Tag Archives: humanrights

A letter to religious people on the eternal struggle of good vs evil.

The battle is eternal, you are right about that, but its not the battle you think, you are not the protagonist in the most important cause in human history, you are just a lowly soldier marching to the beat of fear, of ignorance and hate.

Sometimes the darkness wins some battles, when everything good we’ve achieved is brought to ash, stories of that are woven through our mythology, the Flood, Babel, Atlantis, the Fall, Ragnarok, even Sodom and Gomorrah. Your storytellers have always tried to make it out that they are stories of punishment, of victory of good vs evil, but they can’t hide what they really mean.

The stories are not about destruction and punishment, they are about change, death and rebirth, which is a very human concept.

When the first city fell, if your ideas had their way, we would have never thought about learning or progress again, but within a hundred years of each other Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley civilisations blossomed into life. Even when you destroyed Rome, less than 2000 years later, using a shoestring calculator and hydrogen/oxygen deathtrap this little fallen species visited another world.

There will always be the ignorant, the fearful, and sometimes they might find ways to bring us down. But for the next 1000 generations, anyone who can build a telescope and look up into the sky, will see a flag flying there, left by a people who took the forbidden fruit and went to the stars with it.

No-one should have to fight for the right to exist in public

Why does society seem so intent on forcing minority groups to have to fight for the right merely to exist in public? And why, when said minorities ask for the same rights as everyone else, are they shouted at and told that they are asking for special rights?

People with disabilities ask for accessible buildings, and are told that it is too expensive, too difficult, and there aren’t that many PWD anyway and why are they asking for “special treatment”?

Trans people ask that they be able to walk down the street without fear of harassment, and that they can use a public toilet without fear of being assaulted, banned from a casino for life (good news is that that has been overturned – scroll right to the bottom) or  denied access at a Gay Pride Rally. Despite every new story I have heard of involving trans people (usually trans women, although I am sure there are many incidents involving trans men) as the victim of prejudice or assault, the toilet issue is still framed as “protecting” cis women and children from trans women, with one of three reasons given: 1.) The cis women would feel uncomfortable 2.) The trans women would assault the cis women 3.) Cis men would pretend to be trans women in order to assault women and/or children.

I’m going to attempt to unpack these.

The cis women would feel uncomfortable. Well there are people who would be uncomfortable with anyone of a non-White ethnicity using the toilets. Or people who look and dress differently to them. There is a clever website which shows the amount of prejudice against the traveling/Roma/gypsy community by taking every headline with the word “Gypsy” in and replacing it with “Jew”. The results are startling. If all the websites taking this stance were to have “trans women” replaced with “black women” this would be shown as the unacceptable prejudice that it is. Just because some theoretical person may be offended by the existence of a person belonging to a minority in a public space, we should not automatically ban the minority from that public space.

The trans women would assault the cis women. A quick Google search yields 5 pages of stories about trans women being assaulted. I can’t find even one story about the reverse. Nobody else can either. This is a complete fallacy. Why are people even continuing to bring this one up with no evidence?

Cis men would pretend to be trans women in order to assault women and/or children. There are no special locks, magical detectors, or scientific thingummybobs currently in use, nor are there ever likely to be, to stop anyone going into any toilet. Hypothetical Male Rapist can just walk into a toilet; Dressing up and pretending to be a trans woman is just too over-complicated, not to mention that said person would feel much of the same shaming that trans women face, except more so for not actually being trans, and would be highly unlikely to consider it. Rape is generally about power, and it’s hard to think of much that might be more dis-empowering to Mr H. M. Rapist.

In my opinion, the first reason is sheer prejudice and the second two are absurd logical fallacies built on what-ifs that are so unlikely to happen that we can safely say that the probability approaches zero.

Everyone should have the right to be in public spaces without any fears of what might happen, without exception.

What Do We Want? – The Gay Agenda, a Manifesto of Sorts

gay agendaIf ever there were a term to be reclaimed, this is it: the gay agenda. When you blog on a LGBT website, you end up trawling through the websites of all the usual news sites, anti-gay campaigns and hate groups – NOM, right wing Christian news, republican/social conservative blogs and news, gay news sites, etc… …and so it goes on. One thing you simply cannot avoid is the term “gay agenda” used as a stick to beat us with. There’s never a definition to what this agenda is exactly, but the undertones are always sinister; and you know what? I’m sick of it. So, let’s say this now…

“Yes, I support the Gay Agenda, and I support it wholeheartedly without shame or reservation.”

… no? Are you having trouble saying that? Is it just me that supports the gay agenda? OK, then let’s take a look at what it is we’re so often accused of supporting.

The term ‘Gay Agenda’ is a bit of an invention. It supposedly refers to an organised, concerted (or in the minds of those that accuse us of it, conceited) political and social effort to earn ourselves special rights and privileges, over and above those held by the rest of society. Frankly, we simply don’t have the level of power and privilege as a group and that in itself makes the concept more than a little surreal. It’s surreal because the concept is couched in the language of good and evil. The idea comes from the drawing of battle lines. It comes from a group of people so utterly convinced that homosexuality is abhorrent or sinful, unnatural or immoral that any effort towards anything that leads to acceptance of the fact that there are gay people in society and their mere existence should not be grounds for criticism, harassment, or worse, must therefor be an effort with sinister, corrupt, and morally repugnant intentions. Of course, understanding the origins of this ludicrous idea fails to address that ‘special treatment’ accusation… so let’s address that further – while we have neither the power nor the privilege for such a lofty goal, and even if such a goal were somewhere within our wildest dreams, isn’t it normal for interest groups, marginalised or otherwise, to seek an advantage in their own lives? It might not be morally sound, but it happens everywhere. Christians do it, politicians and political parties do it, advocates for various causes do it, corporations, capitalists, sole traders, small businesses and banks do it. It may not be right, but in our society – a society so often espoused as righteous in these traits by the self same people who complain of the gay agenda – it’s normal.

So, are you ready to say it yet? – “Yes, I support the Gay Agenda, and I support it wholeheartedly without shame or reservation.”… No?

Well, perhaps it’s because the Gay Agenda is an invented term, used to promote a ludicrous idea of good and evil, which is in turn used to beat us over the heads with, and further an anti-gay agenda. Even so, we do have an agenda. An agenda that covers lesbian, gay, bisexual. trans, intersex, asexual, pansexual, queer, and questioning people; and you know, much of this applies to straight women too. It could, for simplicity and for a short and snappy name, be referred to as a gay agenda, even though it covers all of these people. Yes, people. Perhaps if it’s spelled out clearly, you too can say “Yes, I support the Gay Agenda, and I support it wholeheartedly without shame or reservation”. Perhaps if it’s spelled out clearly, you can provide a simple answer or a link next time you see or hear someone accusing us of supporting our sinister little agenda for the destruction of community, society and all goodness in the world – so here’s that agenda, clearly on display for all to see.

the gay agenda

1) We are human beings first and foremost just like everybody else, and as a body of people, we would generally like to be considered as normal people, just like everybody else. There are exceptions to the rule (those that like to stand out and be different), but that’s the case for any group of people in society, and no reason to treat us as being in some way different in the context of our day to day lives. We need to eat, sleep, pay our bills, be with our loved ones (especially in moments of need!) and generally live out our lives just as everybody else does.

2) We want to live in peace, seek happiness, and make something of our lives, just as anybody else does.

3) Many of us would like to have our long term, committed, stable relationships recognised in law. Of course, in that regard, Separate but equal is not equal, as demonstrated by the fact that anybody could desire to separate us from the rest of society in the first place… and so yes, many of us would like to get married. Some of us have children. Some of us will never have children – just like infertile or otherwise childless heterosexual couples – we don’t see anybody arguing against those marriages, so why us?

4) Some of us are not gay, but instead we speak for our children who so often are needlesly abused in school. Why? Why is this allowed to continue? Nobody wants homosexuality ‘promoted’ in school, but it’s not promotion to teach that we’re people just the same as anybody else, and should be accorded the same respect and fair and just treatment as anybody else. It’s rather sad that there are a bunch of hateful and bigoted adults teaching children to behave in these ways, resulting in a need for this education in basic human respect and decency. It’s simply called equality.

5) We’d like an end to the lies, mis-truths, deceptions, unsupported and ill founded assumptions, and hysterical propaganda distributed about us. We’d very much appreciate it if people stopped making us the target and the object of their hatred and allowed us to get on with our lives in peace.

6) While we’re on the subject of getting on with our lives in peace, it would be nice if we didn’t have to live in fear that we’ll be discriminated against or our sexual orientation regardless of the fact that it almost never has any serious (if any!) affect on anybody else, and is almost always irrelevant to the subject of that discrimination. It’d also be very nice if we could be sure that our politicians, community leaders, and rich & powerful view our execution -wherever it is- on grounds of our sexual orientation as an abhorrent idea, and not have to live with the sure knowledge that there are some that would support it. It would be nice if, when we get attacked, we could be sure that it’ll be taken seriously… that we could be sure that it won’t get brushed under the carpet… that we can be sure that we won’t be told it’s our own fault simply for the fact of our existence.

7) All this tends to add up to a degree of disempowerement, and we’d like our power back please. We’d like the same power over our own lives and destinies that everybody else has. No more, and no less.

8) Whether we’re gay, trans, or whatever, we’d like not to be deliberately (and often maliciously) mis-gendered. It’s a form of abuse.

9) Many of us make absolutely fantastic parents. Homosexuality is not passed on like a contagion or through teaching, and there’s a great many kids out there who’d be better off with parents than without. In fact, there are studies that show that we tend to make excellent parents that bring up well rounded children, and none to the contrary. The ONLY accusation with any foundation from those that would abuse and denigrate us is that our children suffer an increased risk of abuse and denigration… largely as a result of the policies, attitudes and actions of those that would abuse and denigrate us. Not all of us want children – that’s pretty much the same as the rest of the world. Some of us do want children, and we’d like the same rights to medical technology, adoption, the legal recognition of our families and various federal benefits (including immigration where relevant, with or without children) that everybody else has.

10) Will you please stop trying to cure us? Yes, there’s ‘ex-gay therapy’ or ‘reparative therapy’ for those of us who are having trouble dealing with who we are and the shame, guilt, hate and discrimination that some in society are determined to impose upon us; that is, if we’re willing to risk the psychological damage and increased risk of suicide that comes from suppressing who we are. It should be available for those who openly seek it out – but it’s not a solution, and in fact only a tiny minority are healthy and happy people after it. It doesn’t need promoting, because we don’t need curing. We’re simply not ill, thank you very much, apart from those of us who have developed depression, anxiety and fatigue as a direct result of the acts of abuse, denigration and dehumanisation that have, and continue to be, committed against us.

As individuals, not all of us have experienced all of the above issues – some of us are lucker than others, whether that’s by life circumstances or simply the place of our birth. All of us have been affected by some of the above though, with the group as a whole subject to it all and it really has to stop. THIS is the gay agenda. It is the one and only gay agenda in town. It’s not sinister, it’s not evil, it’s not destructive and it’s most certainly not a corrupting influence on society. It’s equality, pure and simple. I’ll say that word again, in case anybody missed it the first time… it’s equality.

One final time, I state here and now, “Yes, I support the Gay Agenda, and I support it wholeheartedly without shame or reservation.”

Are you with me? Whether gay, straight, trans, queer; whatever or whoever you are, will you join me in this statement?

Corrective rape must stop!

Rape is a heinous crime. Next to the taking of a life, the ruinous violation of a person by the most intimate and powerful of means is arguably an act of equally sinister proportions. However, there’s a whole other level to this violation. There is a form of rape with an added and more sinister dimension. That crime, is corrective rape.

In some ways, it’s a terrible title for such a crime. The word “corrective” is generally a word with a positive feel about it, implying some sort of benefit to an action. There is no benefit when this word precedes rape. There can be no benefit to rape. In fact, the word “corrective”, in this context, is quite the opposite. It does worse than to add insult to injury, but actually introduces a second deep and soul destroying violative dimension to the already heinous act of rape.

LGBT, Queer, Intersex and Asexual people with already understand, generally, the nature of this violation, so lets look at it from the perspective of a straight person who’s never before had to consider things from the other side. Let’s also frame this from the perspective of a patriarchal culture, as is very prevalent in many parts of the world, including those nations where this issue is most prevalent.

You’re a heterosexual man… a manly man… happily going about your business. At the end of a day you catch a taxi, or a bus, or a train to make your way back to your home or hotel. A predatory and very strong woman capable of overpowering you has been watching you, and you are assaulted. You are taken aside and out of sight where you are raped – forcibly, and violently. You are violated… the person who raped you may even have infected you with HIV/AIDS.

How does it feel? Pretty awful, by most accounts. You have been violated, treated like a piece of meat, abused, assaulted, made to feel powerless, made to feel guilty, made to feel ashamed… etc. It’s not good is it? There are reasons we have laws against that. There’s a reason it’s called rape and not just “having sex”.

Well, suppose that wasn’t a woman. Suppose you, Mr Heterosexual Male, had just been raped by another man. Now how does it feel? Does it feel worse? You bet it does! If you happen to be a homophobe, it’ll be because you feel an extra sense of shame about what had just happened to you simply because you were taken by a gay man, and you’ll feel terrible for having been part of an act that you find distasteful – if so, you’re ‘lucky’, because that’s no more a sense of violation than the rape itself. On the other hand, if you’re a reasonably and decent human being, it’ll be all the worse because as well as the violation of your physical and emotional form, your identity, your sexual orientation, your very sense of who you are will also have been raped… and yet you STILL don’t have the full understanding of how creative rape feels from this exercise!

For someone who has been victim to a corrective rape, there are other issues too.  There’s the prejudice they experience as LGBT people for a start… already victims of ignorance and bigotry, they are made victims of the same in a whole other way… on a deeper and more personal level. They are made victims simply because they are victims in the first place. Then of course, there’s the fact that such rapes are performed under either the excuse or genuine belief that such acts will “make the victim straight”… NO rape helps, and no, the victim will not be made straight – that is an offense to the victim yet again. Are you starting to get a vague understanding of the damage that corrective rape does?.. to women especially, being the most frequent victims of this evil crime.

We spend a lot of time speaking here at No More Lost about the UK and the USA, and while this post stands against corrective rape wherever it occurs, it refers especially to the situation in South Africa. That wonderful state where we celebrate the freedoms and achievements of Mr Nelson Mandela, where Apartheid was ended and the nation supposedly freed from bigotry and hatred. This nation that’s supposedly one of the shining stars of Africa. The nation that brought us the vuvuzela and annoyed us with them throughout the FIFA World Cup just last year.

South Africa’s Constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was the first in Africa to legalise same sex marriage. It was the only republic to give non-heterosexual people exact equal rights until it was joined by Argentina in 2010 (Note to America – please catch up!)… and yet, the practice of corrective rape is commonplace in South Africa and has been for some time. Some reports even say that it’s often ignored! This is really not acceptable, not only because this is a discriminatory crime against gay women in violation not just of the women but of the nation’s constitution too, but also because it is rape. Yes, pure and simple, at the very minimum description of this situation, it is rape, and it needs to stop!

There is a petition (found here) on the web (in fact a few of them here and there), asking the South African Government to stop turning a blind eye to this heinous practice and indeed, their own constitution with regard to LGBT people. Please sign this petition, and please spread the word about this terrible crime against humanity.

US makes U-turn and does the right thing at UN

American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance

The American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. (Source: www.wilsoninfo.com)

Back in the days before the current administration at the White House, the US refused to sign up to a declaration at the UN that gay people are people too. In the face of people being imprisoned and killed around the world simply because of who they loved, the US turned it’s head.

There’s always the argument that it is not for the US to impose it’s values on the rest of the world, but this was the self same administration that went to war with those very countries that take issue with the idea of gay people being people too -Those same dictatorial regimes that see gay people as infidels and in any other number of dehumanising ways.

The next administration corrected this. The next administration almost immediately said that it wanted to add America’s name to that declaration… and then did nothing. It did virtually nothing at home or abroad for a long time, until recently. We’ve seen the repeal of the unconstitutional, discriminatory DADT policy; We’ve seen protection in one of the fundamental aspects of US life -simply existing- in the form of the passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act; and most recently, the unconstitutionality of major aspects of the rights denying and indeed life destroying DOMA  has been recognised at the highest levels. At last, the administration has begun to ‘walk the walk’ at home.

America has just gone that one step further at the UN in issuing a statement backed by more than 80 countries, calling for the United Nations’ top human rights body to combat discrimination against gays and lesbians around the world.

Let’s for a moment, forget which administration did what, and which president serves which party. The fact is, whichever president it is, and whichever party it is, American values are still American values. Too often, things are reduced to the politics of personality, the politics of parties, or the politics of causes. Let’s, for this moment, look at this in the context of America…

… Finally, the United States is standing up more consistently in not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, in defense of it’s values. The message this statement effectively gives out to the world is that, yes, the United States not only holds “… these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”, but is prepared to stand by this belief. It stands up for the protection of it’s citizens in their freedom to travel the world. It says that the US views gay people as human beings too, and thus deserving of human rights both at home and abroad.

This is perhaps one of the most positive, honest and virtuous messages the US could possibly be sending out to the world. It doesn’t always take military intervention or trade sanctions to lead the world – in fact, the most powerful message that can be sent is that of “we are virtuous in our values – that all men and women are created equal – and we are proud to stand up for them wherever we are present”.

It’s a message of true character, integrity and honesty, and by those that share your most virtuous values, America, you are deeply thanked for it. Let those of your citizens whom have forgotten America’s values and virtues be reminded of them.

Marriage Equality in the UK – A Rising Issue

I’ve seen it reported in US media from time to time, that same sex marriage exists in the UK. It doesn’t. What exists in the UK is a segregated system of sexuality based apartheid. If you’re straight, you can get married, and if you’re LGBT, you can have a ‘civil partnership’. However, the issue of marriage equality is now emerging into UK public consciousness.

A civil partnership is largely like a marriage in terms of its legal effects, but it is not a marriage. In fact, it was deliberately stripped of any and all emotional or spiritual connotations entirely. A marriage in the UK is binding from the point that vows are spoken, and yet, a civil partnership is created instead from the signatures on a legal contract. A straight couple who hold a religious or spiritual faith may choose to incorporate elements of their beliefs into the ceremony. They have the option of making their marriage special in their way, and to honour their love and commitment in the manner most meaningful to them. LGBT people do not have this option. For married people, adulterous behaviour is grounds for divorce if they so choose -the same is not true of civil partners. Even if these differences did not exist, the law makes clear that a civil partnership is not a marriage. Marriage equality is what was sought, and the UK gave LGBT people something less. They deliberately segregated gay and straight people, and effectively said that gay people should not be afforded the right to get married or celebrate their love and commitment in anything that resembles a personal, spiritual way, and so creating a greater and a lesser form of partnership. In fact, this discrimination is so firmly entrenched that transsexual people, if married, must actually divorce only to then obtain a civil partnership in order to have their personal details officially corrected.

Ever since the Civil Partnerships Act recieved Royal Assent in 2004, there has been a cry for full marriage equality. A cry which is finally beginning to be heared across all three major political parties, with the Liberal Democrats having even gone so far as to make marriage equality a matter of their party policy… and well they might, as marriage equality in the UK is a very popular move to make. Opinion polls show a consistent majority in favour of equal rights and an end to the discrimination. Sadly though, the politicians are slow to practice what they preach.

Currently, the Government is faced with an opportunity and with pressure to end this discrimination as stipulated by legislation passed last year.  The legislation makes very clear that no religious institution opposed to same sex partnerships would be required to perform them or to allow their places of worship to be used for them.

Many Liberal Democrats will no doubt be quick to claim any extention of LGBT rights towards marriage equality as a sign of their success and moral standing in Government. However, it should also be noted that the provisions which call for the change allowing LGBT people to involve their religious beliefs in their civil partnerships comes from an Equality Act, written last year under the leadership of a Labour Government (the self same act that effectively rolled back some of the rights of transsexual people, and decided that LGBT bullying in schools should not be specifically remedied). The implementation of the law allowing for this positive step towards marriage equality has in fact been delayed for a year by the current government. The fact is, when it comes to LGBT rights, none of the political parties have a particularly good record when it comes to actually fighting to do something about it -some worse than others, the worst, sadly, being the party leading the current Government!

Even so, this is a remarkably important step forward, at least in its potential, and it should be considered as such. The consultation undoubtedly will involve many churches vehemently opposed to marriage equality. These churches are worried that with the key difference in the ban on religious components to civil partnerships being removed, there would be no real reason not to call them marriages – and rightly so, because they’re right! However, there is no word from the Government on whether Civil Partnerships will be changed so that they may be referred to as marriages… it’s not really even on the agenda. The Government has simply suggested that it might think about it some time. The question is whether it is right that LGBT people who wish to be able to recognise their beliefs in a ceremony marking their partnership should be able to… and if their beliefs (or those of their church) allow for this, is there any fair reason why they should not be allowed to? No. There isn’t.

The right wing press is predictably spinning and overblowing the comments of church leaders to suggest a fear that they will be forced to perform gay marriages. It’s as predictable as it is tiresome. Left unchecked, extremist churches and right wing mariage equality opponents may well water down any eventual positive step towards marriage equality, or block it altogether. This should not be allowed to happen – at least not without firm opposition to such underhanded and homophobic intentions.

Fellow No More Lost writer Gemma, in her recent piece about France’s failure to ensure mariage equality, notes the way that the energy of the movement was lost following a homophobic court ruling in 2004. Reading her article, and noting the lack of widespread opposition to marriage equality, I have to wonder why. It seems to me that an explanation may be that unless related to an oppositional religious group, most heterosexual people aren’t exceptionally bothered by marriage equality, given that they don’t really have much cause to think about it and it doesn’t effect them.

For that reason, and that reason alone, as the issue of marriage equality enters the UK public consciousness, and as the right wing press spews out it’s typical homophobic propaganda and lies about the reality of what’s going on, it’s more important than ever that we make our case. It is more important than ever that we make ourselves heared. It is now more important than ever that we, LGBT people and our heterosexual allies, ensure that the public at large have more information than just the usual nationally disseminated lies and propaganda, and that the public consciousness of the issue also forms around an understanding of the wrongs and impacts that marriage INequality gives rise to.

Want a peek behind the curtain of the Religious Right?

The religious right, is currently loudly protesting that several of their member organizations have been put on the list of hate groups. However while they claim to be loving, pro-family, tolerant, they still sponsor, support and approve of hate-filled actions, and doing so is their core reason for being.

Often people in the moderate space of American life, do not realize exactly what these groups are truly like, so its useful to get a chance to look behind their platitudes at their real thought process.

Uganda, has strong ties with many in the Religious Right, The Family/The Fellowship/C-Street, and right wing politicians, and recently they have been in the news for their genocidal anti-gay law that they are trying to pass in parliament, which includes provisions to execution for “aggravated homosexuality” (continuing to be gay), 7 years for being gay, and 3 years in prison for knowing of someone who was gay and not reporting them to the authorities within 24 hours. There is also a provision to try to extradite any LGBTQ ugandans out of the country to bring them back to Uganda for prosecution…

Yesterday Rachel Maddow, interviewed David Bahati, author of the bill. She apparently has a near goddess like stomach to continue so long in this interview, I needed to pause it several times to take a break.

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The religious right would love to dismiss this as the actions of an unaffiliated politician from the third world, however David Bahati seems to think that his american political friends agree with the sentiments in the bill, and it seems in keeping with mutterings and whisperings from the less politically savvy members of the religious right.

This is not something outside what they want, its is what they wish the US was like, and consider it a tragedy of biblical proportions that its not.

I’ll talk more about Uganda in future, but for now its just an illustration of the enemies that we all face.