Dec 032012
 

Ordinarily, I post these as they are … this time, I need to pass comment. For reasons which I understand, though with which I vehemently disagree, the editors of Gscene chose not to publish my article as originally submitted, even after having requested substantiation of my comments and claims. While they are understandably hesitant to invite legal challenge, I care not. Therefore, I present the original text I submitted, along with the actual published article, with particular attention being drawn to my paragraph relating to the “roman catholic church” – which I did not capitalise for a reason, the content of which has been diluted so far that it’s practically homeopathic and which offends me in its insipidness, and also to the paragraph regarding islam, again neutered like a bad dog, and this time edited so that it no longer even makes sense!

 

 

Canada Dry

And so man* created gods in his image. Unfortunately, that image is a jealous, violent, ill-educated, petty, belligerent, cruel and evil one. Not the better angels of our nature by any means.

Am I being unfair? Intemperate? I don’t think so … I can think of nothing that has caused more misery, suffering, hatred, distress, death or disfigurement in the whole of human history. Religion has – not just permitted, but – required; slavery, objectification of women, vilification of those of other or no religion, wars of aggression, loathing, ethnic cleansing, beating and murder of homosexuals, beating and subjugation of children, racism, cruel – nay criminal – mutilation of genitalia, xenophobia … the list is practically endless. No other aberration of reason and humanity can make such expansive and loathsome claims.

Born in the time of our utter ignorance of everything, offering facile (and fraudulent) claims to answer the difficult questions of existence, presenting false, shallow solace to those who are in pain, salving the pricked ego of those who’ve considered the possibility of “no more me”, religion has absolutely nothing going for it, save vague concepts of tradition, comfort and respect.

The leader of the roman catholic church is the criminal head of the world’s largest paedophile ring and protection racket; it’s only the mantle of religion, claiming as it does incomparable privilege and exemptions, which prevents this vile subhuman monster facing the punishment for his decades of crimes against humanity.

Those of the muslim faith, calling for the death of (admittedly rather bad) filmmakers and their supporters, stoning gays, throwing acid into the faces of women – nay, girls – “suspected” of looking at men in the “wrong” way, baying for the death of people who do nothing more than draw pictures, wallowing in their sheer pig-ignorance; were it not for the “shield of faith” which requires we respect their beliefs, they’d be viewed for what they are – barely more than animals.

In the USA, otherwise normal Americans who shoot and kill doctors in the name of the sanctity of life, previously loving parents who throw out their own children as being “better dead than gay”, a credible candidate for the Presidency who believes in magic underwear and that Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel (while an atheist is nigh unelectable); these bizarre, illogical conditions couldn’t exist absent the entrenched, privileged position of religion!

The litany is near endless. Religion makes its hay by valuing and prizing ignorance, eschewing reason and the search for knowledge, refusing to acknowledge that it is a world view, and making pseudo-factual claims about, well, everything and that as such it should be subject to the same evaluation of the evidence as any other such world view. Those of us who adhere to the view that, actually, no, if you believe in the power of intercessory prayer, or that the mind is separate from the brain, or that there is a “part” of you which continues after death, or that evolution is inaccurate, or that the earth is about 6,000 years old, then such beliefs should be challengeable (and challenged!) and tested are told that we are being disrespectful.

Why, yes. Yes, yes we are. Utterly disrespectful. So … what? I suffer at the hands of the brainless being disrespectful towards me; I’m a gay atheist – while there are certainly groups who suffer more disrespect, nonetheless I receive more than sufficient denigration from the religious. Which is their right; I may – and of course do – disagree with their beliefs and attitudes, but their right to hold their pernicious, antediluvian views is something I hold nearly sacred. As is my right to challenge it. Why the road doesn’t run two ways, I do not understand.

Or, perhaps I do. My views stand up to scrutiny, and I am able to defend them using logic; the corollary being that I will change my views if the evidence requires it. The views of the religious are nothing more than wishes and hopes, will o’ the wisp fantasies, castles of credulity, precariously balanced upon foundations of faith. As such, there are no arguments which can reasonably be brought to bear. There is no logical recourse for faith, belief, religion.

Perhaps the greatest mind of recent time speaking on the issue of religion and its maleficent influence in and on the world was, now sadly the late, Christopher Hitchens. A couple of his quotes may serve in a few words to state what I’ve tried to say in many:

“I am absolutely convinced that the main source of hatred in the world is religion, and organised religion.”

“Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did.”

“Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.”

My own modest attempt at a pithy epithet: “Religion is the single greatest crime we have committed against ourselves.

 

So, to conclude, no, “jesus” most assuredly does not have a place in my heart, and religion can take a long walk of a non-existent pier; you can take “christmas” and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine; I’ll see my family around that time, because it’s nice to do so, and let’s face it, there’s nothing else to do anyway. But, religion?  Keep the fairy tales for the children, and let’s all grow the fuck up.

*Sexist pronoun excused on basis of poetic requirement.

 

 

 

 

 GScene - December 2012 - Canada Dry - Religion

 

Oct 052012
 

I’m a criminal. On paper, anyway.

 

Yes, this is my confession. I have, at times, consumed narcotics. Class A. Jazz salt. Etc.

 

Of course, I’m hardly alone in that. The (so-called) wider community is rife with it, with the nature of the product consumed depending as much as anything on the bank balance of the user in question. Between junky and judge, there’s really little other difference.

 

But we are often told that in the LGBT community, the incidence of drug use is much higher. I’m in no real position to assess the validity of that claim, but taking it to be true, what reasons could there be for this?

 

Mental health issues are likewise, apparently, more prevalent in our community. Are we self-medicating, to alleviate the symptoms of depression, for example? Or does the causation run the other way? Does drug use lead to the conditions in question? Almost certainly, both of these statements are true in some cases, but they don’t strike me as the case particularly widely.

 

Perhaps its our innately hedonistic lifestyle? Sex on tap, clubbing ‘til dawn, champers and coke, darling! Well, if anybody knows where that’s going on, could they please tell me? While there may be a tendency to be more up front and honest about our activities and proclivities, I don’t think there’s really much difference in frequency! The heteros are at it just as much as we are, though most probably with far less panache.  

 

Is it our marginalisation from mainstream society? Does the impossibility of the pipe and slippers home life drive us to drugs? Well, even if it once did, that’s hardly plausible now. We’ve attained the same level of boring as everyone else.

 

Perhaps the reality is that, as in other aspects of our lives, we’re generally far more open   . It’s not that long ago that just being us put us on the wrong side of the law; perhaps there’s some cultural attitude we’ve all adopted in some way, that makes us less hesitant to share these things? I’m gay, so what? I enjoy sex, so what? I take drugs, so what?

 

Happily, that reaction seems to be trickling down to the general population. Maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe it’s just social evolution, maybe it’s none of the above. But in the past fifty years, homosexuality has gone from outré, to passé, and the enjoyment of sex has gone from sinful to joyful. Given the wealth of data supporting the fact that drugs should be legalised, that drug use is less damaging to both the individual and society than alcohol, and that a significant proportion of all crime is related to the criminal status of drugs, perhaps we as a whole are about to wake up and realise “oh, you do drugs? So what?”

 

 

 

Aug 272011
 

 

Another year, another Pride parade / day / party / celebration / farrago / fiasco …

 

Didn’t it all used to be so much simpler? I remember just five years ago, living in London at the time, it was a foregone conclusion that I, along with a selection of my closest friends, would be waking FAR too early on the Saturday in question, hopping on an-overflowing-with-gays train (plus the obligatory, sole, confused pensioner who had NO idea what was going on!) and sallying forth to London-sur-mer for the day’s festivities. Fifty-five minutes – and usually a couple of cocktails – later, we would have arrived, and the day would be glorious; from the practically guaranteed perfect Summer’s day, to the atmosphere of ribald mirth and cheerful fun, to the selection of music, entertainment and even shopping. What more could a poof desire?!

 

Now, however, the sheen seems to have gone. The last two years have beendisappointing. Whether itdue to the less-than-spectacular weather, or the media attention which seemed to presage failure, or possibly my familiarity with the city breeding contempt, donknow. Perhaps Isimply getting older growing up, and standing around in field for 4 hours isnmy thing anymore.

 

Actually, that never was my thing; I was born middle-aged and never really took to the joys of youth. (Youths, yes; youth, no!)

 

Nonetheless, something about the atmosphere of Brighton Pride always managed to help me overlook that and enjoy myself, ravening hordes and barking dogs notwithstanding!

 

So, I’m left pondering the question posed – what sort of Pride would I like this year? Successful, yes, though how you define that may as well be the same question, differently framed!

 

Do I want the parade? Yes – though I often miss it, alcohol NOT being to blame for this, I still value it as a reminder of why we have Pride in the first place!

 

What of the park? To my mind, it’s scarcely conceivable that Pride might happen without the celebration culminating in the park! My experience, as the travelling Londoner, was always and entirely at the park, the two ideas being inseperable in my thoughts! I realise others feel differently; they should get their own columns!

 

And what of the the week of community events leading up to the “big day”? I must confess, they rarely impinge upon my thoughts – I could for myself happily see them fall by the wayside. However, they’re not really up for discussion in the way that other, more obvious targets are; they’re not some monolithic entity, which stands or falls as one. Even if more than half of these events folded, others would remain and still more rise up to take their places. They neither operate under, nor require, the formal approval of Pride.

 

Let’s just keep it simple, shall we? Parade, Park, Party. No more politicking, sniping or in-fighting in the community – we’re going to face enough enemies without in the years to come, without fighting the enemies within! 


Jun 062011
 

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Who is my gay hero?

Well, setting aside for the moment the torrid ramblings of my fevered, late night imagination, and assuming that Tom Welling, of Smallville fame, really is not, in fact, actually a proponent of penile pleasure, I’d have to say that I have trouble answering this particular question.

In some ways, we are blessed with a surfeit of potential gay heroes: high heel wielding drag queens from New York, 1969, standing up for themselves and all of us against bigoted police forces, and starting in many ways the modern gay civil rights movement; Alan Turing, possibly one of the more obvious choices – a genius, bridging in some ways the gap between Einstein and Hawking, one of the greatest minds on this world, subsequently suffering government mandated chemical castration to correct his “deviancy”; Michaelangelo, incredible artist and genius, tortured by his sexuality yet turning the conflict into beauty; Stephen Fry, perhaps the only modern world polymath, from petty criminal to petit- and haut-bourgeois darling, beloved luvvie; the list isn’t endless, but it’s pretty bloody long!

But why do our heroes have to be gay? Are we still so insular and isolated that we can only relate to and respect people whose sexual proclivities mirror our own?

My hero, a fact which I don’t consider something of which to be ashamed, is the Doctor. Yes, Doctor Who.

He’s not gay – per se – but he almost certainly isn’t straight either.

Especially when you consider that the Doctor with whom I grew up was Peter Davison – he could scarcely be less of a sexual being. But then, none of the (now known as) classic Doctors was sexual. There was famously “no hanky-panky in the Tardis”.

And as a putatively gay teen, unable to relate to the traditional heterosexual images of masculinity and heroism (even if not sure why at the time) the Doctor’s uniquely non-sexual, non-violent, non-aggressive form of heroism was incredibly appealing. He was, to me, everything that the rest of the humdrum, human heroes weren’t; self-sacrificing, witty, intellectual and cerebral, rather than physical and violent.

Now the Doctor has been resurrected for the modern age, and things have changed somewhat. He’s now at least aware of sex and sexuality, though he seems not to dip his “toe” into that particular “water” too often! Of more importance though, is that he’s definitely NOT straight now; something for which we partly have (gay) Russell T Davies to thank, and partly the changed nature of society. He’s far more free-and-easy when it comes to sex, as his relationship with Captain Jack alone more than adequately demonstrates.

Should it not be possible, however, for me to find a GAY hero? I don’t think it’s needed actually; anyone I consider a hero, would be that regardless of their sexuality, not because of it! And that’s the best way for it to be!

So, my gay hero? He’s a fictional, non-human, and – perhaps oddly – non-gay man. Deal with it!

 

GScene Column - June 2011 - Canada Dry


 

Mar 282011
 

Why am I gay? Why, oh why, oh why? Gnashing of gums, wailing and crying … etc.

You may as well ask why am I white? Or male? Or a pompous prick? None of these questions really admits of an answer deeper than “because” … and neither does the question of the cause, or root, or why and wherefore of my homosexuality.

Do I believe our sexuality is an innate trait, laid down for us in the genetic makeup of our very beings? Yes, I’d have to accept that as the most likely reason. Can I rule out environmental factors; upbringing, pollution, pregnant women with a 40-a-day Mayfair habit? Of course I can’t. I’m not a biologist, and even if I were, those questions haven’t been answered definitively!

Perhaps of more interest would be to ask why this question is still being asked? Why does it matter why I’m (or anybody else is) gay? The answer to those questions may be more valuable than a final determination that a certain combination of amino acids led inexorably to my preference for chaps!

Obviously, the reason that the questions are asked is that it is still not seen as “normal” to be gay. Even those who are “tolerant” or “accepting” of homosexuality – words which in and of themselves indicate the basic discomfort of the people who use them – don’t actually feel on a visceral level that we are normal. That doesn’t mean their judgment extends to considering us wrong, immoral or evil – necessarily. But it reflects an “us and them” attitude which, even if not operating on a conscious level, influences a huge range of behaviours and beliefs.

This outlook is on a par with “I’m not racist, but …” or “some of my best friends are black”. The very act of distinguishing denotes the separation in the mind of the person speaking. “There’s nothing wrong with being gay … but why do they have to shove it down our throats?” or “I don’t mind homosexuals … but marriage is between a man and a woman”. It’s all the same shit, different shovel!

I’m not arguing for some undifferentiated pablum world in which we are all the same and Benetton ads are far more monochromatic. I’m not saying that we should live without acknowledging that we are different; among other things, it would be awful to hit on a straight guy and be unable to understand his reticence!

I am, however, arguing that the question “why” – beloved of two year olds the world over – is in this context probably a bad thing. Asking why someone is gay, or black, or female … implies a judgment. Or possibly even disapproval. Until we can move past that, asking why can cause nothing but harm.

So if anyone asks me why I am gay, I can only have one response.

Why not?

Full magazine here.

Aug 012010
 

This month’s theme – whether or not the gay print media still have a role – seems an odd one to be set by a gay print magazine. It’s a little like Shell asking whether or not we really still need petrol! Still, a little self-contemplation can be a good thing, as long as we avoid navel-gazing.

Gay magazines and papers are no longer needed, so runs the argument, because the so-called mainstream press now reports gay issues regularly. While this is true, as far as it goes, I don’t think I wish to rely on the Daily Mail to bring me news so important to me! Of course, that particular bile-spewing rag is not representative of the whole of Fleet Street, but it does serve as a reminder of an important consideration; for the most part, the “mainstream” media are reporting ABOUT us, not for or to us. This distinction is important.

After all, the mainstream press is precisely that – mainstream. Its audience encompasses a wide range of views, admittedly, but all generally fairly close to one another on the continuum. For example, people who read the dailies may disagree over gay marriage, but it’s likely that few, if any, would propound the burning of faggots at the stake!

All well and good; let’s be thankful we’ve achieved so much, close down the GScene offices, cancel the subscription to Attitude and spend the last of OutRage!’s funds on a retirement shindig for Peter Tatchell. Aren’t our laurels a lovely place to rest?

Suppose, however, that public opinion changes; the centre shifts, mainstream mood moves and our hard –fought –for –and –won rights become abominations. Who, then, will champion our cause? To have to start from scratch could be as damaging as appointing Jan Moir head of the Human Rights Commission! We are, and should be, happy with and proud of all that has been achieved, and the progressive and liberal reality of modern day Britain. But we should not become complacent, and forget that we are where we are because people fought for our rights.

It is said that a population is never truly free, without a free press. Neither, I contend, is a gay population free without a free gay press.

 

 

May 012010
 
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”
Doubtless many of us were told to recite this to ward of the nefarious attentions of attentions of taunting classmates. If only the mantra were true! Sadly, as all of us now know, often it’s words that cut the deepest and leave the nastiest scars.
Personally, I have been gay bashed in the past – a fairly horrific, painful and upsetting experience. But, an experience with which I’ve been able to deal, and move on. A physical assault is direct, up front and – in its own way – honest. To me, bullying is something different, nastier … more insipid and hidden. Its effects less immediately obvious perhaps, but painful nonetheless, and a pain which is cumulative. Rather than dealing with the pain and then moving on, the victim of a bully often relives the misery over and over, each time adding to the suffering.
As a nation, we seem finally to be waking up to the fact that it’s not “just” bullying, something which “everyone goes through” and that a stiff upper lip and Anglo-Saxon stoicism aren’t the answer to it all. This is a good thing, but it’s not enough.
It’s not overkill to repeat some familiar statistics – 51% of gay men and 30% of lesbians were bullied physically at school, compared with 47% and 20% of straights. Add to that the fact that 50% of LGB adults who have been bullied a school contemplated self-harm or suicide and 40% have made at least one attempt. The list could go on, but it’s not really necessary; they should be shocking enough. The distressing thing is that we’re not shocked by these facts any more. The familiar statistics are all too familiar. And familiarity can breed contempt, or at least, disinterest.
Why do we carry on this way? We should be in absolute uproar at the horrific conditions in which LGBT youth are still growing up – instead, we seem to laugh it off. After all, many of us lived through it … perhaps we don’t see why the next generations shouldn’t? But in that outlook, we’re overlooking both the impact that bullying has on the individuals involved, and the reinforcement of the implicit acceptability of homophobia to the general public.
Surely we ought to want to continue the trend of the world getting better for our community – our goal should really be to leave behind a world where the possibility of homophobic bullying simply doesn’t exist, as no-one could conveive of a reason for such bigotry. Dismiss it as a utopian, pie in the sky, dream if you wish – but as you do, remember that many of the rights we now hold and cherish, were equally unimaginable not so long ago. Many people still remember dreaming a dream not dissimilar to today, so why not dream?
Apr 072010
 
“How MUCH”!?
That’s the unfortunate reaction to a quote I received recently from a “green” moving company. Offset this, reduce that, blah blah blah … the bottom line was we couldn’t really afford to assuage our carbon footprint guilt when we considered all the other costs involved in moving.
But this led me to think, why do we care about our impact on the environment? After all, most of us don’t have kids, so there isn’t really a future generation for us to worry about directly. The “children’s children” argument is only ever going to be at least one degree of separation away from us.
So what do we have left? Selfless concern for others? Possibly, but more likely we do it to salve our collective consciences and make us feel slightly better about our rapacious greed. And as a result of being such good, and green, boys and girls, we are able to feel slightly smug and self-satisfied.
That on its own isn’t really incentive enough to make major decisions, though, is it? When my partner and I moved to Brighton originally from London almost two years ago, we were well aware that commuting by train for work was going to have an effect on our carbon footprint. For us to offset our annual 3.07 tonnes of carbon released as a result of this travel would cost £49 through “Certified Emissions Reduction”; not an earth-shattering sum, but it has to come from somewhere. So, having thought about offsetting, and meaning to get around to it some time, we … haven’t. Yet more good intentions with no impetus to follow through.
Of course, trains aren’t the bogeymen of public transport; in fact, they’re considered relatively green. The real moustache-twirling villain of the piece is the aeroplane or, more accurately, incredibly low airfares. Stupendously low. Ridiculously low!
When it costs more to travel to the airport than it does subsequently to fly off to sunnier climes, something must be a little skew-iff!
However, after over a half a century of easier and cheaper flights, there has developed a sense of entitlement to such opportunities for travel. A presumption, the denial of which would cause people to feel aggrieved, regardless of the fact that such possibilities are a relatively recent development, undreamt of in earlier generations. The vast majority of people feel they could no more do without their fortnight of fun in the sun than they could water, oxygen, food or, say, a double soya no foam decaf lattè.
So, how do we move forward, past indolence and indignation?
The only method certain to achieve its goals is to take away the responsibility from the individual, much as it may sit ill with the British psyche. A universal carbon tax, which reflects the true cost, is the answer. Hitting people’s wallets, and showing separately how much the carbon which their activities generate costs them in cold, hard cash, would be guaranteed to reduce emissions. After all, you’re less likely to make those unnecessary trips if you look at the price and think:
“How MUCH”!?