gay marriage

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Rainbow search on Google for gay marriage, Pride and some LGBT terms

Published June 27, 2013 by Katy J Went
Google’s search engine is celebrating LGBT Pride month again, the sixth year it has done so. The feature has been available all Pride month (the anniversary of June 1969’s Stonewall Riots) but people are only noticing it now after searching for “gay marriage” post the US Supreme Court Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Prop 8 rulings yesterday.
2013-look Google rainbow search box
The search box turns rainbow edged in a kind of Star Wars credits 3-d perspective way when certain LGBT keywords like ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘bisexual’, ‘transsexual’, ‘transgender’, ‘homosexuality’, ‘queer’, ‘Stonewall’ are entered. If you type in ‘LGBT’ or ‘LGBTQ’ it works too, but not ‘LGBTI’ or ‘LGBTIQ’, nor ‘trans’ and ‘intersex’, so barring the trans keywords above it is very gay-centric. Drag queens are included but crossdressers and transvestites excluded. Gay or same-sex marriage trigger the search graphic change as does “marriage equality” but not “equal marriage” or “transgender marriage”.
2012-look Google rainbow search box
Mercifully for Christian creationists or anti-gay activists searching for “Noah’ ark” will also not turn your search world into a rainbow! Equally disappointed will be Judy Garland, Wizard of Oz “Somewhere over the rainbow” fans!
2011-look Google rainbow search box
It also works specifically for New York, London and Toronto Pride searches, but not Norwich Pride, though Google says it will activate the feature 7-10 days before major Prides, though Norwich’s 5th Pride this year may not qualify.
2010-look Google rainbow search bar
Google has previously stood against California’s anti-gay marriage act (Prop 8) and has contributed to the “It Gets Better” campaign for LGBT youth. Their San Francisco employees, baked a cake for the striking down of DOMA this month.
2009-look Google rainbow search bar
Some have called, however, for a full goodle, a Google doodle, rather than this hidden “easter egg” feature, on the basis that Google may be protecting themselves from homophobic and/or religious backlashes since the feature only appears for certain LGBT keyword searches.
2008 Google rainbow search ribbon
Back in 2011, a gay magazine hit back at critics saying Google “should be commended for doing anything at all. Google has led the tech industry in supporting our community, and the latest addition to its arsenal of inclusion is a welcome boost in the right direction” a spokesman for Instinct magazine told CNN.

Some might also argue that Google’s data snooping, tax avoidance etc does not make it the most ethical or equal-minded of companies, just one of the most fun. Try typing in “google gravity” and then hit “I’m Feeling Lucky” – wait a few seconds and…! Now go to … floaty, eh?

Liberty, Equality … Essence and Existence

Published May 22, 2013 by Katy J Went

All very Samson and the Philistines, except one wonders who the philistines are in this case. Award-winning military historian Dominique Venner, a far-right activist, Islamaphobe and anti-“gay” marriage campaigner in France shot himself dead beside Notre-Dame’s altar in front of 1500 people yesterday (21 May 2013). Although a note was found beside him, police have not revealed its contents. The only clue was left on his blog, criticising the twin evils of same-sex marriage and Islam:

Il faudra certainement des geste nouveaux, spectaculaires et symboliques pour ébranler les somnolences, secouer les consciences anesthésiées et réveiller la mémoire de nos origines. Nous entrons dans un temps où les paroles doivent être authentifiées par des actes.

“It certainly will require new, spectacular and symbolic gestures to shake the somnolent sleepiness, stir anesthetized consciousness/consciences and wake up the memory of our origins. We are entering a time where words must be authenticated by acts.”

He saw himself as a modern day western Samurai – the theme of his next book. In the 60s he had fought to oppose Algerian independence as a member of the Secret Army Organisation (OAS) which had then attempted to kill President Charles de Gaulle.

He scaremongered about Islam quoting an Algerian blog that predicted Islamic rule in France within 15 years, which would paradoxically overthrow the new French law on same-sex marriage, signed this month.

25 years ago at university I remember the same predictions being made about several of Britain’s cities: Birmingham, Bradford, Leicester, Luton. Extremism of all hues and colours is the problem. But it is Venner’s, not that of laid back liberal lesbians and gays, trans, intersex and gender and sexuality queering. The “aggressive homosexual community”, to quote Sir Gerald Howarth MP, is a myth, certainly no danger to life or liberty, when we want liberty for all not less.How does equal marriage reduce straight liberty? If you are that worried by it, “stop having gay children”, to quote a viral internet slogan – the problem is, that one day some extreme heterosexists might do just that, all very Brave New World, if a gay gene could be eradicated as a disability in the womb.There is no contradiction here between giving religious conscience equal freedom with those whose “lifestyle” offends them, for it is not religion that sets one free, even Jesus condemned religion that bound, laws that multiplied, whilst justice and mercy were forgotten – no, it is the truth that sets one free. And truth evolves, or rather unravels. Indeed, this week the Church of Scotland voted to allow active gay ministers, the Church of England may lag behind but will surely follow. The BBC ran an interesting piece on how religions justify changing their mind, in the light of the dogmatic “unchanging” word of God/guru/saint/prophet.
Venner’s final paragraph was typical of French existentialism, yet mentioning the far right German philosopher Heidegger’s 1927 work Sein und Zeit, “Being and Time”, who influenced Sartre:

C’est ici et maintenant que se joue notre destin jusqu’à la dernière seconde. Et cette seconde ultime a autant d’importance que le reste d’une vie.

“It is here and now that our destiny is played out to the last second. And this final second has as much importance as the rest of life.”

Heidegger argued that how we question defines who we are, and that the being we seek should not be lost sight of in the philosophic questioning. He also wrote that the essence of being lies in its existence which Sartre interpreted to mean that existence precedes essence. Far from it, I would argue, humanity’s essence is free, we must question and campaign until our existence and laws (paradoxically and anarchically – why do we need laws to be free?) match our essence. Liberté, égalité, fraternité … ou la mort! I guess Venner chose la mort, “death”.

Rather than end on a morbid note, it is worth drawing attention to the fact that over 2 centuries ago, in the closing decade of the 18th century, the French were fighting for equal rights. Well fighting anyway!

The 1789 French Revolution adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It asserted and assured that all men “are born and remain free and equal in rights” and that these rights were universal. The Declaration became and is a key human rights statement. It condemned discrimination and prejudice on the grounds of gender, race, class or religion. Protestants and Jews were for the first time given close-to equal rights with Catholics, thereby reducing the power of the Church. The new republic failed to extend those rights to women (LGBT rights was barely a public concern then). Nicolas de Condorcet said, “he who votes against the right of another, whatever the religion, color, or sex of that other, has henceforth adjured his own.” The lack of female equality led playwright Olympe de Gouges to publish her own Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen instead in 1791, highlighting the failure of the extension of equal rights across genders. So, liberté, égalité,.. but only for the fraternité!

We no longer debate slavery, at least in the West – except economic slavery, so why are racial and religious disharmony still prevalent, albeit we no longer condemn mixed race or religion marriages? Why are gender and sexual equality still being questioned over 200 years later? Why is our essence and existence not yet free, for all? If one is not free then we all are not free.

New Pope, new hope or same old story?

Published March 13, 2013 by Katy J Went

Twitter @pontifex “habemus papam franciscum” … but not certain about testiculos habet et bene pendentes, “He has testicles and they hang well”. Whether he has the orchises or avocados to change the Roman Catholic Church, or even the desire, is a far different matter from the alleged gender testing, James Bond style (Casino Royale), on a special chair with a hole, to confirm he is neither another Pope Joan nor a eunuch, intersex or third gender, a group of people the last Pope was firmly opposed to.

The more traditional announcement came 25 minutes earlier from the Papal balcony, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum… habemus papam!” – “I announce to you a great joy… we have a pope!” Pope Francesco I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from Argentina.

I was hoping for a Brazilian so I could make jokes about his waxing regime. Still, an Argentinian, so now Britain could be at war with 1.2bn Catholics and the Vatican over the Falklands, who in a far more democratic process voted, well all bar 3 did, to remain British this week.

He is last time’s runner up to Ratzinger/Benedict, from Buenos Aires, and the first Jesuit, a 76yo of Italian parentage. He is the first from the developing world, outside of Europe, in a millennium. He is in favour of the simple-life, taking the bus to work and cooking his own meals. He sees poverty and simplicity as a form of spirituality and some in his native Argentina have called on him to campaign more for social justice, anti-poverty, rather than to just embrace it as a spiritual rule.

More hopeful was his statement in 2007, “We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least… The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”. Whether that will unlock some of the Vatican’s riches for redistribution.

He is no liberation theologian, another conservative, as evidenced by his traditional views on abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality. On the latter he has strongly opposed the pro-LGBT reforming agenda of the Argentinian government including same-sex marriage (2010) and the first country in the world to fully depathologise transsexuality and to fund without prejudice or psychiatric intervention gender reassignment transition (2012).

Argentina’s current and first elected female president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (known as CFK, so hope she wears a bullet proof vest!) has criticised Bergoglio, now Francis I, and the Catholic church’s opposition to her policies as evoking the tone of “medieval times and the Inquisition”. He weighed in against her forward looking policies saying that “adoption by gays and lesbians is a form of discrimination against children” and in a formal letter to Catholic monasteries, “Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

So, a giant international leap for catholic-kind but barely even a small step in the right direction for true equality and diversity across all the strands of sexual and gender identity, gays and lesbians, women and trans, despite his past attention to social inclusion of those on the margins of society.

So homopaleohistoria and homoerotophobia, same-old-story and same-sex-love fear.  New Pope, new hope, nope – same old story. Let’s see, do I have the patience? Many people have waited 2000 years for a church to fully embrace the equality and ethics of Jesus who welcomed sex workers, tax collectors, women, children, working class fishermen, rebels & revolutionaries (John the Baptist & Judas), ethnics (Samaritans, gentiles, Romans), lepers, eunuchs and more.

Odds on black Papal favourite Turkson wants to convert my “trendy alternative gender” identity

Published February 14, 2013 by Katy J Went

Diversity? The possibility of the modern era’s first black pope, yet this would be twinned with the more traditionalist evangelical stance of African Catholicism that would rather deliver and exorcise me of my “trendy alternative gender” identity! Gender and Sexuality are as difficult to change as the colour of one’s skin.

Turkson has said, 

“We need to find ways of dealing with the challenges coming up from society and culture,” he said, adding that the Church needed to “evangelise”, or convert, those who had embraced “alternative lifestyles, trends or gender issues”. He added: “We cannot fail in our task of providing guidance.”

Cardinal Turkson has caused controversy in the past both by screening a video claiming that Europe faced being overrun by Muslims and by insisting that condoms were not the solution to preventing HIV.

I’ve met trans and intersex Catholics, one was indeed among many that the Roman Catholic church literally hounded out of convents and colleges, under the auspices of the current Pope when he was head of the Inquisition, I mean, Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei – the Doctrine of the Faith, of which Ratzinger was Prefect from 1981 till 2005.

“Under the influence of Paul McHugh, a transphobic Johns Hopkins psychiatrist and conservative Catholic ideologue (and advisor to the Vatican on sexual matters), the Vatican pronounced in 2000 that transsexualism “does not exist” – claiming that it is a form of insanity instead.”

The “mental instability” of transsexuals is constantly referred to in the Vatican document, allegedly rendering trans unsuitable for ministry, untrustworthy in marriage, and to be expelled from religious communities – permission for which was given.

Catholics who have undergone “sex-change” procedures are not eligible to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life…”The key point is that the (transsexual) surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female…”
The document’s conclusions close one area of controversial speculation that arose in Italy in the late 1980s when a priest publicly announced he had undergone a “sex-change” operation.

Given church teaching that only males can be validly ordained priests, the question posed in newspapers at the time was whether a priest who undergoes a “sex-change” operation remains a priest — the answer is “yes” — and whether a woman who undergoes the procedure can be ordained — “no.”

So basically the church still has its knickers in a theological twist over gender. A transwoman remains a man in Roman Catholic eyes but is mentally ill and untrustworthy and therefore should not be in ministry and a transman remains a woman and women can not serve as vicars of Christ on earth. 

It is time for the Christian orthodoxy to reflect on the statements of Jesus, such as Matthew 19:12: 

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’” 

And to look at the then current Jewish teaching on intersex and third gender including eunuchs and androgynous tumtum etc. Even the Hebrew Bible in the book of Isaiah, written centuries before the Church came into being, was more enlightened: 

 “To the eunuchs … to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:4-5)

Isaiah does not proclaim healing, deliverance or expulsion from religious communities and ministry, but the granting of a name “better” than that of son or daughter, a recognised status as a third gender, whom Jesus and St Philip (Acts 8:26-40) further acknowledged as accepted in their existing state (born or made that way) and able to serve the community of believers. 


Same Sex, is it Equal Marriage?

Published February 6, 2013 by Katy J Went

As the UK passes the 2nd reading of the bill for Same Sex (but not fully equal) Marriage with a strong majority in Parliament but a minority of Tories, the very party introducing it, I’m left pondering what has marriage got to do with church or state, gender or sexuality? LibDem councillor and trans activist Sarah Brown has ably pointed out the areas of inequality that will still persist for trans, intersex and non-binary people, the eunuchs and tumtums of the biblical period.

The new Archbishop minces words by saying that he is against the language of exclusion but also against equal marriage. What an oxymoronic thing to say, can anyone in a modern society contrive a sentence that puts together the two words against and equal? Don’t they realise how that sounds, “I am against…equal”! He says we need to create safe spaces for the gays within the church, safe but not the same space, not marriage. And what about trans marriages? What if a male bishop transitioned to female, would s/he have to resign their post because the church hasn’t yet caught up with gender equality? Have they suddenly lost their ability, their theological knowledge, their anointing because of a gender change?
The references that some MPs made to church, faith, bible, natural order, biological complementarity, purpose of having children etc, made me boil. So childless marriages aren’t as legitimate, so the infertile and childless by choice are now second class marrieds. Modern marriage is still defined by semi-ancient edicts, those of men, bishops, state and society. It has often been revised, changing laws about age in 1763 (12 years and older was legal then, probably not far off the age of the mother of Jesus!) and again in 1949 to protect under 16s. A century ago, married women could not own property independently. An institution in the past designed to control and manage inheritance and family, it was about male ownership, heirs and owning women (not just one) as property, slaves. The vows were “take, obey, yield….”. Biblically they could marry 4 women (just as muslims and mormons maintained) so long as you did not marry a woman AND her mother, you could be married off by your father without choice as the daughter or even as the son to your brother’s widow if childless, you could be forgiven sleeping with a betrothed slave for the price of a ram, could divorce a woman for pretty much anything yet she could not divorce a man at all.
Marriage is not between a man and a wife but between a person and other person(s). Marriage is about state-religious control, a socio-religious construct; relationship, on the other hand, is about love, care, companionship, equality, understanding, romance, respect etc. I am with the eponymous misogynist St Paul in Galatians on this “there is neither male nor female, slave nor free in Christ”, so a Christian marriage is not about gender or owner/headship if it is “in Christ”.
Furthermore, I think God affirmed other forms of marriage in Genesis by choosing as father of faith, Abraham, the husband of two wives; Jacob (who became Israel) as father of 12 tribes including Judah and husband of four wives. Not to mention Adam and Eve being the closest possible blood relations, Cain, Abel and Seth marrying their sisters, Shem, Ham and Japheth’s children marrying each other. Then there was Onan/Levirate obligatory sister-in-law marriage, spoils of war marriages. Don’t forget the fact that if we are quoting the Bible to define marriage than only virginal marriages (of the woman, the man need not be a virgin!) are valid according to Deuteronomy 22.
The fear that ‘gay’ marriage would lead to poly marriage or bestiality is ludicrous scaremongering. 50 countries support polyamorous marriage only 1 of those also supports gay marriage, so there is a greater connection between heterosexual marriage and likelihood to allow polyamory!
Another fear that the quadruple lock to prevent religious institutions being taken to court for not allowing same sex marriage, has not been borne out by evidence in Holland the first country to allow it 12 years ago (, even in Denmark where churches are now obliged to offer it, no minister can be required to perform it, and much like an anti-abortion doctor can pass on the responsibility to another willing minister – if one exists.
The argument from Adam and Eve, as opposed to Steve, as when Jesus commented on divorce, that before the Fall, it was just man and woman, negates the fact that that then legitimises sibling marriage. There is even a Genetic Sexual Attraction Forum for sibling love.
Arguing that marriage without possibility of procreation, is ‘naturally impossible’ and therefore unnatural between same sex couples, forgets that the same is true of infertile couples, many intersex persons etc. Citing the Bible on this is dubious at best, as God is able to intervene in these situations and make it happen or allows a man to sleep with another woman to get a child (surrogacy, often used by gay men).
Jesus was a biological impossibility, sex between a probably 12yo virgin and a unigendered bodyless divinity! Marriage is used throughout scripture as a metaphor for God’s relationship with Israel, divorced and remarried indeed on more than one occasion, yet that was not about natural procreation but just love, the gender identity or sexuality of Israel or God are not necessary to realise it is about love and commitment. Love is normal, that comes even before procreative possibilities or impossibilities. God is love, therefore, S/He would sanction expressions and commitments of that love between two or perhaps more loving persons.
In St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai, there is an icon which shows two robed Christian saints getting married. Their ‘pronubus’ (official witness, or “best man”) is Jesus Christ. The happy couple are 4th Century Christian martyrs, Saint Serge and Saint Bacchus – both men.
Yale historian John Richard Boswell discovered this early Christian history and wrote about it nearly 20 years ago in “Same Sex Unions In Pre-Modern Europe“ (1994). In ancient church liturgical documents, he found the existence of an “Office of Same Sex Union” (10th and 11th century Greek) and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century Slavonic).
So let’s not claim that marriage has always been between a man and a woman, for it sometimes been between a man and more than one woman, or between a man and a man, or between a God and a nation or a virgin, in the eyes of some Marian extremism.
A final word on prejudice and bigotry, name-calling never achieved change. Bigotry comes from a millennium old use of “by God” and a mockery of the Norman French, it later came to mean religious hypocrisy and prejudice. Gordon Allport in his classic book The Nature of Prejudice (1954) treats the subject well and distinguishes between prejudgements and prejudice, those that meet emotional resistance during challenge and those that can be explored rationally, “If a person is capable of rectifying his erroneous judgments in the light of new evidence he is not prejudiced”. I once opposed homosexuality and more as an evangelical Christian, it was both ongoing theological and historical study, matched with meeting sincere spiritual people of alternative sexualities, and coming out as trans and queer myself, that led me to reconsider and lose my prejudice. So activists, give the prejudging religious a chance to lose their prejudices via debate, argument and encounter, without abuse. Just as with the recent Suzanne Moore/trans activists/Julie Burchill spat which escalated out of control through invective rather than engagement, debate and mutual learning needs some degree of respect to get anywhere. Blessed are the peacemakers, which does not have to mean compromise, but just the manner of engagement, it is far more likely to win friends and influence people than all out war.

Happily Partnered – Gay Marriage

Published May 20, 2008 by Katy J Went

This month California has become only the second state in the US, after Massachusetts, to legalise same-sex marriage. California’s Supreme Court said the “right to form a family relationship” applied to all Californians regardless of sexuality. Two media couples will be the first to tie the knot. Ellen DeGeneres swiftly announced plans to marry her girlfriend and fellow actress Portia de Rossi.

Not content with the first ever interracial screen kiss between Kirk and Uhuru, now Star Trek‘s Mr Sulu, the veteran actor, George Takei, is to marry his partner of 20 years. Takei also appears in the current hit TV show Heroes.

Contrast this with the hypocritical stance of Iran which countenances sex change surgery but not gay partnerships. Just today, the British Home office ruled that a gay Iranian teenager who might have been executed if he had been sent home, could be granted asylum in the UK. Mehdi Kazemi, 19, came to London as a student in 2005, but subsequently discovered his boyfriend back in Iran had been arrested for being homosexual, charged with sodomy and hanged. Over the last 30 years, it has been estimated that some 4000+ gay people have been executed in Iran.

In the UK and elsewhere transsexual people formerly had to divorce before being allowed a sex change as otherwise their gender reassignment would have led to a same sex marriage. Perhaps now gay partnerships and trans marriages will be allowed to stay together.

Marriage is part legal contract and part social construct. In some churches and religions it is also a sacred covenant or even sacrament. Biblically, however, the earliest marriages were simpler affairs. Adam and Eve were thrown together, their children obliged to marry their siblings. Abraham took his maid as a second wife, Isaac married Rebecca by just entering his tent. King David and Solomon had multiple wives and concubines. God married, divorced and remarried, Israel many times in the language and writings of the biblical prophets.

At the end of the day all human interaction involves relating and hence relationships. Not all relationships are sexual, and not all those that are sexual involve penetration (sex can be defined by many means). Similarly, not all partnerships are exclusive in business, social or romantic contexts.

If marriage is essentially legal and social only then it should be available to all. If there are religious objections they should be dealt within their communities, it is no business of the state. If relationships and partnerships, married or otherwise, are about love rather than procreation then what has gender to do with it?