and know over 100 local trans personally and of another 50-100+. There will obviously be those I don’t know and those not out yet so 1-in-1000 is a gross underestimate and yet that is a figure considered high by the NHS.

More prevalence research data here:
http://www.gires.org.uk/assets/Medpro-Assets/GenderVarianceUK-report.pdf
http://tgmentalhealth.com/2010/03/31/the-prevalence-of-transgenderism/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsexualism#Prevalence

The best thing you can do on this Transgender Day of Visibility and on every day following it is to reduce the tacit acceptability of transphobia in humour, toilet/bathroom access, and general gendered sexism and stereotyping. Allowing teens to grow up in the gender or expression they are comfortable with. Encouraging teens to be free to be tomboys and/or effeminate, irrespective of birth gender.

In another article Mey, an Idaho based Latina transwoman activist, outlines 15 ways to support trans people on the day of visibility and every day.

In the UK we have many visible trans already such as the comedian and actor Eddie Izzard, Turner Prize winning artist and speaker Grayson Perry, LGBT Pink List topping radio and print journalist Paris Lees, several contributors to the Guardian newspaper such as Jane Fae, Juliet Jacques, Roz Kaveney; Prof of Equalities Law at Manchester Stephen Whittle, Christine Burns and many more besides. In business there is Kate Craig-Wood, an entrepreneur and founder of one of the UK’s largest IT groups. There’s comedians Bethany Black and Andrew O’Neill, and several other comics too, musicians like CN Lester, Thomas Dolby’s son Harper, and a magician, Fay Presto. I could go on and know of 100s of trans lawyers, doctors, activists in public life here in the UK alone.

In 2011 Channel 4 broadcast My Transsexual Summer and launched 7 British trans people into the limelight including friends of mine like Donna Whitbread, as well as Maxwell Zachs, Sarah Savage, Drew Ashlyn Cunningham, Lewis Hancox, Raphael Fox, and Karen Gale. Big Brother (UK) has seen several trans winners and contestants including Nadia Almada, Luke Anderson, Lauren Harries, Alex Reid and Rodrigo now Rebekah Lopez.

April Ashley, Jan Morris and Caroline Cossey are all well known British women with open transgender histories.

In the US Janet Mock, among others have blazed the way by being out and public in their defence of being themselves. Recently we’ve seen big names like Lana Wachowski of the Matrix films, Chelsea Manning of Wikileaks fame, Cher’s son Chaz Bono, and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me. Actors like Alexis Arquette, Candis Cayne (“Dirty Sexy Money”), Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black”) and Calpernia Addams, who recently advised Jared Leto on his Oscar winning role in “Dallas Buyer’s Club”. Nor is “Gender Outlaw” author Kate Bornstein to be forgotten. Dr Marci Bowers, is an American gynaecologist and surgeon and actually carries out gender/sex-reassignment surgery. There’s the US biologist and author of “Evolution’s Rainbow” Joan Roughgarden.

The names above are just a sprinkling of the hundreds of thousands of out trans people worldwide and possible even over a million or more yet to come out, I mean 1-in-1000 it would be 6-7 million worldwide.

Here’s hoping that more trans feel comfortable being more visible each day as that would not only make their lives happier but society itself all the more accepting and embracing, which is good for everyone. We are not invisible nor scary – but a little afraid ourselves, talk to us.

For more information about the transgender spectrum visit www.genderagenda.net.

Transgender Visibility Day (31 March)

Bisexual Visibility Day (23 September)

Intersex Day of Awareness (26 October)

Transgender Day of Remembrance (20 November)

Ben Summerskill resigns from Stonewall UK, what is the future of LGB and T lobbying and education?

Published January 24, 2014 by Katy J Went

Stonewall diversity champions?After 11 years in the post, Ben Summerskill has stepped down from Stonewall, the UK LGB lobbying and rights group. I say LGB rather than LGBT as over the years it has been infamous in promoting the understanding of gay or LGB rights, as opposed to the whole gamut of LGBT+, not that many bisexual friends felt represented either. There is no doubt that it has done tremendous work, although it was criticised for being slow to support equal marriage.

Ruth Hunt takes over as Active Chief Executive and has promised to speak to trans voices, but also reiterated that Stonewall had “always spoken to trans groups – I have hosted round tables at Stonewall with trans groups, and there are a lot of conversations to be had with a lot of people who have strong opinions”, in an interview with Pink News.  She went on to say that, “The more conversations we have the better, but I wouldn’t predict the outcome of any of those discussions.” – So no change there then.

Stonewall with the T

Just as there now 2 fewer stripes in the rainbow flag, so too are 2 groups, T&I, excluded from Stonewall’s diversity championing

Transgender activist groups have long been debating whether to give up on Stonewall and go it alone. Many have used the slogan “don’t forget the T in S onewall”.  From one such group‘s About section: “Stonewall UK excludes T from the equality index and other leadership training for UK employers.This is a discussion group to help them understand that they need to be fully LGBT inclusive”.

Of course trans groups and activists are difficult to work with, we are angry and we are diverse – I mean we can’t even agree among ourselves! But that’s diversity for you.

Being a member of the trans community and fighting for understanding and representation of trans, intersex and queer, identities and issues, at various tables, committees and forums, I find that Stonewall has lived up to its name, but not its founders. The original Stonewall Inn riots of 1969 saw a subsequently selective history transmitted. One in which the many African-American transvestites and transwomen were ignored from the original explosion in LGB activism, both for their colour and their gender identity. Stonewall became an edited history of white gay male privilege.

Michael Cashman, MEP and former Eastender’s actor – famous for the first gay kiss on British television, is very supportive of trans rights and spoke at a TGEU conference in Berlin that I attended in 2008. Cashman was also one of the founders of Stonewall UK in 1989. Cashman criticised Stonewall in 2010 for its slow and grudging response to equal marriage.

It should be pointed out that Stonewall Scotland is trans inclusive and campaigns for and with transgender groups, from its website: “Stonewall Scotland works for equality and justice for transgender people, as well as lesbian, gay and bisexual people.”

In England and Wales, at least, it seems it would be better to walk our own path and clamour “foul” loudly when Stonewall speak on LGBT or gets LGBT equality funding but only serves LGB ends. I have been fighting for 2 years to get the local police to stop lumping homophobic and transphobic hate crimes into the same statistic when all the other protected diversity characteristics get their own independent stats. I’ve also experienced opposition from LGB activists for trying to get intersex inclusion added to our campaigning and representation, not from the public sector – they were only too happy to follow the European Community’s lead in becoming LGBTI supportive. All this seems reminiscent of LGBT rights history. Anyone who has watched “Milk”, the film about the assassinated first gay in political public office in the US, Harvey Milk, will know what I am talking about. It seems the gay rights movement was reluctant to have lesbian “assistance” and to become LG rights. Even more so were both unwilling to add “fence-sitters”, aka bisexuals, to their campaigns. Finally, they did not want the weird tail to wag the now established, respected and assimilated dog, and let transsexuals be part of their political voice. I’ve been told that to add intersex representation would “confuse issues”.

In 2008 and again in 2010 Stonewall nominated transphobic journalists for journalist of the year awards for promoting equality! One of those same journalists was cited in a 2007 report by Stonewall Scotland for transphobia.

Stonewall has made educational videos raising gay awareness and confidence to come out, and targeting homophobia – but getting it wrong on transgender. One video had a mother hearing her son’s coming out and proclaiming “at least you are not trans”, another gets transgender differences, mixed up, and again, certainly, seen as worse than being gay. There is palpable relief when someone is told “there’s as many ways to be a girl as there are girls”, helping a tomboy realise she need not be trans. The school’s training video also inappropriately explains and uses the word “tranny” for transgender.

In 2012 Paddy Power ran a transphobic advertising campaign including a “spot the tranny” competition on Ladies Day, subsequently banned by the Advertising Standards Authority. This year, Stonewall teamed up with Paddy Power to supply rainbow laces to football teams (largely unsuccessfully) to combat homophobia in the sport. Redemption is all well and good, but when Stonewall’s media manager appeared to endorse the use of transphobic stunts as furthering the issues of homophobia, all was well and good? Apparently, the piece in the Guardian was edited after Stonewall submitted it, but it represents yet another own goal in their dealings with the trans community.

Perhaps, then it is time to realise that LGB and T/I need to go it alone – politically, at least, to reinforce the idea that sexuality and sex/gender are two different things. Although I personally believe there are huge areas of overlap, in identity, sexuality, hormones and gender.

Posthumous pardon for WWII gay codebreaker Alan Turing as Royal prerogative of Mercy

Published December 24, 2013 by Katy J Went

After 60 years “father of modern computing” computer pioneer and WWII Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon. Turing shortened the War, it is estimated, by 2 years saving millions of lives as 11 million were dying annually. He mechanised the manual codebreaking work done at Bletchley Park at the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS or GCCS) which in 1946 became GCHQ.

Alan Turing sculptureIain Stewart, a Conservative MP involved in the cross-Party campaign to secure a royal pardon, said:

“Alan Turing was an incredibly important figure in our history. He was the father of computer science and the originator of the dominant technology of the late 20th century.”

LGBT History Month 2013 remembered LGBT pioneers in maths and science including Turing and 2012 was both the centenary of his birth and 50 years since his conviction for “gross indecency” in 1952. Offered prison or so-called “organo-therapy” – chemical castration, he chose the latter, but unlike for a trans person, pumping a gay man full of female hormones was a chemical assault on his gender and sexual orientation not a relief or longed-for medical intervention. His conviction ended his career through his lost security clearance. Two years later, aged just 41, he seems to have killed himself with a cyanide-laced poisoned apple.

Thousands have sought Dr Turing’s pardon over the years, tens of thousands signed a 2009 petition which led to a public apology from No.10 Downing Street at Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised on behalf of the nation or at least the then laws and Government that treated him “so inhumanely”, but as yet no pardon – royal or otherwise. Brown said in his statement on 10 September 2009:

“This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality, and long overdue.” 

Over 4 years later, it is indeed long overdue! LibDem peer Lord Sharkey introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Lords on 25th July 2012 which called for a statutory pardon for Dr Turing. The e-petition that year received over 37,000 signatures. A royal pardon is a rare thing these days, formerly used to waive a death sentence, and usually only granted where a person has been found innocent of an offence and the approach made by a family member. In this case as the Ministry of Justice have said:

“Uniquely on this occasion a pardon has been issued without either requirement having been met, reflecting the exceptional nature of Alan Turing’s achievements.”

The pardon states:

Royal Pardon“Now know ye that we, in consideration of circumstances humbly represented unto Us, are Graciously pleased to grant Our Grace and Mercy unto the said Alan Mathison Turing and to grant him Our Free Pardon posthumously in respect of the said convictions; And to pardon and remit unto him the sentence imposed upon him aforesaid; And for so doing this shall be a sufficient Warrant. Given at Our Court at Saint James’s the 24th day of December 2013; In the sixty-second Year of Our Reign. By Her Majesty’s Command. Chris Grayling”

It is signed by Chris Grayling, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. The pedantic grammatical debate as to whether he should have used St James’ or St James’s is an age old one.

The capitalisation throughout puts emphasis on respect for royalty and the “Royal prerogative of mercy”, an anachronistic and patronising term. It is a throwback to the days of rule by divine right and the monarch being the nearest thing to God, who alone had the power to forgive. It is time this too was ended.

The pardon itself, though gratefully acknowledged, raises other issues, although why should we be grateful for something that should never have happened and should not need a Queen or their representative to enact it? But why him, and not other gay men? Are we rewarding his War-shortening hero status and “excusing” his crime under 1950s laws? Do others fail to receive the same pardon because they were not war heroes, that is a slap in the face for other gay veterans. What about those imprisoned or given chemical castration or ECT against their will to rid them of homosexual desires? What about the medical pathologisation of homosexuality in the DSM an ICD (International Classification of Diseases) that continued after the criminal law was revoked and that of transsexualism that continues to this day?

In an enlightened age, although it may make a mockery of retrospective legal change, it is also mockery of human decency not to pardon all for breaching laws that we now consider an affront to human rights. Turing’s “Royal” pardon should be extended to tens of thousands of people convicted of homosexuality-related crimes, campaigners have said.

Veteran LGBT activist and campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

“Singling out Turing just because he is famous is wrong. Unlike Alan, many thousands of ordinary gay and bisexual men who were convicted under the same law have never been offered a pardon and will never get one. An apology and pardon is due to another 50,000-plus men who were also convicted of consenting, victimless homosexual relationships during the 20th century.”

It is also poignant as it comes at a time when President Putin in Russia has brought in Section 28 style laws that have criminalised educating the young about homosexuality and cast a shadow over February’s forthcoming Sochi Winter Olympics.

Worse, still, is Uganda’s recent passing of a Bill that criminalises homosexuality with terms of up to life imprisonment and makes the non-reporting of gay people also a criminal offence. The so-called “Kill the Gays bill” was passed just 4 days ago and is already raising fears  of an impending tide of violence, fear and witch hunts, as in Russia. Homosexual “gross indecency”, similar to the British law under which Turing was convicted, is still on the statute books of Uganda, and new stronger laws are being made, with many calling for the death penalty for homosexuality. Some of these campaigns are supported by fundamentalist Christians in the USA.

The same argument that Putin has used, that homosexuality and the “genderless and infertile Western tolerance” destroys traditional family, and that people need laws to protect them from it, is being peddled around many of the 38 African countries that ban it. PM David Cameron has called for aid cuts to nations such as Uganda that deny LGBT rights.

Grateful and grudging though my appreciation is for this pardon, it should be the beginning of blanket retrospective amnesties not an act of royal “Grace and Mercy”, though it is fitting that this pardon comes at Christmas, which symbolically, whether you hold Christian beliefs or not, marks the birth of a royal pardon for all.

No to Hate – Yes to hope and harmony, equality, diversity, immigration and inclusion. The roots of hatred.

Published October 17, 2013 by Katy J Went
Wear Purple Spirit Day GLAAD

Wear Purple on Spirit Day – Take a stand against LGBT & all other bullying and hate

 

Today is Wear Purple or Spirit Day remembering gay bullying and suicides since 2010 in the US. It comes after National Coming Out Day last weekend and it is a sad token of our times that it still does not feel safe for some to “come out” and instead to take their own life. This weekend the annual No to Hate candlelit vigils are held around the UK rounding off Hate Crime Awareness Week and part of the national campaign by 17-24-30 and others to remember the victims of hate crime and foster more positive attitudes towards diversities.

The first Candle-lit Vigil, attended by 10,000 people, was organised on 30th October 2009 in Trafalgar Square after the death of Ian Baynham, who died from the injuries he received when he was homophobically abused and attacked by drunken teenagers outside South Africa House.

One of the leading antagonists in the alcohol-fueled attack was a 17 year old public school girl, Ruby Thomas. Whilst the incident was reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange her home life was far from privileged having an abusive father who was imprisoned for murder, a fact that when revealed led to her own bullying at school.

SpiritDay_Badge2013The Wear Purple campaign was fostered by GLAAD in 2010 after at least 5 US teen gay suicides in a just a few weeks. Tyler Clementi took his own life after being outed by his roommate. In early October 2010, Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan had promoted a new commemoration called Spirit Day after the purple “Spirit” stripe on the LGBT rainbow flag. Since then millions have taken to wearing purple on this day as members of and allies to the LGBT community and victims of homophobic and transphobic bullying.

Writer and blogger Wes Janisen says:

“Wearing purple on Spirit Day shows the world that not only are you a person who refuses to tolerate bullying, harassment, or hate crimes of any kind, but you are a person who supports and loves others, just as they are. You are safe to talk to, to come out to, to ask for advice or for help. Purple shows everyone you’re an ally”.

The 17-24-30 campaign remembers the 1999 London nail bomb attacks by David Copeland, killing 3 and injuring over 140 people, in Brick Lane, Brixton and Soho’s coloured and LGBT communities – even in the latter the indiscriminate nature of these heinous attacks was such that a straight woman and her unborn child were the main victims.

Copeland was a neo-Nazi ex-BNP and National Socialist Movement (an offshoot of Combat 18) organiser with subsequently recognised paranoid schizophrenia yet insufficient to justify “diminished responsibility”. His social background seems more to blame. A late developer with insecurities about his sexuality, orientation and manhood who struggled with employment and blamed immigration. He told police, “My main intent was to spread fear, resentment and hatred throughout this country, it was to cause a racial war.”

In contrast to Copeland’s aims, Britain’s communities came together over the incidents, Londoners rallying round. Surgeons worked non-stop for 72hrs and worked overtime till 11pm each night for a month to deal with the injuries – one victim remaining in hospital for 15 months. A lesbian firefighter on scene at both Brixton and Soho was shocked at the feeling of being targeted for her identity, saying:

“I am gay myself and I knew it was the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual community that was being targeted. My partner, who I hadn’t met at the time, was working just across the road from the Admiral Duncan when the bomb went off. She said it was horrific… I found it hard to believe that someone was targeting my community in such a horrifying way. I was deeply, deeply hurt.”

A Brick Lane trader, Leo Epstein, whose shop was damaged, rushed to the scene. Copeland had planned to target the Jewish community next after Black, Asian and LGBT. Brick Lane, now predominantly Asian was previously a Jewish quarter and good relations remain between the two communities. As Epstein says:

“We all trade with open doors on Brick Lane, so on Monday morning, when they let us go back, we all stood around looking at the damage and talking about it. It was like the Blitz spirit, people were coming round and saying to me, ‘We’ve got builders in doing some work on our shop, do you need anything done?’ I’ve been here for 52 years and I know everybody, and we’re good friends. As I’m the last Jewish trader in Brick Lane, many of the Asian shop owners come in from time to time and say, ‘Oh good, you’re still here, why don’t you come and have a meal on us.’ You can’t exist if you don’t get on with everybody else“. 

 Copeland got the idea for his campaign by watching televised news footage of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics pipe bombs which were a violent response to abortion on demand. The perpetrator was only caught years later after further bombings targeted abortion clinics and a lesbian nightclub.

It is apparent that bad news sells and influences, one thing we need more of is good news, not as the endpiece 2 minute feel good soundbite cat rescue story on a local news channel – but national positive stories of diversity working, cultures being celebrated, communication and community changing lives.

Eric Robert Rudolph’s purpose behind the bombings according to his April 13, 2005 statement, “was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.” He opposed “the ideals of global socialism” and “the so-called Olympic movement”‘s promoting of it.

Imagine by John Lennon was the theme song of the 1996 Olympics and it is sad to see the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics so mired in controversy over Russia’s recent homophobic legislation. Rudolph opposed the idealism of Imagine‘s vision. He’d grown up Christian and as a teenager had been taken by his mother to an extremist antisemitic white supremacist church.
Lennon had been inspired by a Christian prayer book and imagined “a world at peace, with no denominations of religion – not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing…”. The apolitical Lennon said that Imagine was “virtually the Communist manifesto”, one world without religion or geopolitical borders, though he was not envisioning Chinese or Russian Communism, rather “a nice … British Socialism”.

Back on April Fool’s Day 1973 John and Yoko invented Nutopia – a new, utopian society that, “has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people. NUTOPIA has no laws other than cosmic.” Ten years later U2 used the all-white Nutopian flag in their live performances of their third album and tour, War.

Rolling Stone
 magazine described Imagine‘s lyrics as “22 lines of graceful, plain-spoken faith in the power of a world, united in purpose, to repair and change itself.” One can hope…

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
 
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

The Independent on Sunday’s LGBT Pink List 2013

Published October 13, 2013 by Katy J Went

Published since 2000 The Independent on Sunday‘s Pink List always causes a stir. Straights may wonder why it even exists, homophobes see it as a Hall of Shame and celebrities may get recognition over hardworking campaigners and activists. That is set to change as the paper, or at least this year’s judges (actress and singer Heather Peace, long time trans activist Christine Burns, Kim Watson of GTDiva & Meta magazines, and Ben Summerskill of Stonewall) have decided contenders need to be more than LGBT, famous and/or influential – they need to actually “make a difference”.

With 15+ trans entrants compared to 2010’s none and 2011-12’s half-dozen it is topped by the young charismatic upcoming media-savvy trans journalist and activist Paris Lees. Other trans personalities and activists include: model Jackie Green, Trans Media Watch‘s Jennie Kermode and Helen Belcher, politicians Sarah Brown and Tara Hewitt, journalists Jane Fae and Juliet Jacques, poet and activist Roz Kaveney, lecturer and former primary teacher Natacha Kennedy, Big Brother‘s Luke Anderson, My Transsexual Summer‘s Lewis Hancox and Raphael Fox – now filmmakers themselves, and Gendered Intelligence‘s Jay Stewart.

Singer and co-founder of Queer Youth Network CN Lester appears at #41 and is probably the only notable queer and non-binary activist.

Clare Balding is #2 for the second year running having been #4 and a judge previously.

Peter Tatchell, notably forgotten in 2011, is raised to joint #2 after an apologetic re-entry at #3 last year, having featured at #7 and #34 in previous years. It feels like a pop-pickers Top 40 with movers and losers, who’s in fashion and who is not.

It is as if LGBT political correctness was trying to cover all bases and make apologies for previous omissions of all trans people, most lesbians, non-whites and one vocal and veteran campaigner. It would be no surprise if a suitable black bisexual was not shoehorned into #4. Oh wait, let’s google/wiki Nicola Adams … yes she’s bi, having come out last year.

2012 was an Olympic year in several senses, with among other sporting stars, Puerto-Rican Orlando Cruz, another boxer, also coming out. Four out of the first five Pink List places were taken up by sports celebrities. It also opened the list up to gender, disability and colour in ways not hitherto seen.

2013 has been the year of equal marriage, but also “the year when trans people finally began to glimpse the sort of respect and equality that gay people can, at last, expect”, writes the paper, “We hope the list reflects that.”

The aim, according to the Sindie – Sunday Independent – “To entertain and celebrate, infuriate and amuse. Above all, to kick-start a debate around the breakfast and lunch-table.” Well it has certainly done that – celebrate and infuriate in equal measure.

Back in 2010 national treasure Stephen Fry complained about the separately compiled Rogues’ Gallery section which pilloried Pineapple Dance Studio’s Louie Spence for his camp “gay stereotype” whose “fame would soon be up”. Fry described Spence as “An authentic, strong, charming and lovable person, every bit as ‘courageous’ as the others on the list, certainly more courageous than me, Louie deserves respect and support, not insult and derision. Do they want people like him not to count, do they see him as being guilty of a choice in his manner and his demeanour, just as homophobes everywhere accuse all gay people of choosing their sexuality and preferences?” Fry renounced his entry at #3 and gave it to Spence.

2010’s list was criticised for lacking obvious and open trans or bi persons and grassroots activists.

A gay HuffPost blogger tore into 2012’s list describing it as “meaningless” and if “a victory for equality, it’s certainly a hollow one.”

Yet the fabulous LGBT educator, Elly Barnes (#1, 2011), said, “Being awarded the No 1 spot on last year’s Pink List was a massive shock and overwhelming on every level. It not only gave me the confidence I needed to take the Educate and Celebrate initiative forward nationally; it was also the wake-up call to move to be a full-time LGBT advocate. I will be for ever thankful to all who voted and to the judges.”

To make room for younger activists, our campaigning forebears have been moved to a National Treasures List:

April Ashley MBE Model; Russell T Davies OBE TV producer and screenwriter; Lauren Harries Media personality; Phyllida Lloyd CBE Theatre director; Matthew Parris Journalist; Alice Purnell OBE Trans campaigner; Stephen Whittle OBE Professor of equalities law; Sir Cameron Mackintosh Theatre producer; Paul O’Grady MBE Actor, presenter; Neil Tennant Musician; David Hockney OM, CH Artist; Andrew Pierce Journalist; Jeanette Winterson OBE Writer; Boy George Musician and DJ; Eileen Gallagher OBE Television producer; Sir Elton John Musician; Philip Hensher Writer; Julian Clary Comedian and writer; Alice Arnold Broadcaster; Alan Bennett Playwright; Alan Hollinghurst Novelist; Stephen Fry Actor and writer; Sir Ian McKellen CH, CBE Actor; Jonathan Harvey Playwright; Paul Burston Author and journalist; Fiona Shaw CBE Actress and director; Simon Callow CBE Actor; Rupert Everett Actor; Sir Nicholas Hytner Theatre director; Val McDermid Novelist; Brian Sewell Art critic; John Barrowman Actor; Sandi Toksvig Actor and presenter; Graham Norton Comedian and presenter; Colm Tóibín Novelist; Linda Bellos OBE Activist; David Lan Playwright and film-maker; Dr Christian Jessen TV presenter and doctor; Michael Grandage CBE Theatre director and producer; Jackie Kay MBE Poet and novelist.

The shift to younger LGBT role models may inspire the next generation of activists and more people to “come out” – last weekend was National Coming Out Day in the US & UK. May next year’s list evolve to include more Queer, Pan, Intersex and Non-Binary voices. It is easy to find criticism with the list, the very notion of LGBT league tables is abhorrent, but some mention is better than none, and all publicity can be seen as good publicity. It will certainly continue to arouse “debate”, and long may it do so.

A Harvard-educated Catalan radical feminist anti-capitalist nun and her political inspirations and aspirations

Published September 14, 2013 by Katy J Went

A Harvard-educated Catalan radical feminist Christian anti-capitalist nun – Sister Teresa Forcades, who is also a medical Doctor with a Master’s degree in theology, has a quasi-political campaign that is fast gaining momentum. Oh and she’s pro-openly LGBT people ministering in the Roman Catholic Church alongside her support for women to be priests. She’s pro-women in other ways too including abortion and a woman’s right to decide.

A Christian heroine of Sister Teresa is the 12th century German St Hildegard von Bingen, also a theological and medical polymath, though the “Sibyl of the Rhine” was, in addition, an artist, botanist, musician, playwright and poet. last year, Hildegard was made only the 4th female Doctor of the Church for her theological contributions. Forcades is unlikely to get similar approval given her open critique of the Roman Catholic church as “misogynist and patriarchal in its structure” and needing urgent transformation.

Hildegard was also critical of aspects of the Church, especially its Temple-moneymen-like selling of access to the Sacraments, something Jesus was infamous for combating when he drove them out of the Jerusalem Temple, whip in hand. She has also been regarded as something of an early feminist. Though willing to admit her “weaker vessel” sex status, much perhaps due to her sickly state of body, she, nonetheless, used that to her advantage in her attempts to gain political autonomy for her nuns. She invented a modified Latin alphabet, the lingua ignota and neologisms, perhaps for secrecy and community bonding with her nuns.

Like Hildegard, Sister Teresa says that “everything she does is born of deep Christian faith and devotion” but many question how a left-wing feminist can reconcile taking orders within the sexist homophobic institution that is the Roman Catholic Church. In 1971, when Mary Daly was the first woman asked to preach at Harvard Memorial Chapel she denounced Christianity as “irredeemable for women” and called for an exodus from the Church. Almost all those attending the service, men and women alike, joined her in walking out of the Chapel, so why is Teresa in it?

The Sister has, however, written on Christian feminism – La teologia feminista en la història (“Feminist theology in history”, Fragmenta Editorial, 2007) and just as with her famous opposition to Swine flu vaccine, which subsequently went viral, she researched for months before opposing its scientific basis – she has a PhD in Public Health – so too, she examined the Benedictine order before admitting herself to them. This she did by presenting to them a talk on a community of gay Catholics who celebrated their homosexuality as a divine gift – their positive reaction led her to put her doubts aside and take the sacrificial vows. She acknowledges that this has not stopped her falling in love three times.

The Second Vatican Council – The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes, 29) on human community, says that:

“with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion is to be overcome and irradicated as contrary to God’s intent.”

So the religious is political but do religion and politics mix well? Most people recoil at the expressions of faith from Parliament rather than pulpit of Bush or Blair. Most recently, the shock coming out of Gorbachev as Christian, shows that he was wise to keep his faith quite when President of Russia. Faith for politicians can be a millstone around their necks but the Church gets as much criticism for failing to be political and certainly for not keeping up with the evolution of society, sex and sexuality.

Forcades, though, doesn’t want to run for political office or start a Party – she already has a ministry and political leader in the Church and Jesus, though also cites Gandhi and Chávez as inspirations alongside the radical left wing Greek, Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party “alliance of leftists, greens, Marxists and Maoists” (Guardian). 

In like manner, Forcades has drawn political support – tens of thousands from a spectrum of political and religious beliefs, and has an agenda: one with with Marxist, socialist, green economic and social policies. As much liberation politics as liberation theology.

She also stands for the regional independence of Catalunya (a 2014 referendum is possible) and is a fierce nationalist in the sense of that region’s self-rule. Though she is no xenophobe of other peoples, regions, countries nor indeed of immigrants and would see immigration controls ended. A slight hypocrisy perhaps in that the Catalan region is Spain’s wealthiest and can afford to go it alone, isn’t Spanish unity, Christian generosity and the Benedictine-rule ascetic poverty better served by that region assisting the poorer ones amidst Spain’s current austerity climate that includes 30% unemployment, rising to 55% amongst the young.

Her blend of hard-left (as someone recently opined why is it “hard-left and far-right?), is more far-left but with a soft-heart and wise intelligent capable and captivating head, despite its nun’s coif and veil headdress. There appears to be no contradiction between her state-led re-nationalising socialism, anti-capitalism and more individualistic nationalist independence and strong democratic values that espouse every member representation and a transparent democratising takeover of utilities including public ownership of the Internet. Her vision and version of modern freedoms is more communitarian than either communism and capitalism.

Her political manifesto was co-authored with Spanish economist Arcadi Oliveres, and has 10 demands:

  • A government takeover of all banks and measures to curb financial speculation
  • An end to job cuts, fairer wages and pensions, shorter working hours and payments to parents who stay at home
  • Genuine “participatory democracy” and steps to curb political corruption
  • Decent housing for all, and an end to all foreclosures
  • A reversal of public spending cuts, and renationalisation of all public services
  • An individual’s right to control their own body, including a woman’s right to decide over abortion
  • “Green” economic policies and the nationalisation of energy companies
  • An end to xenophobia and repeal of immigration laws
  • Placing public media under democratic control, including the internet
  • International “solidarity”, leaving Nato, and the abolition of armed forces in a future free Catalonia

BBC World Service – Heart and Soul, Sister Teresa Forcades

https://www.facebook.com/Forcades

Pope, Pat and Tutu all speak out on faith and LGBT

Published July 30, 2013 by Katy J Went
This week has seen Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Pope and firebrand Pat Robertson, speak out on LGBT identity and faith positions. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the usually extreme fundamentalist homophobic Pat Robertson who, when questioned on TV about transgender, said:

“I don’t think there’s any sin associated with that. I don’t condemn somebody for doing that…It’s not for you to decide or to judge.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/pat-robertson-transgender_n_3672244.html

Is age or grace softening him or is he seeking to get one up on the Pope’s latest announcement that being gay or a woman might actually be ok, just don’t ask to be a priest.

Pope Francis has affirmed gay orientation, but not practice (which still requires forgiveness) nor equal marriage. Also, on women, they are to be more proiminent but  “But with regards to their ordination, “the Church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23489702

Meanwhile, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of South Africa, has blown people away with his statement on homosexuality, coming from a continent where even more usually liberal-minded Anglicanism is homophobic. He said that he would rather go to hell than a homophobic heaven and could not worship a homophobic God. He was speaking at the launch of a United Nations gay rights program in South Africa:

“We have to build a society that is accepting and it is not a free society until every single person knows they are acknowledged and accepted for who they are.”

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

“I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”, “I think it’s as utterly unjust as racism ever was.”

“Can you imagine me having said it’s unjust to penalise something they cannot do anything about, their race or gender, and then to keep quiet when people are hounded, people are killed, because of their sexual orientation?”

South Africa may have deep divisions and violence still but it is the only African country to fully support equality of race, sex and LGB identity, allowing gay marriage since 2006, 7 years before the UK and France. The laws passed with overwhelming political support.

South Africa was also the first country in the world to protect sexual orientation as a human right in its constitution. Discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender or sexual orientation, has been against the law there since the 1994 interim and 1997 final constitutions.

Homophobic attacks in South Africa are, if anything, on the rise and especially of lesbians. Several having been murdered and even mutilated over the last year.

Of the world’s 76 nations that criminalise homosexuality 39 are in sub-Saharan Africa, with some of their homophobic campaigning allegedly encouraged and supported by American fundamentalist Christian organisations.

Transgender and Intersex people have also had a level of legal recognition for gender change since 2004 when the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act (2003) came in to force, although in 10 years only 95 people have taken advantage of it since medical and/or surgical proof is often deemed to be required and many officials are still transphobic and reluctant to implement the law according to reports.

It’s slow speed ahead, but a seed of change nonetheless. One can easily jump on the ongoing LGBTIphobia, and one should – yet acknowledge too that 14 nations and 14 US states bringing in same-sex marriage laws, with several denominations increasingly and fully accepting LGBTI identities is a gathering storm of progress. Bigotry will not fall in a day and inching towards equality should be celebrated without letting them off the hook for hypocrisy and double standards.