Archives for posts with tag: LGBTQ rights

Love it or hate it, but ever since Dana International claimed her prize in Birmingham in a Gaultier gown trimmed with parrots, the Eurovision Song Contest can legitimately claim that it has done its bit for LGBTQ visibility. In recent years – partly because of the dreadful voting system and the way former Eastern bloc countries have tried to use it to bolster prestige – despite the scale of the event and viewing figures, it’s lost its allure a little and never quite recaptured that frisson of transgressive danger it enjoyed on Dana’s night of triumph in Birmingham in 1998. However, it might just do it again in 2014.

The decision of Austria’s ORF to send drag performer Conchita Wurst to Copenhagen is what could make the difference. Conchita is not the first drag queen to represent their country on the Eurovision stage; in fact, in the light of recent events, it’s worth recalling that Verka Serduchka nearly won for Ukraine in 2007, although this year’s entrant Maria Yaremchuk (not a drag act) can’t be certain of getting quite the same  level of support from countries of the former Soviet Union when it comes to voting this year. Just recently it was reported that the hugely popular  Verka Serduchka may have been dropped as a star act on Russian Saturday night TV because of the Putin government’s laws outlawing “homosexual propaganda”.

Conchita Wurst can sing, and the song will please anyone who likes Bond themes, but as any Eurovision fan will tell you, that doesn’t necessarily make it a winner.  What’s clear though, is that ORF’s decision to send Conchita to Sweden has resulted in an outpouring of homophobia in social media, and serious attempts in both Belarus and Russia to have Austria’s performance blocked from broadcast on the night.  To the Austrian broadcaster’s credit, they haven’t just issued a dull corporate response, but launched a viral campaign which jokily challenges the anti LGBTQ prejudice being shown to their entrant. They want you to knit a fake beard “for tolerance”, and have produced a promotional video to the soundtrack of their own version of Pharrell’s “Happy”.  Douze points.

In the context of Russia’s treatment of the LGBTQ community, and the increasing confidence of those who seek to roll back equality, even if you don’t get out the knitting needles, voting for Conchita – who is openly gay and consistently makes a stand for diversity – in the semi-final on May 8th, so as to ensure Austria is there on the big night (and maybe beyond), is something worth doing, even if you don’t give a ding-a-dong for the ESC.

Brief notes on some media stories from the last week:-

“If you think about the folks who supported a whole society that was extremely discriminatory, that is the population that is in the nursing homes now”

  • A good report from the BBC about the growing need for housing and care alternatives for the ageing LGBTQ community; the video clip is worth watching. Old age brings enough threats of loss of autonomy, personal dignity and dependence without the additional burden of being forced to deny your identity or face homophobic or transphobic attitudes from those delivering personal care.

“I would predict that every trans person who has ever come out has been asked a variation on the question, “But what was your old name?” Or the ruder version, “But what’s your real name?” Or the slightly bizarre, “But what was your birth name?” I’d like to know how many of us are born with names.”

  • Fred McConnell’s article for The Guardian about the intrusive questions openly trans people are endlessly asked reminded me of my early days as an out gay man and activist, when I was constantly asked about what I did in bed with other men (and more creepily, about lesbians and what they did).

“[The wedding] is all going to hang around an idea: a historic moment in time. While this is a deeply personal thing … we’re doing it publicly, partly to display to the whole world that our country recognises and respects our relationship. Marriage is not the apotheosis of gay rights [but] it’s a steady step in the right direction”

  • One of the gay and lesbian couples planning to marry next weekend when the new law comes into force in the UK, talking to The Independent. There’s a popular misconception that once same-sex marriage is in place, LGBTQ rights are all fine and dandy, and it’s good to see that not all those quoted are falling into the trap of believing it.

“People who cash in their pensions in order to save or invest the money risk losing their right to free social care if they fall ill or become too frail to look after themselves, leading charities have warned.”

  • The economic crisis of the past few years has made financing adequate pensions and social care provision an even more difficult issue in many countries. This week the spotlight was on the UK, where many at first welcomed news to give people more rights over how to manage their pension savings. The downside is that they’ll be at the mercy of a financial services industry which has a dubious track record, and there’s a real risk that some will find themselves making bad decisions; it’s a relief to see some of the potential worries about this liberalisation being recognised. The LGBTQ community has a larger proportion of people living alone or without extended family support, so there are particular risks for us.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome…

As Uganda’s president called gays “disgusting” in a CNN interview and a tabloid newspaper published lists of suspected homosexuals, feeding hysteria and witch-hunts following the introduction of the country’s new laws against homosexuality, politicians and pundits elsewhere may have made appropriate noises of disapproval, but in truth they don’t really know what to do.

Desmond Tutu, William Hague, Barack Obama and the Swedish government (among others) may all have voiced dismay and muttered of consequences, which is to their credit; but the reality is that within a few days, people will nod and say how terrible it all is for gays in Uganda now, and then ask how the elections are going in the Ukraine or if there’s other news we should know about.  Compassion fatigue kicks in quickly as far as the LGBT community is concerned.  It’s a shame we spoiled the Olympics for the athletes, because they worked so hard to get there…

Out journalist Alice Arnold rightly argued in the Telegraph that we “mustn’t be left to fight American and African religious zealots alone”, and whilst happily there are many who support her view, there’s also a growing murmur that somehow none of all  this uncomfortable noise about homosexuality would be happening if we hadn’t kept on rubbing it in people’s faces.  Look what happens when you get uppity. We have only ourselves to blame, and gay was such a nice cheery word until we ran off with it, behaving inappropriately in public.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s Governor is deciding whether to sign the bill allowing businesses to deny services to the LGBT community; that it’s got this far is a disgrace, but a sign of how US evangelists are now beginning to push back at home after their African adventures. Scott Lively, the man who will have blood on his hands for his meddling in Uganda, now has a new target; he wants the American Psychiatric Association to reinstate homosexuality as a mental illnesss.  Don’t be naive and think this will go away overnight, as the debate (yes, the word debate will be used, and we’ll be asked to be reasonable and “hear both sides”) has barely started. And it’s our fault it’s happening, because if we hadn’t made all this fuss about marriage, people would have left us alone…

Frank Mugisha, one of Uganda’s few public gay activists (good reason for that), is convinced that’s the case. The US-based Center for Constitutional Rights is working with him to take evangelist Scott Lively  to court over his alleged involvement in shaping the dreadful legal sanctions the LGBTQ community in Uganda has been fighting. There’s a good interview with Frank in the UK newspaper The Independent, in which he argues that “homophobia is actually imported, not African”.

“Lively has been the man with the plan in this enterprise,” said Pam Spees, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “He long ago set out a very specific and detailed methodology for stripping away the most basic human rights protections, to silence and ultimately disappear LGBT people. Unfortunately, he found willing accomplices and fertile ground in Uganda.”

So far, Uganda’s President Museveni has refused to sign the bill which went through the country’s parliament in December 2013 – possibly because of international pressure – but he still said we’re “abnormal”, and that lesbians suffer from “sexual starvation”.

“You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people.”

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