Saturday 29 May 2010

David Laws

David Laws MP, chief secretary to the Treasury, has got in a spot of bother about expenses and in the process of running a story about that the Telegraph has outed him as in a same-sex relationship. 

Spinning their version of event beyond parody, the Telegraph claim that he was the one who chose to come out, they didn't out him, but that is absolute piffle: were they really going to run a story that never referred to the name or gender of the person he is living with and do they honestly think their allies in the hate press would have done the same?  And that a page full of playing the pronoun game wouldn't constitute a big flashing neon sign? 

So yes, let's be frank about this one: they outed him, and it's clear the motivations are nothing to do with sexuality or expenses.

I'm no expert on the MP expenses arrangements so all I shall observe on the rights or wrongs of the case is that people who do know more about it say that if he had been publicly in a relationship then he could have claimed the whole mortgage costs, so leaving things as they were was saving the taxpayer a big wad of cash. Way to go Telegraph, an investigation with a natural conclusion of costing taxpayers more, just as every other move from the Telegraph on expenses has wound up costing us more. Can we have a special Act to close the paper down on the grounds that its bosses are premeditatedly wrecking the economy?

But what I can make some informed comment on is the sexuality stuff. 

As someone who runs a social-support group for people from within the LGBT communities, there are still a steady stream of new people who come along who are not 'out' to anyone around them about their sexuality or sex life: family, friends, workmates, even openly gay, bi or trans colleagues. David is a very long way from alone.

It's something that we see less of as the world moves on but the idea that passing the civil partnerships law and scrapping clause 28 magically undid a century of social homophobia is dotty.  Yes, there are MPs around him who are out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.  I know people who go hang-gliding, that doesn't take away any of my own vertigo and mean I suddenly feel fine at the top of a stepladder.

To mangle a slogan: some MPs aren't straight, get over it. And some people's relationships don't have cookie-cutter neatness, get over it.

Friday 21 May 2010

Five years, five pledges

The new left-right coalition's Programme for Government document has been published today, including a number of pledges on queer issues. The document sets out the agreed programme for the five-year coalition government so they have until 2015 to get it all done.

Those on-the-ball Delga folk say it includes the following:
The Government believes that there are many barriers to social mobility and equal opportunities in Britain today, with too many children held back because of their social background, and too many people of all ages held back because of their gender, race, religion or sexuality. We need concerted government action to tear down these barriers and help to build a fairer society.
• We will stop the deportation of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution.
• We will use our relationships with other countries to push for unequivocal support for gay rights and for UK civil partnerships to be recognised internationally.
• We will change the law so that historical convictions for consensual gay sex with over-16s will be treated as spent and will not show up on criminal records checks.
• We will promote better recording of hate crimes against disabled, homosexual and transgender people, which are frequently not centrally recorded.
• We will help schools tackle bullying in schools, especially homophobic bullying.
The first thing that strikes me is that as the world has moved on, central legislation on LGBT issues increasingly looks beyond the UK to issues of equality worldwide.  Which is great, and timely: we needed to put our own house in order first.  Ten years ago Labour and Tory legislators had seen to it we had plenty to do here, and pressing for change overseas invited reasonable charges of hypocrisy.

The second is that awful line "hate crimes against disabled, homosexual and transgender people" - a copy and paste job from a mangled line in the Lib Dem manifesto.  As a bi activist, I have railed about it before: I trust that when it comes to the legislative stage it will be turned from what they say into what they mean.

The third is that the trans and genderqueer stuff out of the Lib Dem manifesto didn't make it through.  This is a damn shame, for all that the abolition of ID cards and the identity register removes two of the pressing issues around non-binary gendered identities.

But after those Labour governments which kept LGBT stuff out of the manifesto for fear of scaring the horses, and then deployed a string of delaying tactics over acting on equality, what a refreshing thing it is to have a clear idea of what is on the government's mind to implement in the years ahead. 

We have to make sure they deliver on it, and press them to do the other stuff, too. Write to your MP, and write often, folks!

Wednesday 19 May 2010


I made a bit of a booboo and broke BiMedia for 48 hours. Doh. I think it's the same mistake a friend made with her Wordpress blog a year or so back.

Must. Make. More. Backups.

However, it's back in action, nearly finished, and I think (...or I flatter myself...) that it looks a tiny bit slicker after the rebuild. But nonetheless, I'd welcome people who had problems with it loading in the past giving it the once-over in case those problems have returned.

In the process I have finally worked out how to send news stories direct to twitter, which is For The Win :) - decided to feed them to the BCN twitter feed rather than a separate one for bimedia, as much the same people would want to follow each.

Sunday 9 May 2010

More out MPs than ever

That's the election over - well, nearly over, barring the pending bit of the election in Thirsk.  We have a new swathe of gay and lesbian MPs, with an influx of new out MPs on the Liberal Democrat and Conservative benches and quite a few out Labour MPs holding their seats.

About 20 out MPs out of 650 seats is, er, three per cent or so.  Halfway to the government statistic of 6% being gay or lesbian; they never tried counting the bis properly.

But still - unless someone knows better - on the green benches at Westminster we have just the one out bisexual.  There are more of us than there are lesbians and gay men put together, but we have a twentieth of the open representation in government that they do.