A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘glbt issues

[LINK] “The quiet revolution: why Britain has more gay MPs than anywhere else”

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David Shariatmadari in The Guardian considers at length, with abundant examples from history and from interviews with candidates, why so many British MPs in the current parliament are openly non-heterosexual. Things have changed quite recently, it turns out, the old repressive cultures dying out with some speed.

As turning points go, it was a good one. A young Labour MP claimed the scalp of a senior Tory cabinet minister; the look of surprise and excitement on his face mirrored the mood of the country. After 18 years of Conservative government, everything was to be turned on its head. But that night in Enfield in 1997 was symbolic of more than just the first Labour landslide in a generation. Stephen Twigg was gay – a “practising homosexual”, to use a formula still popular at the time – and though rumours about Michael Portillo’s sexuality had been swirling for years, he was most definitely not. In fact, Portillo was the opposite: a buttoned-up member of a ruling class for whom discretion had long been the rule. His slaying felt like a cultural watershed.

Habits built up over decades, the instinctive default to repression, quickly began to melt away. The day after Twigg’s victory, Chris Smith, an MP since 1983 and out since 1984, became the first openly gay secretary of state – culture, naturally. Later that year, Angela Eagle came out: the first openly lesbian MP since Maureen Colquhoun, who had been deselected in the 1970s. The years rolled by and anti-gay legislation was rolled back. The despised section 28 was ditched, and civil partnerships then equal marriage made it on to the statute books. Now Britain finds itself with the queerest legislature in the world: 32 of the United Kingdom’s 650 MPs calling themselves gay, lesbian or bisexual. At 4.9%, this pretty closely reflects what researchers believe to be the sexuality of the population as a whole: an impressive achievement, still to be matched in matters of gender or ethnicity.

So who are the LGB MPs (the T, for transgender, is still missing, none of the four candidates who stood this election won their seat)? Twelve are Conservative, 13 Labour, the rest Scottish Nationalists. Among them are veterans such as Eagle, Chris Bryant, Alan Duncan and Crispin Blunt. Newcomers include former NUS president Wes Streeting, who follows in the footsteps of Twigg, also an NUS man. Overall, on 7 May, there were 155 out LGBT candidates. And in two constituencies last week – Lancaster & Fleetwood and Milton Keynes South – both the Tory and Labour candidates were gay or lesbian. At the end of the last parliament, the Conservatives had the most LGB MPs, ceding that position to Labour this time around. Proportionally, though, the SNP is now by far the gayest party in Westminster, with 12% of its MPs chalking themselves up as sexual minorities.

We may scratch our heads as to the meaning of these numbers: is it a surprise that there are so many out Tories? What is it about the SNP? But there’s a bigger question: how did we get here? How did a country raised on tabloid scandal end up so at ease with gay public figures? Homosexuality was decriminalised in Britain in 1967 by reforming home secretary Roy Jenkins (Northern Ireland had to wait until 1982), but prosecutions for sexual offences continued to snare many gay men into the 90s. In addition, a vicious press culture of blackmail and exposure made life difficult for gay people who wanted to participate in government and politics.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 14, 2015 at 10:41 pm

[LINK] “Twitter Riles Irish Catholics as Companies Favorite Gay Vote”

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Bloomberg’s Dara Doyle notes, in the context of Ireland’s upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage, one consequence of its economic policy aimed at becoming a business hub: Big business is interested in the outcome.

When Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny rallied support for gay marriage ahead of a referendum this month, he got a little more than the usual help from Twitter Inc.

As well as disseminating the message through its social media, the company is backing the “yes” campaign, which is leading the polls before the May 22 vote. It says allowing wedlock for two people of the same sex is good for the economy. Other public declarations of support have come from Google Inc. and EBay Inc., which also have European headquarters in Ireland.

“Marriage equality is as good for our value as it is for our values,” Kenny said at an event last month among the stripped-down brick walls and bare floorboards of the Digital Exchange, a home for startup technology companies.

Just as the issue of gay rights in the U.S. has pit big business against a conservative opposition, in Ireland it’s the government supported by some of the world’s biggest Internet companies versus the tax friendly nation’s past as an upholder of Roman Catholic values.

[. . .]

“Twitter’s clear implication is that if we vote no it will be bad for business and bad for our international reputation,” said Ben Conroy, a spokesman for the Iona Institute, whose stated mission is to promote marriage and religion in society. “The most powerful economy in Europe, Germany, does not have same-sex marriage, so the idea that voting no would be bad for business is clearly ridiculous.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 13, 2015 at 10:47 pm

[LINK] “What Was Gay?”

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J. Bryan Lowder’s long article in Slate, grounded in his biography and historically informed, is a fascinating exploration of the distinctions between sexual orientation and the cultural elements associated with said. What happened? What might happen yet? Strongly recommended, all of it.

[A]nyone who’s even eavesdropped on the long-running debate over “gay identity” among homosexuals will know that this position—that gayness might be located in sensibility or style as well as sex—is currently anathema. We live in the era dominated by a born-this-way, “it’s-a-small-part-of-me” ethos that minimizes gay difference to sexual attraction. The current dogma among mainstream LGBTQ advocacy organizations and the majority of gay writers and public figures sees gayness as little more than a hazy accident of biology that shouldn’t be legally or socially disadvantaging. Any notion of some inherent cultural affiliation (“gays love Gaga”) or unique sensibility (“fags get fashion”) has been pretty much disavowed within the community—imagine the uproar if some naive network executive tried rebooting a minstrelsy-driven show like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in 2015—and many straights have gotten the memo as well.

This move away from broad-brush gay stereotypes is wise to a point. Ascribing an obligatory cultural component to homosexuality has caused a range of problems, from the merely annoying Oh you’re gay? Let’s go shopping!–variety to the more pernicious example of admission to safer, queer-only housing in prison being determined based on tests of “gay insider” knowledge or behaviors that not all queer people necessarily possess. Clearly, a person’s homosexuality should not be taken as evidence of any special affiliation, just as heterosexuals, united only by their sexual connection and propensity for procreation, are never assumed to share anything else. This has been one of the key arguments in the “we are normal” case for equality—and it’s been largely successful. Though the job is not totally complete, it feels like we are working as fast as we can to build what gay academic and activist Dennis Altman imagines in his provocatively titled The End of the Homosexual?: a world in which we no longer see “homosexuality as a primary marker of identity, so that sexual preference comes to be regarded as largely irrelevant, and thus not the basis for either community or identity.”

However, any serious “post-gay” triumphalism would seem a touch premature. For one thing, folks on the ground are not as uninterested in gay cultural practice as the “gay culture is dying” headlines suggest. Enthusiastic audiences tune in to RuPaul’s Drag Race for lessons in a certain school of gay “herstory” on a weekly basis, and homos of a less glittery make clamored to HBO’s Looking in a desperate search for images of “real gay life”—implying that it must indeed be distinct from the straight life portrayed on other programs. And politically, there’s a sense in which minimizing gay difference now, right at the moment when the majority of Americans are actively grappling with it, amounts to a cop-out: “Americans are uniquely hasty to assert a ‘post-’ right before we approach the finish line,” Suzanna Walters notes in The Tolerance Trap, “effectively shutting off the real and substantive public debate needed for that final push.”

Instead of “post,” a more accurate diagnosis of our moment might be schismatic. History shows that the divide between gays who reject any cultural embroidery on their sexual orientation and those who spend evenings hand-stitching it has been around since homosexuality, as a human category, was invented. But the ascendancy of the former position, tied as it has been to the civil rights achievements of the past 20 years, has left us culture queens so embattled that a conscious uncoupling is starting to sound like a good idea. A “gaybro” doesn’t want to camp it up with a “stereotype” like me? Fine—it was never fair to assume that he should (or could) anyway. Nate Silver wants to identify as “sexually gay but ethnically straight”? Great. Let’s make that split an option for everyone.

To Silver’s credit, the notion of gayness as an “ethnicity” that one might choose to invest in or not is actually very useful if schism is your goal. On a post about super-gay Internet sensation Brendan Jordan, the wonderfully flamboyant young queen who rose to fame last year for voguing in the background of a local news report, a Slate commenter offered a similar sentiment: “One of the reasons I so dislike identifying myself as a gay man,” he wrote, “is that I don’t want people to hear that word, gay, and link me in their mind to someone with a personality and manner like this kid or, say, a Jack McFarland. Homosexual actually feels more comfortable to me than gay.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 7:18 pm

[LINK] “Gay, lesbian kids more likely to be bullied — even before sexual awareness”

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Al Jazeera America reports something very unsurprising.

Gay and bisexual children are more likely to be bullied as they are growing up, and a new study suggests that victimization may occur at an early age, before some of those targeted are aware of their sexual orientation.

In the first large U.S. study to look at the problem, public school students in three cities were asked about bullying in the 5th, 7th and 10th grades. When they reached high school, they were asked if they identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual. The researchers then looked back at what those kids had said through the years about their experiences being hit, threatened, called names, or excluded.

Overall, many of the nearly 4,300 students surveyed said they were bullied, especially at younger ages, according to the study, which was published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. But the 630 gay and bisexual children suffered it more.

The researchers found 13 percent of them were bullied on a weekly basis in 5th grade, compared to 8 percent of other kids. In both groups, the rates went down as the students got older — but the disparity persisted.

“In fifth grade, they already were bullied more than other kids” even though, at that young age, many gay and bisexual kids haven’t discovered their own sexual orientation yet, said the lead author of the study, Dr. Mark Schuster of Boston Children’s Hospital.

The data doesn’t say why each kid was targeted. But most were likely picked on for being “different,” he said.

“Some kids may be considered by the bullies to be a more girlish boy, or a more boyish girl,” said Schuster.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 11, 2015 at 10:54 pm

[PHOTO] On a sky that was a Derek Jarman blue

Yesterday was a glorious spring day in Toronto. I was out early in the morning to do my laundry, and was walking around my neighbourhood. The warmth was glorious, as was the return of life, but the sky stood out. It was perfect, cloudless, what I called on Instagram and Twitter a “Derek Jarman blue”.

Sky of Derek Jarman blue #toronto #dlws #weather #spring #blue #derekjarman #Derek Jarman’s last film was the 1993 Blue, completed as he was dying of HIV/AIDS. Visually, the film was a constant blue, “International Klein Blue”, a manifestation on film the deterioration of filmmaker Jarman’s sight worn away by cytomegalovirus.

The words, spoken by actors including Jarman himself and the later-famous Tilda Swinton, are beautiful poetry, preserved at the website of the Queer Cultural Centre.

Blue Bottle buzzing
Lazy days
The sky blue butterfly
Sways on the cornflower
Lost in the warmth
Of the blue heat haze
Singing the blues
Quiet and slowly

Blue of my heart
Blue of my dreams
Slow blue love
Of delphinium days

Blue is the universal love in which man bathes – it is the terrestrial paradise.

Jarman has appeared on A Bit More Detail before: he manifested in a 2006 post looking at a poetic passage from Terry Eagleton’s script for Jarman’s Wittgenstein; a 2009 celebration of the video for Annie Lennox’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”, to which he contributed; a somewhat silly 2010 meditation on a photo that did not quite turn out; a <ahref=”https://abitmoredetail.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/photo-purchased-at-word-on-the-street-toronto/”&gt;2014 celebration of a Derek Jarman biography I bought at Word on the Street. (The Ke$ha book also photographed there was extra, free.)

I like the poetry of Jarman, his art. His life is also a wonderful example of struggle and survival despite everything. Yesterday morning, his blue mattered particularly to me. It was a hard winter, and I’m glad to be rid of it, and more glad to have proof of it.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 16, 2015 at 7:17 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Lesbians lead the way when it comes to neighbourhood gentrification, research shows”

Zosia Bielski’s interview last week with sociologist Amin Ghaziani about the different roles played by gay men and lesbians in different stages of gentrification is fascinating. A sample is below:

You found that – like artists – lesbians are early gentrifiers in cities. They’re the trailblazers in frontier neighbourhoods, not gay men. How do they start to gentrify areas?

The idea that gay people instigate urban renewal is widely known, but it’s imprecise. Lesbians actually come first. In a 2010 interview with The New York Observer, sociologist Sharon Zukin offered a provocative image of lesbians as “canaries in the urban coal mine.” The idea here was that lesbians were actually the urban pioneers.

Gay women create a “girl’s town” for themselves. It’s a stage of incubation or pre-gentrification; there isn’t widespread awareness that the area is a gay district. Women are motivated by feminism and counter-cultures. This is why lesbian neighbourhoods often consist of a cluster of homes near progressive – but not flashy – organizations like co-operative grocery stores, coffee shops, alternative theatres, bike shops, secondhand bookstores and performance spaces.

That sounds like a hipster’s dream.

Gay women plug into existing progressive facilities in affordable neighbourhoods. The effect is that lesbian neighbourhoods, if you even know about them, will feel quasi-underground or hidden.

What’s the difference between a lesbian enclave and a gaybourhood?

Men are much more influenced by sexual transactions and building new commercial establishments like bars, big nightclubs, saunas and trendy restaurants. As property values increase, because women make less than men, gay women will feel priced out, before straight people arrive and push out the gay men. Straight households come last in the advanced or late gentrification stage.
What’s the difference between a lesbian enclave and a gaybourhood?

Men are much more influenced by sexual transactions and building new commercial establishments like bars, big nightclubs, saunas and trendy restaurants. As property values increase, because women make less than men, gay women will feel priced out, before straight people arrive and push out the gay men. Straight households come last in the advanced or late gentrification stage.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 16, 2015 at 1:04 am

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Anthropology.net notes the discovery of some Neanderthal skeletons showing signs of having had the flesh carved off of them.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the messages carried by the New Horizon probe.
  • Crooked Timber makes the case for the continued relevance of Bob Marley.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at recurrent streams on Mars carved by perchlorate-laced water.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh argues that Spain is still digging out of the long crisis.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the story of a Louisiana trans man fired from his job for not detransitioning.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that China is not really a revisionist power.
  • Justin Petrone looks at ways in which young Estonian children are demonstrating and developing a fear of Russia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the failure of the Dragon rocket.
  • Towleroad notes that the Russian-language version of Siri is quite homophobic.
  • Understanding Society looks at the criticial realist social theory of Frédéric Vandenberghe.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at trends in violence in the North Caucasus and warns of Central Asian alienation from Russia.
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