Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Labels are not the Enemy

I made a little web graphic about something that keeps coming up in conversations around bisexuality both in person and online.

While labels are optional, too often they seem to catch the blame for another thing's misdeeds.

(shareable online from here on twitter, here on tumblr, here on facebook)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Returning an old favour

Here in Greater Manchester we're one of the six English subregions electing new supermayors, alongside places like Liverpool City Region and a sprawling mass of Yorkshire and Derbyshire around Sheffield.

You get to exercise two preference votes in this, so you get to pick two parties or two individuals, but one preference is a dead simple decision - because Jane Brophy's standing.

While I get to ponder who to give my other vote to, for one preference, it's payback: more than 20 years ago Jane stood alone in Trafford against Labour and Tory homophobia, indeed the other day I found a copy of the Delga News reporting the story.


New Labour Trafford had signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and wanted to celebrate the fact in an attention-seeking event that would please the press. Cue a big conference at Manchester United football ground, with lots of sixth-form students from nearby schools bussed in.

However a consultation with those same young people in the Trafford area had produced a list of things they wanted to get from the event, and in those days of an unequal age of consent, no partnership rights, and the freedom of employers to fire staff at will on the grounds of bisexuality or homosexuality, the single most frequently raised issue had been being LGB. Probably not LGBT: it was the 90s remember.

But Section 28 was on the statute books, so even though article 17 of the Convention is the right to information and article 28 is a right to education, the council's Labour leadership and Tory opposition decided it was all too liable to encourage kids to turn gay, and barred such information from being provided at the conference. Even though the previous three such events, held in other towns, had offered the same thing and without a whisper of a Section 28 prosecution ensuing.

As an aside, you do have to wonder how a workshop telling teens that they (if male) had to wait another five years to have sex, couldn't marry or adopt, would be perpetually insecure in their working life, would have lesser pension rights, be more likely to be made homeless and so forth, could be deemed to encourage them to make such a "lifestyle choice". This might be a sweeping generalisation about what people hope for in their futures, but surely it would if anything put them off.

As a local Lib Dem councillor Jane Brophy made a speech in full council challenging this, championing the need for isolated young bi and gay people to be given the information and support they needed. It was great to witness a press storm on the day that saw the leader of Trafford on Radio 4's Today programme and in the Manchester Evening News having to defend her decision to bar young people from learning about their rights at an event supposedly celebrating the council's commitment to doing exactly the opposite.

Anyway, back in those days of the mid 90s LGB(T+) rights were not popular, and when there were no votes to be had in championing them Jane stuck her neck out because it was the right thing to do.
Giving her my first preference vote seems a small thing to do to return the favour.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Shaming statistics for the 175

tw: suicide stats

I'm very - perhaps too - fond of asking why people so rarely look at their actions in the context of "what happens next?"  As Peter Cook might have asked, did A Question Of Sport die in vain?

Back when the same-sex marriage bill was wending its way through parliament, we heard many arguments for and against. Some were coherent. Some were respectable. There's a fun venn diagram to be drawn of which were one, neither or both.

Now, I've just been reading some research from the USA looking at the impacts of same-sex marriage legislation there, where change happened in bursts from state to state over several years.

No, not at the number of weddings and the impact on the sale of top hats and fabulous frocks. One of the other impacts same-sex marriage has had.

It's based on huge sample sizes and shows one of the effects of allowing same-sex marriage nationwide was about 134,000 fewer adolescents attempting suicide each year.  Looking at numbers before and after, there's a 7 percent reduction in the proportion of all high-school students reporting a suicide attempt over the previous year, and a 14 percent drop among LGB students, when same-sex marriage becomes lawful where you live.

Often we talk about these kind of statistics but we rarely pause to turn them round. To consider the "what if", the "what happens next" of the path not taken.  The path we didn't take thanks to the passage of the two same-sex marriage bills in Wales & England and in Scotland.

US and UK culture are in very many ways similar. So with about a quarter of their population we might rule-of-thumb that the impact here is 134,000 divided by four - 33,500 fewer young people attempting to end their lives each year in the UK.  Each year.  Our 2013 vote is four years ago already: so the change is 33,500 upon 33,500 upon 33,500 upon...

What an amazing number. What a horrifying number. For the 400 MPs who voted to allow same-sex marriage, what a humbling number. Yes, you let some people get married, and that was beautiful. But "what happened next" was a huge positive impact on the mental health and even survival of young people. You let some people get married and, thanks to an unwritten clause in the Bill, you saw to it that thousands did not try to end their lives early.  An unknowable number of parents never came home to the horrible ultimate consequence of social, legal and institutional homophobia.

And for the 175 MPs (and indeed 148 Peers) who planted their colours against the tide of history, with numbers like these the nature of their actions and motives is laid bare. We can see what they were actively, consciously, premeditatedly complicit in, what they were voting for, because let's be frank: while we didn't have these figures, we and they knew the answer to the "what happens next" question all along.

A handful of the 175 have said they'd vote differently today. We have to conclude that the rest are proud of the future they were voting for, and take comfort that they didn't get what they wanted.

Sold out. Again.

The Brexit Bill has at last completed its process through the Houses of Parliament.

Labour chose to vote with the Conservatives, as so often before, and so things reached a speedy conclusion last night. We now have about two years before the UK, or what is left of it by then, exits stage right from the EU in favour of what seems sure to be a less kind, less prosperous, more blinkered and ironically less 'British' future.

It's less than two years since the faux-left's plan to rid politics of those nasty Liberals who had been lying on the grenade of Brexit since 2010 came to fruition. Hasn't it gone well?

Sunday, 19 February 2017

No change at NUS

"NUS in turmoil after internal report rules its President should not be punished despite making anti-Semitic remarks" is a genius Telegraph headline this week - the kind of headline that saves you all the bother of reading the article by telling you the entire story in one go.

I'm no great fan of clickbait, so I approve.

However the general story... I'm not sure current NUS president, Malia Bouattia, should be expunged for her hard-right views, bearing in mind there was never any action against her predecessor Vicky Baars.

Vicky you might remember called for the violent killing of thousands of the NUS' own members. For me that was when the NUS set its standards of decency for its national exec types, when it declared just how far down the line in the sand was drawn, and whatever I think of Malia's outbursts, I don't think she's quite fallen below the line set in Vicky's day.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Bona to vada the word of the Duchess

A frustrating but glorious story on the Beeb here. By way of marking LGBT History Month a trainee priest put together a Christian service in Polari; thus "Glory be to the father, and to the son, and the Holy Spirit" became "Fabeness be to the Auntie, and to the Homie Chavvie, and to the Fantabulosa Fairy".

Camp as tits and given that all the attendees were also trainee vicar types, clearly a fun "spot the familiar thing" rendering of familiar rhythms. As well as a way of thinking about the language you communicate in and how queer people had to hide behind codes in plain sight (and much worse, obv) because of the actions of priests and politicians past.

The church involved is full of huff and puff and apology, in an amusing echo of the days long gone when they said that services had to be in Latin for fear of the riff-raff understanding what was going on.

Local boss Canon Rev Chris Chivers told the press that, "for some members of the house this caused considerable upset". Really? Well, I suppose it is cold and dark at this time of year in Narnia and that can provoke a mighty fear.