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
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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.

Driving mullahs mad and Saudi Women towards Equality … slowly

Published October 1, 2013 by Katy J Went

Why tune in to comedy when you can tune in to a fundamentalist preacher (christian, muslim or cult)?

Sheikh al-Luhaydan sabq

Sheikh al-Luhaydan on SABQ.org

Saudi Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Luhaydan, a judicial and psychological consultant to the Gulf Psychological Association, has proclaimed on the sabq.org news site that:

“If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards. That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees.”

This is no more illogical and unscientific than the Saudi religious Shura Council in 2011 being warned in a pseudo-scientific report that letting women drive would “provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce” and that would, in turn, result in there being “no more virgins”, presumably reducing the availability of reward for suicide bombing – I mean “freedom fighters”. In the last few days hundreds have died from these kind of immoral-by-anyone’s-standards attacks on freedom. In the last ten days over 130 people have died in terrorist attacks on a church, bus and market, in just one city – Peshawar, Pakistan. Over 60 were killed last week in the Kenyan shopping mall massacre, and on Sunday 44 students were massacred in Nigeria by the extreme Islamist group Boko Haram, whose name tellingly means “Western education is forbidden/sinful”.

Women2Drive campaign logo

Women2Drive campaign logo

Women in Saudi Arabia are being encouraged via a 12,500+ twitter campaign to flout the Saudi kingdom’s driving ban – strictly speaking a religious fatwa, though not based in either Sharia or criminal law – and drive en masse on 26 October. Defying the ban, the only country in the world that imposes it, is an attempt to raise awareness of all rights denied women there, although since 2011 they have been promised the vote by 2015. Punishment is normally by arrest and a fine, rather than more serious repercussions although imprisonment and lashings have not been unknown.

Access to the website oct26driving.com within Saudi has reportedly been blocked. Hashtags #women2drive, #Women_driving_affects_ovaries_and_pelvises and facebook pages such as Saudi-Women-To-Drive and Women2Drive have gone viral gathering thousands of likes but so too have ones advocating the beating of women that drive.

I don't have a car - I have a camel graffiti

I don’t have a car – I have a camel

Social media has at least safely enfranchised a Saudi woman’s right to protest, often and necessarily anonymously. One has even taken to graffiti art on the streets of Riyadh. The anonymous 23 year-old woman has been stenciling an image of a camel with the words “I Don’t Have A Car, I Have A Camel” and the hashtag #women2drive.

1990 and 2011 both saw attempts to ignore the restriction and demand equal rights, well progress at least, for Saudi women. Back in 1990 47 women were punished and many lost their jobs. In 2011, one of 100+ to take to streets and drive, Manal al-Sharif was accused of “besmirching the kingdom’s reputation abroad and stirring up public opinion”, only her capitulation and promise not to drive again led to her eventual release. She had risked using her own face, voice and real name, to stand up for all women. Several others ended up in court, that year, and one, named Shema was sentenced to 10 lashes. Manal says, “I measure the impact I make by how harsh the attacks are, the harsher the attacks were the greater the impact.”

Al-Sharif, a former Islamic fundamentalist herself, questioned her beliefs after 9/11 and listening, aged 21 – against the advice that it was satanic, to the Backstreet Boys’ “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely“. She began to challenge both terrorism, tradition and patriarchy. She was given an award in 2012 by the Oslo Freedom Forum for “Creative Dissent” and gave a brave and inspiring talk.

In 2005, Saudi’s King Abdullah was interviewed by ABC News’ Barbara Walters:

ABDULLAH: I believe strongly in the rights of women … my mother is a woman, my sister is a woman, my daughter is a woman, my wife is a woman. I believe the day will come when women drive. In fact, if you look at the areas in Saudi Arabia, the deserts and in the rural areas, you will find that women do drive The issue will require patience. In time, I believe it will be possible.

WALTERS: But there are so many restrictions against women. Do you see this changing?

ABDULLAH: Yes, I believe we can. But it will require a little bit of time … Our people are just now beginning to open up to the world, and I believe that with the passing of days in the future everything is possible.

WALTERS: Why do you think Saudi Arabia is becoming fertile ground for al Qaeda?

ABDULLAH: Madness. … Madness and evil, it is the work of the devil. … Such acts cannot be perpetrated by any individual who has a sense of decency or humanity or justice or faith.
http://abcnews.go.com/2020/International/story?id=1214706&page=1&singlePage=true

Al-Sharif is a part of starting the My Right to Dignity campaign for full Saudi women’s citizenship and what has become known as the Saudi Women’s Spring after the uprisings of the Arab Spring. She says, “the child cannot be free if his mother is not free … society is nothing if the women are nothing.”

In Saudi Arabia women cannot work or leave the house to shop, without the permission of their husband or male guardian, they cannot even have certain medical surgeries without that say-so and hence do not even have rights over their own bodies.

Because they are almost prisoners in their own homes Saudi women have the world’s highest incidence of diabetes, 70% obesity rates and only last year was Physical Education added to the education curriculum and their women partially allowed to compete in the Olympic Games.

For her, “Freedom starts within. ..the struggle is not about driving a car. It is about being in the driver’s seat of our destiny. It is to be free, not only to dream but also to live.”

More on this story on the bbc news site, on alarabiya.net  and the excellent saudiwomendriving blog.

Bi Visibility Day – Celebrating Bisexuality

Published September 23, 2013 by Katy J Went
Today is Bi Visibility Day (celebrated since 1999), because everyone needs a day, right? Actually, bisexuals are in many respects one of the least visible members of the LGBTIQ alphabet soup and, yet, they may be the majority.

Bisexuality is common in hundreds of animal species, especially the giraffe! The anthropologist Margaret Mead noted, ironically, that Western culture imposed a “straight jacket” on bisexuality whilst other cultures embraced non-specific gendered attraction.

bisexual triangles
Attempts to reclaim people as bi rather than gay or lesbian are fraught with historical and contextual difficulties. The ancient Greek poet Sappho from Lesbos, if “turned” bi, would remove sapphic and lesbian from the “women-who-love only women” dictionary.

The ancient world was rife with bisexuality in cultures that were more about power, status, class and penetration, than sex or gender. When laws and religion criminalise and stigmatise homosexuality, coming out as gay or lesbian is likely to be from a position of heterosexual cover. Thus, many older gay people are historically and serially bisexual rather than “gold star” straight virgins. People of “bisexual history” one might say.

Today’s youth are far more likely to embrace bisexuality in open experimentation and disregard for society’s narrow binarism and heteronormativity. Whilst a third transition to gay and lesbian, they do so from a position of reduced fear and phobia than the generation that preceded them, meanwhile the majority of young bisexuals now remain that way.

Being a person of bisexual history myself and maintaining what I call bisexual appreciation rather than attraction/orientation I had no problem when reading Wolff’s Bisexuality: A Study in agreeing with her idea that the majority may be closet bisexuals. It is just that opportunity, cultural restraints, fear of judgement, exposure and stigma, and the course of attraction or love, prevent many acting on it. Indeed, along with Ancient Greece, the famous sexologist Krafft-Ebing suggested that bisexuality was our original and natural state when he first used the term in 1892.

Dr Charlotte Wolff was a Jewish lesbian feminist physician and psychotherapist who fled Germany during the 1930s when her non-Jewish female lover left her out of fear. Before this she had been detained by the Gestapo as a spy for being dressed as a man. Although born female and into a Jewish home she preferred male clothing and female partners – something that pre-Nazi liberal Germany and her Jewish family initially accepted.

Just after the War, in 1948, Alfred Kinsey had found that “46% of the male population had engaged in both heterosexual and homosexual activities, or ‘reacted to’ persons of both sexes, in the course of their adult lives” (Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, 1949). And that was the 1940s! A 2007 survey in the US showed 10 times as many young people identifying as bi than the 18-44 age group.

Kinsey further noted that the term bisexual was unfortunate, given that in nature it referred to hermaphroditism rather than a bi or pan gendered attraction. Ambisexual – from Latin ambo “both” not “ambiguous”, may have been better or pansexual, for many bisexuals claim to be gender blind in attraction and would also consider relationships with trans and intersex people.

US surveys from 1993 to 2007 showed a declining figure for people comfortable with calling themselves bisexual whilst a growing number were confident to be gay or lesbian, until the latter now exceed the former. Both are beginning to be eclipsed by those that answer surveys as “other”.

UK Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index questionnaire in 2009 found that bisexuals were less happy than gay people to be “out” at work despite making up at least 4% of the workforce. Their experience of biphobia often came from gay colleagues telling them to “get off the fence”.

In the Sex and the City episode “Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl” (2000) Carrie and Charlotte discuss bisexuality:

Carrie: “I’m not even sure bisexuality exists, it’s just a layover on the way to gaytown”

Charlotte: “I’m very into labels, gay, straight, pick a side and stay there” 

Kinsey again commented that sexuality was a continuum not a both, either/or situation.

“Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.” (Kinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, 1949)

The American second-wave feminist and bisexual, Kate Millett, said that “Homosexuality was invented by a straight world dealing with its own bisexuality.” (Flying, 1974).

Bisexuals have fought to defend themselves from the slur that they “sleep around”. That said, studies show that they do have a greater sex drive, increased biological masculinisation, higher levels of testosterone, sexual confidence and fewer insecurities.

The UK gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, has said of future sexuality that:

“[The] picture of human sexuality is much more complex, diverse and blurred than the traditional simplistic binary image of hetero and homo, so loved by straight moralists and – equally significantly – by many lesbians and gay men. If sexual orientation has a culturally-influenced element of indeterminacy and flexibility, then the present forms of homosexuality and heterosexuality are conditional. They are unlikely to remain the same in perpetuity. As culture changes, so will expressions of sexuality.” 

One thing we can thank television and media personalities for is that people say the more positive role models in characters or real life the more confident people are to come out themselves. True Blood, the deep South US vampire series has endless bisexual liaisons and its lead actress Anna Paquin who plays Sookie, despite being married to vampire Bill Compton in real life, came out as bisexual in 2010. British Dr Who spin-off series Torchwood was also famed for its positive portrayal of bisexuality and its lead actor John Barrowman being ogled by men and women alike. What we need is more positive bi visibility to combat both aspects of biphobia – fear of coming out and the prejudice that leads to bi erasure.

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.

Pause 4 thought, do we need gay Pride?

Published June 27, 2013 by Katy J Went

Channel 4 TV’s pause 4 thought… “we do not need gay pride because the values that gay society or gay festivals spread and seek to inject into society are detrimental… Homosexuality in its purest form meaning if everyone were homosexual would mean annihilation of mankind. Ultimately the consequences in society where homosexuality is prevalent is that such society becomes ripe for the judgement of God. God does not approve of homosexuality, that is very clear, that is beyond doubt.”, South London Christian bookshop proprietor. http://www.4thought.tv/themes/do-we-still-need-gay-pride/johannes-weidenmuller

Comments like this are WHY we need LGBT Pride. Not all religious people agree with Weidenmuller’s interpretation of God’s view. Certainly Sarah McCulloch, a bisexual Jewish woman, believes we need Pride and faiths can adapt. You can’t choose your sexuality but you can choose your faith. http://www.4thought.tv/themes/do-we-still-need-gay-pride/sarah-mcculloch

Whilst in London and the UK and many other nations, Pride is a celebration and progression towards greater equality such as marital rights, some see the need to remember the movement’s political roots and be more activist on behalf of nations where homosexuality or trans expressions are illegal even mortal risks. Places such as Iran, Nigeria, Uganda, and now Russia once more as it clamps down of gay education and Russian LGBT Prides.

“Bisi Alimi was brutally attacked and beaten because of his sexuality in his native Nigeria. Living in London, he is overwhelmed by the openness of the gay community, but thinks that the Pride movement needs to sacrifice the annual party in favour of a return to its political roots.” http://www.4thought.tv/themes/do-we-still-need-gay-pride/bisi-alimi