Showing posts with label UK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UK. Show all posts

October 26, 2019

Stats Coming in From UK on LGBT Hate Crimes are Shocking!

Revellers wave flags during a gay pride parade in downtown Madrid, Spain, July 2, 2016.

Revelers wave flags during a gay pride parade in downtown Madrid, Spain, July 2, 2016.
© 2016 Reuters

Philippa H Stewart 

Senior Media Officer
New hate crime data for the United Kingdom shows a shocking number of incidents targeting LGBT people. As I was reading these figures, the need for LGBT-inclusive classes in UK schools has never been more apparent.
The data, released last week, shows police recorded 14,491 crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation in 2018-19.
Police recorded further 2,333 offenses against transgender people because of their gender identity.
Every year, the UK government releases police data on hate crimes on the basis of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Offenses are recorded as hate crimes if the
victim or witnesses believe the motivation is one of these things because of, for example, 
slurs shouted during the attack. The term “hate crime” can cover verbal abuse, intimidation, 
threats, harassment, assault, and bullying, as well as damage to property.
This year's reported figures were up across the board, something the Home Office says is largely due to improved reporting and recording methods. According to Stonewall UK, only one out
 of five hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) 
But despite an increase in reporting, the number of cases that lead to prosecutions has actually fallen.
One way to help reduce the vitriol aimed at LGBT people could be to teach children 
about inclusion and acceptance from a young age.
But attempts to add more LGBT-inclusive curriculum have caused some parents to pull their children out of school in some cases on faith grounds.
Protests targeted the No Outsiders program, which is taught at a group of schools
 in Birmingham and encourages children to accept differences in, among other things,
 families and relationships.
The schools suspended the program in March. When the classes resumed after the summer break,
the schools faced renewed protests. Some cities with similar lessons, such as Manchester
have faced problems as well. The government issued a set of guidelines to schools dealing with protests, but some teachers told the BBC they still don’t feel they
The UK plans to make “relationship” education compulsory by 2020, which is great news
  for future generations of LGBT children. But for adults facing intolerance now, the police
If you have been victimized don't be a victim any longer send a clear message that hate crimes will not be tolerated and will be investigated.

October 7, 2019

England's Only LGBT Bookstore at 40 and Still Being Significant Today


As Gay's the Word turns 40, store manager Jim MacSweeney discusses its significance to the LGBTQ community.

Take a wander down the streets surrounding London’s King’s Cross and you’ll stumble upon a marquee which bears the infamous pink triangle, originally a Nazi symbol for LGBT prisoners reclaimed by gay activists in the 70s. Among those activists was Ernest Hole, who had been thinking about opening an LGBT bookshop in London ever since he stumbled upon New York’s Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in the late 1960s. He spent the following years collating an archive and then laying the physical foundations for what is now Gay’s the Word, a queer community haven which this week celebrated its 40th anniversary. When I step inside the first person I notice is manager Jim MacSweeney. As Madonna’s Ray of Light plays softly through the speaker he’s deep in conversation with a young customer, who tells him all about their struggles with their own gender identity. Jim listens attentively, offering advice as well as a long reading list penned by authors who have experienced similar difficulties. 
By the time I’ve introduced myself, he’s had other in-depth conversations with three more customers; they all leave not just with a new book, but seemingly with a sense that they’ve found somewhere they can truly relax. “I’m a bit of a Chatty Cathy today,” he laughs as he unfolds a seat for me. “Conversations like that happen here all the time. The main thing I’ve learned is that you can never know what stage of their journey people are on, so you have to listen with empathy and compassion. It’s really about talking to them, trying to evaluate their needs and then pointing them in the right direction.”
Jim has been doing this for almost three decades now; he first got involved with the shop in the 80s through Gay Icebreakers, the socialist LGBT group of which founder Ernest Hole was also a member. Since then he’s built a dedicated, charismatic team: “[Assistant manager] Uli has been here for around 13 or 14 years, but then we have new workers coming in like Erica, who’s just started,” he tells me. Not only do they bring their personalities to the table they also bring expertise which plays a part in the shop’s curation process. “We’re not computerized, so [the collection] really comes from the knowledge that builds up. For example, Erica knows so much about young adult literature and graphic novels -- she’ll read something and then say ‘You have to get this in!’”
gay's the word
The result of this shared knowledge is an eclectic archive spanning numerous categories. Detailed history books document the stories of forgotten queer activists; trans survival guides are packed with practical advice on everything from binders to hormones; there’s even the rare autobiography of late androgynous painter Gluck, thrust last year into the spotlight as the poster image of Tate’s historic Queer British Art exhibition. 
“Gay bookshops used to be very male-focused and filled with erotic material, but we were different,” says Jim, although there are still a handful of top-shelf gay magazines on offer, themselves an integral part of queer culture. “We only used to have two shelves of trans material, but now we have five -- I’m so pleased about that.” He credits this increase in volume to UK-based publishers like Jessica Kingsley, which makes a deliberate effort to commission books by trans and non-binary writers. “We used to have to import books on these subjects and just hope they were good. The fact that they’re now coming out of this country marks a really exciting change.” 
This progressive ethos has always been integral to Gay’s the Word, which served as the meeting place of pioneering activist collectives like The Gay Black Group, Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners and, more recently, TransLondon. It also housed the organizing which led to Britain’s earliest Pride marches, a fact made evident by a series of notice boards towards the back of the shop. Hung proudly on the wall, they’re studded with political badges bearing slogans like ‘gays against fascism’ and ‘come out -- hide your badges where your mother can find them.’ 
TransLondon still meets here regularly, as does a lesbian reading group that’s been going strong since the 80s. “One week we had [2018 book] Now You See Me: Lesbian Life Stories, and I remember it was packed,” Jim recalls with a smile. “There was a load of young people and then a load of older women in their 70s; their conversations were so lovely, as was that real connection between them.” 
gay's the word
Photography Dom Agius

Events like these have arguably helped Gay’s the Word survive the rise of e-books and the increasing appearance of LGBT sections in mainstream bookshops -- they provide a sense of community that’s still hard to find outside of queer spaces, which tend to be nightlife-oriented. “There was definitely a time when dust was blowing through the bookshop, and I thought we might be done -- the internet has created so many ways to meet new people. But people still come and meet some of their best friends through these groups just like I did.”
Not even the various attacks on the shop have dampened Jim’s spirit, although he admits being occasionally fearful. Countless acts of vandalism have taken place over the years, and just last year the shop had its window smashed. “We are vulnerable because we are so visible,” he says in reference to the shop’s marquee, “but when we do get hatred it tends to be from the outside. Still, it’s always a treat -- when you’re on the street and you see hassle ahead you can hopefully cross over, but if people come into the shop we just have to do our best and hope they don’t wreck the place.” Luckily, when the shop is under threat the community comes together -- as it did last year, when a photo of the destruction went viral and prompted scores of locals to come in with bouquets of flowers and sincere apologies. “My irritation and distress just changed into the joy of being held by these people, who were giving us this outpouring of love.” 
It’s not just the locals, either -- people from around the world make a pilgrimage of sorts to see the shop. Some are gay tourists from other European cities, but others leave the shop and return to one of the 72 countries which still criminalize homosexuality in some way. “I remember telling a Moroccan woman about our lesbian reading group, and she burst into tears and just said ‘You’re so lucky’; there was another young man from Mumbai who had been studying in London, and for three years he had walked past regularly but never come in. Then one day he came in and said ‘I’m pan, and I’m proud’ and asked to give me a hug.”
Stories like these are what makes Jim so proud of the shop. At one point he gushes about the anniversary to a customer who underlines how rare it is for a queer-owned business to survive for so long. Just as importantly, the business is keeping pace with the rapidly-accelerating cultural conversations around queerness, which Jim says are a natural byproduct of the progress that’s been made: “Bisexuality would have been given such a raw deal back in the 80s, but this new generation... I think because so many rights have been won, although they are being eroded in the US, people are really starting to think, ‘Hang on -- I don’t identify with this label or this label.” 
This willingness to fuck with identity resonates with Jim, who ends our conversation by highlighting how excited he is about all the queer books still to come. “There are so many ways to be now. Those books are yet to be written, but they are starting to be written. Young people are throwing politics up into the air; they’re questioning everything, and that’s extremely exciting.”
gay's the word
Photography Dom Agius

September 23, 2019

In Chester A Gay Couple Kiss in Front of Protesters πŸ’‹πŸ’‹

                           Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoor

Rather than ignoring the protestors, Fergus and Brookes took a stand and kissed directly opposite them and reportedly earned a round of applause from onlookers.
The image was then shared on Facebook, where he was eventually reposted by the Chester Pride page, where it has now be shared more than 300 times. 

A gay couple in Chester has become a viral hit and have received tons of support after they shared a kiss in front of anti-LGBT protestors.
The couple of Joe Fergus and Robert Brookes, had just been to see a production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the city's Storyhouse Theatre.
However, when they emerged a small group of churchgoers has assembled opposite the theatre brandishing placards with bible quotes and verses.  

The image which was shared on Wednesday complete with the hashtag #SpreadLOVENotHate and people are delighted that they stood up to the protestors in their own unique way.
Speaking to Pink News Fergus revealed that the picketers had also been at the theatre on the previous night and that their reappearance had prompted him and his other half to take action.
While having a drink prior to the show, I laughed and said to Rob: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t acknowledge them at all and just kissed?
When we arrived, there was lots of shouting between the protesters and audience members waiting outside the theatre.
The problem with that is you can’t fight hate with hate, which is why we decided to spread some love.
We wanted to stand up for our rights and our community and I strongly encourage others to do the same.
I respect everyone is entitled to their opinion, however, I am also entitled to kiss my boyfriend wherever I want without judgment, and that’s what we are fighting for.
The theatre itself has also taken a stand against the protestors, confirming their support for LGBT+ communities and that they operate a safe space environment.πŸ’‹πŸ’‹πŸ’‹

September 16, 2019

What Happens When A UK Podcaster Signs Up For Conversion Therapy?

James BarrImage copyright

So-called "gay conversion therapy" may be condemned by experts but it is still permitted in the UK. So what happened when gay podcast host James Barr signed up for simulated "treatment"?
I'm sitting in a room in Northern Ireland opposite a man who says he offers "talking therapy" to people who don't want to be gay. And I cannot help feeling worried - despite all the evidence I've read to the contrary, a tiny part of me believes that he may actually convince me that I can choose to stop being gay. 
The man in front of me is Mike Davidson, he's originally from New Zealand and he's invited me into his home, about 30 minutes outside Belfast. It's in a very quiet close of small houses tucked away off a side road, the type of place where everyone knows your business. Do his neighbours know what happens here? I start to feel a little uneasy. It reminds me of my home town Eastbourne and of being in the closet, hiding my secrets. 
Mike welcomes me via a side door into his tiny office and beams: "This is where we do the work." 
It's small but includes a pretty sizable DVD collection. He tells me that he loves movies about war and asks me if I feel the same. I say: "Yes, kind of." We have something in common. 

Find out more

James Barr Dan HudsonImage copyrightCORRINE CUMMING

James Barr co-hosts the podcast A Gay and a Non-Gay with his (non-gay) friend Dan Hudson (right). The pair travelled to Northern Ireland for From Gay to Non-Gay? - a three-part BBC podcast series in which they meet people who have been through so-called gay "conversion therapy". You can download it here on BBC Sounds

Mike and I take our seats and it's a pretty tight squeeze. He's a relatively friendly looking man, glasses, a cute face - the sort of person who would help you carry your shopping to the car if he saw you struggling. He seems kind. 
He also runs a Christian charity called Core Issues Trust, which, he tells me, "takes people seriously who say they want to move away from homosexual practices and feelings". His technique, he says, is to explore their past experiences and find out more about their unwanted "same-sex attraction".
"What we do is we replace those feelings," he says. 
Just under half of those he sees are non-Christians, he says, and he only works with adults.
But despite all the certificates of his achievements at university on his office wall, Mike is not a qualified doctor, and neither is he a registered therapist.
The NHS and all major therapy professional bodies say that what he's doing is unethical and potentially harmful. The UK government has said it wants to ban the practice. However, Mike is still allowed to do it, and here we are. 

Mike Davidson
Image captionMike Davidson

It's been a long time since I had an "unwanted same-sex attraction", as Mike would put it. I'm an out gay man, a comedian, I co-host the UK's biggest LGBTQ+ podcast and regularly chat about sexuality and equality both on TV, on stage and to our international podcast audience - but I remember a moment when a 13-year-old me was less confident. 
We're constantly hearing theories as to why LGBTQ+ people exist and at 13, surrounded by straight people, our predominantly heterosexual planet sowed a seed of doubt and shame in my mind about being gay. I realised my life was about to be a lot more difficult as a gay man and, for a split second, I genuinely wished I could've been straight. 
Even in 2019, it's actually pretty easy to see why you might want someone to turn you heterosexual. Homophobic hate crimes in the UK are on the rise. Recently, a survey suggested 58% of gay men are scared to hold hands with a partner in public. A lesbian couple were attacked on a London bus in a suspected hate crime which shocked the country.
This is why I am interested in Mike. Is he motivated by homophobia, or does he actually think he's helping people who don't want to be gay? And if he is, is that OK? 
And so Mike simulates one of his therapy sessions with me. He asks me if I've had any past trauma. 
I reply that when I was younger I was bullied for being ginger, and as I grew older I was bullied for being gay. I tell him about a time when someone kicked me at the bus stop. 
Then I ask him if he has a theory as to why that would make me gay. 
He replies: "I don't think any one thing gives people same-sex attraction… but if that's your existence at school, it's bullying. And I'm not surprised that maybe you become distant from other males."
His voice is soft, he's sympathetic and for the most part this feels like a normal therapy session, but it isn't. I remind myself that he isn't a real psychotherapist. I know I'm here as a reporter but I'm vulnerable - this is all so personal.

The Northern Irish coast

In July 2018, the UK government published an LGBT Action Plan in which it says it wants to ban "harmful" gay conversion therapy across the UK. According to a national survey, 2% of British gay people have been through it and 5% have been offered it. 
The government says that over half of those that offer this are faith groups - not just Christian - and although Mike operates in Northern Ireland, it happens across the UK. 
Before I visit Mike, I meet a young man on the Northern Irish coast called Josh Lyle. He's gay and Christian - his granny used to be a preacher and the church is a huge part of life where he lives. He tells me that in Northern Ireland your religion isn't just a faith, it's part of your identity. 
He remembers how one day at his church he walked past a rack of pamphlets. "There was one called 'Bringing your child back to God' and it was essentially a book telling parents how to make their gay children straight." 
He's experienced a lot of homophobia. As he walks around town, people regularly shout abuse and he was recently spat at. So he says he understands, in a way, why someone might feel they want to turn to conversion therapy. 

Quote: "The doctors told me my body was at war with itself"

"It can be really tough to grow up as a gay kid and if someone came to you when you're feeling at your worst, coming to terms with who you are, and said, 'I have this magic wand that will make you better, do you want me to wave it?' You'd be very tempted to say yes." 
However, the consequences of doing so can be extremely harmful. Former Christian singer Vicky Beeching spent most of her life trying to suppress her own attraction to women and tried various forms of gay conversion therapy, from prayer and exorcisms to talking therapy. 
One day she noticed strange white patches on her skin. She went to the doctor and she was told she had developed an auto-immune disease called scleroderma.
"The doctors told me my body was at war with itself. They said they believed trauma and stress and specifically my journey with suppressing my sexuality and all the shame around that, they believed that led to all these problems with my immune system," she says. 
Vicky sold millions of records worldwide, including her hit, Above All Else, which she says in hindsight perhaps perfectly sums up her willingness to suppress her own sexuality for Jesus's love. She has since written a book explaining why she believes you can be both a Christian and gay. 

A man in a rainbow flag watches a Christian protest against the Belfast Pride paradeImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

As I sit opposite Mike, I realise we're mirroring each other's body language. We both have our legs crossed. 
I'm curious to find out more about why Mike ended up doing this. 
He explains that he grew up in the Church, and when he had homosexual feelings he felt ashamed and wanted to move away from them.
"I always felt other - I always felt different and excluded. I wasn't great at sport." He says he was emotionally disconnected from his father - a war veteran who was great at rugby and cricket. "I said to myself, 'Well if that's being a man,' referring to my father, 'I don't want anything to do with that.'" 
For most young men, he says, "it's almost as though they're drawn to the mysteriousness, to the otherness of the female. Now for me, males felt other. Because I didn't feel like one."
He says he went through a form of conversion therapy himself and it helped him realise why he had those feelings.
It's at this point I start to challenge Mike.

Quote: "I have the right and the freedom to identify and to live as I choose"

I'm more convinced than ever that the reason I'm gay is not because I was bullied - and it's not because I chose to be gay. It's because I was born gay, and no-one needs to explain it or ask why. I just am. I love exactly the same way that everybody else loves.
The NHS and every major therapy body says that efforts to change or alter sexual orientation through psychological therapies are unethical and potentially harmful. Are they all wrong? "If you do research only from one point of view, and you can only get research money if you hold one point of view, then you're going to come up with one point of view," he replies.
But people who come to him are vulnerable, I tell him, and he's misleading them by telling them they can suppress their thoughts.
"I've never used the word 'suppression'," he says. "What I believe in is transformation." He admits he will sometimes see a man and think that he's attractive. "It may be my age, but I don't have that deep longing for an emotional attachment with a man, or a sexual encounter." 
Then I ask him: What if it's not true that the feelings gay people have can just be replaced? What if, in fact, he's still gay?
He looks into the distance for a moment, and for a second I wonder if I my words may have changed his thinking. He looks at me and says: "Even if that's right, I have the right and the freedom to identify and to live as I choose."

James Barr in Belfast
Image captionJames Barr in Belfast

Hearing that, I feel sorry for him. 
I tell Mike that I think he genuinely does believe he's doing the right thing. I hope that if he were brought up today, in a less homophobic environment, he would be comfortable being who he was. 
He offers me a coffee, and I decline. I'd like to leave as soon as possible, but part of me wants to give him a hug. I genuinely feel so sad that someone can be so misled - but I leave. I don't remember if we shake hands, even. In the car, I listen to Gloria Gaynor.

McKrae Game

The founder of one of the US's biggest conversion therapy programmes, McKrae Game, came out as gay earlier this year, and apologised for harming generations of people.
After struggling to suppress his own homosexuality, Game founded his Truth Ministry in 1999, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, rebranding it in 2013 as Hope for Wholeness. The organisation operated in at least 15 states.
"I was a religious zealot that hurt people," he told the Charleston-based Post and Courier newspaper
Seventeen US states have banned gay conversion therapy - most recently Maine, which took the step in May this year.

It's Sunday, and I meet Josh and his granny, Marie Hodgen, outside All Souls Church in Belfast. Josh was scared to come out to his granny, the former preacher. But she more than accepted him. She went back through the Bible and studied its words again. 
"When he came out, I couldn't say it was wrong," she tells her grandson. "I love you, Josh. There's no strings attached. I will always love you unconditionally." 
Their story overwhelms me.
This is their first time at church together since Josh read that "How to not be gay" pamphlet all those years ago.
As Josh and I walk inside, we both feel anxious. But the minister welcomes both of us. This is an inclusive church that believes in love of all kinds. Josh and his granny cry. I cry. 
We sit listening to the minister's words of acceptance. He's telling us that he's excited for his up-and-coming Pride service. Marie looks up and reads out loud a scripture inscribed across the idyllic church's wall: "Sing a new song to the Lord."

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July 18, 2019

A 22 Yr Old Gets Beaten Unconscious For “Being Gay” On A Gay Hate Crime



Bradley JollyOnline journalist

A receptionist says he was knocked unconscious 'for being gay' in a sickening homophobic attack after a night out.
Ryan Williams has shared graphic photos of his facial injuries suffered in the beating.
The 22-year-old says he was thumped over the head, repeatedly kicked in the face and left wounded on the floor in Preston, Lancashire.
Police said the attack is being treated as a hate crime
“I never thought in my life that I would get beaten up for being gay," the hotel receptionist wrote in a heartfelt message on Facebook. 
"Wtf has this world actually come too, you’re all vile and disgusting! I want people to understand that being gay isn't a choice and I can’t help it, I’m sorry that you can’t deal with it but hey ho no need to knock someone out because of it. 
"I seriously can not believe that a homophobic attack happens. Which it does and it’s wrong. Stand strong and love yourself, this isn’t gonna stop me from being fabulous. Being gay is OK."
More than 110,000 people - including strangers from across the globe - have liked the status and left messages of support.
Ryan, who needed treatment at Royal Preston Hospital after Saturday's attack, said: “My friends and I were heading to McDonald's for something to eat after a night out.
"I never thought in my life that I would get beaten up for being GAY! Wtf has this world actually come too, you’re all vile and disgusting! I want people to understand that being gay ISNT a choice and I can’t help it, I’m sorry that you can’t deal with it but hey ho no need to knock someone out because of it! I seriously can not believe that a homophonic attack happens! Which it does and it’s wrong! Stand strong and love yourself, this isn’t gonna stop me from being fabulous! BEING GAY IS OK!"
 “There was a group of people nearby in the street and they started calling me and my friends gay.
“We went over and told them it’s not okay to say things like that.
“As I walked away then one of them ran after me and he hit me in the back of the head.”
Ryan, of Preston, is aiding police with the investigation.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “We were called around 6.30am on Saturday (July 13) following reports of an assault in Friargate, Preston.  
"A man in his 20s had been punched by another man close to McDonald's. The offender then made off from the scene with two men and a woman.
"The victim was knocked unconscious suffering facial injuries. He later was taken to Royal Preston Hospital for treatment.
"The assault is being investigated as a hate crime and inquiries are on-going.
"Anyone with information can contact police on 101 quoting log 0311 of July 13." 

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